Worried, or so it seemed, by the deluge of complaints by workers over unpaid salaries and allowances by many state governors, in spite of the interventions by the Federal Government, President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday, October 17, 2017, asked a select governors under the aegis of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, who visited him in Abuja: “How can anyone go to bed and sleep soundly when workers have not been paid their salaries for months?”
As it would appear, that was the “human side of the President” at its fullest as the poser he made to the governors at that august meeting could be said to be one of genuine concern. That notwithstanding, it is not clear, months after that meeting, if the governors lost any sleep at night as workers are still being owed arrears of salaries and allowances in many states till date.
However, what makes this incident important, and worth recalling now, is how much one can pose the same question to the President against the backdrop of the killing of innocent Nigerians in recent times.
So, asked differently, how does the President sleep soundly in the night, when lives of innocent Nigerians, women and children inclusive, are freely wasted across the length and breadth of the country, most especially in the Middle Belt, since January 1 when 73 were killed by suspected Fulani herdsmen in Logo and Guma LGAs in Benue State? How does the President find sleep and comfort in the “other room” knowing, as a former Governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido, said on Monday, “Nigerians are now sleepless; they are watching, they have so many things in their minds whether to go for what they know is safety, security and prosperity or to go for this culture of violence which is now defining Nigeria as a country”?
For all you care, you may wilfully dismiss Lamido’s apt observation as the ranting of a “desperate opposition politician” out to score cheap political goals, or even as the President’s spokesperson, Femi Adesina, said to critics of Buhari’s tepid response to the unsettling orgy of killings in the land, on Monday, what is clear to all is that Buhari is presiding over the ceaseless and systematic killing of Nigerians at a rate, perhaps, never witnessed in the country’s history and in a way that exposes the helplessness of the Nigerian state. According to a Sunday Vanguard report on March 14, 2018, 1,351 Nigerians were killed in various violent incidents across the country “in just about 10 weeks” in the year. These include, 676 in January; 526 in February, and 146 in March. The statistics showed that the North-East remained the killing field with 591 deaths, followed by the North-Central, 270; North-West, 193; South-West, 136; South-South, 131 while the South-East came last with 30. But if the reported cases of killings in recent months are anything to go by, the figures would have become more mind-boggling now.
In the words of Adesina, however, “Securing the length and breadth of the country is a continuing commitment…when the administration emerged, the security situation was in tatters. It pulled up its bootstraps, rolled up its sleeves, set to work, and the Boko Haram insurgency was beaten back. It was eventually degraded…”, but as Lamido simply put it, “You see, today, we are under siege. It means all the key security chiefs appointed by this government have failed to deliver…”
Strikingly, what should worry many is not only that the Buhari Government has so far failed, or neglected, to fulfil its primary purpose for existence, which is the protection of lives and property of Nigerians, given these reckless killings, but also that the Nigerian sovereign has himself resigned to infantile religiosity by resorting to “pray to God” to solve a lingering security challenge he was touted to be capable by reason of his career as a retired General to contend with. This much we can glean from the President’s remark when he visited Plateau State penultimate Tuesday on the heels of the killing, yet again, of over 150 persons by suspected Fulani herdsmen in 11 communities of Barkin-Ladi and Riyom Local Government Areas of the state. According to the Commander in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, “There is nothing I can do to help the situation except to pray to God to help us out of the security challenges. What has happened is a very bad thing.” What? Did I just read the President say he would do, “…nothing except to pray to God…”? Just like that?
Never in history has any sovereign for that matter openly expressed palpable helplessness in the face of a security challenge anywhere in the world. It is akin to a President Barack Obama, for instance, declaring to Americans he was clueless about handling the al-Qaeda or Osama bin Laden challenge. By the way, the last time I checked, Buhari was not elected to “pray to God” for Nigeria’s security challenges, or any other challenge for that matter, neither did he promise so in 2015. Instead, he promised to take the lead in solving the country’s existential challenges. And that is what leaders do, they don’t throw their arms in the air at the drop of the hat. George Bush Jnr exemplified this in 2011 at the wake of the 9/11 terror attack in the World Trade Centre when he promised Americans he would “bring the perpetrators to justice or take justice to them!” That is the stuff leaders are made of.
As if that was not disheartening enough, Garba Shehu issued a statement last week imploring Nigerians to be “patient” with Mr President in the wake of another killing of 42 people, in some accounts, including a district head, in and around Gandi village in Rabah Local Government Area of Sokoto State while “security teams crack (sic) their brains to put an end to this horrendous violence”. According to The PUNCH, Wednesday, July 11, Shehu said the President “threatened that any attempt to try his government’s will would be met with equal force” and “wondered why murderers would be targeting innocent people for no just cause.” Pray, is it the duty of a responsible government to live in “wonderment” on “why murderers would be targeting innocent people…”? Or, is it just occurring to this government that whatever remains of its “will” has been tried and found wanting, repeatedly, by bands of murderous bandits, terrorists, kidnappers, extortionists and anarchists from Ebonyi to Zamfara leading to the deaths of scores of Nigerians? Is it unaware that, according to the United Nations, Nigeria has up to 350 million small and light weapons in circulation, in the hands of devious and criminal elements and sundry groups who kill with relish apparently because of the incapacity of the Nigerian state to contain them? We are talking about 70 per cent of the total arms in circulation in West Africa.
It is not enough for the President to resign to fate, or tell us how his security heads are “cracking” their brains to stop the killings in the land. He should no longer be at ease while Nigerians are killed by marauding criminals. Instead, he should begin to lose his own sleep and “crack his brain” himself, as Nigerians can’t afford the luxury of sound sleep anymore.
The starting point should be to do away with the inept security heads who have failed, evidently, to help him perform his primary duty of securing Nigerians unless he approves their ineptitude. Besides, the country’s police structure has proved, time and again, to be anachronistic and can no longer address the country’s extant security challenges. A centralised policing structure, the type the military bequeathed to us, is defective and dysfunctional in a federal state like ours and should be done away with fast. Why the President is not buying into the inevitable imperative of restructuring the country to allow the federating units to meet their security and policing needs and relieve an inefficient and overstretched centre beggars belief.
In fact, I don’t know how President Buhari manages to sleep at night given these endless tales of needless deaths of Nigerians under his watch. He needs to wake up now to the imperative of doing the needful or be woken up to more gory realities.
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