May 31, 2014
by Charles Ofoji
If a nation is at red alert, yet a terror group like Boko Haram strikes at will and ups the number of its victims, then such a country is obviously a cassava republic that cannot guarantee security of lives and property.
While Aso Rock makes noise about the determination of the government to bring back the abducted Chibok girls and also to finally thumb Boko Haram, the group continues to strike audaciously as it pleases – in Borno (four times, with the recent killing of forty soldiers and policemen), Kano and Plateau (twice).
It seems they want to prove that this government has no clue of what it is talking about. Boko Haram wants to tell Nigerians that we live at their mercy. And that our so-called leaders are only making speeches – as usual.
Nigeria is now a laughing stock, especially among Africans, who had seen our country as a giant in the continent and had looked up to us for leadership. A Ghanaian, living in Berlin, had recently joked that they (Ghanians) never knew they were fearing Nigeria for nothing…
Though a war against terror is a different ballgame, the view of the Ghanian might not necessarily be correct, nevertheless it is representative of how others see us at the moment.
The helplessness of our poorly trained and poorly equipped military (no thanks to corruption) to deal with a hitherto unknown terror group is a national embarrassment with international acclaim. I felt sorry for President Goodluck Jonathan when he was corrected by the United States of America that Boko Haram has nothing to do with Al-qaeda. In their bid to mystify Boko Haram and excuse their inability to crush the group, Jonathan was misled by his intelligence chiefs into believing that Boko Haram is an offshoot of Al-qaeda. And he believed!
Nkem Chidebelu is a student of University of Jos. Her late mother, Monica Chidebelu, an orange seller at the Jos Terminal Market, threw all she got from peeling oranges into making sure her daughter does not end up like her. She sent her to the university to acquire education. While she studied, amid her numerous challenges as the daughter of an orange seller, her mother was her life-wire. Unfortunately, that wire was cut when Nkem’s mother was sent to her early grave as terrorists bombed the Jos Terminal market last week.
Speaking to one of the national dailies, Nkem regretted that she was born a Nigerian. She could not understand why the Nigerian government, with the amount of resources at its disposal, can not protect the citizens.
I understand Nkem’s disenchantment and frustration. Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala recently revealed that defence takes almost a trillion of the budget. During a press conference in Abuja last Friday, Okonjo-Iweala disclosed that the Federal Government has released a total amount of N130.7bn to the Ministry of Defence for military operations between January and April this year. She also told journalists that in 2013, N281.51bn was allocated to the three security agencies (Army, Air Force and Navy) in Nigeria. This is almost $2billion US dollars.
Juxtaposed against the impunity with which Boko Haram is killing the citizens, one can only ask: where did this money go? If $2billion dollars were diligently spent in the fight against terror, surely Boko Haram would have been history. As I said on this platform recently, the country is in the mess it is because of depraved corruption. The defence budget has been seen over the years as a big cake to be shared by the top military brass and their collaborators in government.
The result is that we now live in a country that cannot actually be called a country since it is incapable of protecting its citizens. This is also why over 200 Chibok school girls, who thought they could pursue quietly their dreams by seeking education, were taken into bondage by Boko Haram (we should not forget the 59 school boys who were also butchered by the same group in February).
The lives of the Chibok girls got shattered, because like Nkem, they had the misfortune of being born citizens of one country called Nigeria. Whether Jonathan finds them as he promised, with international help, certainly their lives will never be the same again. If they ever return alive, they will forever live with the trauma of their ordeal in the captivity of Boko Haram.
Normally, people aspire to govern because they have a vision or a direction of where they want to take the country or people. But in Nigeria, people aspire to govern because they want to line up their pockets with public funds. This is a national tragedy. Our leaders, apart from being vision-less and clueless, are simply wicked people. They neither love the people nor their country. They never spare time to sit down and figure out what is good for the people and the country.
For them, leadership is a frolic and meeting at midnights to decide how to share the budget. A typical Nigerian leader would do everything to get money to maintain a permanent suite at Hilton Abuja for his girlfriend than to do the least that would benefit the shoeless boy in Otuoke. So is anyone still trying to figure out why we got where we are today?
Nigeria was not run how a normal country should be. The leaders were fooling the people (they foolishly failed to realize that they were in the same boat with the people). That foolishness left Nigeria a skeleton of a nation. Mindless corruption and bad governance reduced the nation to a bubble. Now, Boko Haram has burst that bubble.
By Charles Ofoji