Government must focus on the people, their safety and welfare.
Perhaps to underscore some glaring failings of the present administration, the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), last week asked President Muhammadu Buhari to resign over increasing cases of insecurity and corruption across the country. The party said that the country was on ventilator “gasping for air.” Even though the accusations were motivated by politics, and described by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) as “silly,” the statement in some ways captured the public mood.
There are plenty things that continue to disappoint in an administration welcomed with high hopes more than five years ago. The prevalent public disillusion occasioned by severe economic hardship is being capped by losing the dominance of the machinery of violence to non-state actors. A fortnight ago, President Buhari vowed to “wipe out the remaining vestiges” of Boko Haram extremist Islamist group, after they executed another set of aid workers abducted in North-east of Borno State. The group’s decade-long insurgency has left more than 30,000 dead, displaced more than two million others, resulting in a large-scale humanitarian crisis. “Insecurity has made vast swathes of our country uninhabitable for citizens and unattractive to investment,” said Speaker of the House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila last week.
To compound the challenge, bandits, kidnappers and other criminals are on a free rein in different theatres across the country. Few weeks ago, a group of gangsters took on the military, killing 23 soldiers in Katsina, the president’s home state. In Niger, Sokoto, Zamfara, Benue, and many other states in the North, lawlessness has seized the streets and farms. In Kaduna, the killings are gradually assuming the shape of premeditated genocide that breeds reprisal attacks and an endless spiral of bloodletting. A new report released last week by the Global Terrorism Index which measured the impact of terrorism across the world ranked Nigeria the third most terrorised country in the world after Afghanistan and Iraq – with huge economic and financial loss. The report noted that violence between herders and farmers has led to about 300,000 people fleeing their homes.
Perhaps overwhelmed, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt General Tukur Buratai has more or less thrown the challenge of security on the laps of the people. Yet over the years, the administration has consistently played down the capacity of the extreme Islamic group and others to continue to wrought havoc, adopting as it were a rule which seems to say: if a plan is not working stick to it. The consequence is an atmosphere wracked with hopelessness. And there are no reliefs to the agonies. The economy is in deep crisis, reflected largely by the huge numbers of the unemployed.
Nigeria has long been adjudged as the country with the most number of citizens living in extreme poverty. But the impunity that goes on in government belies this. An administration which came waving a placard of zero tolerance for corruption has been seized, as it were, by the plague on a massive scale. In the midst of the growing hardship, public funds are being stolen brazenly and squandered. Corruption is eating away the ability of many to live a decent life. Even those charged with fighting the plague are neck deep in it. The ministries, departments and agencies are not subjected to internal checks and balances. They have become shorthand for corruption. Almost everyone in key positions – like in the NDDC – is dipping carelessly into the public till. Shouldn’t a government worry about that?
So what has to be done? The strategy of denials–refusing to accept the situation as it is – has become untenable. Even more important, government must focus on the people, their safety and welfare. And it must be accountable to the people.
(PUBLISHED ON JULY 29, 2020)