Bring Back Our Country, By Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, I have borrowed the title of today’s Pendulum column from the Bring Back Our Girls saga. What started like a poor dream and nerve-wrecking nightmare has since snowballed into an endless conflagration. It is tragic that as I write this, no one is able to tell us how many girls, boys, men, women, able, disabled, rich or poor citizens have been abducted to date. Data collection has become an impossible task. The body language of those who should know and tell us what exactly is going on seems to be that off cold indifference, total confusion, crass ignorance and abject incompetence. We have been bombarded by all manner of lies, half-truths and tales by moonlight.

I did not expect our President to perform any magic but I expected a better coordination from our Commander-in-Chief and his security Chiefs. Politricks and games of re-election have gained more attention and prominence in the scheme of things. All our leaders without exception are pursuing their own agenda without any care in the world about a matter of catastrophic proportions. My sneaky suspicion is that this terrible situation hasn’t been a big deal for obvious reasons. The kids who have been abducted for many agonising months are children of poor people who are like cows without tails and in need of almighty God to chase flies away in its kingdom. They are not daughters or sons of Governors, Ministers or the Rich and Famous. We are all witnesses to the speed at which the relations of those in Government have quickly been sprung from the kidnappers den.  If it can be done for one person held by a few, why has government found it so difficult to do the same for scores of school girls obviously held by many people? The sad reality we must learn to respect and accept is that they are expendable whilst the favoured, privileged family are indispensable.

We cannot however lay all the blame at the doorsteps of our leaders.  We, the led have obviously failed in our duty and responsibility to these young girls as much as to ourselves. I would have expected that by now all of us would have joined forces to fight a common enemy and uncommon menace devoid of the usual bickering but clear, concise and concerted thinking. There is nothing unity of purpose cannot achieve. This was not the Nigeria I grew up to know. I find it distressing that nobody in the area where these girls are being held has come forward to tell the world or, even if they are sacred, the security agencies, what they know about where and how the girls are being held.  It is unimaginable that we have become so detached from our humane nature that this horrendous crime against humanity has gone undetected for so long.  One can understand that the mysteries of the deep sea is preventing the discovery of what happened to Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 but what mysterious being or alien has shrouded the whereabouts of these innocent girls.

Though we’ve always had ethnic and religious conflicts, nothing since our unfortunate civil war compares to the current pogrom going on in some parts of our nation today which has been typified by the abduction of these girls and the continuous rampaging forays of their abductors. Yet there’s no evidence on ground to show that we are truly bothered. I doubt if there is any other country with our kind of thick skin which seems tougher than that of porcupines.
What I find equally baffling are our collective attitudes. The government that should protect us finds all kinds of excuses to justify the failure to do so. First it denies that the cry about our abducted girls was political and nothing of the sort ever happened. When the stupidity of that assertion eventually hit all of us, we were told everything would be done to bring the girls back. As weeks climbed after weeks and months mounted on months, nothing happened. Our military’s top brass promised heaven and earth. One of them even said with a straight poker face that they’ve sighted the girls but could not storm where they were for fear of collateral damages. As if that wasn’t bad enough, our military claimed to have killed the Boko Haram kingpin many times and swore by Jove that the recalcitrant rebel was finally dead on each occasion. But, the more they killed Shekau the more he resurrected beating all records of crucifixions in the Holy Bible.

Notwithstanding the continued resurrection of the notorious Shekau, our military chieftains have not thought it fit to apologise to Nigerians that they goofed and that the Man is very much alive and a continued thorn in their flesh.  When one fails to confront the brutal facts and admit defeat in such circumstances, one compounds the problem. The solution to any problem lies in first accepting that there is a problem.  The abject denial of what everyone else can see demonstrates the depth of the abyss that our security has descended. The prognosis is that we hardly have any security at all and merely exist by faith and faith alone.

Second the people who should sympathise with the plight of fellow citizens turned their heads in different directions and preferred to pass snide remarks in a most fiendish manner. Let the Hausa kill Fulani and vice versa, there’s no court case in that, was the typical response. As long as they restrict and banish their rascality to the Northern parts of Nigeria, it is no big deal. But we forgot that this nonsense was diminishing the stature and status of Nigeria in the comity of nations. And our President in particular ought to have nipped this in the bud by acting like someone who sees every inch of Nigerian soil as his. I insist that he should have visited Chibok and other trouble-spots in Nigeria. By running away from those places, our leader inadvertently emboldened the terrorists.  It was like telling the murderous people that the people of Borno, Adamawa, Yobe and others were rudderless and defenceless. And the guys got the message and carried on with their campaign of terror with a renewed vigour and devastation.

Unless something is done soon about this and Mr President takes positive steps to address the situation and show true leadership and courage we are all likely to be consumed by this marauding menace.  I cannot fathom why Mr President should be afraid to visit any part of his a country he lewads.  Boko Haram has shown that it has the temerity to strike at the very core of supposedly secure military installations and the Police.  It has proved able to hit at the very heart of our nation through the several bomb blasts that have rocked the Federal Capital Territory. The inferno is billowing southwards, slowly but inexorably.  We must not be complacent by swallowing the myth that this is a northern problem.  If we continue to leave it unchecked the South will not know when it is struck by the meteor.  The continuous rumours of potential attacks on Lagos only give fillip to the fact that it is only a matter of time before fiction becomes fact and fantasy turns to reality!
Third the opposition APC and PDP failed to join hands when it mattered most and chose to trade tackles when they should have acted responsibly for the common good of Nigeria. The dirty fight was so bad that PDP said the opposition was behind Boko Haram while APC also responded in kind. Instead of firing sorties at the merchants of death, they shot poisoned darts at themselves and left the country bleeding dangerously to the point of death.

At the end of the day nothing tangible has happened. I believe Shekau is well, alive and kicking, full of mirth and strutting more confidently than ever. He must be having fits and bouts of laughter at the manner he is cutting through our vaunted security forces like a hot knife through butter.  If you were in his shoes won’t you feel very proud of your accomplishments against the forces of almighty Nigeria, a military that once drove the fear of God into stubborn militants in far-flung places? What could have gone wrong in a matter of few years? It is shocking that powerful institutions have collapsed one after the other with no immediate hope of salvaging them in sight.

Ordinarily the Executive arm of government has the power and resources to make things happen but nothing has changed positively. Rather things have been going from bad to worse and approaching the worst. The reasons are legion, the solutions are simple but the execution is almost impossible. The factors are not just about corruption but more about greed and selfishness. Nigeria is not synonymous with corruption but our propensity for primitive acquisition of wealth and material things is incredible. Our desire for self actualisation and self preservation is destroying the fabric of our society.  The way forward is to search for leaders with proven records of frugality. Leaders who are prepared to sacrifice their personal interests and comfort for the common good of the country.  A leader who wishes to change Nigeria has to be less ceremonial, must focus more attention at home and exert his energy on rebuilding our disgraceful infrastructural decay.  He must be willing to do away with sycophants and praise singers who can only inflate an already bloated ego.

There is nothing to suggest that we are ready to change how we did things in the past and got badly burnt in the process. The amount of money quoted in our annual budget is more than enough to set us on the path to systematic restoration but it seems the will is not there to manage it prudently. We prefer to produce a few new members of the wealthy class at the expense of millions of others. Unfortunately the Legislature that should hold them in check is enmeshed in its own internal contradictions. The Judiciary is not immune to all this mess. We hear of staccato judgments that confuse and confound both the learned and the ignorant. The Media has its own challenges. The loss of revenue means more dependence on government patronage and avuncular generosity. Unfortunately, it comes with its own heavy price, lack of freedom and independence.
This could not have been the country envisaged by our founding fathers. Despite their own frailties as humans, they behaved better than most of us in positions of authority today. No one is sure if it is not a case of not loving our country enough or that we’ve gone actively neurotic.
If you know what it is, please tell me.

CONGRATULATIONS GOVERNOR GODSWILL AKPABIO
I was glued to my television set yesterday as I watched the opening of the new Akwa Ibom stadium. Without any shade of doubt, it was a sheer spectacular event. Give it to the born orator; he is a true transformational leader even if you disagree with him sometimes in the area of politics.
Governor Akpabio has demonstrated that governing a country or state is not rocket science. If his party, PDP, had borrowed a leaf from him and did half of what he has done in his state nationally the 2015 Presidential election would be a walk-over. I commend Akpabio’s work to his colleagues and the country at large. There are only a few states that can claim to have done great things like Akpabio but we need more and indeed all states to transform Nigeria into a true wonder.
I was particularly delighted that President Jonathan, accompanied by the Presidents of Ghana and Cote d’Ivore and former President Jerry Rawlings, personally launched this magnificent stadium. I pray our President was greatly inspired like many of us onlookers.

Truth is nothing succeeds like success. Akpabio surpassed himself and should be commended and encouraged. He certainly got this one right.
His family must be very proud of him, as indeed must be the people of Akwa Ibom State and Nigeria. May God bless him and his household.

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