I have been home working on a book project planned to be finished before the end of the year. But on this last Saturday of the year reality has dawned coldly on me that it shall remain one of the unfulfilled dreams for year 2018. I am disappointed but soon realized that I was not alone in this unpleasant game of disappointment and frustration which characterised the year itself. At least I know Nigeria my country did not fulfill many of its dreams, especially of checking corruption and insecurity especially the advance of Boko Haram and other blood suckers.
Even more tragic is the fact that many did not live to see the light of a new year 2019. I lost a sister in-law to road accident, a cousin to poor management of health issues due to poor facilities and an uncle to natural cause -old age. And there was even the more tragic case of a friend who lost three sisters to road accident just two days to Christmas.
I am looking at the window, frightened and confused perhaps for a better understanding but all I could see was a gloomy picture of a sad and bloody year for the citizens. 2018 was mindless killer of souls, a reckless butcher of citizens and enthusiastic sucker of the blood of innocent Nigerians. It was bad year for peace, unity and development with its abattoirsz and killing fields scattered all over the country. It left the country more divided and more distrustful of each than it met her.
But it was revealing too: the battle against Boko Haram was far from being won. We sang our songs of victory too early.
This leads me to dwell more on the question of death, tragedy, sorrow, hardship and policy neglect and failure which to me defined the year under review. There were many tragedies especially in form of senseless killings. All deaths are painful but some are more painful sorrowful than others. When a person dies in his eighties , it is an occasion for celebrating but when one dies young especially through accident, butchery, assassinations, violence then the sorrow knows no bounds. It goes deep into the marrow of the bones. Here 2018 was horribly excessive in its offering of horror of calamitous proportion – the needles spilling of blood of both the young and old, especially the young. No parent wants to escort a corpse to the forest of unmarked graves where those who die too young are buried.
Death came from all corners – from Boko Haram group, ritualists, armed robbers, herdsmen , kidnappers, road accidents due to bad habits of road users, lack of maintenance and care, weak consequence management mechanism, etc. They all reflect frightening high state of insecurity and huge elite’s failures in policy making and implementation and general governance of the country over time, dating back to independence.
Generally, it was a bad year for the roses- a very sad and frightening one indeed. This is a requiem for the year 2018 before interment and it might be helpful to recall some of its leading features that caused us much pains- perhaps for some useful lessons.
Insecurity topped the list of concern. The whole nation suffered avoidable deaths of high proportion that shook the faith of many in God and justice of man. It served great calamities that threatened our sense of unity, severe socio-economic difficulties that put serious question mark on the ability of the Nigerian elite to govern a modern society and huge humiliation and embarrassment that hurt our collective pride. Above all, it cheapened Human life in Nigeria. It was certainly far cheaper than domestic and commercial animals in the estimation of some people. Strange things happened too to cause worry and suspicion.
For instance the hitherto aloof itinerant herdsmen morphed to hunters of men and killing the latter at will for the sake of animals. They sacked many communities and left thousands of Nigerians dead in the year.
By December 2018, the renowned scholar and writer, Alamu Tatalo, had cause to observe that “Nigeria was in serious emergency” and “bleeding from a thousand cuts… And while “hope was turning to hopelessness” there were was the need to have “accomplished Nigerian patriots and tested technocrats to drive accelerated economic development and deepen the culture of democracy” (The Nation23-12-2018p3).
To T. Y Dajuma, a retired General and former Minister of Defence,there have been “too many killings in the land”. He decried the “lack of peace” and wailed that “We are at war…with ourselves – a war without war front all over the place” (Sunday Vanguard 23,2018 2018p7).
With cold statistics a report by the Amnesty International revealed that as many as 6562 peoples died within eleven months from what the Vanguard newspaper of 2nd December 2018 refers to as “Nigeria’s killing fields”. Boko Haram and herdsmen attacks were the leading sources of death. The government and the military authorities were needlessly infuriated instead of learning useful lessons.
While the government and military were angry with those who wrote the report and questioning their motive or sincerity of it, many Nigerians seem to agree with the thrust of the report based on empirical evidence from media reports on the matter since the beginning of the year. Rather they were more concerned with checking or stopping the killings and associated insecurity across the country. In fact there were some who actually feel that the report was very conservative and that there were far many more dead people from insurgency within the period under review.
General Danjuma cited earlier, appear to speak for many others when he proclaimed that the”the Amnesty International’s report is true”. To him, “if foreigners tell us the truth and our own people in authority are denying it, we should put them right”.
Perhaps in the interest of truth the newspapers screamed ; Army locations are being attacked and over powered by insurgents, and they are killing soldiers and civilians alike and carting away weapons (The Sun 26 -12- 2018, Daily Trust, New Telegraph, etc of same date 26-12-2018, are among the other newspapers which reported attack on military base and death of 13 soldiers, police officer and others).
Zamfara state has almost been made ungovernable and unlivable by bandits. From all indications, we seem to have beaten our chest or clapped our hands in self praise too early over the defeat of the enemies.
Insurgents are very much alive striking at will at their appointed time. Of course such is the style of terrorist organisations.
According to press report, “after surviving the latest Boko Haram attack, soldiers have begged Buhari to save us from avoidable deaths” and they “accused military of providing obsolete weapons” (Sunday Vanguard (November 25 2018 f/p).
Then Badeh, a four star General, former Chief of Defense Staff fell to the bullets of some assassins. And much earlier General Alkali had met his death in similar violent circumstances. If such death signifies the height of the current state of insecurity in Nigeria, it brings to mind the sad memory of Chief Bola Ige, a Federal Minister, who was murdered by unknown killers till date in his house.
There are many more but these are enough to show that Nigeria bleeds in many fronts, and the country is extremely unsafe.
Listen to the radio and read the social media, you began to have a picture of the inner feelings about their country. Citizens do not only complain of insecurity of lives and property, also they bemoan the biting effect of poverty, unemployment, under-development on them. Like the last Sallah celebration, they say Christmas was not sweet for them – as some put it, “it was like no Christmas”.
All these have one thing in common and that is the failure of the elite in governance over time. They are the failure of policy in many areas- education, social and infrastructural development, socialization, employment, youth development and empowerment, etc.
It is largely the effect of being on the wrong road of unity and development of the country, the failure to promote patriotism and of the state’s abandonment of its leadership role as specified in chapter two of the constitution of the Federation.
It is also the effect of harsh effect of the unseen hands of the market instead of the soothing balm of the state on citizens which promote love and patriotism and motivates positive participation in the development process.
While it is needless to say that the problems did start with the Buhari Administration, they have no the less remained for same reason of being on the wrong road.
For over ten years one has written about Nigeria being long on the wrong road to national unity and development and called for strategic change of direction. While the call has not been heeded, senseless killings, insecurity, poverty, injustice are among the negative effects of travelling on the wrong road of unity and development.
Disappointed with my inability to complete my book project, mocked by a friend for taking to writing after retirement which cannot put food on the family table and faced with endless killings and endless wastage of human capital I was about to give up in to frustration and confusion and uncertainties induced by insecurity. In the queer and hurtful circumstances, I needed some energizer to lift my spirits and thanks to my mind’s inner choir. Something good comes to my lip as redemption songs for me and country involuntarily to firm up my faith and resolve to soldier on till death comes knocking.
One preaches the need for truth, good deeds and hard work by which one would be remembered after death. The other urges one to be proactive and sensitive to the plight of people and good of society. It aimed at pricking the conscience of the ruling and managing elite, who seem not to be proactive enough about nation building – unity and development of the country.
One is a dirge entitled: “Fading away like the stars of the morning, losing their light in the glorious sun….pass from earth with its toiling”,…. only remembered by what we have done. ….Only the truth that in life we have spoken, and the seed on earth we have sown….shall pass on when we are forgotten”‘… Reaping the field… sown in springs . .. But sowers must part from their labor …only remembered by fruits of the harvest and what we have done .,,,”
If this addresses us to the need to do good work with the life we have been given, the other song -a kind of advocacy for a better society pricks our conscience to justice and fair-play and the need for prompt actions, sounds londer.
Entitled: Blowing in the wind … For the deaf and hard in hearing by Peter, Paul and Mary, the lyrics include; “How many roads must a man walk before they call him a man?, how many seas must a white dove sails before it can sleep on the sand? How many times must cannon balls fly before they are forever banned chorus- the answer is blowing in the wind..How many years must a mountain exists, before it is washed to the sea? How many years can some people exist before they are allowed to be free? How many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn’t see? How many times must a man look up before he ca seethe sky? How many ears must one man has before he can hear people cry?”
And this: “How many deaths will it take before he knows that too many people have died”?
Chorus:”The answer my friends is blowing in the wind- the answer is blowing in the winds”.
Between these songs I found solace and courage. The message is to do good both for self and society at large.
I hereby commend them to you as cross over gift with the the question to no one in particular: when will the senseless killings and insecurity be effectively checked in Nigeria? Brothers, the answer is blowing in the winds.
Goodbye 2018. May your violent soul rest in peace and blood sucking spirits be caged in purgatory for ever and ever. And may the type never come our way again.
Happy new to you all.
Dr. Abhuere, fnim, is the Director of the Centre for Child Care and Youth Development, Lugbe, Abuja.