Opinion: Nigeria: It is not well, after all

Eze Onyekpere

It is obvious that these are not the best of times for Nigeria. Sadly, the leadership and the led are pretending that all is well. Do we wait for the inferno to get out of hand before we take steps to stop the fire? Are we hoping that we will survive the coming crisis? When you turn left, the economy is in shambles and it seems there are no easy answers for recovery. On the right turn, the politicians are stoking the fires of genocide and impatience, displaying gross incapacity, enmeshed in corruption while pretending to be fighting the same and manifesting a devil-may-care attitude towards the welfare of the bulk of the population.

Are we on the road to Rwanda and genocide? We pay it does not come true but the dance steps, the body language and spoken words of the dancers are surely pointing in that direction. There is Nnamdi Kanu leading a secessionist movement to revive the defunct Biafra Republic. His words and action were considered by the authorities as treasonable and for which he faced charges in court. On the other side are the Arewa youths who feel agitated by the call for secession and their response is a “quit notice” to all persons of Igbo extraction living in the North to leave on or before October 1, 2017. There is a further threat of killings in the name of alleged mop-up operations should there be some who fail to obey the “quit notice”.  But the chorus emanating from the federal and state authorities is: It is well!

The first reaction of the authorities was an order for the arrest and prosecution of the leaders of the coalition of Arewa youths issuing the “quit notice”. This did not happen. Thereafter, several meetings were held with the Federal Government and some  states, reassuring that the “quit notice” was given in vain. Indeed, the media has reported the issuers of the “quit notice” reaffirming that they had not withdrawn the notice and taunting those against whom they had moved with their proverbial powers to take life and property with impunity. The latest, however, are media reports that the promoters of the “quit notice” allegedly wrote a song and recorded the same using the most vile of language to describe persons of Igbo extraction, reminding persons of Northern extraction of all the imagined wrongs done to them by Igbo and urging action against the former.  And the chorus emanating from the federal and state authorities is: It is well.

Many posers flood my mind. Is the Federal Government waiting for October 1 for loss of lives and property, for the breakdown of law and order, before it takes action?  What is hate speech and what are the contours of its parameters? If some group of people pronounce a threat and for whatever reasons, some negatives happen around their threatened action date, would anyone look far for the offenders? Does the Federal Government believe it can open a second theatre of operations when the fight against the renewed Boko Haram insurgency is still on? Maybe, the government is waiting for blood to flow and thereafter set up a panel to determine the immediate and remote causes and as usual, bury the report in the archives. And the relatives of the victims will simply nurse their losses and life will go on. This may not be the situation this time round as any victim, survivor or relative would not be assuaged by mere speeches because they understand that it was premeditated, planned whilst the authorities failed, refused and neglected to act.

May I remind the federal authorities that the state is obligated to prevent, investigate and punish any human rights violation carried out in its territory not only by the acts of public officers but also directly resulting from acts not directly imputable to officers of the state. This has been aptly captured in the Velasques Rodrigues case in the following words:”…to take reasonable steps to prevent human rights violations and to use the means at its disposal to carry out investigations of violations committed within its jurisdiction; to identify those responsible, to impose the appropriate punishment and to ensure the victims adequate compensation.”

We are at the first stage where preventive action can be taken and prevention has been stated to better than seeking a cure.

We have a situation where there is no peace in the ruling All progressives Congress in Kaduna State. Miscreants were mobilised to disperse a peaceful press conference of two serving senators and in the process inflicting serious bodily harm on journalists and other attendees and media equipment was destroyed. Up till date, the police have made no arrests whilst the issue of generating delegates for a convention through a democratic process remains unresolved in the same state. And the chorus emanating from the state and all and sundry is; it is well.

Go a little further into the North-West, the Sokoto State Government was reported to have invested N700million to purchase a house for the Sultan of Sokoto. This is an impoverished state whose health and education indicators are one of the worst in the federation. And this is the priority of the state government? Again, the Governor of Katsina State last week claimed that that the state government subsidises Hajj trips with about N1billion annually. This is another state with poor social indicators. Turn down the South-East and Ebonyi State, literally, the poorest of the states in the region; the state House of Assembly is reported to have approved borrowing in the sum of N2.5bn for the government to build an ecumenical centre. And the chorus emanating from the three states and sundry others is: It is well.

In the South-South, the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, is revoking the Certificate of Occupancy of a hotel used by the All Progressives Congress for a function! And the state is keen on attracting investors. And virtually all the governors are keen on having control of the police under the euphoria of a state police in the name of decentralisation and a more functional federation. And the chorus emanating from the state and all and sundry is: It is well.

At the last count, the President has been away for almost three months; high level state officials have taken turns to visit him in a London hospital and brought back still pictures. No videos, no speeches, only reports that he appreciated the “patience” of Nigerians and their prayers for him. Buhari is treated at taxpayers’ expense but the taxpayers do not know what is wrong with their President. The National Assembly asks no questions and certain components of the critical media suddenly lost their voice. The taxpayers have not been told the nature of the President’s ailment and what they are paying for. Then, we heard the metaphor of the Lion King, the jackals and hyaena, etc., and the imminent return of the Lion King, all to no avail. And the chorus emanating from the deafening silence across the federation is: It is well.

In the final analysis, government at all levels must take action to ensure that lives and property are secure; the rule of law is mainstreamed and the security and welfare of the people becomes the basis for state action. Otherwise, we shall continue groping in the dark while other nations make progress.Punch

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