“I was captured close to Benin City at about 3pm on August 23, 2013, and, driven on a rough road for about four hours into a jungle far removed from civilisation - blindfolded. From the moment of my abduction on August 23, and until September 11 when i was ransomed, myself and 12 other victims were blindfolded throughout by the kidnap gang in their camp. In the course of my abduction I took ill and was promptly attended to by the kidnappers’ medical doctor who, after examining me, gave me injections and some intravenous fluids as part of a treatment for malaria and typhoid.
Every 24 hours of the day, we had death sentence hanging on our head. When any of the kidnappers wanted to speak to us, we must face the wall or the ground. The kidnappers are all university graduates of various disciplines, i believe. They understand philosophy, history, political science and, as i said, they even have their medical team. One of them said he graduated since six years ago without a job. The kidnappers said only one (1) per cent of Nigerians have fraudulently cornered Nigeria’s wealth. They used this same argument to justify their kidnap actions. They vowed that in 2015 they will move against Nigeria’s politicians for stealing and creating massive un-employment.” …….Barrister Mike Ozhekome (S.A.N), September 12, 2013
Looked at from outside Nigeria seems like a sprawling anomie, but inside the country, it feels more like an uprising, as the people take up arms against unjust property relations between the few corruptly rich ones and those made poor in consequence of the country’s zero-sum official banditry.
With 600 billion United States dollars stolen and salted away from the country, according to latest World Bank investigations, Nigeria’s uprising escalates beyond bridling, as 6,000 plus charred corpses have so far been recovered from the country’s bloody orgy.
Before now, isolated events of kidnap and murder were casually seen as fringe criminal conduct, until Mike Ozekhome bore witness as a captive, that what Nigeria actually faces is a peoples’ uprising.
In his dire testimony, Mike Ozekhome revealed a well-organized peoples’ revolt, involving university-trained medical doctors as active members of the kidnap gang which nabbed him, and further testified that the gang’s field operators comprised university graduates; all armed.
Although before now, a founder of a Christian sect had said he’d seen spiritual vision of this uprising. The 67-year-old Primate, Theophilus Olabayo of the Evangelical Church of Yahweh, had prophesied on June 30th this year that Nigeria’s immediate future will be testy.
“We are sitting on a keg of gunpowder,” Primate Olabayo warned at the time. “Something worse than Boko Haram is about to happen. We are looking at total darkness in the Nigerian nation. There’s going to be a revolution. The poor will overtake the rich. You’ve not seen anything yet. Nothing is working; the worst corruption is in Nigeria. There has never been corruption as worse as this. The name of Nigeria is now corruption,” he’d said.
Back in January 2012, the wife of the former Lagos State Governor, Mrs. Oluremi Tinubu, a federal Senator, was hijacked on the Ibadan highway in the afternoon; forced out of her car, dealt some body blows before being dis-possessed of her belongings – despite introducing herself to her abductors as “a “progressive politician” Her travelling companion, Senator Femi Ojudu who got similar rough treatment, would later tell news-reporters that he’s never seen anything quite like it. “It was not a riot, it was not a protest, it was a revolution!” Femi Ojudu confessed his scary impressions of the anger he saw etched on the faces of their hijackers.
Before Mrs Tinubu’s 2012 hijack, Mrs. Florence Ita-Giwa, who was at the time the National Assembly liaison officer to the then President Olusegun Obasanjo, was herself blockaded on the expressway by armed youths whilst on official assignment in Nigeria’s northern states. “I just jumped out of my moving car, fell down and rolled a few yards, then got up and started running into a nearby bush, suffering bruises as I fell and rose in panic, but i kept running straight into the bush, without much consciousness of where I was going or why,” she’d said in distress, after escaping the near-death trauma. “It was the worst experience in my life.”
The imagery of government officials running into thick bushes to avoid beatings does not signalize a peaceful or normal country – anymore than that the Nigerian Army is now deployed in combat operations in 28 out of Nigeria’s total of 36 states.
Today, the 2nd highest ranking Anglican Archbishop in Nigeria, Most Reverend Ignatius Kattey, is missing without trace, since 3rd September, when he was kidnapped a few kilometres from Port-Harcourt city, along with his wife – Beatrice, who was however let off at the crime scene almost immediately - whilst the kidnappers made away with the Archbishop, with no ransom asked till now.
As yet, the Police have not officially issued any update nor confirmed the whereabouts of the kidnapped wife and daughter of Supreme Court Justice Rhodes-Vivour, who were abducted on the Benin expressway since 10th of May his year.
“Nigeria is today in a war situation,” said Wole Soyinka, the country’s Nobel Laureate on May 9th, regarding sprouting armed gangs in northern Nigeria operating under the command of Boko Haram. “And the entire population of Nigeria must consider itself as being in a war situation,” Wole Soyinka further said.
But the bigger picture of the war Wole Soyinka depicts actually includes several other armed gangs operating outside Boko Haram who are more impelled by personal economics and national vengeance, and who randomly maim or kill for the sheer catharsis.
All told, war is war, regardless of its motivation, since belligerents exist on all of Nigeria’s multi-sided conflicts. This much was conceded by Yinka Odumakin, the Secretary-General of the Yoruba Afenifere ethnic socio-cultural group, who lately asked the people of Nigeria to shun the elites’ invitation to a religious or ethnic war, those being digressions from the overarching economic issues concretely dividing Nigerians today.
“Should the elites push Nigeria into a war, all oppressed people across Nigeria must cleverly use the opportunity to take off the heads of their (local) thieves first,” Yinka Odumakin said on April 15th. “Thereafter, Nigerians can come to the table clutching the skulls of their thievish elites to re-negotiate the terms of the country and decide if every ethnic group is better off on its own.”
More or less the United States government also sees theft-ridden economics as the real issue causing deepening poverty of honest workers in Nigeria, for so long as official theft asphyxiates the country’s people into striving at anything, just to breathe and survive, since official theft drains away Nigeria’s resources and causes a struggle for the scant means of livelihood left for 160 million other Nigerians without access to roguish government officials.
“Corrupt Nigerian officials; elected or appointed, who have stolen government funds or who demand bribes to award government contracts cannot be allowed to enjoy the proceeds of their corruption,” the now outgone United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Terence McCulley, warned on December 4, 2012, to make clear the United States government agrees that stealing is the problem with Nigeria.
With such foreign compassion for their plight, the dis-possessed and angered people of Nigeria face no overseas reprisals for exacting revenge in any which way. And with these foreign tail-winds, they’ve lately rapidly coalesced into organized cells as crypto liberation movements.
They have converted and occupied several hectares of lands in the interior of Nigeria as militia camps, and fitted the camps with medical, catering, transport, and reconnaissance units. “My kidnappers camp was about four hours’ drive from Benin city. It was on an expanse of land completely removed from all human civilization, but it had its medical team,” Mike Ozekhome revealed.
As these revolting armed groups set up a state within a state, the Nigerian state withers away.
“The whole Nigerian society has failed,” said President Goodluck Jonathan on June 15, this year. “That is one reason we have incidents of cultism, armed robbery, murder, ritual killing, drugs, sale of babies, kidnapping and sexual immorality. When you look at Nigeria today, we are deceiving ourselves; pastors are deceiving members, members are deceiving their pastors, husbands deceiving their wives, and the wives deceiving their husbands. Parents are deceiving their children and the children in turn deceive their parents. Soon, we would have a whole nation of people deceiving each other,” President Jonathan further said.
Though quite obviously exasperated, Jonathan’s government has not quite given up by throwing up its hands, but endeavours to reverse the country’s anomie, by wholly political means.
The National Assembly, for example, is finalizing an amended national constitution for Nigeria, although that measure does not resonate with a vast majority of ordinary folks whose un-employed numbers are put at 75 million today, according to the country’s former Vice President, Abubakar Atiku. To be sure, there’s nothing in the draft amendments under discussion speaking directly to jobs.
Nevertheless, the Jonathan government presses on yet another track to dam Nigeria’s anomie from overflowing into full-blown anarchy, as the national currency - the Naira -, weakens daily by a half percentage point, currently exchanging for ₦163 to one United States dollar, on the back of slackened oil exports from the 6 billion dollars in lost revenues as a result of crude oil thefts by a clutch of illegal bunkerers operating without let in the Niger Delta region.
The Nigerian government has in the meantime set up a new 7th division of the Nigerian Army and provisioned it with logistics; including artillery units, based in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri, to contain direct military threats from rampaging Islamic militias in that region.
Foreign reports say the Nigerian Navy is also making fresh orders for patrol gun-ships to stem kidnappers and some mushrooming oil bunkerers in the south-south region, where the Jonathan government had last year set up a new army command centre in Bayelsa state.
Yet, these ostensibly proactive steps are perceived as falling short of winning local or international confidence. “We are not impressed with Nigeria’s war against terror,” the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Terrence McCulley, said dead-pan last month.
And for so long as the Nigerian government adopts a political party approach towards the country’s heightening emergency, the Anglican Archbishop of Ibadan, Most Reverend Joseph Akinfenwa had himself since January 2011 scoffed at such plan as a no-brainer.
“We’ve had different parties. PDP, ACN, ANPP, and so on, but has the lot of the average Nigerian become better since 1999? Of course not! So, no matter what any politician from any political party says now, we must reject it as false. The long and the short of it, brethren, is that Nigeria needs a revolution. We are ripe for a revolution. The people should arise and retake their country,” Arch-Bishop Joseph Akinfenwa exhorted two years ago.
Since then, there’s been no clear path for Nigeria’s exit from its cul-de-sac, or, a terminal date when official thefts will stop in Nigeria for national reconstruction to begin. As things stand, Nigerians desperately clutch at straws and whistle in the dark on a daily basis - almost wistfully hoping to be led out of their national quagmire by a heavenly pillar of fire.
…………………………………..Seyi Olu Awofeso is a Legal Practitioner in Abuja.