Nigeria gets wheeled on a gurney for triage as foreigners rue and wring their hands on a lost cause. “A country that should be West Africa’s bread basket is now itself a basket case,” a western diplomat muttered over dinner at a dimly-lit restaurant in Sheraton hotel, Abuja - the country’s capital city - a building Australian spies long flagged as target of terrorist bombing by Islamic Jihadists rampaging Nigeria.
Muslims’ militia attacks in Nigeria have been as audacious as they have been gruesome.
At the Deeper Life Church in Okene town, central Nigeria, on 7th August 2012, an eye-witness said “The gunmen stormed the evening church service and went straight to the generator stand, switched it off, before entering the un-completed church building and started shooting the worshipers at close range in an operation that looked well-organized, as some of the gunmen stationed themselves outside the door of the church to stop any worshipper from escaping”.
Banks, prisons, a United Nations office, three television viewing centres, a dozen police stations, four army barracks, five secondary schools, three bus garages and several street markets have all come under similar deadly attacks in the last two years, resulting in a death toll close to 21,000 Nigerians.
Included in that toll are two army generals; three army colonels, along with over 40 officers of Nigerian Prisons Service; amongst whom were two retired prisons service officials killed in March 2012 at Maiduguri in Nigeria’s north-east. One of them, Abdullahi J. Bello, was killed by gunmen inside his Railway Quarters residence at 6.15 pm whilst preparing ablution for evening prayers.
In May last year, the Redeemed Christian Church of God – the country’s second largest - announced it had lost 46 churches in northern Nigeria to arson by Islamic militias, notably the Boko Haram Salafists. “In total, we have lost at least 750 churches in northern Nigeria to attacks by Islamic terrorists,” crows the national president of The Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, Reverend Felix Omobude.
The Catholic Church in north-east Nigeria on its part bewails ₦450million church property destroyed in the diocese by Islamic militias. “Persons displaced within this diocese are over 90,000 with 170 children killed and orphaned children now over 1,500,” said the Diocesan Secretary, Father Gideon Obasogie.
On 6th June, the Emir of Gwoza, a Muslim leader, was ambushed, dragged out of a convoy, in Maiduguri, and, shot dead, whilst two other Muslim Emirs accompanying him ran into a nearby army cantonment. So far in north-east Nigeria 14 district heads in Borno state, next in rank to the Shehu of Borno – the Islamic empire’s traditional ruler – have all been killed by Islamic terrorists.
The Shehu of Borno himself escaped death by a whisker in mid-July 2012, whilst exiting the Maiduguri Central mosque after prayers, when a teenage suicide bomber, five metres away, exploded an improvised device, killing several people, mostly shredded in bits. Seven months later, another improvised explosive was hauled at the Emir of Kano – the fourth ranking Muslim leader in Nigeria – by a cell of Islamic militias who killed three of the Emir’s guards, plus his driver, and caused the Emir to be rushed abroad for trauma treatment.
Tellingly, over 200 secondary schoolgirls in Chibok town kidnapped in their dormitory in Borno state by Boko Haram militias since April 14th this year remain missing till date without trace. Political Cassandras overseas are now glum with despair and deeming Nigeria un-salvageable with foreign help, given the wholesale chaos overwhelming the country as leitmotif.
American military planners, for example, do not assess that it is tactical or strategic to deploy U.S combat troops to Nigeria in search of the kidnapped Chibok girls. “It is the responsibility of the Nigerian armed forces to rescue the girls. We can only assist,” a top U.S. Marine commander was last week reported as saying.
Or has any other country considered it wise to bring in its combat units and get embroiled in what’s unfolding as Nigeria’s second civil war. Nigeria must now swim or sink in the country’s own waves since its rot was internal to it. But Nigeria has its work cut out. The Boko Haram Islamic militias renounce all laws in the country as illegitimate and declare themselves above the law. The effect of that put Nigeria’s National Assembly in legislative limbo amid Nigeria’s miasma of anomie.
Much worse, Nigeria is lacking not just in military assets for hit-and-run guerrilla war against Boko Haram, and despite having a crop of trained officers in jungle warfare, the Nigerian Army also lacks logistical ability to enter the 700 square miles Sambisa forest in north-eastern Nigeria used as hideout by Boko Haram fighters.
“There was considerable underfunding of the Nigerian military in the past 30 years,” said Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan last month. “We are only just trying to solve that now.” Although pressing, especially as Boko Haram fighter cells metastasize, military funding is only a facet of Nigeria’s existential crises. “The country is adrift without a steering wheel,” said a foreign blogger, bewailing a country he depicts as mentally incompetent and in total dis-agreement with itself.
So far Nigeria is yet to solve any single problem inherited from British colonialists since it gained independence on October 1, 1960. Its previously well-rated colonial schools are now a shambles, without overseas accreditation any longer. The country lacks abiding sense of law and order today, unlike its colonial days, as armed robbers and similarly minded criminals undo the country into becoming a savage and un-liveable place.
As official thefts deepen in Nigeria - with elected officials and appointees stealing the country’s cash assets in billions - individual progress has involved a trade-off with public morality in the country. Taking a cue from the stealing ways of their supposed leaders, ordinary Nigerians now feel justified to steal, to rob and to kill. In that vortex of anomie Nigeria got lost before Boko Haram began bombing the morally denuded country where several court Judges wear the badge of the bribed as accoutrement to wig and gown.
Besides begetting thefts all across Nigeria, the eye-watering stealing by Nigeria’s government officials sank Nigeria before Boko Haram sprang. Nigeria now glaringly lacks in all public facilities for congenial human existence; from toilets to electricity. In that state of nature, anomie set in with deadly consequences, more severely with 40 to 50 million young adults - more than the whole population of England – now jobless.
On paper, Nigeria’s political parties should be next in line to step into the breach and save the violence-infested country; but with the churches and mosques in Nigeria deprived authority - having been drawn into the Nigerian carnage, Nigeria’s political parties prove as morally wretched as dens of thieves.
In public eye, the political parties are the actual crucible where official thieves are bred, not just to violate public laws by finessing stealing of state treasuries, but also by sponsoring deadly violence in a country already soaking in blood. No good virtue is sought by party leaders in choosing candidates. All that’s sought is criminal-mindedness which then stokes ordinarily decent people who need to do business with their state governments to consider undergoing apprenticeship in criminal endeavors, and begin to sound like criminals, to be considered worthy for a job or a public contract. Anomie begets anomie as public officials suck all other Nigerians into a swirl of thefts.
By that insidious coral, a state governor announcing he will never render public accounts to the people is, for example, no longer seen as an outrage by the posse of highly educated civil and human rights groups whose judgment has become impaired into partisan silence by the bribes they receive from state governors. And so, as civil society groups in Nigeria crumple in acquiescence to criminal violations of democratic tenets of accountability, the Nigerian tragedy deepens.
“We’ve had different political 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,” said The Most Reverend Joseph Akinfenwa, the Anglican Arch-Bishop of Ibadan, in January 2011 - after taking due account of Nigeria’s facts; beholding a military solution to anomie as equal to pasting a plaster on cancer, and, seen no single official above the rot, to hold Nigeria by the hands.
Seyi Olu Awofeso is a Legal Practitioner.