For the past few years, armed men – terrorists, insurgents, militants, bandits, jihadists and so on – have been on the war path against the Nigerian people. Each year, thousands of people are killed, kidnapped for ransom, sexually assaulted, their homes burnt, and their food taken, while millions have had to flee as internally displaced persons or refugees. We are in a state of anomie and there are no moral values or standards holding the society together anymore. We have entered the era of self-help and, increasingly, Nigerians are buying guns to defend themselves or to rob and kill others. The state, which has the responsibility to provide security to Nigerians, is absent. When armed bandits took over the Abuja-Kaduna road, the Generals, Police commissioners, ministers and director-generals of our governing class followed us civilians to go by train or fly between the two locations. They did not think about their responsibility to solve the problem, because they had an alternative.
The situation has changed dramatically over the past week. The bandit-terrorists who had been attacking numerous targets, including military establishments, led an assault against the Kaduna airport and stopped flights. Then they attacked the Abuja-Kaduna train, derailed it and broke into the first-class wagons occupied by members of the governing class and their families, killing some and kidnapping others. Meanwhile, these outlaws have had ownership of the Abuja-Kaduna road for years and they attack, kill and kidnap victims at will. In other words, after years of killing and maiming ordinary Nigerians, especially in rural Nigeria, without much notice by those in charge of the state, they are now making a direct beeline for members of the governing class and their families. This is the moment that we would know whether the governing class would all move out of the country to the beautiful houses they have already purchased in Dubai and other parts of the world or whether they would stay and fight, not for the masses, but for their lives and their families.
As it is the case with a lot of Nigerians, I was particularly struck by the case of Dr Chinelo Nwando Megafu, a dental surgeon, who died from the wounds she sustained in the deadly attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train on Monday night. Shortly after the attack, Chinelo posted on her Twitter handle that she was shot in the train, while calling for prayers from her followers. In a sane country that claims to be very religious, people would have responded with prayers.
Yes, many of them have stolen enough money to be comfortable abroad for the rest of their lives but it would be a miserable life, as they escape with their nuclear families and abandon their brothers, cousins, school mates and the congregations they worshipped with to be massacred. I know they don’t have much of a conscience but what a miserable life they would be living in a foreign country, where no one knows them, they have no roots and no one is even impressed with their wealth. If they have any brains, the time for them to develop a sense of self-preservation is now. Money, as they obviously don’t know, can buy goods but cannot buy happiness.
Every single Nigerian who has been killed, maimed, assaulted or hurt in any way since this crisis started 12-years ago tells a painful narrative and it is a major tragedy. As it is the case with a lot of Nigerians, I was particularly struck by the case of Dr Chinelo Nwando Megafu, a dental surgeon, who died from the wounds she sustained in the deadly attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train on Monday night. Shortly after the attack, Chinelo posted on her Twitter handle that she was shot in the train, while calling for prayers from her followers. In a sane country that claims to be very religious, people would have responded with prayers. Many did not even believe she was telling a true story because we live in a world of cynical disbelief. In pure wickedness, others were asking her whether she was not yet dead. The young doctor died. We often say that our leaders have no empathy and we are right. The problem is that too many of us have also lost our empathy. When a society is in anomie, everyone gets affected.
In its lead story yesterday, Daily Trust reported that senior security officials confided in the newspaper about the existence of many intelligence reports warning of a planned operation by the criminal groups, with one senior official describing the incident as “totally avoidable”. They added that they had learnt that the Kaduna State Security Council and the leadership of the 1st Division, Nigerian Army headquarters had also separately requested the Nigeria Railways Corporation (NRC) to suspend the late-hour shuttle between the two cities – an advisory that was however ignored. The managing director of the NRC, Engineer Fidet Okhiria has confirmed that the NRC was written to stop the evening train: “They wrote to us that they suspected that they wanted to attack the train but that was in December/January. But we looked at it and said if there is something like that, they should find a solution to it and stopping the train is not the solution.”
At the level of the president, his usual response is to issue directives to security operatives to address the problem. He has been issuing these directives for seven years and the situation has been getting worse. It was in this context that the Council of Imams and Ulama of Kaduna State has said that they have had enough of the talking and demanded action from President Muhammadu Buhari over the series of attacks against the people.
The Kaduna State governor was also clear in his comments that the security agencies know the bandit/terrorists, monitor their phone conversations and know their plans. They also know where they live and could eliminate them if they undertake a serious bombing campaign. Unfortunately, in spite of all the available intelligence, they have not taken the necessary actions to stop these heinous attacks and massacres of Nigerians. At the level of the president, his usual response is to issue directives to security operatives to address the problem. He has been issuing these directives for seven years and the situation has been getting worse. It was in this context that the Council of Imams and Ulama of Kaduna State has said that they have had enough of the talking and demanded action from President Muhammadu Buhari over the series of attacks against the people. They concluded on the note that the government must be held responsible for every single soul that has been lost in the attacks:
“The hideout of the bandits is well known to security agencies in Nigeria, yet the bandits operate without hindrance. Government’s lackadaisical attitude toward protecting the life of Nigeria is enough”.
The worsening problems of insecurity in Nigeria, therefore, can be clearly attributed to the criminal liability of government and its security agencies that have not done the needful to address the crisis. As more of the members of the governing class fall victim to attacks and terrorists, as bandits and insurgents deliberately target them, has the moment arrived when they will show more commitment and action in addressing the rising insecurity in the country? Let’s hope that the noose tightening around their necks and ours will awaken their enlightened self-interest. This is not because they really care about what happens to the people. The hope is that they might at least care about their own lives and those of their families.
A professor of Political Science and development consultant/expert, Jibrin Ibrahim is a Senior Fellow of the Centre for Democracy and Development, and Chair of the Editorial Board of PREMIUM TIMES.