Whilst the United Kingdom has been ‘enjoying’ a rather bleak summer of incessant rains, flash flooding and uneven temperatures, Nigeria stays in the spotlight with an unremitting stream of bad news. The British weather (last week) had been such that encouraged one to stay at home and in bed watching old films and listening to music as it had rained non-stop for a whole week. But those luxuries are the exclusive preserve of pensioners. In these parts, life does not stop because of the rains. Employees are expected to report for work while buses and trains run normally. Unlike in Nigeria where the rain reinvigorates, a brief spell under the British rains will give you a guaranteed headache or flu if you are caught in it.
Also in the news is the 13-year jail sentence on James Ibori at the Southwark court. His well-deserved sentence, a victory particularly to the impoverished people of Delta State, is an embarrassment to the Nigerian judiciary, particularly the toothless irritant, the EFCC, and the powers that be. The summation of views on Ibori is a constant reminder that the federal government lacks the political will and sincerity to deal head-on with corruption. One can sympathise simply because those who live in glasshouses must not throw stones. How can any government seriously tackle corruption when looting the nation’s treasuries, embezzlement and financial recklessness are the norm, perpetrated unabatedly and unashamedly by senior officers across the federation? It is doubtful that this President can make any credible stamp on corruption when his party, the PDP, is the sleaziest of them all.
Last week, Boko Haram, the dreaded terrorist organisation, cemented their threats to wreak havoc on Nigeria by destroying media houses, churches and leaving corpses in their wake. The group claimed responsibility for the August suicide attack at the UN headquarters in Abuja, which killed at least 24 people. It is estimated that since 2009, the group’s increasingly bloody insurgency has claimed more than 1,000 so far to this year. On Thursday last week, bomb attacks at the offices of the ThisDay newspaper in the capital Abuja and the northern city of Kaduna left no fewer than nine people dead.
Their latest assault hit home personally because the Press are the Fourth Estate of the realm. In a sense, no writer, journalist, editor or publisher is to be spared under the wrath of Boko Haram. How did we get here? Who will stop the menace? What is the government doing to safeguard lives and property? Who will help the damaged media houses re build again?
Whilst Boko Haram terrorises the entire nation, it has become obvious that journalists who write about the terrorist organisation do so at their own peril. Yet, the importance of our media cannot be over emphasised as the success of any democracy can be measured by the freedom of its media. Our media houses deserve credit, for they operate under harsh economic climate. It is not easy to run a media business – paying salaries and all; it is challenging. Adding Boko Haram into the mix makes a bad situation worse.
Many journalists have paid with their lives in preserving the truth. Should all journalists now cow in fear? Should the truth no longer be spoken because we fear Boko Haram? What remains to be seen is how Nigeria will rally around its media to prevent its decimation by bigots like Boko Haram. This dangerous trend is the tip of the iceberg going by a video posted on YouTube by the terrorist group. The video promises Nigerian media houses more carnage and destruction whilst accepting responsibility for attacking ThisDay newspapers. Whilst the world and Nigeria’s leaders have condemned the attacks on the media (freedom of press) and the ongoing slaughter of religious adherents (freedom of religion) in the strongest possible terms, it is felt that the President and state governors are not ready to deal with the organisation. It is public knowledge that the President has admitted Boko Haram has sympathisers within his own cabinet. Herein lies the conflict the President feels between 160 million people whom he promised to defend and the ‘all powerful’ cabal he cannot touch. Coupled with incisive comments by Major General [Andrew] Aziza about how the PDP is to be blamed for Boko Haram, the nation perhaps understands the situation a little better. We seem to have the wrong President for the wrong time.
The absence of energy from the Presidency to tackle the group head-on tells Boko Haram that they have the implicit support of northern governments and the President to wreak more havoc. It is thought that the group’s notoriety is inspiring robbers to use explosives in capturing and conquering unsuspecting victims. How else can anyone explain how in one night four banks in Ondo State could be attacked in the night using amateur explosives? Let’s pause for a moment to consider what would happen, God forbid, when Boko Haram starts attacking in the South of Nigeria? What are we going to do then?
If these trends are not alarming enough, the fact that our leaders are comfy in their nice offices thinking of how to erect ‘multi-million naira’ fences ought to leave us without hope for the present state of our union.
We know the situation is dire as our leaders are content partying, celebrating, travelling overseas and engaging in verbal wars on the pages of daily newspapers. Unfortunately, with the calibre of our national leaders, Boko Haram is here to stay. Like everything else, the Nigerian media cannot rely on the federal/state government’s protection for their lives and property. It is an ‘every man to himself, God for us all’ situation.
Last year, in the wake of the August riots in Britain, the prime minister cut short his holiday and he took charge of the security situation. As Nigeria’s former minister of defence, Theophilus Danjuma, a retired general, has said, “Nigeria is on fire.” Sadly, this fire may burn our nation down unless there is rapid change of plans. It is up to this President to address the issue squarely and more seriously. His present lukewarm status is certainly uncalled for whereas on his hands is the blood of those innocent victims. How many more lives would be lost before Nigeria, under President Jonathan, awakes? The best we can do in the mean time is to pray, fast and hope that when next Boko Haram strikes, we are lucky to escape with our lives. May God help Nigeria, Amen.