On Chibok and the Diverse Begging, By Tobi Adebowale
It may hurt to imagine that you – we – live in a country where nothing is guaranteed. You can’t be too sure of the quality of the water you drink irrespective of the brand name or the fact that there’s some easily overlooked NAFDAC number printed on the bottle or sachet. If you do not have some more-than-natural well from which you draw assurances, you are better off fearing for your survival, your health, your next meal, your next home and your next anything. Hope counts for little in Nigeria and when you pray, you must do more than ask for daily bread, you need to request for the day itself.
Over forty days of abduction and false imprisonment by Boko Haram insurgents, the girls from Chibok and their agonizing families have only pleas and appeals for comfort. There is nothing reassuringly forceful anywhere, not even in the armed forces. It took about two weeks of pleading by the Nigerian people for the Nigerian government to acknowledge there is a problem. The pleas on social media riding on the advantage of hashtags and the global-village-esque nature of the world as a result of the internet added volume to the begging. It became a global prostrating and kneeling, asking that somebody should do something. With unprecedented negative attention and the world’s biggest news agencies relocating to Nigeria, the government realized it was far behind and swiftly joined the begging. Many weeks later, we are still begging – we, standing for a casual summation of the different strata of this begging corporation comprising government, citizens, armed forces, foreign allies, people in the diaspora and lots more.
It is a democracy. The Nigerian people are believed to have entrusted the responsibility for their safety in the hands of the present government under President Goodluck Jonathan during the 2011 elections. I say “believed” so as to cater for those who may have arguments about perceived irregularities during the election. Section 14 (2)(a) of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria (2011 as amended) provides that “sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this constitution derives all its powers and authority”. Section 14 (2)(b) similarly states that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”. In essence, a symbiotic relationship is thus created whereby the elected officers are decorated with a garment of power and resources which they are expected to use to ensure the safety and well-being of citizens at all times. The current realities in Nigeria in respect of the abduction of the Chibok girls and failure of government to ensure their safe return for over forty days thus suggest that something is fundamentally wrong. The government has failed in its constitutional duty, res ipsa – the facts speak for themselves!
The inability of government through the appropriate agencies and mechanism to protect the girls from a kidnap in the first place is condemnable. Its continuing failure to rescue them and stem the pervasive tide of terror across the North-East is even beyond a constitutional failure, it is a disgrace that would have been made impeachable in saner climes. That is however not the height of it. Budgetary allocation to security has been on the increase since 2010 and currently stands at 938billion naira in the 2014 budget aside other emergency funds. One level of sadness is the discovery that 90% of that amount is devoted to recurrent expenditure and 10% to capital expenditure under which the purchase of arms and ammunition will fall. The sadness deepens when one is constantly inundated with gory pictures of the living conditions of Nigerian Police, soldiers and others with complaints of poor remuneration and unpaid allowances. The two mutinies at the Maimalari barracks call for grief and concern in equal measures. A question nags in the mind as to the whereabout of all the sums devoted to salaries, even if the percentage does not make sense in the light of current realities. The sum of it all is, the power and resources granted by the Nigerian people to the government to secure their lives is not being properly utilized for that purpose hence allowing Boko Haram and other unpatriotic elements to terrorize the nation without inhibition or fear of being curtailed and apprehended.
We are forced to beg the government to perform its duty. The government is going around begging everybody too, even the terrorists, or how does one place calls by top government officials for Boko Haram to “Release our Girls”? Shortly after the hashtag “#BringBackOurGirls” started to trend online, Musiliu Obanikoro, the Minister of State for Defence – in charge one of the key ministries the people’s plea to bring back the girls is directed at – came up with similar hashtags on his Twitter account: “#GiveBackOurGirls; #SupportOurArmy; #EndBokoHaram”. Nothing can be more confusing and tiring.
We (and the global community) are begging the government to do the job for which it has been placed in charge of our resources and sovereignty, the same government is asking us to take over the role for which its officials are getting paid. President Jonathan expressed similar sentiments through the Minister of the Federal Capital, Oloye Akinjide who represented him when citizens in Abuja took the #BringBackOurGirls protest to the Aso Villa. The President will rather have the people go plead with Boko Haram to release the girls than come to him to ask that his government be more assertive in the efforts to rescue the kidnapped pupils. Sad.
It is not surprising that more groups sympathetic to the government are rising up, helping to amplify its refusal to accept the responsibility to fight terrorism as squarely its. The people may volunteer in particular circumstances as has been seen in some villages in Borno and the arrangement of the ‘Civilian JTF’, but such unregulated staccatic response to war waged by terrorists must not be imposed by this government as the norm. Obanikoro’s endorsement of the reported killings of scores of terrorists by villagers who he described as brave must be seen for what it is, statements of a man not well acquainted with the demands of his office by the constitution.
Someone needs to remind this government that this is not the best of ways to exhibit the ‘bigman-ism’ it aims at through the rebasing to become Africa’s largest economy. Having to attend a peace summit with Chad, Cameroon and Niger at the instance of France over an issue of some hundreds of crazed elements in a forest in a local government within a state in one of the six geo-political zones of a nation as stupendously endowed as Nigeria, is a shameful beggarly disposition that does not tally with the resources at the government’s disposal. It’s an embarrassment that so many weeks after the Chibok abduction, we are still on our knees, pleading for convincing action, still begging, begging who exactly we do not now seem to know.
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