When Chickens Come Home to Roost, By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, there is no longer any shade of doubt in me that our dear beloved country has finally hit the rock bottom. Wherever we go from here I don’t think can be much worse. Whether we admit it or not, we are already in a state of war. And this type of war is neither easy to fight nor win. It is a war without rules or clear definition. The great Fela would probably have described it as Roforofo fight, a battle in which every implement becomes a weapon of mass destruction and nothing is sacred. I used to read about this deadly situation in far-flung places like Lebanon, Palestine, Columbia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Mali, Somalia, Uganda, Pakistan, Libya, and lately Syria. In fact, we used to boast that such acts of wanton destruction were not possible in Nigeria. How wrong we were.
But we should have known that it was only a matter of time, the chickens were going to fly home to roost, due to our collective rascality and recklessness. We behave like the Galatians in the Bible, an unthinking and uncaring people. The better words for them are more succinct and graphic in Yoruba, alainironu ara Galatia! We’ve carried on for too long without paying attention to very grave issues. We must have assumed that God created us different and above the rest of the world and as such no evil can befall us. We lived like compulsive casino players and gambled away our collective future and legacy. I think judgment day is nearer than we are willing to admit if it has not arrived already.
I’m sure some incurable optimists are telling our President there is no cause for alarm, but he should not mind them in the name of God. There is plenty cause for alarm. Armageddon is here with its related apocalypse. It does not take much to know and admit that this house has fallen and there was once a beautiful and peaceful country. Let no one be deceived that this too shall pass away by some magic wand and that everything shall return to normal. I’m doubly certain that we’ve since crossed the Rubicon and we are on the other side of midnight where the whole place is in total darkness.
This is definitely a war without champions but many would be vanquished. It is a revolution of confusion. The architects must have designed an ideological concept that went outrageously malignant and spiralled out of control. This is certainly not the handiwork of novices but of hard-core professional warriors. This is a group at the peak of the terror game. Only fools would dismiss them as common delinquents. Their modus operandi says it loud and clear. They are big time players and masters of the game. They are capable of striking whenever and wherever with maximum impact. For them, this not a day’s job but a fulfilment of a well-orchestrated campaign of unusual hate executed with uncommon gusto and mathematical precision. They have succeeded in putting our nation in total disarray. And only God knows how this would end.
Those telling our President that this is all about politics are being clever by half. This is a cocktail of over-ripe problems. Yes, it all started as a religious war. Some people hated education. They wanted to Islamise the whole or parts of Nigeria by use of force. Their leader was set up, arrested and summarily killed in cold blood. His followers sought revenge and began to throw tantrums and bombs in pursuit of their agenda. Some politicians chose to align with them to be able to intimidate their opponents. They soon built a monster they could no longer control nor contain. The local wing got seriously ambitious and reached out to the boss of all bosses in Yemen and other headquarters of terror. Before our very eyes, what started like a joke became a combustive reality. Nigeria joined the big league in the comity of terrorist nations.
Truth is we were very careless. The disease had become malignant and terminal before we started looking for cure. We were not even sure of the better approach to use; go for outright surgery or embrace spiritual healing. The first would have necessitated an all-out war and the latter a softer approach. We failed on both counts. The amnesty committee or whatever it was called soon gave up the dream of bringing these guys to the negotiation table. No one knows what has happened since then.
Today, the terrorists are in charge and with full force. Nigeria is completely at their mercy. They inflict maximum pain and move on so casually to plan bigger acts. All we get from our government is a template of promises, all gas and no substance. Information is always scanty when offered at all. It is as if we don’t watch television to see and learn how others conduct their affairs if we don’t know how to fix ours. I’ve said it repeatedly; you can borrow and make use of other people’s brains if you lack yours. There is no big deal about using what others have taken great pains and discipline to conceive and nurture.
Let’s just go straight to the meat of my epistle today. Our government needs to wake up, if it is not too late as it were. After-all Jesus was able to wake Lazarus up from the dead. I hope such miracle can still occur in our time. There is no evidence on ground that we are taking concrete steps about tackling the scourge of terrorism in Nigeria. If government is doing something serious, I plead that Mr President should show us a few samples. I learnt from the Gulf wars that the field of battle has become a live theatre! Let us experience some thrillers from seeing clips and footages of our soldiers searching for our kidnapped girls in the caves and in the thick forests.
I would love to see our military take the war to the doorsteps of those recalcitrant neighbours harbouring our tormentors. We saw how the US MARINES flew into Pakistan undetected and took out the world’s most wanted man, Osama bin Laden. There was no fooling around and no long stories. They had a deadline. The commander-in-chief and his inner cabinet sat in the White House with bated breath waiting for results. One of the helicopters used for the operation had issues and was promptly destroyed to obliterate any evidence of what happened. Nigerians are fond of screaming how we are the giants of Africa. If we are, we must demonstrate it in words and action. We owe no one apologies for our greatness. But no one would ever respect a hawk that cannot descend on mere chickens and tear them to shreds Chinese-style.
We must take a cue from the Malaysians whose flight disappeared from radar and flew into God-knows-where. The world has known no peace ever since because of the 239 passengers on board. In fact, it is impossible not to join in the search because of the manner the case has become a fad. Nigeria lost 234 girls, or whatever number the military decides they are, and yet life moved on as if it was a normal occurrence. Fellow citizens were blasted out of existence; it attracted little attention from the world media. Even our local media did not seem to have access to the big stories. We can’t continue to live in the Stone Age. The world of today is controlled by perception.
I implore the President to pay more attention to information dissemination. The image out there is that of a feel-good leader who does not seem to care if Nigeria is on fire. That is not the right message he needs to send out. He must dismiss such impression of him without further delay. As a matter of fact, he should embargo all pictures of him laughing at functions or dancing at rallies. They do more damage than he can ever imagine. There must be a daily briefing by his spokesman just like we see from the Whitehouse about the President’s efforts.
I beg the President to stop his speech writers from writing the kind of jejune glorification of Nigeria he read on May Day. His speeches must reflect the mood of the nation. The May Day speech should have been totally devoted to the untold hardship faced by Nigerian workers and in particular what government was doing to reduce the army of unemployed youths in our country. Telling the world how Nigeria has so many private jet owners should have been left to lifestyle magazines like ours. We are experts at packaging the rich and famous. The President didn’t have to regurgitate such entertainment news.
Finally, I think Mr President needs to purge himself of the poison that this terror war is a mere game of politics. He needs to get to the root of it no matter the motives and find a way to put an end to it. He should urgently seek help from countries that have the capacity to rescue us from this mess. We should stop pretending that we can do it alone. Even if it is a political plot to frustrate the President out of power, it is no excuse to treat it with levity. A President is expected to be a magician of sorts. To be the number one citizen in a country of 160 million people is not an easy task. It is a rare privilege that comes with a burden heavier than an elephant. That is why many would kill to occupy that position.
I don’t envy the President at this moment. I’m certain his outward appearance is only a façade to impress that all was well. But as a human, it is impossible not to feel the pangs of the current bestiality. It is worse when you know that your personal luck in life may be largely responsible for this monumental misfortune.
My heart goes out to Mr President.
He deserves our prayers.
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