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Opinions of Thursday, 29 April 2021

Columnist: Lawal  Ogienagbon 

 Cry, the beloved country

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As many may know, the above title is not this writer’s original thought, it was borrowed from the 1948 work by Alan Paton, which drew global attention to the racism in South Africa. The title was chosen because it speaks to our nation’s present situation. What is happening in the country today beggars belief. Nobody ever believed that we will get to this sorry pass. When Nigerians voted President Goodluck Jonathan out in 2015, they did so with joy and high expectations of better things under President Muhammadu Buhari.

Buhari was seen as a messiah that will deliver Nigeria from its myriad problems. It was the season of anomie. People had lost faith in the country. Hopelessness pervaded the land. How could there be a government and things would be upside down, the people wondered. It would be better not to have a government than to have Jonathan leading the country, they surmised.

You could not blame them for thinking like that. What they experienced informed their stand. You could tick off your fingertips all the bad, bad things, as Fela would put it, in the land. Check: abduction of Chibok girls from their school. Check: Boko Haram’s occupation of many local governments in the Northeast states of Borno and Adamawa, where the sect hoisted its flag. Check: The sect’s use of Sambisa Forest as its base. Check: insurgency, kidnapping, robbery, maiming and raping all over the place.

Added unto this was the problem of the economy. So, Jonathan had to go for Buhari to come in and turn things around! We thought we had no country then. With the benefit of hindsight, we can say that was a hasty conclusion. It is now that the true meaning of the title of the late renowned author, Prof Chinua Achebe’s memoirs, There was a country, is dawning on us. Achebe’s book centres around the civil war and its aftermath and how Nigeria has not got back its bearing since the end of that bitter enterprise over 50 years ago.

Really, the people of Southeast, who were hard hit by the war, believe that it has not ended despite their surrender over five decades ago. So, they concluded long ago that, at least for them, Nigeria is no longer a country, a thought which Achebe gave vent to in his memoirs. When Achebe used that title about 10 years ago, I thought it was hyperbolic. There was a country! How can that be? Is Nigeria dead? It is a figure of expression which meaning was not lost on the people. But since they did not perceive things from the same perspective as Achebe, the message did not sink home.

It has now. If things were bad six years ago, they are worse now. There was nothing that happened under Jonathan six years ago that is not happening on a larger scale today. Abduction of school children has risen beyond comprehension. Boko Haram has become more vicious. Terrorism, insurgency, kidnapping, maiming, looting and raping have taken a turn for the worse. Oh! What about herders’ menace. That is a different kettle of fish.

Police command headquarters, prisons and military formations are now invaded at will. Thousands of inmates have been let loose on society in the past seven months following their escape from different prisons across the country. The society is topsyturvy and the government is confused.

If it is not confused, it should have found an answer to what is ailing the land. It does not know what to do, that is the simple truth. If it did, its agents will not be caught napping when these hoodlums strike at public facilities. The hoodlums are so daring that they also take on governors, confronting Samuel Ortom of Benue on his farm and attacking the countryhome of Hope Uzodinma of Imo. Yet, we have a General at the nation’s helm. The General promised us heaven and earth if he became president. Talk is indeed cheap. This is what painfully we have come to realise after wasting our votes on him to become president.

Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) are taking the nation for a ride. This is something that they would not like to hear, but we have to say it. If we could take the Jonathan administration to the cleaners for things not as bad as we are witnessing today, why then should we keep silent in a government under which watch the nation is bleeding, to use their own word? The shouts of secession and self determination are rife because the President is perceived as being more loyal to his ethnic group than being a national figure. Yet, he promised to be for nobody and to work for everybody! Can the President thump his chest today and say that is what he is doing? These things are hard to say, but we must say them for the sake of our country.

Our country is at a crossroads. Children are no longer safe in school. Their parents face danger at home. Over a month ago, 39 students of the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation in Afaka, Kaduna, were abducted from their hostels. Over 20 of them are still in captivity. Their parents have been running from pillar to post trying to get them released. On April 20, 20 students and three workers of Greenfield University, also in Kaduna, were abducted. As I write this on Tuesday night, five of the students have been killed by their abductors, who are demanding N800 million ransom.

They killed the students to show that they mean business and to silence Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai, who has been running off his mouth. The governor should know that this is not the time to talk tough, but to tread gingerly because the lives of other people’s children are involved. If their distraught parents have their way and the means, they would have settled with the kidnappers in return for their children. By their action, the kidnappers showed the beast in them. You do not waste precious lives to prove a point. What point are they really trying to prove? That they can kill defenceless children for blood money?

These are no humans but barbarians and soon, very, very soon, they will get their just deserts. What happened to value for life? What happened to our humanity? What is the government doing to salvage the situation? When will the President publicly empathise with the distraught parents?  My heart goes out to the families of the late Abubakar Sanga, the late Dorathy Yohanna and other slain students. Things cannot continue like this, otherwise our disintegration is at hand. May God heal our land.

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