Another season of politics and politicking in Nigeria is here and expectedly, a lot of frenzied activities and horse trading are going on currently in the political space.
Without fear of contradiction, I dare to say that Nigeria has been through, perhaps one of its worst periods in history under President Muhammad Buhari led APC government. I can recall vividly that around this very period in 2015, many Nigerians had become dissatisfied with governance in Nigeria under former President Goodluck Jonathan and his PDP political party.
Many believed that the former President was a weak and clueless leader that was bereft of political or administrative acumen. As a result, it was said that corruption thrived under his very nose while prebendalism became order of the day.
Based on what was happening at that time, I concluded that those Nigerians that believed that the leadership abilities of former President Goodluck Jonathan were inadequate were right to a certain extent. At least, the celebrated but nauseating case of putrid kleptomania of Nigeria’s former petroleum minister, a Mrs Allison or the alleged slush arm deals of former NSA Dasuki buttressed those beliefs; no matter what anyone believes or disbelieves about the government of the former President.
Capitalizing on the pervasive disaffection in the country and gauging the general mood of the nation at the time, a group of hawkish and desperate Nigerian politicians hurriedly cobbled the All Progressives Congress or the APC party together through a somewhat crude political caeserian process that is currently not only hurting the party, but also hounding the nation.
Just to remind us, the APC promised to redeem our dear nation from PDP’s maladministration and the devilish stranglehold of a gluttonous colony of politicians within the ranks of the former ruling party.
The promise resonated with Nigerians instantly and justifiably so. Nigerians believed APC’s promises and rallied behind the party’s Presidential candidate based mainly on the now dubious ‘redeemer’ personage to oust the PDP from power. Almost seven years after President Muhammad Buhari and his APC came to power in Nigeria, nothing seemed to have changed remarkably in Nigeria.
If anything, Nigeria has degenerated abysmally from the undesirable state of affairs that we found ourselves in 2015 to now verging dangerously on the precipice of failed States; thanks to pervasive poverty and insecurity in the country. Nigeria has become a jackal’s paradise, where predators wander in at will for a kill and saunter out with their spoils unchallenged.
Jackal in this context is a scant metaphor for the troublers of Nigeria comprising but not limited to insurgents, terrorists, foreign criminal gangs engaged currently in kidnapping enterprise and ethnic cleansing, corrupt public officials including the hierarchies of the nation’s security agencies and of course, cyclical politicians and false clerics. In terms of security, there is no need to dwell endless on the country’s intransigent Boko Haram insurgency.
This is because Nigerians are gradually getting accustomed to activities of the insurgent and terrorist group. What seem to matter to most Nigerians now is where could be their next destination and for whom will the next bell toll? However, what is most worrisome currently is how foreign criminal elements and gangs seem to have found a fecund playground in Nigeria for plying their evil trades mostly for economic reasons. Incursion of foreign criminals into Nigeria especially through the country’s porous northern borders is not a new phenomenon though.
It predates Nigeria’s independence when petty thieves, rustlers and armed robbers from Niger and Chad forayed occasionally into Nigeria’s border communities to steal and rob residents. This phenomenon was noticed mostly during local market days during the era of trans-Sahara trade.
However, the Chadian civil wars that were waged variously between 1965 and 2008 as well as several rebellions by bands of mutinous soldiers and Tuaregs in Nigeria Republic exacerbated incident of incursion by foreign criminals into Nigeria.
The major tributaries of foreign incursion into Nigeria are mainly through the country’s northernmost land borders; including the notorious rugu forest that stretches for over 200km through Birnin Gwari in Kaduna State, parts of Zamfara and Katsina States up to Maradi in Niger Republic.
In fact, rugu forest is known to Nigerian security agencies as a major haven for the terrorists, insurgents, kidnappers and other criminal groups that are terrorizing the country currently. Also, the mountainous Gwoza and Sambisa forest areas of Borno State offer passages into Nigeria for criminals coming into our country from Chad and Cameroon.
Similarly, bands of foreign criminals are known to be constantly exploiting the fallow wastelands that stretch from Timbuktu to Gao in Mali, to Gaya in Niger Republic and terminating in Nigeria through Dandi Local Government Area of Kebbi State. According to the Nigerian Immigration Service, there are over 1,300 illegal routes into Nigeria along the about 1,470km stretch of land border between Nigeria and Niger Republic.
These are being exploited daily by smugglers and foreign criminals. Nigeria therefore offers political and economic haven to citizens of neighbouring African countries that are currently suffering hardships imposed by political unrest, global economic meltdown and effects of climate change. Compared to her neighbours, Nigeria has a buoyant economy but has lax immigration rules due principally to ECOWAS travel protocols as well as poor border management and controls. Consequently, there is currently a deluge of economic refugees and foreign criminals that are pouring into Nigeria on daily basis. This accounts for the intensified criminality virtually across Nigeria that we are witnessing currently.
The terrorists attack on Kaduna airport on the evening of 26 March, 2022 and related attack on an Abuja – Kaduna bound train during dusk of 28 March, 2022 were indicative of the coalescence of several foreign criminal gangs operating in Nigeria with local bandits and Boko Haram stragglers into a formidable front capable of destabilizing Nigeria if we don’t act fast and act decisively.
That is why I laugh at the many political narratives that emerged from different quarters after those incidents. They remind me of what late Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm’ Gen Norman Schwarzkopf said in his memoirs, ‘It does not take a heroe..’ He said politicians think that warfare is like watching a ‘terminator’ film where some ‘Rambo’ deploys one magical fire spitting weapon momentarily and exterminates all his opponents with just a squeeze of the trigger.
Listening to the Honourable Minister of Transport and Aviation talking about frustration of his planned deployment of rail track surveillance system by his fellow politicians therefore resonated in my head with what the late Allied Forces Commander once said. If nothing at all, it taught me that politicians are the same all over the world.
Nigeria’s Honourable Minister of Transport and Aviation escalated the political absurdity by adding that all Abuja – Kaduna train shuttle services shall be accompanied by Nigerian Air Force combat air platforms once the service resumes. Mr Honourable Minister, are you kidding me, or are you saying that Nigerian politicians are this daft?
The most annoying impudence of Nigeria’s ruling elites was the visits to scene of the train incident by some security chiefs; specifically the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and the Inspector General of Police (IGP).
At least the COAS was physically on ground on the rail tracks amidst a bevy of heavily armed and body armour cladded aides to inspect the extent of damage, assess the tactics and possibly type of weapons that the terrorists may have employed to perpetrate the dastardly act. Whether we admit it or not, this has become part of the political correctnesses that have assumed officialese character in Nigeria. Rather than being a forensic analysis of the horrific attack in order to design preventive measures, the visit by the swagger- stick wielding COAS from all intent and purposes may just have been for its political correctness.
I stand to be corrected whenever I witness a proactive measure by his land forces to prevent a re-occurrence. The most annoying of the visits however is that of the IGP who, from recesses of his armoured plated official limousine car while being accompanied by a large retinue of heavily armed security aides, decided to travel some stretch of the Abuja – Kaduna road before returning to Abuja to brazenly inform Nigerians that the road is safe. Haba Mr IGP!, what do you take Nigerians for, some bloke headed folks? It may interest the security Chiefs to know that some innocent Nigerians were kidnapped on the same Abuja – Kaduna road that they touted as being safe while they were still in transit to their respective cosy and well fortified abodes in Abuja after those publicity visits. Who is deceiving who then?
There is no doubt that Nigeria’s security forces have made significant progress in the fight against Boko Haram insurgency and terrorism since 2015 when President Muhammad Buhari assumed power in Nigeria. However, government’s apparent lack of interest and inadequate attention to the country’s land borders is threatening to reverse whatever gains have been achieved against Boko Haram so far.
As it were, Nigeria is currently under siege by bands of foreign economic mercenaries that are combining with local gangs of kidnappers, armed robbers, ritualists, cattle thieves, including Boko Haram’s economic raiders as well as the insurgent group’s individual stragglers searching for personal economic fortunes. Therefore, unless Nigeria pays immediate attention to the country’s land borders and control influx of foreign criminals, the entire country; including Abuja may become unsafe for all of us. This is a critical assignment for the next President as our incumbent President has limited time on his hands and has demonstrated unwillingness to control the country’s borders effectively especially in the north because of certain political, religious and cultural considerations. If you doubt me, consider the timing of current decision by the Federal Government to re-open the country’s land borders against a backdrop of the impending general elections. Nigerians are currently living the Hobbesian nightmare in their country where anarchy reigns and human life and living have become ‘short, solitary, poor, nasty and brutish.’ As it is, the social contract between Nigerians and the Government appears to be collating or have collapsed because of failure of the latter to protect citizens from marauding bands of terrorists, insurgents, kidnappers, armed robbers etc.
Therefore, Nigerians must jettison all sentiments as we prepare to elect a new set of leaders in 2023 that we hope will help us to salvage the country from its current despondent state and possibly prevent it fro slipping ultimately nto failure.
We must reject all the politicians that have ruled us thus far from 1999 till date as it is evidently clear that they lack vision, are irredeemably corrupt and don’t have the amount of decorum required of leaders that could be entrusted with the task of repositioning Nigeria at this critical time.
Ogacheko Opaluwa is a Public Affairs Analyst and Social Critic. He contributed this piece from Abuja-Nigeria.