Since the return to democratization in 1999, the call for good governance has been a reverberating chorus in Nigeria. Desperation to make this happen at a desired speed led to the acceptance of the mantra of change and next level with the expectations to accelerate to the crescendo where hope will be fully renewed. Unfortunately, this seems to be the opposite with the expansion in the “colony of poverty” and killing fields that have turned the country to a laughing stock at the comity of nations.
On 24th December, 2023, more than 195 people were killed following the invasion of 25 communities in Barkin Ladi, Bokkos and Mangu communities by gunmen on Christmas eve at Plateau State in a manner that turned the atmosphere of joy to sorrow and raises questions on the safety of lives and property under the watch of president Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
While the sympathisers continue to troop to the scenes to sympathize with the people and assured them of a better tomorrow with a promise that the government will bring the perpetrators to book, a letter purported to be from the gun men threatening to revisit the areas on the 29th and rain more havoc on the communities surfaced. Though, they failed to meet their target on the said date but their reinforcement led to death of three young men looking fo their missing relatives in the area on 30th.
Probably, the numbers of the casualties would have been more than three if the people in the communities had ignored the warning of the terrorists by relying on the government that claimed to be on top of the situation. However, the incidence of people disregarding the voice of the government at the command of the terrorists especially, at conflict infected areas is not new.
In May, every married men at Keta Village in Zamfara State, were reported placed a levy of N5000 each by the bandits for them to enjoy freedom of movement, freedom of farming activities and others. The same is the experience of communities that have sealed protection agreements with the terrorists in order to ensure that they live and work in peace.
Similarly, on 26th December the governor of Plateau State, Mr. Celeb Mutfwang, stated that no fewer than 64 communities have been displaced and their lands taken over by the terrorists. In fact, some of the schools in the areas have been occupied for the last three to five years with the children in those schools relocated, and primary healthcare centres abandoned because of the presence of the terrorists.
Meanwhile, the chapter 4 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, states the fundamental human rights to include right to life; dignity of human person; personal liberty; fair hearing; private and family life; freedom of thought; conscience and religion; freedom of expression and of the press; peaceful assembly and freedom of association; freedom of movement; freedom from discrimination; and freedom to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria.
Specifically, the section 33 provides that no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in the execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty. To ensure that these rights are properly protected, the monopoly of force was exclusively given to the state represented by the government.
Unfortunately, the experiences in Nigeria seems to suggest that the government has failed or currently on a reverse gear moving towards the bus stop of failure. This has degenerated to the level that even some of the people at the corridor of power have agreed that there are ungoverned spaces too difficult for the security personnel to penetrate and operate. Thereby buttressing the claims of those alleging that country has ceded part of her territories to the terrorists as against the provisions in the section 2(1) of the constitution which stipulates that Nigeria is an indissoluble and indivisible state.
Though, how the country slipped to this trying time might be obscured but it can not be unconnected to the cumulative failure of the governments that have created a very wide gap between the “have and the haven’t” and promoted politics of bitterness to the level where little manipulation and enticement can make people to fall prey of the warlords masquerading as messiah.
Based on the last National Bureau Statistics (NBS) literacy report, most of the areas that are experiencing regular visitation of the terrorists are areas that have featured or currently leading on the list of states with high level of poverty and lowest literacy index. For example, Zamfara is among the six states with lowest literacy rates and ten states ranked to have the highest poverty rates in Nigeria.
Though, some of the challenges are inherited by the president but the inability to proffer solution to them has shown that the Messiah Nigerians are looking for is yet to come. Rather, what seems to exist is another task master that continue to persuade Nigerians to pay more sacrifices for national development while those at the corridor of power continue to enlarge their grip on the country’s wealth.
For instance, while the fuel subsidy was removed to justified the need to pull Nigeria off the path of economic collapse, the national assembly members were given new jeep worth 160 million each while N10 billion was allocated for the proposed students loan and N20 billion allocated for the renovation of the residents of the president, vice president, vehicles for the first lady’s office in the supplemtary budget passed in October.
The same seems to repeat itself in the 2024 appropriation bill passed by the national assembly on 30th December where 47 billion was allocated to the Senate, 74 billion for the House of Representatives, while a total of 50 billion naira allocated for proposed students loan scheme.
That Nigeria is bleeding and needed urgent attention is not in doubt, that is why the President needs to move from promises to fulfilment by formulating peoples oriented policies, putting in place measures that will minimize unintended consequences in policy implementation process, show more political will in the quest to pull down the stronghold of terrorists and rebuild the broken bridges occasioned by the activities of these unscrupulous elements across the country so that the dwindling hope can be renewed.