It has been eleven days as of this writing since terrorists once again threw ashes in the mouth of the nation and its security forces. The bombing of an Abuja-Kaduna train on March 28 was, and is, one of the most daring acts by a band of non-state actors terrorising the nation. They killed some passengers and abducted a disputed number of other passengers now held as hostages for ransom.
We have been reduced to sitting ducks in our homes, on the roads and in our offices. The terrorists decide where to strike, when to strike and how to strike. They carry out their dastardly acts, leaving a trail of blood, weeping and mourning. No one ever challenges them; so, they disappear like ghosts and re-appear as and when it suits them. In each bloody incident, the Nigerian state is absent and cannot perform its constitutional duty of making the people and the country safe. Never has a nation, equipped with modern arsenals for the protection of its citizens, been so reduced to so weak a position that it finds it wise to merely whine and moan while its citizens cower in fear.
Each time the terrorists strike, our big men howl in abject condemnation and leave the affected families to mourn their dead and bear the cross of not their own making. It has gone from the pitiable to the pathic, the bottom in the depth of helplessness. Never has a country submitted itself to the rule of terrorists and other criminals and wrings its hands like a helpless onlooker.
A few days before the train bombing, Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture, assembled journalists to tell them the good news that the country was getting safer every day. Every government is entitled to its own propaganda for its own good. But I do not think Goebbels would have dared to do what the minister did, given the facts available not only to the journalists but also the entire country about the true security situation in the country. If he is blissfully ignorant, we are not. We see no improvement in the security situation. We see no credible evidence that the country and its citizens are getting safer. On the contrary, we see incontrovertible evidence that the insecurity is getting progressively worse with the criminals becoming more daring and acting with a level of impunity that is scandalous, shameful, and inexcusable. It is Mohammed’s responsibility to make the administration he serves look good in the eyes of the public. He did not have much luck.
He forgot that he was talking to people who gather, write, and publish the news. He forgot that the reporters were not unaware of the killings in Kaduna State and other states or the assault on the Kaduna airport by terrorists at the time he was serving the unsalted diet of pathetic propaganda. His attempts to market alternative facts about the security situation in the country blew up in his face with the force of a basket of rotten eggs a few days later when the train bombing happened. It told him the country is getting more unsafe, not safer, every day.
President Muhammed Buhari reacted to the incident as he has always done. He gave the security forces the marching orders to get the criminals. It has been nearly two weeks since he gave the marching order. Still, none of the criminal has been arrested. We heard of the bombing of their enclave and their killings, but we know these characters have more than one life.
A couple of days ago as of this writing, they released made a grand show of releasing one of their captives from the training bombing, Alwan Hassan, managing director of Bank of Agriculture, because of his age, not because of the N100 million rumoured to have been paid to them. Such arrogance. They posed in a video with him just to show they were not afraid of the government and its security forces. They know that the presidential marching order was merely a routine reaction by Buhari. They know how many times he had given similar marching orders with nary effect on their operations.
It is difficult not to agree with the headline of the Daily Trust editorial of April 3: “Empty presidential directives.” These marching orders are perhaps not meant to achieve anything. There is scant evidence they have ever made an impression on the security situation. But at least in giving them, the president must have satisfied himself that having given them, he has duly played his part and his security men must play theirs by carrying out the order.
Part of the problems of the Buhari administration is its reluctance to hold anyone responsible for national disasters and embarrassment such as the train bombing. Not for the kidnap of students in Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara and Niger states, some of whom, as young as ten years old were or had been held captive in inhuman conditions for months. Did the management of the NRC ignore warnings of the possible attack? Who ignored the repeated intelligence reports on the planned attack? Someone failed to do his duty.
The president must have watched with bemusement as the various agencies traded blames for the train bombing. He can find no agent blame worthy. I am sure he has found no one to blame either for what bandits, kidnappers and armed robbers do in various parts of the country almost daily. No head need roll to satisfy the public baying for the blood of those under whose watch tens of our country men and women are routinely cut down by killers who treat human life like we treat flies.
It bears repeating. Public office comes with sacred public responsibilities. It is not an act of cruelty for the government to blame, and if possible, remove those who choose to exercise power without responsibilities. Nor is it an act of benevolence for the president to protect those whose failure rubs off on him. It is his call. This is the Buhari regime. History will not remember it as the regime of government agencies or individuals, no matter how powerful they might be in the government. The verdict of history matters.
The Daily Trust editorial under reference, pointed out, quite correctly, that “The government … scarcely has any proactive strategy for engaging the bandits head-on with boots on ground. As El-Rufai again said, everyone knows where the bandits are located, at least in the main; and the security agents even know some of their plans. Why has no one thought to take the war to them in their enclaves?”
Perhaps as our peasant farmers desert their farms and students abandon their classrooms and travellers by road hold their hearts in their mouths, our duty as citizens condemned to live in the uncertainty of the times, is to join the Daily Trust editorial and say this: “We urge Mr President to rise to the moment and show better that he has the will to tackle banditry actively from the front.”