Today all our chickens are coming home to roost. We have been on the brink many times. Siddon-look looks dangerous. Many rural communities in the North are now desolate. The South-East is slipping. Fatwas are flying around. Anambra governorship election, due in a few months, is in clear jeopardy. Our last hopes are crumbling. Who can rouse the president?
Buhari’s aura has dimmed. Our lion looks castrated.
Once tall, rigid and fearless. He is now slow and timid. The lion we had run to for protection now watches wild goats eat palm fronds on our head. Even with the fangs of the presidency, our bold lion now lets hyenas feast on our cubs. When he roars, we hear a whimper, the one who chased the wild dogs of Maitatsine into oblivion. Why does he watch our slow dismemberment?
Our lion looks castrated. If the gods are not to blame, how did our lion become a lame squirrel? He had sworn he wouldn’t let corruption kill us. Let us say corruption is a ghost. But how can’t a General trained to protect by killing our enemies, watch bandits and terrorists desecrate our sacred educational temples, slaughter the young and the old?
The devil has gone footloose.
We pampered the bandits in Zamfara and Katsina and incentivised organised crime. We let Sheikh Gumi trivialise terrorism and sow seeds of discord in the military. He even suggested the bandits were only asking for a piece of their denied national pie in ransoms. But had our lion not become drowsy and allowed cockroaches to grow teeth, who would have bothered with the apparent drunkenness of Gumi.
After waiting in vain for a military onslaught to scorch the scourge, governors started cuddling terrorists. Schools in the north, out of caution, complied with the philosophy of Boko Haram and shut down. We should hide our faces in shame. The ransoms we paid have instigated a bloom of evil. More groups have joined the gold rush. Who would have believed it? But if we didn’t pay ransoms, how would we have collected 300 corpses of young school children of Kankara?
We had thought a General would contain all such nuisance. We didn’t know a General could give written warnings to terrorists, let alone issue twenty such sissy notices in a single week. We are now surfeited with bafflement. They have beat their drums of war and taken the sleep of women and children but our lion can’t be startled.
Direct death threats have been issued to governors and traditional rulers, and nothing happened. Oh, sorry, somebody jumped out of the presidency to remind a bemused public that those crimes are not federal crimes. You need not laugh. Perhaps that’s why the federal Attorney General is aloof. The chief law officer of a nation sliding into anarchy.
In Niger State, a certain community has taxed members and paid bandits for a slice of peace. Nobody knows when their payment would expire and if the bandits in Niger would seek to renew the agreement, and at what fee? Niger, perhaps, has the fastest-growing terrorism industry in the world. Somewhere in Borno, some people had tried a brigade of prayer warriors. Now our politicians are openly begging for foreign mercenaries.
My grandmother used to describe certain absurdities as humorous evil. Under the watch of the great lion, a bunch of armed robbers, you can call them unknown gunmen, sourced and found the audacity to visit a governor’s home at 9 a.m. on a Saturday. They killed police officers and burnt the house. When President Obasanjo allowed one funny chap in Anambra to kidnap a sitting governor, we said we had reached the depth. But perhaps, just perhaps, we could soon have a situation where a sitting president could be negotiating with some unknown gunmen to release a sitting governor kidnapped from a government house. These things would have made a blatantly preposterous Nollywood script six months ago.
The presidency is in a dithering mode. The picture is of a scarecrow filled with air, fluttering in the wind, bobbing its head and watching some wild birds, accustomed to its impotence, defy its flailing hands, and devour precious crops.
Direct death threats have been issued to governors and traditional rulers, and nothing happened. Oh, sorry, somebody jumped out of the presidency to remind a bemused public that those crimes are not federal crimes. You need not laugh. Perhaps that’s why the federal Attorney General is aloof. The chief law officer of a nation sliding into anarchy. The Foreign Affairs Minister is too urbane, too suave, to attend to threats against the country coming from foreign lands. So, who would blame state governors who have become chickens? The rumours that some state governments have begun paying protection monies to organised crime groups masquerading as freedom fighters might, after all, not be unthinkable.
If the government thinks the chaos is the handiwork of its political opponents, it has not fought like a schoolchild from whom a cookie is being snatched. By the standards of African cabals and kitchen cabinets, this Buhari cabal must be the most spineless. Even for self-interested reasons, why can’t they bring in muscular effort to protect their government against worms and pests?
“Shoot on sight everybody found with assault weapons.” That was the president’s last whimper. Since then, an entire State police command and prisons have been sacked and burnt by hoodlums. A governor’s house burnt. But all he has done is to issue warning to criminals not to mess around with him. Is he now desperate to be seen as a born-again democrat? Our fate is bleak.
Schools are shut in the North. Police stations are sitting chicks for hawks in the East. And now some university students in Okigwe have been abducted. At first sight of violence, we didn’t put our foot down. Perhaps we had left it to our lion. He deterred and deterred and whined about the cattle right of way.
Who would have thought that we would see a respected legal luminary, who bears no animosity towards the president, come on national TV and advise the president to hand over to a military regime stylishly? And he said it with all the patriotism an 83-year-old man could conjure. Nearly a week after he made the strange plea, nearly a week after a National Security Council resumed a frantic meeting, nothing, no practical reassuring changes have been effected.
The aura of the lion is what keeps his adversaries away. That aura is built by his conquests, muscularity, roars, mien and alertness. That aura deters the forest and saves him a thousand fights. The glory of our lion is fading. Not because he has tried to bite and failed to tear and crush. But because he has picked his teeth and watched goats eat palm fronds on our heads. So even scrawny hyenas are gathering and nibbling at him, on the tail. His time is running out. Our last hopes are crumbling. His legacy is in peril. We are in shambles.
We know the goats eating palm fronds on our heads will grow canines. When the palm fronds are finished, they might chew our heads and tear us apart. Yet we hope. Because what would it take the lion to whom the gods had given all our fangs to use and pounce.
Schools are shut in the North. Police stations are sitting chicks for hawks in the East. And now some university students in Okigwe have been abducted. At first sight of violence, we didn’t put our foot down. Perhaps we had left it to our lion. He deterred and deterred and whined about the cattle right of way. He didn’t fume against people marching through the forests with AK 47s, massacring whole villages in reprisals for cattle. We legitimised militias when we made ordinary citizens feel helpless and hopeless.
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