All in one week | Dailytrust

All in one week

GSSS Kankara where students went missing after gunmen invaded the school

“A flea can trouble a lion more than a lion can trouble a flea”. African proverb

This time last week, I was in a meeting in Enugu involving hundreds of representatives of northern communities living in the five states of the south-east. Our delegation had prepared to receive a  deluge of complaints and grievances from communities who had been exposed to considerable assault in the aftermath of the protests that had rocked the country. There was the deluge all right, but they were tempered by a strong sense of determination to stay put and explore all avenues to enjoy the rights available to all Nigerians to live and work anywhere they choose under peace and security. The meeting was significant in the sense of being the only initiative to reach out to northern communities after their experiences. Northern elected rulers must have been too busy to notice the plight of millions of northerners in southern states and intervene, if only to bring comfort. They will be strongly advised not to want to hear what northerners in the south think of them, unless, as is very likely, their sensitivities to criticism have been dulled beyond redemption by what northerners in the north think of them and a President from the North. Northern Elders Forum came back with a long shopping list of grievances from fellow northerners in the south, but it was careful enough to caution that its access to corridors of power is limited.

A day later, the nation was informed that President Buhari had changed his mind over accepting to appear before members of the House of Representatives. Apparently, he had been advised that the legislators had no powers to summon him to speak to them about the security of Nigerians. Other reports said during his meeting with state governors, some of them also advised against accepting the invitation because it will open the door to state legislators and expose them to similar invitations. There would  have been a few Nigerians who were neither surprised nor disappointed by the about-turn. They would note that the reversal was true to character, and Nigerians who believed that the president would honour the invitation on a date subject to his convenience have an exaggerated idea of the president’s commitment to accountability. The flip-flop was routine for an administration that is distinguished by insularity and chaotic decision-making by a handful of handlers. Still, even these cynics would be saddened  by the setback registered by the institution of the legislature from the President’s repudiation and the untidy scramble  to put a brave face on it.

As the nation prepared to resign further under an administration that becomes more remote by the day, the president announced that he was taking a week’s holiday in his hometown. Apparently, the nation had stressed him with constant complaints over banditry and insurgency and their devastating influence on life all over the country. He landed at home and was accorded all the honour, which decency demanded of a community ravaged by banditry, whose member is responsible for protecting it. He had not slept one night  in Daura before bandits  absconded with hundreds of school boys in Kankara, in his state where he is holidaying. It could be a coincidence that bandits undertook their most audacious foray into the lives of communities that had lived with their assaults for more than two years. It would certainly be uncharitable to say the bandits went out of their way to embarrass President Buhari, but this incident would have brought a painful reminder of the vulnerability of communities under his watch, as well as previous attacks on, and   abductions of schoolchildren in Borno and  Yobe states, tragic events that engineered  stronger sources of his support before 2015.

Another president will do everything that President Buhari did not do after the abductions. He would move down to Katsina from Daura, a flight time of a few minutes and set up a command and control centre. He may even visit Kankara to commiserate with parents and the community. He would summon the service chiefs and demand answers as well as design and execute a rescue strategy within six hours after the abductions. Someone would be made to explain how bandits in large numbers could enter Kankara town, take over a school with hundreds of students and abscond with a few hundred. He would order the air force to locate the hundreds of people not far from Kankara before they are scattered or hidden. Army will trace and follow trails. Intelligence will tap local information and knowledge of the terrain to slow down the progress of the abductors. No one will sleep until all the children are rescued.

Our president caused a statement to be released from Abuja strongly condemning the abductions and ordering the rescue of the children. He may have resumed his holiday, or distance from events may have shielded him from the fiasco that has followed the abductions. His appointees fell over themselves issuing promises and deadlines and arguing with local authorities over numbers. A very powerful team left Abuja to comfort the Kankara and Katsina community over the abductions, presumably on the instructions of the president who was holidaying in Daura. The team even visited Kankara where it met a thoroughly distraught collection of parents demanding their children back. The state governor visited and said all he could say, but the people knew that was all he could do. His Minister of  Defence said the children would be rescued in a day. The state government said hundreds of children were missing. His spokesman, Garba Shehu said only 10 were missing. Locals protested against the abductions. The governor said he  was negotiating with the bandits. He had met the president earlier in Daura and briefed him on the situation. He may or may not have mentioned that he was under tremendous pressure to retrieve the children, and paying ransom may be one of his options. We are unlikely to know if the president approved of all potions, or he had encouraged Governor Masari to sort it out as he had done many times in the past.

Today, anywhere between 10 and 333 or more schoolchildren would have spent four days in the hands of bandits. The entire might of the Nigerian State is on trial, but it does not really seem to matter if it loses this case. It had lost many before, and from all appearances, will lose more. President Buhari appears to have resigned to live with terror stalking the land and squeezing the State out of lives of citizens. It would appear that he expects the population to adopt the same attitude. The problem is, the population will not walk away from slaughtered farmers or abducted schoolchildren or family members that are routinely kidnapped all over the country these days. When hoodlums broke up a meeting on the security situation in the country at Arewa House, Kaduna, on Monday, young people rolled out a more elaborate plan to demand action against armed criminals in the north. Between the stress of living with, and dying under the guns of bandits and the overpowering feeling of dejection over an ineffective and seemingly uncaring government, it is difficult to see where the spirit of resistance of people of the North lies. But it is there. It will be a terrible mistake to take  it for granted.

…..And Sam Nda-Isaiah died. Stubborn and brilliant , Sam always chose the road less travelled. He mostly got to his destination. Rest, Sam.

And an apology: I learnt that the management of Arewa House, Kaduna invited Governor Kayode Fayemi to deliver the lecture at the 50th Anniversary of Establishment of the Centre for Research and Documentation, ABU, Zaria.