Babagana Gashi Mustapha
Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri has been one of the leading female commentators of recent times I have come to respect and encourage. I have followed her write ups, investigations and even sacrifices she has made, making efforts to get to the root of the nation’s mishaps and especially in the Northern part of Nigeria and particularly among Muslims. She is indeed a rare individual of this sort. However, in reaction to her recent article, Criminality and the North-South Divide, let me make an analogy that may shed better light with respect to insecurity and the need for leadership of the North to take charge and deal with the problem first hand.
The situation in the North differs a little bit. If for instance, Governor Fashola of Lagos State wakes up to demolish Oshodi in December, when almost all shop owners were away for Christmas, and yet they come back to say little or nothing, there must be a reason. If Governor Obi can walk among his people and supervise a demolition exercise of a home of a popular criminal kingpin and nothing happens, there must be some reason. If the Governors of the North cannot openly criticize, condemn and arrest the insecurity problems in the North, I doubt if it will be without its own reasons. And I’ll tell you why.
Most of the Governors of the North are hardly the right choices or representatives of the people. Fashola won his elections free and fair, or at least with some semblance of justice, proper elections and he is loved by the people of Lagos as he is the choice of the majority. The same can be said of Governor Peter Obi. His actions, no matter what, are seen as the choice of the people as he has their mandate genuinely and truthfully. They stand a better chance to act appropriately as they know the people are with them, and so they are in touch with their people. This simple phenomenon is lacking among the leadership spheres of most Northern States. Consequently, the leaders are far from the people as the people too, feel alienated from the horizon of governance. So, confidence to take bold steps is not there at all. They don’t have the mandate truthfully and have no confidence.
Secondly, while the populace of the North wallow in abject poverty due to bad leadership (here, I am referring to both traditional and political), these same leaders have sold the rights and privileges of the average citizen in the North for the sake of perpetuating themselves in power at the expense of the larger poor. This left a scorned and resentful feeling towards them among the locals. Unfortunately, it further has divided and created a widening gap between the leaders and the led. While the led are strategically positioned by the insecurity to oppose, disgrace and reject them at every opportunity they can seize (including not helping to solve the insecurity situation), the leaders further create a reason for that by the reckless stealing of public funds and utter disregard for social justice that ordinarily will bring them glory.
This is completely a mirage for the led, within the larger North. So how can anyone (they) win the fight against insecurity? These same leaders are the reason why insecurity has persisted, no doubt. To accept and embrace the truth, pronounce to everyone that they have wronged the people, retrace their steps to make amends is so difficult for them. So the people who are being led do not forgive them nor respect them, neither are they regarded as people with a level of honesty worthy of support by the ordinary people. Where an Emir has become a picture of ridicule amongst his own people, then, you can imagine what will happen if he tries to talk to these same people. Will they ever listen to what, or even think twice about what he is saying? To these people, the insecurity is a usual life style. It is the rich and famous that need it and not them as they have been living in it for ages. So is the insecurity a mode of pay back by the led? A food for thought at this juncture. Who is more scared now? The led or the leader? Who needs a bullet proof to move around his people?
Denying the ordinary people justice is same as denying them good schools for their children. Denying them justice is denying them hospitals and medi-care for their wives, sons and daughters. Depriving them what should come to them through good governance is denying them food and this breeds insecurity. Forcing them to accept bad leaders through false elections means creating more problems for the people of the North. Using the press to propagate lies when they react and rise against bad leadership is outright oppression and suppressing the voice of the poor. This creates complete atmosphere of resentment and total lack of desire to co-operate with the authorities as they are seen to be synonymous to the evil, than the ones perpetuating themselves under the guise of leadership and power struggle, at the expense of the majority who are lacking.
Finally, let me add at this point that, the approach by the security personnel made things worse. When in the past the people found solace when the men of the forces come by to enforce peace. It turned out today that they use brute and unnecessary force to maim and kill innocent people, including reported cases of murder and rape of people wives and daughters. If the local people have lost lives and property to insecurity and terrorism, what justification will one ever have to further rape their daughters and wives and even kill their innocent ones under the guise of ensuring security? Why are killings by the men of the security forces not affecting the sons and daughters of the movers and shakers? Why are the bombs not exploding in GRA’s but in slums and suburbs? Why are these situations replicated among the poor settlements housing the less privileged, poor and uneducated?
These are simple issues that little intelligence by the security men can unravel, hence bring all these to halt, unless, of course, some people in high places are already aware of what is happening and have chosen to fuel it even more for obvious reasons. One of such reasons could probably be lack of audit of security funds, and whoever controls it can have a jolly free ride with no questions raised.
In the past we have known that no investigation over any crisis in the North has ever been reason to bring the perpetrators to book. So, what is the difference today? Till today despite series of arrests, no single person has been prosecuted or brought to book. This single suspicious persistent action has left many to wonder and lose confidence in the leadership (both traditional and political). So in a nutshell, unless the people are allowed to vote for those they actually want, development will erode the North. Unless the people are allowed to protest against bad leadership without anyone spreading a false rumour about Muslim-Christian crisis in the media, insecurity is bound to perpetuate itself in various ways. Today it is Boko Haram, who knows what tomorrow will bring: God forbid!
Unless the right choice of leadership represent the people, bad leaders will persist. They will steal the vaults dry; they will create distaste, hate, prejudices, hunger, poverty and unemployment. These all we know deep enough that they only further create insecurity. Lack of social justice will create damage and destruction far much worse than we have seen so far. We have lessons enough to learn from these happenings that take us sailing through these troubled waters. More ink to your pen Victoria, you have provoked a thought in me, well done!