Nigeria in Hostage - By Denja Yaqub


At the commencement of campaigns for various Nigerian political parties' primaries, the spate of violence in Nigeria increased. From political assassinations to violent attacks on campaign rallies and bomb explosions, Nigeria became the fastest growing West African country with the highest number of bomb explosions per week, without a formal declaration of war.

  Although bomb explosions are not strange to some parts of the country, even before the advent of the ongoing democratic rule. Since civil war ended, only one bomb targeted at a high profile civilian exploded. That was 19th October 1986 when Dele Giwa, one of Nigeria's brightest journalists, was letter bombed when a lethal envelop was delivered to him at his Talabi Street residence in Ikeja, Lagos. He was until that day the Editor - In - Chief of Newswatch Magazine

  Thereafter, incidents of bomb blasts were common occurrences throughout the regime of General Sani Abacha, the late military dictator who imposed himself on the country and had to regularly harass, detain, jail and bomb off residences of popular opposition figures, some of whom were brazenly murdered in their homes. Many times, bombs exploded on the streets and on major roads in Lagos, the seat of the opposition. Some journalists, especially Bagauda Kaltho of The News disappeared without trace till date.

  Soon after Abacha breathe his last, incidents of bomb blasts instantly died with him.

  Thereafter, for a long time, bomb explosions were limited to the oil rich Delta regions where patriotic indigenes of the region took up arms against the deprivations and pollutions unleashed on their communities by oil companies, mostly multinational firms who could never have attempted the kind of injustices they visit on the region with reckless abandonment in their countries of origin. Indeed, the activists in the region took up arms when all peaceful protests at home and abroad failed to convince the oil firms to respond to their demands. In fact, the region had lost several leaders including Ken Saro-Wiwa (of blessed memory) who provided quality leadership for several peaceful protests. The state murdered their leaders, burnt down their ancestral homes on behalf of these multinationals. All these provoked armed struggle in the region.

  Even in the militancy and restiveness of the Niger Delta militants, it is very easy to identify their focus, even if some of the groups are simply responding to unemployment, abject poverty as well as individual and collective deprivation.

  However, these days, almost every part of Nigeria lives in perpetual fear of bomb blasts. Even relaxation centres where people cool off with chilled drinks are not exempted, even if located in a military facility. The saints who avoid such sinful places and opt for the mosque or church are regular victims. Very many are shot in their homes, in some cases in the full glare of their children, no matter how young. Bomb alert has become so frequent in hitherto peaceful Federal Capital, Abuja. Everyone seems permanently scared. And the security agencies are either helpless or incompetent or both.

  In the news every other day are reports of serial attacks on unarmed citizens in Maiduguri, Bauchi, Yola, etc by a terror gang called Boko Haram. Residents of Plateau State have been living in fear for upwards of ten years now. Violence occurs without promptings in the state that was prominent for its hospitality, peace and tourist friendliness with an enticing natural cool weather incomparable to any other part of Nigeria.

  In the South East, even indigenes are scared of paying visits to their homelands for fear of kidnappers who seem to have taken over every state in the region.

  We need not talk about armed robbery incidents, which is not limited to any region. This business is one of those surviving or even growing faster than any other, alongside kidnappings.

  In all these, the Nigerian economy and image has been the victim. Industries are relocating in unprecedented large numbers to neighbouring countries. In addition to infrastructural decay, lack of electricity etc, insecurity has discouraged both local and foreign investments. Churches, in various names, have taken over Bompai industrial estate in Kano; Trans Amadi in Port-Harcourt; Ilupeju, Ogba, Apapa in Lagos; Oluyole in Ibadan etc. Nigerians seem to have given up hope on state interventions. The unemployment pool is growing by the hour.  

  As the economy suffers, so is democratic governance endangered. While our political leaders have refused to appreciate the depth of these national crises by reducing the level of profligacy and brazen stealing of public funds, our security agencies seem to be in difficulty justifying their existence and less in haste to assure Nigerians of their ability to keep lives and properties safe from these attacks. The resort to self help is largely responsible for the obvious sustenance of communal, inter-ethnic, religious and political crisis in the country. Even robbery, kidnappings are also outcomes of resort to self help by the multitude of unemployed citizens.

  Every attack comes with a readymade response from the security agencies. Soon after each attack, the next statement would be that ''we are on top of the situation. We assure you, we will bring all the culprits to book''. That would be all. Neither the culprits nor the books have ever been seen in public.

  The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, is better in threats than actions against those accused of stealing. Even those arrested soon find their way home in curious circumstances. Some of those convicted, dance home in street parties to celebrate the completion of their jail terms, as happened recently in Lagos when Olabode George completed his jail term after his conviction for stealing public funds as Chairperson of the board of the Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA.

  As Nigerians welcome her fourth elected President, Goodluck Jonathan, whose campaign theme was the Transformation of Nigeria, we look forward for a new Nigeria where crime would be considered an unforgiveable sin; where bombs would be detected before they explode; where public electricity would send private generators out of market; where our economy would be export driven; where all industries would thrive again; where everyone would find a space in productive service in the public, private and informal sectors of the economy; where every citizen can go to bed with both eyes closed; where kidnapping and armed robbery would no longer be attractive businesses; where education would be accessible to all citizens.

  Only when all these happens can we hold thanks giving service in appreciation of the good luck God has presented us with in President Goodluck Jonathan, as his government need to pull the country out of her stubborn doldrums.  

  Denja Yaqub contributed this article from Abuja, and can be reached through: