NIGERIA WHERE 150 LIVES ARE NOT A BIG DEAL
In recent conversations on the unfortunate fate that has of late befallen the sovereign entity known as Nigeria, My friend and I lamented the poor respect and regard that the constituted authority in Nigeria gives to the sanctity of human life. My friend who is a well established crude oil magnate but who ironically still thinks like a socialist regretted that human life has been speedily degraded by the Nigerian civil and military authorities that the rest of the international community are at a loss what to make of it. He said that in all of his recent foreign tours during the course of his business transactions in Western Europe and the United States of America, most people he met do not know whether to rate the persons who populate the Nigeria's civil and military authorities as primitive people who are far removed from modern civilization. He is of the considered opinion that in other civilized climes whenever the governmental authorities be they civil or military fail in their constitutional obligations to the people in the area of national security the most transparent option is for the very persons heading those branches of government to quit honorably or be shown the way out. My friend pointed out a plethora of samples in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States of America to justify his affirmation and I too found them to be true since I do also have a working knowledge of how civilized societies work.
But I quickly reminded him that Nigeria is a member of the United Nations and by so doing has signed on to almost all of the modern humanitarian laws that safeguards the sanctity and sacredness of human lives but he wouldn't budge even as he argued that the fact that for nearly six months that over three hundred teenage girls were snatched from their dormitory in the girls secondary school in Chibok town in Borno state and the Nigerian State has failed to rescue these girls and bring their abductors to pay for these detestable crimes against humanity means that the civil and military authorities pay only but lip service to the legal obligations that they owe the Nigerian citizenry in line with the various provisions of the international humanitarian laws. Whilst not distancing myself from his well considered conclusion I also told him that even in Egypt right here in Africa when the then Moslem Brotherhood-led government was suspected of abusing the human rights of most persons outside of their own brand of radical religious beliefs, the people's power were invoked even as over 14 million ordinary civilians came out in the streets of Cairo, to demand the removal of this contraption called government and the military heeded the call. In the Nigerian situation both the civil and military authorities have come under considerable accusations of abysmally failing in their duties to safeguard the lives of Nigerians and so only the people can decide how this mess can be cleared may be through electoral process that is devoid of manipulations and violence. This is not to say that the leading opposition political party has any working idea of how to resolve these killings because the Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress has severally been seen in the media defending the actions of some of these mass killers especially in one instance he was quoted as criticizing any heavy military action against these terrorists.
We had hardly rounded up our conversations when the most gruesome of all despicable crimes against humanity was reported in Baga, Borno state as carried out by the armed Islamic terrorists who were reportedly implicated in the killings of hundreds of innocent civilians and the number was conservatively put at 2000 by the international Non-Governmental organization- HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH quoting sources directly from the scenes of these vicious crimes.
Also virtually all the international news channels immediately took interest in this breaking news from the epicenter of Nigerian terrorists attacks just as tongues started wagging why the rest of the international community have yet to invoke the relevant United Nations Security Council's resolutions rejecting these genocidal killings in Nigeria and practically adopting military steps to flush out these mass murderers.
Commentators even in international electronic media channels such as the Sky News and the United States based Cable News Network expressed open consternation to why the rest of the World is silent when genocides of unprecedented scale are going on in Nigeria but were too quick to show open and practical solidarity with the French Government and people who suffered series of attacks targeted at a Paris based cartoons' news magazine whereby 17 persons were killed but which immediately drew out instant and effective response from the French Government leading to the gunning to death of the three armed terrorists fingered in these abominable and despicable atrocities.
But again, some other observers raised issues with the abysmal failures of the Nigerian military to crush decisively this rebellion by the armed Islamic terrorists which has raged for more than three years now. On the apparent silence of the rest of the international community on the range of grave atrocities being committed by the armed Islamic terrorists based in the North East of Nigeria, one issue to be mentioned is that a nation is taken serious depending on how the civil and military authorities rates itself. Why for instance is a small nation such as Cameroon able and ever willing to crush and defeat any incursions made against their populace by these same Islamic rebels based in North East of Nigeria but the Nigerian military rated as the third largest in Africa has been unable to defeat these terrorists and has even abdicated from their constitutional duty and allowing these rebels to cease virtually two states out of the 36 that we currently have? So the international community is said to be pissed off with both the civil and military authorities in Nigeria for their inability and failure to rise to the occasion and defeat these terrorists seen as only a rag tag terror group.
In the last three years the civil and military authorities have offered reasons ranging from sabotage within the military for the inability of the Nigerian military to defeat these terror group but still others blamed the poor state of weapons in the possession of the Nigerian military for this apparent failure but again there have been reports that the terrorists fighting Nigeria are actually making use of the weapons stolen and taken away from the Nigerian military whose members and operatives have been accused of cowardice in the face of advances made by these terrorists. Reports said that Nigeria spent over $6 Billion USD last year in the Defence budget making Nigeria the third largest spender in the defence sector in Africa but the question remains where are these weapons and why is the Nigerian Military unable to crush these terrorists?
I seriously felt embarrassed and ashamed as a Nigerian when I watched the CNN this morning of January 13th 2015 and the anchor person who visited Abuja was asked by the news caster based in Atlanta in the United States the whereabouts of the Nigerian military authority when these outrageous mass slaughters of civilian population took place in Baga, Borno State. In the past the military have showcased to the media arrested hardened mass killers belonging to this terror group and the Nigerian judicial system is so weak and too compromised to deliver decisive justice to these mass murderers and the few that are convicted due to poor detention facilities and corruption in the prison system, these detained terrorists have been known to have regained their freedom through series of prison attacks that occurred last year and till date the ministry of interior in Nigeria is unable to render proper account.
What makes a nation Sovereign is the near infinite capacity of both the civil and military authorities to defend the territorial integrity of that nation state and to defend the sanctity of the lives of their citizenry. The essence of STATEHOOD is the capacity of the constituted authorities to stand up to be counted when it comes to the issue of national security and the enforcement of the rule of law. Whereby the state is incapable of fulfilling these simple constitutional tasks therefore there has to be series of questions on the quality of such a nation state and even the rating of such a sovereign entity which according to most scholars can be classified as a failed or failing state.
Speaking to the issue of the kind of respect and regard that both the civil and military authorities pay to the universal sanctity attached to the value of human life brings us to the recent media briefing by the military authority in Abuja Nigeria whereby the spokesman in an attempt to deny that up to 2000 Nigerians were not killed in Baga, Borno State did also committed the fallacy of appearing to say that the lives of 150 Nigerians mattered very little in the entire calculations even though he appeared to be saying that those who exaggerated the figure meant serious harm to the credibility of Nigeria as a nation State.
His words: “…It is however necessary to inform Nigerians in the interim that the exercise so far has not corroborated the report on the casualty rate which was put at 2000 deaths.
“From all available evidences, the number of people who lost their lives during that attack has so far not exceeded about 150 in the interim. This figure includes many of the terrorists who were bearing arms and got killed in the course of their attack and battle with troops”.
“It should be noted that Baga and the neighbouring towns have been under series of attacks and harassment by terrorists. In the course of this, many residents have left, leaving the population in the town almost seriously depleted. Many were also able to escape while the terrorists' battle with troops lasted.
“The figure given by sources, who claimed to be eyewitnesses, must be an extremely exaggerated estimate. Unfortunately, this figure is now being bandied about in a section of the media as if it has been authenticated. It cannot be true,” he said.
What a country one may say. In France the other day when the two terrorists- the Kouchi brothers after committing their dastardly crime of attacking the media house and inflicting several deaths and were pursued hotly to an industrial zone in Dammartin-en-Goele, North East of Paris France, the French military didn't wait to give a press conference in an air conditioned office in the nation's capital to give flimsy excuses why these terrorists were not captured. The French military brought all the forces they can muster to inflict maximum damage on these terror masterminds and smoked them to death even as the entire civilised World rallied round France in a sympathy match in the nation's capital to denounce terrorism. But in Nigeria, regional War lords and politicians have been allowed the freedom to politicize these mass killings to such an extent that over fifteen thousand Nigerians have been killed and yet the military authority has still not thought it wise to massively hunt down these terrorists by attacking their base in the so called Sambisa Forest near Maiduguri, Borno State and from this safe haven these terrorists have annexed several towns and villages in the North East of Nigeria and the military authority is still not so ashamed of itself but has continued to insult the intelligence of Nigerians by offering flimsy excuses.
But why is the rest of the Nigerian population still in slumber and have not reacted massively to compel the Nigerian state to discharge their obligations? Why is everyone so silent even in the face of these atrocities that are worst than the Rwanda genocide? Why is the United Nations Security Council so silent in the face of these incessant killings of Nigerians and yet Nigeria is still a member of the United Nations and to even think that Nigeria still contributes troops to keep peace in other countries under the frameworks of the United Nations peace keeping missions and the African Union while the country is about to be extinguished by terrorists is to say the least shocking and annoying.
Written by Emmanuel Onwubiko, head of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria.