ABIA, IMO: NIGERIA'S AXIS OF EVIL?
If further proof were needed that Abia, once fondly called God's own state, could tip the country on the brink, and now, has all the atavistic tendencies to become Nigeria's axis of evil, they came in terrifying proportions last week when scores of innocent school children were kidnapped in Aba in broad daylight with benumbed passers-by watching in utter disbelief.
The abduction of these pupils is the height of a horrifyingly surreal twist to the string of kidnapping, murders, muddle and panic that have taken over a city once noted for its sense of tranquility and its citizens known for being their brother's keeper.
For instance, Aba was once the quintessential commercial hub centre in the Eastern State, and indeed, West Africa, with enterprising people with exemplary entrepreneur spirit! But no longer. It is now the most dreaded place to visit and the den of kidnapping and other forms of evil.
What began like a petty crime, just to draw attention to perceived marginalization, has blossomed into a festering sore. One sad aspect of it is that those who should, by their call of duty, deal with it, are either direct sponsors or beneficiaries of the crime.
And the government in power is living in denial, always looking for alibi to justify why it can only wink at the problem instead of dealing with it frontally. It is a lack of courage and sincerity of purpose. It's either the tipping point of frustration of leadership or lack of talent to face up to the challenge of leadership. Meanwhile, Aba has been brought to its knees. Tens of thousands of its residents are jamming the roads, towards Umuahia, the state capital, some to Imo State, where it's not even better than where they are running away from. Some are running with no where in mind.
They are only looking for a way of escape. It's an exodus never seen since after the civil war. With traders and banks closing shop thick and fast, an implosion seems imminent.
Neighbouring Imo State has its own dose of same problem. Once prided as the Eastern heartland, Imo State is gradually tipping over the cliff. The evidence of this malaise has been on for about two years now. Together, these two states, Abia and Imo, are fast becoming droning killjoy.
Disillusionment has become endemic and despair has supplanted hope. The people are fast losing all the nice qualities of good citizenship and humanity. They feel short-changed. They have become so suspicious about the ability of the governments, which came to power, either by design or default, were supposed to protect them. These government came promising change, but are ending up becoming its captives. With this sense of insecurity in these two states, the citizens, and indeed, all Nigerians, every have strong reasons to question the competence of the leaders and institutions of government that are supposed to protect lives and property in these states.
In problem solving, sometimes good instincts can overcome intellectual inadequacy. Democracy, may not, and cannot be perfect, but people living in Abia and Imo States have never had it this bad. It's a situation where the people have been forced, literally speaking, to put a wall up to keep themselves in. Such a situation vitiates the essence of government. That summaries the abduction of the school children in Aba and the state government's drawing of lines in the sand to explain its inadequacy and apparent capitulation to the kidnappers. What an asinine approach to view a serious matter as the kidnap of the school children the way the State Commissioner for Information, Comrade Anthony Agbazuere did last week when he fingered a former governor of the state for the kidnappings in the state.
This is simply paranoia. Abia state government's attitude so far in the kidnapping saga in its domain is a repugnant behaviour that suggests a formulaic solution to a present danger that resulted mainly from its own failure in a dysfunctional environment for which it has sowed a hateful, deceitful and obsessed gnome. Sadly, in order to justify failure, some state governors have this trouble distinguishing signal from noise. It is something that is taking a foothold in Abia and Imo States where the governors have perhaps, unwittingly, built an enemy centre in their brains by allowing perceived enemies to live rent-free in their minds.
It makes it hard for them to see actual threats. Rather, it makes it easier for them to find excuses to justify inaction. And this is where sycophantic paeans thrive. When this takes control of the mind, intolerance of contrary views and freedom of association of fellow citizens begin to play out. That partly explains why the political stakeholders' meeting by prominent Igbo leaders planned hold at the Concorde Hotel, Owerri, was stopped by security operatives, last week.
In attendance were eminent Igbo politicians. They included former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, former governors, Chiefs Jim Nwobodo, Achike Udenwa, Dr. Sam Egwu, Dr. Chris Ngige, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, former ministers and ambassadors such as Dr. Aja Nwachukwu, Mrs Chinwe Obaji, Dr George Obiozor, Chief Dubem Onyia, Prof A.B.C Nwosu, among others. The same security agents also stopped the meeting from holding in an alternative venue, at All Seasons hotel, a short distance from Concorde Hotel. By all accounts, it was a humiliating treatment meted out to these people.
So who aborted the summit? That was the puzzle all through last week Initially, both the Federal government and the Imo State government washed their hands off the matter. However, last Wednesday, in Abuja, Governor Ohakim, becoming used to controversies and maybe flourishing in them, opened up on the issue. He began by saying that the order to stop the conference convened by Chief Simon Okeke, a former Chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC) was neither from 'above nor from below'.
But, he quickly gave himself out by saying that his government was instrumental to the stoppage of the summit. 'I did inform those involved,' Ohakim began, 'that for their own safety, they should not hold the conference, or at least they should postpone it…' The governor claimed that his government got a tip-off of a plot to bomb Concorde and, if possible, killed some of the people attending the summit. Ohakim did not elaborate on his claims, but hinted that he preferred that the summit was aborted to possible loss of lives, which he said, if it had happened, would have finished him politically.
Though the governor apologized his second public apology in less than a month, his defence is curiously contradictory, according to some people. On the surface, it makes some sense that the summit was nipped in the bud even with the humiliation to those in attendance, the governor's explanation does not help his image much.
At the other extreme, it is a counter revolutionary strategies with two aggressive approaches called neutralization and annulment strategies. That's exactly what the security agents did by cordoning off the venue two days earlier.
The truth of the matter is that the ugly event in Owerri last week is a graphic illustration of political intolerance that has exposed the fault lines in our polity. If we describe the action of the security operatives as high-handed and barbaric, those who give such orders, whether they admit it or not, is a rap on democracy. It is not impossible not to feel that we need to brought together, to regain a sense common national purpose. But the mechanics of that filial feeling is fast disappearing in Abia and Imo states.
We can only regain that oneness if politicians recognize that life is beyond politics. It is not altogether hard to fathom why Governors T. A. Orji and Ohakim feel and see 'enemies everywhere,' and strive to 'destroy' them even before they are 'identified'. Nonetheless, if they can take this advice, it will serve them well: let your performance in office speak for you, and if you can't convert your enemies, don't worry, God will take care of them and guide your every path. But it takes one's conviction in the positive aspects of politics to get this reward. Good governance is the answer. Simple.