The Invisible President And Our Killing Fields

The statistics are getting grimmer and there is no end in sight to the rampant violence and mindless killings that blight the landscape. So many parts of the country have become killing fields. And nobody is safe anymore, anywhere. From the terrorism of Boko Haram and rampaging armed bandits to the killer herdsmen and kidnappers, we all now live in mortal fear of unprovoked violent attacks and sudden death.

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Nigeria is facing an inexorably progressive meltdown. Law and order is badly fractured. The federal government continues to fiddle while the nation burns. There is no coherent plan and political will to deal effectively with the mounting security challenges. And President Muhammadu Buhari, commander-in-chief, is nowhere to be found. He is invisible and totally detached from it all.

After every monstrous round of bloodletting, his spokesmen issue a bland statement that “The president has directed the security agencies to deal decisively with” the perpetrators of the violence. They have become inured to the deadening monotony of the excuses they put up for their boss. Because the statements, always the same in tone and wording, are excuses for the president who seems overwhelmed by the responsibilities of his office.

The statements, designed to show that the president is concerned and in charge of the situation, end up as a mockery of him. Why would he need to always direct the heads of the security agencies, including the Police inspector-general and military commanders, to do their job? Why are they still being retained if they persistently lack initiative and display incompetence, waiting to be ordered by their commander-in-chief before they take any action? The answer is simple. Only an incompetent commander-in-chief would tolerate incompetent commanders and other subordinates.

Buhari’s ineptitude as president and his lack of emotional intelligence and empathy was starkly highlighted by what his Sri Lanka’s counterpart did when the country suffered a very traumatic terrorist violence

Buhari’s ineptitude as president and his lack of emotional intelligence and empathy was starkly highlighted by what his Sri Lanka’s counterpart did when the country suffered a very traumatic terrorist violence last month. Following terrorist attacks on churches and three luxury hotels in Colombo, the capital city, that killed over 300 people with scores injured, President Maithripala Sirisena sacked the defence minister, the police chief, and many senior security officials for criminal negligence and failure to proactively respond to credible intelligence about the attacks. He addressed the nation reeling from the trauma of the bloody Easter event. He took responsibility and apologised for the poor performance of the security agencies, promising immediate succour for the survivors and families of those killed. He vowed that such deadly attack would not be allowed to happen again in Sri Lanka.

Nobody issued some bland, tedious statement on behalf of President Sirisena. He showed no equivocation. His country was traumatized by a brutal act of terrorism. He stood up, stepped forward and took charge of managing the aftermaths of the attacks and calming his emotionally distraught nation down. By sacking the defence minister and police chief, he signaled clearly that competence and national interest must supersede personal loyalty. If you can’t discharge your responsibilities, you get the boot. Period.

What does President Buhari do at a time large swathes of the country are in the throes of uncontrolled violence? He goes on a 10-day private visit to Britain. Since there is no explanation as to what the private visit is for, we all are left to speculate about his latest trip abroad. Maybe he is gone there to recover from the rigours of the election campaigns and savour the ‘sweetness’ of his dubious electoral victory.

No day goes by now without a report of innocent Nigerians being violently killed, displaced from their homes and communities and kidnapped by all manners of criminals. The Hobbesian nightmare is becoming Nigeria’s reality. Life in the country is now “nasty, brutish and short” for millions of hapless people. All the president’s promises to deal with the increasingly unsavoury security situation and his endless directives to security chiefs to do their job have come to naught.

Yet he is neither embarrassed by the serial failure of his security chiefs to act proactively nor is he moved by the pains of the families of victims of violence to own the responsibility for initiating the necessary and urgent remediation measures. It is now obviously indisputable, and more indefensible, that he hasn’t grasped the true dimension of the existential threat that the snowballing insecurity poses to the country. He seems incapable of understanding it. Hence, besides issuing futile directives that the security chiefs routinely ignore, he has no structured, actionable plan to deal with the problem.

In the last 16 months, over 3,000 Nigerians have died from violent attacks. During the same period, hundreds of people, including expatriates, were kidnapped for huge ransoms. Indeed, kidnapping is now one of the country’s best growth industries, surpassing armed robbery and cyber crimes.

The latest prominent victims of kidnapping were Dr. Muhammed Abubakar, chairman of the Universal Basic Education Commission, his daughter, Yasmin, and Musa Umar, the district head of Daura. Abubakar and Yasmin were kidnapped in broad daylight along the now notorious Kaduna-Abuja highway after the shooting death of his driver. But they were lucky and got released in less than 48 hours, presumably after a handsome monetary settlement of their kidnappers.

Musa Umar was snatched right in front of his house where he was relaxing with some people. He had just returned from the mosque after the evening prayers. Daura is Buhari’s hometown, and Katsina, his home state, is under siege by rampaging bandits.

Insecurity has become so pervasive in the state, just like Zamfara. Governor Aminu Masari had to cry out for help before the general elections. But there is no serious help in sight and the situation is not abating. Some prominent indigenes have openly called for Katsina to be put under a state of emergency.

And that says a lot about Buhari’s embarrassing disconnect from what is happening under his watch. Since he became president, the job he had coveted for so long, he hasn’t shown any sense of urgency about anything, no matter the seriousness. Even more distressing is the fact that he and his advisers don’t see the nexus between the growing insecurity in the country and the reduction in especially foreign investments in the economy that is still struggling to beat the recession.

One of the grounds on which his candidacy was sold to the voters in 2015 was that he had the nous and experience to end the Boko Haram terrorism and other incipient security threats. He supposedly had intimidating credentials in this respect: army major general (rtd); former general officer commanding, G.O.C, of a division; former head of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces and all the security and intelligence agencies.

With less than a month to the end of his term as president and in spite of his administration’s risible claim to the contrary, Boko Haram is still thriving. It has neither been “technically defeated” nor “seriously degraded.” His scorecard in the one area he was expected to excel has been very dismal.

As a matter of fact, he has failed on all fronts. The economy is struggling badly. The growth forecast is at best tepid. Last week, Zamfara State governor, Abdulaziz Yari, warned of another impending economic recession. He was saying the obvious. And according to Labour and Employment Minister, Chris Ngige, the unemployment level will rise to 33.5 percent next year. It is currently at about 24 percent.

Which again brings into bold relief the most blatant electoral heist, engineered with the full complicity of INEC, that is enabling him to lay claim to being ‘re-elected’. The tens of millions of Nigerians his inept administration has impoverished and made insecure could not have renewed his mandate in a truly free and fair election. He knows this. And the whole world knows it too.

If only he had paid his private visit to Sri Lanka to learn from President Sirisena how to be a leader. As he obviously enjoys the pomp and panoply of his office, it’s time he puts some rigour into his job. Otherwise, he stands the risk of ending up as the laziest and most incompetent leader the country has ever had.


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