Under very normal circumstances, the revelling of a period like this would have been just as beautiful, if not more beautiful, as the previous ones. But circumstances are not normal. And it is quite clear that ‘normal’ would not be used in isolation anytime soon. What we have is a new reality in which we are all trying our best to carry on with life during a public health crisis. So far, it would appear that we are getting used to this reality. But that’s on the one hand. On the other hand, is the insecurity crisis which has taken a whole new dimension. This is one reality we cannot get used to. Our security forces have busied themselves with stemming the tide but not much progress is seen to be made if reports in the media are anything to go by.
It is the frustration in the body politic in general, and cries of citizens in affected areas in particular that have strengthened the call for a drastic change in the security structure. A good start, as widely mooted, is a change of the security chiefs. It stands to reason that if an arrangement is not working, it should be changed. The president’s attitude to the crisis, judging from his body language as the nation has more times had to do, is not encouraging. Even more disturbing is the perception that the government doesn’t care about the plight of those in the heat of the crisis. Those who for no fault of theirs find themselves living in an atmosphere of fear and helplessness. And the president, in my view, is not helping matters.
For the most of the past few months, the president has barely said, nay done anything drastic to send the message that he is aware and in control of the situation, or at least in charge. Previous interviews and statements have always given that away and it was the same with the interview granted after the Eid El-Kabir prayers at the Villa. Amongst other things, he commented on the anti-graft war and insecurity crisis. His statement on the anti-graft war will be discussed elsewhere but I will comment on the statement made concerning the current security challenges. The president shared his convictions that “Nigerians know that we have done our best” given what was ‘inherited’ in 2015.
The full statement in regard to insecurity, as reported by The Punch reads: “I want Nigerians to be very conscious of their country and what we inherited when we came in 2015 was Boko Haram – North East and the militants, the South-South. Nigerians know that we have done our best. What is coming up in the North West and North Central is very disturbing indeed but I believe the military, the police, and other law enforcement agencies from the report I am getting, I think they could do much better. They could do much better, but we are keeping them on the alert all the time to do their duties.”
Everything is wrong with that statement. First, it is unconscionable to keep making references to 2015. The pre-2015 narrative was good up to a point. It gets even more irritating when the president activates the pre-2015 narrative in response to virtually every issue as if the lots of Nigerians are markedly better now. The rhetoric was good up to a point but it has since become stale, needless, and unacceptable. His boys also do it. The other day, the Chief of Army Staff was reported to have declared that security is better now than what we had in 2015. Is that supposed to be some sort of consolation? How is that even the case when there is hardly any day without a report of the carnage by some misguided people on innocent Nigerians in the North East and North West? And there’s also the crisis in Southern Kaduna. How does the 2015 comparison help anything? Are Nigerians waiting for rhetoric or results?
Secondly, the president by that statement has given the impression that if anything, he is not aware of the true state of affairs on the insecurity crisis. I may be wrong but I doubt that. The president should have spoken to the issues, however briefly, rather than gloss over what an average informed Nigerian knows. Everyone knows that the issues are more than just Boko Haram in the North East and militancy in the South-South. The killings in Southern Kaduna have continued unabated and the president has barely said anything or given the impression that he is concerned enough to do everything in his power to end the killings. Nigerians, in their millions, will readily support the president in any effort to restore peace in the troubled areas.
Thirdly, while I’m not the C-in-C, I’m sure that the job description is not just to keep the security forces “on alert to do their duties” like some kind of time-keeper. The nation expects the president to be a general in this battle and to bring everything that he’s got to bear. If there was ever any time the nation needs to see a General Buhari, not President Buhari, that time is now. I hope the president rises to the occasion.
Fourthly, what is left after best? There’s good, better, and then best in that order. So, if the president concedes that the best has been done concerning the insecurity crisis, do we all just leave everything to God now hoping for a miracle? The country was looking up to the president to do better. That’s why Nigerians are clamouring for the security chiefs to be thanked for their service to the nation and retired. That’s why suggestions are up till today being put forward on how to handle the issues of intelligence gathering and rejigging the security architecture as a whole. As a concerned Nigerian, I cannot accept that what we have is the best. Where does that leave innocent Nigerians, who cannot protect themselves? Where does that leave officers and men of the armed forces giving their all to battle the scourge?
These are not the best of time and the president of all people should understand the weight of his words, particularly in very troubling times. If the intentions were to paint the picture that he’s in charge, it didn’t quite achieve that purpose. I don’t think this is the time to conclude that the best has been done when it’s quite obvious that some solutions are within the command and reach of the president. But if indeed the best has been done, then I guess we should all join the president in the search of a miracle. I hope it comes soon. There’s just too much at stake.