By Emmanuel Onwubiko
On the eve of this year’s workers’ Day I was in a popular five star hotel in the Nigeria’s political capital city attending a social function alongside some friends that visited me from Lagos, Kaduna and Bayelsa States when suddenly a call came through from a mutual friend Miss. Victoria Osareme Oladapo, a final year Political Science Undergraduate of one of the public Universities, that there is a bomb scare somewhere around some of the most popular and frequently visited multipurpose commercial complexes in the Wuse two area of the Federal Capital Territory.
These commercial business premises owned by some private developers are located few minutes drive from the ThisDay Newsaper Abuja office which was only recently bombed by suspected suicide bombers from the armed Islamic fundamentalist group which has operational headquarters in Maidugri, the Borno State capital in the Noth East Nigeria.
Immediatelly this shocking news reached us, the journslism instincts in me drove me to make several calls to some knowledgeable sources who also confirmed that there were indeed credible threats of bomb attack at the commercial multipurposes buildings as narrated by my mutual friend.
The story forced every one of us to cut short our social meeting which should ordinarily had lingered till the wee hours of the night. We were forced to disperse to diferent safe locations to await further information on whether actually those who made the threats have successfully made good their words. But not without a major drama that played itself out. As we made to rise from the meeting because of the nature of the information that reached us, one of us informed us that the Minister of Information of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Mr. Labaran Maku has made it inevitable that every right thinking Nigerian should act promptly to every alert of possible security threat from the armed Islamic insurgents because of a number of spectacular gaffes that he the minister of Information committed in recent times which probably endangered the lives of a lot of Nigerians.
Further buttressing his claim that the Nigeria’s Minister of Information has become one of the most notorious marketers of doubtful information and raw barefaced propaganda, my friend reminded us that it was the Minister of Information that incongruously dismissed the well thought out security alert issued by the United States Embassy in Abuja warning American travellers to the Nigerian capital to be security conscious because of credible threats of bomb attacks allegedly by the armed Islamic fundamentalist which may target specific public institutions or hotels. The American diplomatic mission in Nigeria had issued this information just a few days befopre the media offices in Abuja and Kaduna were actually bombed by the Islamic religious insurgents. But on the day the security alert was issued by the American Diplomats in Abuja, the Nigerian minister of Information had sought to debunk it by warning the Embassy of the United States in Nigeria to desist from raising unfounded security alert and creating undue panic among Nigerians and other international visitors to Nigeria. But the Nigeria’s informaton minister goofed because exactly after he [Labaran Maku] exhibited this scandalous show of shame, the armed Islamic extremist waging a relentless insurgency against the Nigerian state actually struck the ThisDay office. For this reason our friend said the best thing we should do is to disperse and find safe havens to hide pending the disappearance of these threats.
Amid the panic that greeted this security alert I dashed into my car and drove straight home only to discover to my amazement that most of my neighbors had travelled out of the Federal Capital Territory for fear of the unknown particularly when these two commercial complexes were also a stone throw from our house. I was still in contemplation on whether to relocate to a fortified fortress of a three star hotel in another part of the Federal Capital City then came the sound of a knock in my door that woke me from my subconciousness and the visitor turned out to be the same mutual friend that in the first place informed me about information making round in the eve of May 1st 2012 that the members of the armed Islamic insurgents had issued a bomb threat targeted at those two business premises mostly frequented by buyers in Abuja.
She had hardly sat down when she requested passionatelly that i change the television station from the news channel that I was viweing before she visited to a popular movie channel and the first in the series of films shown that evening was aptly titled ‘Ghost’.
A little research showed that this particular movie which was originally released on July 13th 1990 had won two Academy awards, the United States equivallent of the Nobel Prize for films. The story line of ‘Ghost’ was reportedly written by Sami Al-Taher and it was indeed a story of two persons that I chose to call ‘love Birds’- namely Mr. Sam and his girl friend Miss. Molly. Sam and Molly were very happy couple and deeply in love. Walking back to their new apartment after a night out at the theatre, they encountered a thief in the dark alley, and Sam is subsequently killed. He [Sam] finds himself trapped as a ghost and realises that his death was no accident. He must warn Miss. Molly about the danger she is in. But as a ghost he cannot be seen or heard by the living, and so he tries to communicate with Molly through Oda Mae Brown, a Psychic who didn’t even realise that her powers were real.
Deep in contemplation on the import of this beautiful but incomprehensible film when Miss. Victoria Osayeme Oladapo, the 21-year old undergraduate sought to know from me whether Nigeria our dear country has been over run by some ‘ghosts’ that are unleashing unrelenting vicious cycle of bloody violence all across Nigeria hiding under the guise of some strange religious ideology.
But before she could finish, my mind went straight to a recent public statement carried in the media credited to the Chief of Army Staff in Nigeria-General Azubuike Ihejirika that the armed Islamic religious insurgents have perfected the art and craft of fighting like ‘ghosts’ because they know us and we do not know them and that they strike us and disappear. General Ihejirika then proceeded to warn his soldiers to be constantly in ‘war mood’ as they try to combat these amed religious extremists blamed for the gruesome killings of dozens of innocent Nigerians.
The Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff had stated thus; ” It is high time for you and your men to be in war mood to be able to deal with the challenges”.
My mutual friend asked again whether Nigeria is over run by ghosts because according to her, she read in a newspaper that the Acting Inspector General of Police Mr. Mohammed Abubakar said his operatives have not yet defeated the terrorists because the members of the public fail to offer meaningful information to the police for fear of reprisal. She also remnded me of the phenomenon of ghost workers that have infiltrated the Federal and State civil service in Nigeria and the cases of ghost pensioners and recently the discovery in Plateau state of the existence of a ‘ghost commissioner’ who has consistently drawn salaries and huge allowances meant for that office for several months before the recent discovery.
Do you remember the last time that President Jonathan addressed we the troubled and distressed members of the public worried about the unprecedented violence across the North?, she asked.
This question was thrown at me by my mutual friend as a follow up to her first inquiry on whether ghosts have invaded Nigeria. I quickly feigned ignorance of which of the speeches of the President of Nigeria she referred to because President Jonathan has made several of those empty rhetorics regarding the so-called determination of the current Federal Government to bring the volence to a quick end and each time he made the speech, the armed terrorists will launch more deadly and devastating attacks.
The last time our President spoke, she stated, he asured us that by June 2012 that the violence will come to an end but as things stand now those responsible for these attacks have upped the ante of their bloody attacks and the operatives of the security community paid with tax payers’ fund still behave as if we live in a country over -run by ghosts.
The drift of our debate with my mutual friend forced me to look into the Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia whereby I learnt that in traditional belief and fiction, a ghost is the soul or spririt of a deceased person or animal that can appear, visible form or other manifestation, to the living. In many traditional accounts, ghosts were often thought to be deceased people looking for vengeance, or imprisoned on earth for bad things they did during life. The aparance of a ghost has often been regarded as an omen or portent of death.
Now to the aforementioned question concerning the ghosts and the possibility that they may have over- run Nigeria, my rumination of it led me to two trends of thought namely whether we as contemporary Nigerians are now facing the consequences of the actions and inactions of our deceased political leaders who contributed in no small way to the mess that Nigeria has become or whether we have truly been over run by the ghosts of all those citizens of this country that died because of the collapsed of basic infrastructures of road and hospitals or more appropriately, the twin evils of bad roads and poor health infrastucture which are the largest causes of premature deaths suffered by hundreds of thousands of Nigerians.
The collapse of these infrstructures of roads and hospitals was caused by massive corruption on the part of political office holders both in the past and in the present day the extent of the heist has assumed frightening dimension.
The more research I conduct to know if Nigeria has become a failed state, the more I am confronted by the question of whether Nigeria has been over -run by ghosts.
Reading through a well researched legal essay by Ngozi Udombana[Mrs.], a Senior Research Fellow at the prestigious Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies titled; ‘Constitutional Constraints to the realisation of the right to the dignity of the human person’, I came across the scholarly essay on Nigeria credited to an intellectual named Sen. Y., in a symposium paper delivered at Carleton University Ottawa, Canada titled ‘Challenges and Prspects of Nigeria’s devolpment at 50’ in which an expression of shock over Nigeria’s stunted growth was made.
The writer stated thus; “Nigeria is enormously endowed. It is a country with almost one million square kilometers of land, more than 60 percent of which is cultivatable for a variety of soil and vegetation determined crops as well as livestock production. It is the eight highest producer of oil and contains the sixth deposits of gas Worldwide. Its estimated 150 million people, comprised of about 400 ethnic groups, rank it as the largest market in Africa”.
Ngozi Udombana then added thus; “It is, therefore, irksome that with such enormous endowment and potential for greatness, Nigeria is still a groping ‘giant of Africa’.
I think Nigeria is showing the symptoms of a failed state that has been infested by the ghosts of corruption, indiscipline, anarchy and bloody crimes but one thing is sure that the moment Nigeria gets a disciplined leadership these ghosts will automatically be exorcised.
Scott Peck in the work titled ‘The Road less Travelled’ stated realistically that; “Discipline is the basic set of tools we require to solve life’s problems. Without discipline we can solve nothing. With only some discipline we can solve only some problems. With total discipline we can solve all problems”.
I think this principle indeed was the then President George W. Bush’s guiding light when on September 11th 2001, the United States of America came under attacks by the international terrorism gangs based then in far away Afghanistan, and the then President Bush launched a totally committed war against terror which was built upon by his successor President Barrack Obama that has relatively made the American nation one of the safest places on Earth.
In his book titled “Decision Points” the former United States President, Mr. George W. Bush of the Republican Party, wrote down what compelled his government to take a totally disciplined approach to wage war against terror. His words;”…I caught enough fleeting glimpses of the coverage to understand the horror of what the American people were watching. Stranded people were jumping to their deaths from the top floors of the World Trade Center towers. Others hung out of windows, hoping to be rescued. I felt their agony and despair. I had the most powerful job in the World, yet I felt powerless to help them”.
For the compelling reason that as the then United States President, he is obliged to show disciplined leadership and not sit back and watch his country attack again and again by these blood sucking terror gangs, the then President Bush implemented far-reaching security measures and counter terrorism strategies that have helped to make the United States of America peaceful. President Obama followed the totally disciplined anti-terror campaign institutionalized by his predecessor in office George Bush which enabled his Demcratic Party-led administration to locate and kill Osama BinLaden, the leader of the terror group that attacked the Unietd States on September 11th 2001.
In Nigeria however while the ordinary people are gunned down and bombed out of existence by armed terrorists, government officials at the state levels are busy erecting formidable fences around the Governors’s offices for the purposes of protecting only the immediate family members of these politicians even when millions of other unarmed civilians are left to die. At the national level both the political and military leaders continuously inundate Nigerias with half baked rhetorics that paints these terrorists as ghosts who elude capture because the ordinary people fail to volunteer information to the security personnel. What a shame?
Nigerian political and military leaders must work to exorcise this and many other ghosts such as the ghosts of corruption, indisipline, greed, avarice and impunity that have taken centre stage in the affairs of Nigeria or we may face the ever more terrible consequences associated with an irretrievably failed state. God forbis!
+Emmanuel Onwubiko, head, Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria, writes from www.huriwa.blogspot.com.