President Jonathan’s declaration of State of Emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states in the troubled North-Eastern Nigeria brought to the fore the myriads of hydra-headed problems and compounding leadership tragedy that have defined our democracy. While it may bring succour to the people of the area, it may also compound their problems. In a normal situation, the people of these states should enjoy a new lease of life and security due to 24-hour protection by the military. But would they actually have that peace? What becomes of this hapless people if the military boys turn around to become their worst nightmare through abuse of power as witnessed in the past?
In a society where it is a common trend for the powerful to lord him/herself over the weak, there is every possibility that the people of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states would eventually be at the receiving end of military brutality.
Just last week, I witnessed a very sordid, barbaric and inhumane treatments meted out to some young Nigerians at the hand of two young military men. Due to a misunderstanding between a lady (probably a girlfriend to one of the military boys) and the owner of a mobile phone shop, two military boys in army camouflage mercilessly beat up of those in the shop and locked up the shop in broad daylight.
Surprisingly, the shop is located beside a Divisional Police Headquarters; the shop actually belongs to the police. With all the beating, commotions and dare-devilry brigandage of the two military boys the police did not intervene; they exercised a very nauseating ‘I don’t care” attitude while these boys carried-on with their shameless acts.
It was a national discourse a few years ago when a military top brass ordered that a young woman be beating up and strip naked in broad daylight by his men just because the young woman had the audacity to compete with his convoy on the street of Lagos. Nothing happened. Life went on. This is Nigeria.
The incidences above are just a microcosm of the larger society. I have in the last few months being in constant skirmishes with some overzealous military boys. This is due to the proximity of my house and office to them — I have been lucky and spared brutality due to existing camaraderie between some ‘ogas at the top’ and myself. That is what defines Nigeria. It is not new.
I do not think the people of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states would fare better. Farmers, fishermen, market men and women and other commoners in these states stand no chance.
President Jonathan ought to exhaust every option available to him before declaring a state of emergency. He told the whole nation some months ago that he knew Boko Haram sponsors and they were — and maybe still — in his government. Are these Boko Haram sponsors too big for the security agencies to arrest? Why subjecting the people in the area to additional hardships? Is there a political colouration to Boko Haram insurgency? Who is the President afraid of offending? These and many other pertinent questions require urgent answers. Political shenanigan at the expense of the masses is at best opprobrious.
It is equally germane that the President exercise tactfulness and define clear line of authority in handling the issue of state of emergency and heavy military presence in these states. Licensing the military to ‘do and undo’ as wont by the military without suspending civilian administration may not go down well in a nation where politicians are mini-gods.
Desirous as the state of emergency in Borno, Yola and Adamawa is, it should be devoid of political colouration. Allowing the governors of the three states to stay during the period may not bring the anticipated peace. They have been there for years and Boko Haram menace waxed stronger under their watch. I do not think they can be of any good at this moment. Now is the time to be pragmatic, and now is the time to do all that is necessary to give succour to the people whose lives and livelihood have been shattered.
Posterity would neither forget nor forgive President Jonathan if the peace, joy and unity of Nigeria and Nigerians are sacrificed just for political survival.
The writer is on Twitter: @Femiolas