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Where Are Our Leaders?

By Dr. Leonard K. Shilgba, Yola, Nigeria – Feb. 9, 2011 – In the wake of several assassinations of black civil rights leaders and children in USA in his day, the indefatigable Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “The unforgivable default of our society has been its failure to apprehend the assassins. It is a harsh judgement, but undeniably true, that the cause of the indifference was the identity of the victims. Nearly all were Negroes. And so the plague spread until it claimed the most eminent American, a warmly loved and respected President.”

In my nation, Nigeria, assassins have almost always got away with murder. Since 1986 when a new dimension to murder in peace time was introduced under the military rule of General Ibrahim Babangida in the gruesome murder of Dele Giwa, notable Nigerians have been felled by either the assassin’s bullet or bombs, and no one has been arrested, prosecuted successfully and punished according to the laws of the land. The roll call is growing, and now the eminence of the victims is ever expanding. It was Bola Ige over 10 years ago. Since then, we have in a democracy many eminent personalities who have been killed and their killers not found and punished. And I am concerned about Nigeria because I can see this plague spreading fast. Just few days ago as I write, the ANPP gubernatorial candidate in Borno State was killed, and the nation took a casual look and then moved on. We are used to it now. I may not even need to bore the reader with the barbaric murders of hapless Nigerians in Plateau, Borno, and Bauchi States, with Nigerian government and security agencies standing idly by. Those Nigerians, as far as our government is concerned, are small fries, not worthy of waste of attention.

But one day, a sitting governor shall be killed. If the nation still does not get the killers, the nation’s president shall then be killed. Mark my words, the blood of those Nigerians that have been wasted over the years will not go unanswered for. I am waiting for how a careless nation shall react when Nigeria’s president is killed at the hands of brutal assassins. I sound a note of warning to President Jonathan that he may be next if he neglects his duty to protect Nigerians irrespective of their social class. As Commander-In Chief, he must without delay fire the military officers in charge of soldiers who looked away when Nigerian citizens were butchered recently in Plateau State. Second, all heads of security agencies in Plateau State (including the police) should be removed from the service. The commissioner of police in Borno State must be removed from service. If he and his officers are being mocked persistently by Boko Haram, whose leader was killed in questionable circumstances in police custody in 2009, then the commissioner does not deserve to remain on the pay roll of the Nigerian people.  We must start holding some relevant people responsible for failures in our society. If President Jonathan fails to take those minimal steps he will have proved to be unfit to lead Nigeria; he will have shown how cowardly he is, and that he does not yet understand the demands of Nigerians. A president who cannot guarantee the security of Nigerians, and is too timid to act against failures of his officers does not deserve my vote, and certainly does not deserve to be called my president. Where are our leaders?

We do not need all the baloney about “new defence policy” announced few days ago by Jonathan’s security Adviser, Gen. Azazi as a response to the unprovoked massacre of the Nigerian people. That is gibberish. What we need is a new and re-assuring response by the government that controls national security. The response cannot be less than holding security officers directly or indirectly responsible for security break-down and breaches in their areas of operations. Those people should understand that we know better than they can deceive us this time. Instead of talking of that nonsense of a “defence policy” the first answer to the ongoing pogrom in Plateau, Borno, and other States, should be the sacking of all senor security heads in those places. They have failed if the wanton destruction of life and property continues unabated under their watch. Nigerians are not safe at home, on the road, and even in the sanctuary of worship centres of their God. Police security is not even assuring because the watchman has become the accomplice.

The Nigerian police have failed to protect Nigerians. They have become killers of the people, shooting at even pregnant women and terrorizing Nigerians in their country. And yet our president is not sympathetic to the feelings of the people. He must urgently address our fears as well as our boiling anger. I fear the anger of the people shall get to a point where there will be violence on the streets of our towns and cities without end against the conspiracy of the government against the people it should protect. The emergence of “Vigilante groups” all over Nigeria is a testimony of the failure of the Nigerian police and the Nigerian government. The time has come for each State in Nigeria to have its own police department. It is murder for the Nigerian federal government (including the legislature) to refuse to amend the constitution in order to empower States to have their State police when it has demonstrated complete incompetence to provide us with security while its federal police has become an assassin force rather than what it should be in a democracy. The hands of the State governors are tied behind their backs as federal security agencies brutalize their people. They are pinned down helplessly as their people are being raped and lynched by federal troops and police. The world should know that the federal government of Nigeria is to blame for the crises that have engulfed Nigeria.

The primary national discourse in Nigeria today is about the April 2011 elections. This ought not to be. We should first set our house in order. I would not be surprised if the elections don’t hold. How can elections hold in the midst of so much fear, evil, anger, and injustice? It is one threat from Boko Haram today, another threat from MEND tomorrow, and inflammatory words of one wounded politician the next day, all for divergent reasons. This is a dangerous trend because it is easier to deal with one common interest than to engage competing interests at once. The federal government is helpless, at least by its lame actions. The continual inability or rather refusal by government to arrest and punish offenders of the law has emboldened the motivation for crime in the land. We need a national security and constitutional assembly before the April elections. We shall regret if we continue to treat the matters at hand flippantly. But I see one common interest in all these. It is the cry for justice, interpreted severally.

When our selfish politicians have demonstrated that they can amend the constitution in record time when they are directly affected, but it becomes a long and windy discussion when the Nigerian people should be the beneficiaries, they are sending us the message that if we only wait for them to have a change of heart, we shall wait in vain. I call for a national revolt. I call for a peaceful mass pressure. We have no leaders; we must create some among us. The hour is now. And what should be our common demand? The present constitution is a fraud. It cannot even be amended to our heart desire and aspiration. It is a fraud foisted on us by an illegal military government. We must throw it away and examine the 1963 Republican constitution that was thrown away by an illegal military government. We shall then come together as nations (ethnic nationalities) around the table of brotherhood and discuss relevant amendments to the “suspended” 1963 constitution that would guarantee justice to our various nations pieced together by the British and for their interests. The growing spate of violence in Nigeria is only a harbinger of the great cataclysm that is hurtling fast towards us. Where are our leaders?

If there are bombs planted, and violence erupting in any part of the country without good intelligence, officers responsible for such intelligence gathering and sharing should be punished. Those who should lead will soon become victims if they continue in their unpardonable neglect of responsibility. Some of them may have to become victims very soon before needed action will be taken. But does it have to be that way? Where are our leaders?

Many reasons—some, historical—may be advanced for the recurring crisis in Plateau. But no reason can be good enough for continual murder of Nigerians, with a federal government (with the necessary security apparatus) looking on without productive intervention. This is absolute failure that should not be tolerated. The commander-in-chief has failed. If President Jonathan is deserving of any respect and trust as a leader, he must resolve the neglect of the security of Nigerians in bloody slaughter theatres across the country. This is not the time to campaign around the country for votes when Nigerians are being killed without restraint in their country. He may bring back some Nigerians from our boiling neighbour, Egypt, but a worse steaming pot is here!

I conclude by saying that we don’t appeal to the conscience of murderers, we bring the wheel of the law over them. They have lost their conscience. But where are the Nigerians leaders to bring this about? The centre is falling apart. Where is the political will? Is President Jonathan our Gorbachev?

  Leonard Karshima Shilgba is an Associate Professor of Mathematics with the American University of Nigeria and President of the Nigeria Rally Movement (www.nigeriarally.org ).

TEL: +234 (0) 8055024356

EMAIL: shilgba@yahoo.com

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