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Published On: Wed, Dec 3rd, 2014

Dancing on the brink

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Jonathan-presidentTHURSDAY Column by Ali M. Ali

This title is not original. It was borrowed. It was inspired by last week’s gruesome attack on worshippers at Juma’at masjid in Kano. Sure it wasn’t the first attack on a place of worship in the state or elsewhere. Churches and Mosques have been routinely attacked. Gunmen under some kind of spell have killed hundreds. Still last Friday attack was novel. It was the first time gunmen would invade a Juma’at mosque, detonate bombs and follow promptly with merciless execution of defenseless worshippers with machine gunshots for yet unclear reasons. I am numbed. We are dancing on the brink.

I am still bewildered. Nobody has so far claimed responsibility of that dastardly act. Suspect number one would be Boko Haram. It bears its entire signature. When the sect attacked churches, it was not cheered. If the idea was to galvanize support for their unheard ideology, it backfired. It didn’t pitch rational adherents into the fathomless pit of religious bigotry. Probably confused about the outcome of their past aggressions, they changed strategy; started attacking mosques.

I hope I am wrong. But my gut feeling is that the Kano attack was aimed at causing serious riots that will lead to mayhem all over the northern region. That too, has backfired. But, the calls by notable leaders across faiths for citizens to defend themselves are an eloquent expression of no confidence vote passed on the government.

‘’Dancing on the brink’’ is a book on Nigeria by John Campbell. He is not just an American; Campbell was his country’s ambassador to Nigeria. This is instructive. Being an envoy of the world’s biggest economy to Africa’s biggest country, bestowed on him opportunities to feel the country’s socio-political pulse on first hand basis.

Most Nigerian elite love to yak. At the sight of a diplomat of an important country like the US, they have a tendency to be flippant. I have seen that happen.

Consider, if you may, Wikileaks’ account of some well placed Nigerians yammering before a former US Ambassador, Robin Sanders. In one account, the current president, Goodluck Jonathan, according to Wikileaks’, admitted lacking in ‘administrative experience.’ In the leaked cable, Sanders it was, that “instructed” President Jonathan to sack INEC’s Maurice Iwu as chairman. This is just one instance.

The book was published in 2010. I have not read it   from page to page. But the synopsis in late 2010 or early 2011, foretold the current tragedy confronting our nation.

It predicted with chilling exactitude, the current impasse with terrorism and terrorists. Consider, if you please, this: “Ubiquitous patronage and corrupt behavior fueled by oil money is a root cause of Nigeria’s political and economic sclerosis,” explains Campbell. “The federal government has failed to provide basic security for its citizens and has lost its monopoly on violence, two basic attributes of a sovereign state.”

At the time, current divisions in the nation’s polity were manageable. The present monstrous insurgency was still an infant. A skilled political leadership would have tackled it. The late Yar’adua regime confronted it forcibly. The current regime neither forcibly nor softly approached resolving the rebellion until it was almost too late. Specifically, the Commander-in-Chief was indifferent, giving credence to the belief that since the raging fire was in the region ‘antagonistic’ to his regime, it may as well be incinerated. Guilty too, of this charge, are self-sent advisers of the president who misled him mostly for bread. Top military commanders turned the counter insurgency into a cash cow milking the nation dry. It became a white elephant project and some of them wish it never ends.

Presidential Committees set up also turned out another a huge scam. Some members were reportedly involved in sourcing and presenting ‘repentant’ insurgents willing to dialogue with an unexcited government. The snag was, all of them who came forward as representatives of   the rebels, were bogus and impostors who didn’t know a thing about Boko Haram’s insane rebellion.

It didn’t have territories. They were not attacking and seizing military equipment and facilities. The North-South divide wasn’t as pronounced. The Muslim-Christian gulf wasn’t as noticeable. A staggering $20 billion has not been missing. The naira has not depreciated to an all time low of $1 to N184. Chibok girls have not been kidnapped. Fast forward to 2014.

Corruption has assumed arrant visibility. Currently, stealing is not considered corruption. 16 is greater than 19. You are not a citizen unless you are from a region. You are not human, until you are of a specific faith.

When “Dancing on the brink” hit the bookshelf with an underlying theme of doom, we, the tribe of incurable optimists dismissed it as the prophecy of Armageddon, which was beginning to manifest even at the time.

We said nay, it wouldn’t happen. Not in Nigeria. This was a country with a history of pulling back from the brink. We point at evidence of our history of continually dancing on the brink. We always pull back miraculously most time at the eleventh hour. For an incurable optimist like me, I never thought I would come to this chilling conclusion. This is a falling house. Events in the preceding week have forcibly altered my optimism. Our dear country is on a downhill slide and drivers are only concerned with staying put in power at all cost.

I am still reeling from the shock of the deadly attack on worshippers. The body count is still uncertain. All figures being put forward are just that-figures. For most of the preceding week, the numbers kept piling up. How do you account for shattered limbs without a face?

Shockingly, at the time the President should be sacking his sit-tight and clueless defence chiefs for serially failing the nation, the chief of police is busy demonstrating his partisanship in siding with the ruling party in the Speaker Tambuwal debacle.  Kenya just taught us a lesson. Uhuru Kenyatta has been president since April 9, 2013. Like Nigeria, Kenya is battling with the deadly forays of a terrorist group-Somali’s Al Shabaab. Just recently, Al shabaab made a deadly foray into Kenya. It killed 36 non-Muslim Kenyans. Kenyatta did what a leader should do in circumstances like those. He fired the Interior Minister and the Chief of Police resigned. Here our president just plays ostrich. God help Nigeria!

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