Like last week, I am beginning this piece with a solemn prayer. May we never see 2014, again. I could see the puzzle in your eyes. 2014 again? Impossible you may say. Yes it is. Not in this lifetime. It is gone. Forever. May we never have a year that remotely resembles last year.
It was a year replete with morbid memories. A year of dashed hopes and misery. A year the nation dangerously tottered on the brink. A year that tasked our collective endurance to the hilt. A year that evil forces intent on creating permanent chasm reigned supreme. May we never see it, again.
2014 was the year Nigerians in the category of hewers of wood and fetchers of water were mindlessly harried, harassed and heckled by good guys and bad guys. Good guys who came in various bowler hats with sugar in their tongues and bile in the hearts. Guys who talked big and delivered at the height of a midget. Rulers without shame that lied through their teeth. And bad guys donning turbans clutching Holy Scriptures walking their talk of killing in the name of God. Caught in the middle was us, ordinary citizens, mired into the ground under the iron heel of demagogues. May we never see 2014, again.
Welcome to 2015. If you are reading this at this precise minute, it means you, like me, should be on bent knees expressing gratitude to the Almighty for crossing into the New Year. You are one of the over 100 million odd people occupying the geographical space called Nigeria to have survived the preceding harrowing year. Somebody shout halleluyiah.
We are, truly, resilient.
Life is short and brutish here. According to the UN, the average life expectancy in Nigeria is a miserable 45 years. A 2011 World Bank report puts it at 52.This is 31 years short of the life expectancy in Hong Kong or Switzerland. In both countries, the life expectancy is 83 years.
True, last year was like any other. It had 365 days and 52 weeks. The sun and the moon did their time appointed duty of separating night and day. They didn’t always succeed. For the very unlucky, the suns set at dawn, others at noon. Only the very lucky had their sun set at dusk.
True, the year started languidly, almost deceptively. The kind of lethargy that reminds you of the calm before the storm. The year 2013 ended on a scandalous note with a certain Princess who bears the name Stellar Oduah buying unbudgeted two luxury armored cars at the princely sum of $ I.6m.It was the year Boko Haram upped its its vicious campaign of bloodletting. It was the year Boko Haram began to show real capacity to engage the once powerful Nigerian Armed Forces in combat. In the twilight of 2013, insurgent elements sauntered into Maiduguri, the capital of Borno, a state under emergency rule and gave the army a bloody nose. In that tragic one-sided battle by a slippery enemy, the Military High Command loves to dismiss as rascally inclined ‘children’.
I thought in 2014,these ‘rascals’ would be crushed by a tough talking Military. My optimism was not misplaced. A “fire spitting’’ Alex Badeh, an ‘Air Marshal’ had just been appointed the nation’s Chief of Defense Staff that January. He is not an ordinary officer. He is a fighter pilot. That bears stressing.
Badeh came to the job with a reputation. As Air Chief, his boys, I was told by an Air Force officer and therefore, an authority, were the real McCoy doing ‘precision bombing’ aerially on insurgents’ bases to ‘soften’ them before ground troops moved in for the kill.
But professional jealousy between Badeh and Ihejirika, then Army Chief, according to this officer turned ‘amebo’, was slowing the counter insurgency effort. Partly responsible was the ego battle between the two Generals about who was ‘boss’.
Jonathan decided that on January 14th, 2014.He retired Ihejirika and made Badeh CDS. In the euphoria of his new office Badeh gave a definitive date of April as the terminal date of routing these ‘rascals’ from our shores.
From that moment onwards, Boko Haram became more incensed and daring. They betrayed no signs of abating in their mayhem. By April, the terminal date of their complete annihilation, according to Badeh, they had become the ones dictating the pace of the war. As if to spite Badeh, they sauntered into Chibok and abducted over 200 girls. Today 262 days later, the girls are still at large.
Badeh was forced to eat humble pie. He recanted. The rebels were not appeased. They were determined to embarrass the tough talking CDS. In late October, they over ran Mubi, the second biggest town after Yola, the capital of Adamawa state. Mubi houses Badeh’s ancestral home of Vimtim.
Badeh was not the first to spit ‘fire’ minus brimstone. He is in good company. Once a upon a time, a tough talking Police Chief, Hafiz Ringim, currently on self exile similarly blew hot. He served notice to Boko Haram. He talked tough. Boko Haram acted tougher by dispatching a suicide bomber who nearly swatted him on his own turf at Louise Edet House.
President Jonathan too, gave a terminal date for the end of insurgency. Way back in March 2012, he assured that by June of that year, these insurgents would know there was a government. It came to pass. Nothing. What he did subsequently and especially with the demonstrable lethargy in the rescue of Chibok girls gave credence to the conspiracy theorists that Boko Haram is a government facility routinely deployed to whip into line ‘recalcitrant’ communities.
From an offensive force, the Military was reduced to a whimpering defensive power whose capability in protecting the territorial integrity of the nation, is being doubted.
On the economic front, last year was catastrophic. With declining oil price, a progressively weakening national currency and a rapacious bureaucracy, the true meaning of ‘depression’ came to the fore even to the unlettered. The icing on the rancid cake that is our grossly mismanaged economy is a political order lacking integrity and shamefully kleptomaniac. May we never see 2014, again.