When Governance Loses Soul in Nigeria

When Governance Loses Soul in Nigeria

By Emmanuel Onwubiko

“Bad leaders believe their team works for them. Great leaders believe they work for their team.” – Alexander den Heijer, Motivational Speaker.

“When you were made a leader, you weren’t given a crown, you were given the responsibility to bring out the best in others.” – Jack Welch, Former CEO of General Electric.

Report and a video posted by BusinessDay newspaper has it that thousands of Lagosians had thronged the private residence of Nigeria’s president Mr Bola Ahmed Tinubu to beg for foods at the Christmas. 

Apparently, these desperate and distressed citizens who are famished and sought for succour from the president’s private residence, had exhausted their options on how to feed their households this festive season and clearly, these people are just a drop in the ocean when compared to the official statistical data from the National Bureau of statistics which said there are 133 million multidimensionally poor Nigerian Households.

The media minders of the president, then thought it was a good opportunity to sell their boss as a benevolent leader. But they were wrong.

The direct lesson conveyed by that pathetic but isolated news story of citizens who ordinarily ought to have travelled to their countryside to join their relatives to celebrate the yuletide,  but because of the biting economic situations,  the extremely high costs of living brought upon Nigerians by one single act of perfidy by President Tinubu in striking off unilaterally,  the subsidy on petrol that automatically means high purchasing cost of petrol, kerosene and gas necessary for daily activities of millions of Nigerians,  the citizens can’t now afford to travel to their natural homes far away from the hustling and bustling of Lagos state.

So, the next best thing they did on a very sacred day of Christmas was to invade the expansive and exotic residence of this president whose toxic economic policies has led to economic hemorrhage, to now beg for foods which they now can’t buy with the few Naira notes in their possession. By the way, our dear Naira losses value to the dollar at very astonishing rate. Naira now hovers between 1,200 Naira to 1, 300 Naira in the black market. Fuel in Imo State and in a lot more places in Nigeria sells at 680 Naira per litre and over 75% of Nigerian cities don’t have electricity supply from the so-called national grid.

Back to this Christmas day visit by hungry, starving, jobless Nigerians to the home of the president, we need to recall that it is happening at a time of the year that the Federal Government hasn’t paid salaries to soldiers fighting on different battlefields against terrorists,  teachers haven’t been paid till Christmas time and majority of civil servants haven’t been paid as against what normally obtains during the Muslim festivals by which time the monthly salaries of public workers are mostly paid at mid month to enable Muslims celebrate their festivals.

Also, this Christmas has come with the most deadliest and targeted genocide against Christians in Plateau State by armed Fulani extremists who killed over 150 villagers in 21 villages of Plateau State even when the headquarters of the third division of the Nigerian Army is located in Jos and remember too, that the Muslim born chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Taoreed Lagbaja,  had once directed the general officer commanding that division (a Muslim born Fulani General)to fish out the killers of a certain Fulani head of herders in a part of Plateau State and this directive was clinically executed and some persons were arrested in far away Lagos as the killers, to the applause of most of us watching developments in Nigeria.

But on this Christmas eve which saw the visit of thousands of Nigerians starving almost to the point of death, paying Christmas visit to the residence of the president in Lagos, this treacherous and wicked terrorists made it a duty to visit Plateau State communities dominated by Christians just so these terrorists wipe them off the World map and attempt to take over their native lands and both the plateau State government and president Bola Ahmed Tinubu who incidentally became father Christmas in Lagos, did nothing to prevent the occurrence of such a man-made disaster of unprecedented dimension.

The sad thing about these two developments is that the perpetrators of these deadliest attacks against Christians in Plateau State will be allowed to disappear into thin air by the usually noisy chief of Army Staff who it was that ensured that the killers of the Fulani head of herders were apprehended. Then the northern politicians who went into overdrive when the Army accidentally bombed the people of a certain community of mostly Muslims in Kaduna State, are now in a muted mood on these tragic terror attacks against Christians in Plateau State.

When the people of that community in Kaduna were accidentally attacked, the vice president Kashim Shettima a Muslim and the president who too is a Muslim, paid elaborate visits to Maiduguri and the scene of the bombing to condole the victims who survived the bombing and of course, there were rains of donations by northern governors, the senators of the North and the vice president. 

These victims of the Plateau State deliberate pogrom carried out by well armed Fulani insurgents, aren’t getting the same levels of sympathetic visits and donations except the empty rhetorical reactions by president Bola Ahmed Tinubu who reportedly directed that the defence chief and the service chiefs should go after the killers of these Plateau Christians.  Do these services have to wait to be directed to do their tasks? Is this not very shameful?

But this empty order from the president is a mere media propaganda because on many occasions that Christians in the North are targeted both during the past administration of Buhari who is the most incompetent president to have ever managed Nigeria, and even now, the armed forces have proven incapable of arresting the terrorists masterminding these killings.

The Federal Attorney General and Minister of Justice Alhaji Lateef Fagbemi recently told Nigerians that the current administration will conceal the identities of the sponsors of terrorists in Nigeria.  This is a classical case of cover -up because when a government says, we won’t tell citizens identities of those who are sponsoring persistent terrorist attacks against them, then that government is a sympathiser of terrorists and governance invariably has lost its soul.

The truth as revealed by the non-governmental organisation that yours Faithfully founded seventeen years back HURIWA, is that it is now as clear and as constant as the northern stars that the current crop of service chiefs, Defence and police ministers and the inspector General of police are absolutely and grossly incompetent and indeed lack the capacity, the will power, the patriotic zeal and the professional candour to combat and defeat the expanding frontiers of terror attacks.

Besides, the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) which made the observation stated that the massacre of over 150 Plateau State Christian indigenes by suspected armed Fulani terrorists is an intolerable crime.

HURIWA which this writer is its National Coordinator is demanding the immediate overhauling of the security institutions because the present heads of those institutions of national security are not committed to safeguard lives abd property of the citizens of the Country.

HURIWA recalled that France news agency had reported that armed groups have killed at least 160 people in central Nigeria in a series of attacks on villages, local government officials said on Monday.

The group then wonder how on earth the President and the service chiefs are busy feasting in their different homes under the guise of celebrating the Christmas holiday whereas citizens are exposed to the dangerous attacks by armed terrorists wielding the most deadly military grade weapons even when this government lacks the needed political will to conquer terrorists even as the government has failed to name and shame identified sponsors of terrorists.

HURIWA recalled that the toll marked a sharp rise from the initial figure reported by the army Sunday evening of just 16 dead in a region plagued for several years by religious and ethnic tensions. “What is the primary duty of government constitutionally? The primary legal obligations of government in accordance with the Grund Norm of Nigeria is the preservation of the sanctity of lives of Nigerians, prevent killings of citizens and the destructions of their property and assets by armed non state actors. Why then is the president Tinubu unwilling to dismiss his non-performing security service chiefs and the DG of DSS who has overstayed his retirement time?

“it is the most shameful show of incompetence on the part of the Commander-in-Chief  and his bunch of appointees holding command and ministerial positions linked to the protection of national security, to stand by even as many as 150 persons have been confirmed killed says HURIWA even as the Saturday hostilities persisted to early hours of Monday as disclosed by Monday Kassah, head of the local government in Bokkos, Plateau State, told AFP.

Military gangs, locally called “bandits”, launched “well-coordinated” attacks in “not fewer than 20 different communities” and torched houses, Kassah said.

Regrettably, HURIWA blame the incompetent service chiefs and the IGP for making it seamless for daredevil  terrorists to  spread their killing sprees across many states in Nigeria, the cases in Taraba and Benue states are becoming increasingly worrisome to the extent that terrorists from Cameroon enter Nigeria and kill in the two states unchallenged. HURIWA described the continuous killings by the so-called unknown gunmen in the South East, and the persistent pogroms in Benue, Taraba and Plateau carefully choreographed by Fulani irredentists and terrorists, as unforgivable crimes against humanity just as the Rights group said President Bola Ahmed Tinubu must arrest the killers and ensure that they face stiff and swift justice or the President should get ready to be dragged to the International criminal court in the Hague Netherlands for permitting heinous crimes against humanity under his government. “

The truth and nothing but the truth is that these serial  killings by armed non state actors are also the manifestations of the lack of any kind of coordinated approach by the armed forces of Nigeria, the police and the Department of State Services to viciously confront the terrorists unleashing mass killings all across Nigeria.

It is then incumbent that we the people of Nigeria collectiveky ask President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to sack all the service chiefs and the IGP to make way for fresh minds and fresh hands with the requisite competences and patriotism to finish off these terrorists.

Sacking these bunch of thoroughly unprofessional heads of security institutions is the best way out because it is so glaring that LAW AND ORDER has collapsed in substantial parts of Nigeria and given way to the regime of terrorists just as we absolutely condemn the fact that no fewer than three worshippers have reportedly been killed by unknown gunmen who invaded Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Nkweagu, in Abakaliki Local Government Area of Ebonyi State.

It would be recalled that reports have it that the gunmen attacked the church at about 11:30 pm on Sunday even as they had earlier called one of the victims, a popular POS operator at Nkwuagu market, on the phone to come out from the church. As soon as he stepped out, they shot and killed him.

It was gathered that the killings of the three victims threw the whole community into mourning and paralyzed economic activities, especially on Christmas Day, at the popular Nkwuagu market located along the Abakaliki/Afikpo express road.

Recall that one person, a student, was recently killed at Nkwuagu .

The telos of this reflection is to  call on the President who is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces of Nigeria to take responsibility for these massive scale of failures by the armed forces and then take concrete steps to rejig the architectural formation of Nigeria’s security services by picking new sets of competent heads to coordinate the attacks against terrorists. 

“President Tinubu shouldn’t wait for the country to collapse totally before he removes his grossly incompetent National security Adviser and the service chiefs including the ruthlessly unprofessional IGP. The President has to take action now to stop Nigeria from the progressive drift to the abyss and pricipis of total lawlessness, anarchy and doom”.

These exact words in this press statement we issued in HURIWA  was my response to a live interview by a radio station in Owerri which wanted to find out the best solution to these intermittent killings of citizens by terrorists in Nigeria whilst the government at every levels watches in utter helplessness. What is governance if those in authority as officials of the different levels of administration can’t curb the disturbing cases of viciously and blood cuddling attacks on citizens by non-state actors armed with the state of the arts weapons of mass destruction? The Nigerian Constitution has it that the primary responsibility of government is the protection of lives and property of Nigerians.

Sadly, whereas terrorists are busy making a mess of the country through ruthless attacks, the operatives of the armed forces who ought to be deployed appropriately to clinically wipe off terrorists such as those armed Fulani herders who killed 150 Plateau State Christians, but the bulk of the soldiers sent to the South East are busy extorting motorists and the millions of Igbo travellers who returned to the Igbo homesteads to join their kiths and kins to mark the 2023 yuletide. HURIWA also intervened and it is useful to bring the exact reaction of this non-governmental organisation here to expatiate the point I’m trying to make that governance has lost its soul in the modern day Nigeria.

Specifically, the front line Civil Rights Advocacy group: HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) which I lead, has asked the Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Taoreed Lagbaja to call the men and operatives of the Army in the South East of Nigeria who are mounting roadblocks and using these as platforms for EXTORTION and HARRASSMENT of the civilian population commuting around the region to join their kiths and kins for the Yuletide celebrations, to order and to implement measures to weed out corrupt-minded operatives from the highways.

The Rights group said there is no fundamental difference between these rogue soldiers, police, civil defence operatives and the nominal armed non-state actors committing horrendous crimes against the citizens just as the Rights group said fishing out these undesirable elements embedded in the armed forces who are participating in internal security operations is key to ensuring the restoration of professionalism and discipline in the Armed Forces. HURIWA also warned the soldiers to avoid using extrajudicial execution of citizens as a technique for carrying out their duty just as the Rights group said adherence in its strictest sense to the rules of engagement is strategic for the members of the armed forces of Nigeria and these steps are in line with global best practices.

The Rights group said it was drawing the attention of the Army chief of staff, that of the Inspector-General of Police, the commandant General of the civil defence Corps, to take notice of these unfortunate scenarios and crimes of bribery and intimidation of motorists by their operatives in the South East of Nigeria and redirect their focus towards keeping and maintaining law and order and undertake lawful internal security operations to weed out armed hoodlums causing insecurity and instability in the once economically flourishing and peaceful South East Region of Nigeria.

HURIWA said the heads of the security agencies must as a matter of urgency take steps to weed out bad eggs amongst their operatives in the current internal security operations around the nation and especially in the South East of Nigeria so as to engender public confidence and the trust of the members of the general public who are inevitably critical to the ability of the armed forces to win the hearts and minds of the civil populace and thereby generate quality actionable intelligence to make their tasks seamless and successful.

HURIWA  in the the media release signed by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko called on the governors of the five South East states to team up and work out implementable strategies to safeguard the lives and property of their people just as the Rights group said that it is odious and despicable that the state governors are not concerned about the welfare of their citizens especially as the cases of extortion and harassment of their citizens by operatives of the armed forces have become pervasive and deeply offensive. 

HURIWA observed thus: “For far too long, the political office holders of South East extraction, have abandoned the pursuit of the wellbeing and the welfare of the good people of the South-East region and engaged in hot pursuit of pecuniary benefits for themselves to the security detriment of their constituents in the five Igbo states. The lack of good governance and quality leadership, has created the opportunities for some undesirable elements parading about in Europe as leaders of a separatist movement, have ceased the process of controlling the minds of youngsters in the Igbo region to an extent that indiscriminate killings of Igbo people,  the destruction of strategic national security assets located in the South East being perpetrated by all kinds of persons, have become a commonplace.  The time for action and total resolution of the conflicts in the South East is here. “

HURIWA stated that her attention has been called to a well structured complaint in which the writer stated as follows:  “I’m still surprised why the governors of Enugu and Anambra States have not addressed the hardship security operatives are causing on our roads. How can you have all these checkpoints just from Awka to Enugu?

“What is most worrisome is that these people are not doing anything related to security. They just block the road and cause traffic snarls everywhere. They only remember to search you if the boys working for them ask you to give money and you refuse. Sometimes, they just sit down under the shade, while those local boys harass drivers and park anyone who refuses to give money.

“My greatest unhappiness is about those boys. Because they are running errands for military men, if they look at you and feel you are not obeying them, they just park you. Very saucy people.” The above is the complaint of Mr Kelechi Okoro, a driver with one of the transport companies.

HURIWA further counselled the service chiefs and the inspector General of police to immediately act to stave off the continuous humiliation and human rights abuses against the civilians happening within the checkpoints and roadblocks mounted by soldiers just as the Rights group pointed to a report done by an investigative journalist which confirmed that the violations of the human rights of road users by soldiers and other operatives of the security services are deeply rooted, disturbing and pervasive demanding immediate, transparent and actionable steps to curb the menace.

HURIWA recalled that recently the investigative  reporter with one of the frontline online media in Nigeria took a return trip from Awka to Enugu and back, through the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway and experienced first hand the plight of commuters on the road.

The journey, according to the reporter started from Aroma junction in Awka, through Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, down to Amansea, before exiting Anambra.

“But it was a surprise that at such a short stretch of road, which was less than four kilometres, this reporter encountered a Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) checkpoint, a Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) checkpoint, a navy checkpoint, a mobile police checkpoint and more, before exiting into Enugu State, which didn’t have less.

Checks showed that there are at least 20 checkpoints mounted by various security agencies, operating from Awka to Enugu, through the expressway, which is about 50 kilometres. This leaves drivers with their legs constantly on the brake pedal.

Although the high number of security checks could be attributed to the insecurity in the South-East, the attitude of the security men makes the situation more disturbing.

For example, during the return journey at Oji River axis, this reporter encountered a huge traffic at a checkpoint manned by mobile police operatives, but despite being cleared, the huge traffic ahead continued until it was ascertained that this was as a result of traffic caused by an army checkpoint ahead, which overflowed down to another police checkpoint.

Commuters, who spoke  decried the frustration they faced on the road everyday.

According to Mr Okoro, a mass transit driver, whose lamentation was seen above, the confidence with which the security operatives block the roads and return to their cubicles, leaving errand boys to attend to motorists is what annoys him most.

For Mr Celestine Ugwunnwa, a passenger in Okoro’s bus, he is more concerned that as uncomfortable and hot as the bus is, the driver can never speed up to ease the discomfort of the passengers, as he has to keep applying brakes from one checkpoint to another.

“It is true that there is insecurity, but is this the best way to police the zone? Do we have to be punished so hard, before we can be policed? See how they just blocked the road. They are not conducting any checks so long as they get money from their errand boys who are working for them.

“The only time they come out is when those boys report to them that a driver refused to give money, or when they hear the sound of a siren, showing that a big man is coming. This is too bad,” he lamented.

A staff of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, who spoke to this investigative reporter being cited by HURIWA, said: “You people who are journalists, you need to write about the trouble we face to get to the office every day.

“Just from Awka to Unizik in Agu Awka, you meet Civil Defense, Road Safety, police and Navy. You people should ask what business the Navy has on our roads? Those navy people you see at Stanel Filling Station are people who were enlisted to guard that property, but instead of guarding the business place, they block the road and collect money from motorists. Is that how to provide security?

Recall that in December 2022, Anambra State Deputy Governor, Dr Onyekachi Ibezim had a major clash with military personnel at a roadblock at Amansea, an Anambra community that shares a common border with Enugu State.

Ibezim saw a long traffic of vehicles held at the checkpoint. The traffic was those of holiday makers, who were coming home from various places for the Christmas celebration. He immediately ordered the dismantling of the roadblocks and opening of the road for free flow of traffic.

The incident which happened during the yuletide quickly eased off traffic, but shortly after, the checkpoint resurfaced, and the operatives became even more daring in Anambra then as told in the aforementioned encounter with lawless security agents by the Deputy Governor of Anambra State.

There is the urgency of the now to restore respect and sacredness to the life of the Nigerian citizens. It is a crime against humanity for government to let these killings by terrorists to continue longer than it has done already. Enough is enough!


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