By Magnus Onyibe –
Some of us are familiar with intensive care units, ICUs of hospitals where cries of pain from people in anguish rend the air.
That’s where people involved in road accidents, fire disasters, domestic violence and sundry tragedies, often of life threatening magnitude, are taken to for urgent attention and timely remediation.
In ICUs, practically everybody you are likely to find would be in oxygen masks, dialysis machines and in spasms or death throes.
If a patient survives ICU, and proceeds to none emergency sections of the hospital, he or she is likely to live long enough to tell the story.
What l glean from president Muhammadu Buhari’s democracy day speech last May 29, 2016 marking his first year in office as president of Nigeria, is a message of hope, with a further call for patience by long suffering Nigerians and a promise that their fortune would soon change for the better.
However, the reality is that the living condition of Nigerians across the spectrum right now, fits the description of an ICU because, life has been, to say the least, brutish, traumatic and tragic, such that the average Nigerian does not know if he can survive till the next day, how much less another one year, if existing fundamental structural imbalances are not re-engineered.
Below are five prevailing circumstances that underscore my characterization of Nigeria as an ICU.
(1) Undoubtedly, the president has done a very commendable job of prying out from the sticky fingers of looters, Nigeria’s wealth – although the promise to reveal the sum and name culprits remains unkept
However, the exercise did not happen without taking its toll on the economy and the collateral damage can be equated to the calamitous consequences of chasing a bull into a China shop.
Recent reports in the media monitoring a tier one bank foreign exchange, forex allocation from CBN indicates that the largest amount of forex sold by the bank last week is to foreign conglomerates who are pulling out their funds owing to the uncertainties in Nigeria.
Apart from portfolio and equity firms that have retreated from Nigeria in the past few months, foreign airlines which are unable to repatriate their funds are currently in the forefront of businesses deserting Nigeria.
With astronomical exchange rate, factories closing down, biting unemployment and galloping inflation, lots of people are in distress.
With the foregoing indices, Nigerians can be said to be in ICU and are likely to remain there for much longer than they might have imagined as pervasive poverty continues to reign supreme.
(2) As tumultuous as the anti-corruption war has been, stepping down Boko Haram insurgency alert level from code red when it appeared as if there were equal number of people worshiping inside churches and mosques, as there were security personnel guarding the houses of worship, has been the most notable accomplishment of President Buhari in the past one year.
Compared to the past, the dreaded terrorist group can now be safely said to be struggling to get noticed through occasional detonation of improvised explosive devices, IEDs here and there and once in a while.
That is a welcome development for Nigerians in the north east where the number of Internally Displaced People, IDPs, estimated to be in millions, are now returning to their homes.
As parents who have lost children are consigned to mourning the loss of their loved ones and the young lads who are now orphaned are left to care for themselves, returning home is not such a great respite to the hapless victims, so they remain in ICU as they try to cobble their lives together.
(3) Although the horrendous killings in north east Nigeria which earned Boko Haram the reputation of being the most brutal terror group in the world- worse than ISIS, Al Qaeda and Taliban-has abated, the orgy of killings by the rampaging Fulani herdsmen of children, women and men is the new face of terrorism.
From Agatu in Benue state where the whole town was burnt down with throats slit; kidnap and near assassination of former presidential candidate, Olu Falae in Ogun state; brazen attacks on farmers and monarchs in delta state to the brutal massacre of indigenes and the sacking of Nimbo town in Enugu state with homes razed and humans mauled down by the so called cattle rustlers ,terrorism has now migrated from the north east, and it is now alive and walking freely in the uttermost parts of southern Nigeria and therefore the nation’s new sore point.
In that regard, the storm of bad news did not end with the slowdown of terrorism in the north east, as the Ak47 assault rifle wielding herdsmen attacking the middle belt, south west and now south east Nigeria, bear the imprint of a retreating Boko haram terrorist groups from the north east, melting into the cattle herding system and surreptitiously migrating to the south with their regular trade mark of sorrow tears and blood, to borrow a phrase from the late Afro beat maestro, Fela Kuti.
What this implies is that despite the near subjugation of Boko Haram in the north east, Nigerians in the southern part, have now joined the number of people in ICU owing to terrorism franchised to the so called herdsmen who are now spreading it like wildfire nationwide.
The havoc of the herdsmen in southern Nigeria without anticipatory strategy by security authorities to nip it in the bud is another evidence of lack of ability and capacity by our security apparatus to anticipate and prevent a likely fall out of a war in one zone spreading to another.
Even as private individuals or groups, we must help the military to secure Nigeria. Vigilante groups which were recently re introduced are good but there is also need for enhancement of intelligence gathering activities to aid the military.
Time was when the Sea Dogs, a fraternity founded by Wole Soyinka led an investigation on operation of toll gates in Nigeria that exposed the corruption involved in and what needed to be done to curb it.
We don’t need Americans, the French and British military now helping us to defeat Boko Haram to also teach us that the most likely fall out of the defeat of the terrorist group would dispersal of terrorists nationwide which would equally be catastrophic if we don’t guard against it.
In my reckoning, it is partly the long drawn religious wars in Somalia, Chad and recently Libya which compelled the migration of war displaced people from places like Chad into Borno state in particular and north east Nigeria in general, that laid the foundation for the terrorist malaise that Nigeria has suffered in the past six, 6 years.
Incidentally as they were fleeing the war zones, most of the war induced immigrants took their arms with them and continued to harbor their extreme religious believes as well.
Over the years, proliferation of small arms continued and rebellious religious beliefs festered until they coalesced into the lethal terrorist brand now known as Boko Haram in Nigeria.
Based on experiences garnered from other jurisdictions, the United Nations, UN was aware of the probable consequential effects of spill over of war atrocities to neighboring countries, so it established an agency to mitigate small arms proliferation.
It is the neglect of the UN agency to do the job assigned that manifested as Boko Haram in Nigeria.
Similarly, Nigerian security authorities lack of foresight in predicting that as Boko Haram is being flushed out from Sambisa forest, their erstwhile home base, elements of the terrorist group would disperse by melting into society and given their lifestyle, disguising as nomadic herdsmen is the most unsuspecting and undetectable entry point into the larger society.
Since the existence of Nigeria as a country, Fulani cattle herdsmen have travelled from Sokoto to Enugu with their animals wares seeking pasture without molestation and they never carried arms beyond the traditional bows and arrows.
In fact, as a young correspondent in Nigerian television authority, NTA about twenty years ago, in the cause of trying to establish the unity and blending of various Nigerian tribes through trade, l followed the cattle trail from Sokoto to Enugu.
In the course of that journey, I met an adult Fulani cattle rearer/trader whose parents had migrated to Enugu and he was born and brought up there.
He spoke Igbo language flawlessly and he was very proud of his Fulani heritage as he was full of encomiums for Enugu, his adopted home where he was fully integrated with his own family which he had started in Enugu.
Today, Nimbo people who suffered the horrific misfortune are symbolic of the Igbos in ICU as a result of the mayhem unleashed on them by their guests of many years.
(4) As if the tales of woe have been structured to be unending in Nigeria through mutation of conflicts into different forms, the people of the oil rich Niger Delta, particularly Gbaramatu kingdom in delta state are now under siege following recent critical oil/gas national assets vandalism.
With the invasion by the Nigerian military through aerial and sea bombardments, in the bid to fish out the perpetrators of the damage to oil/ gas infrastructure, casualties have been much and families have been displaced as most of the indigenes have fled into the forests.
Invariably, a new crop of IDPs, like the ones that are currently being resettled in Boko haram ravaged north east Nigeria, is about to build up in south south Nigeria.
So living in starvation and fleeing from threat of death from the military, Niger delta indigenes who are the goose that lay the golden eggs-90% of Nigeria’s forex comes from oil/gas export-are now slipping into the lCU category.
(5) Similar circumstances apply to the people of south eastern part of Nigeria engaging in the struggle for self-rule.
Agitating for secession from Nigeria ostensibly owing to marginalization, some lgbos, under the auspices of Movement for Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB and Independent People of Biafra, IPOB have been vociferously making their case.
Operator of the unlicensed Radio Biafra being used to mobilize support for the cause, Nnamdi Kanu has been detained by government authorities several months without bail and the apparent unconstitutionality of the measure along with their determination to mark the day the state of Biafra was declared, are fuelling bloody clashes between the self-rule agitators and government security agencies with avoidable human fatalities on both sides.
In the light of the sad circumstances described above, ethnic nationality agitators in the south east are in lCU for daring to exercise their right to express their opinion and desire for self-rule.
Considering that freedom of expression is one of the fundamental and core values of democracy, the military may have a lot of explaining to do, which is why l would suggest they also arm themselves with video cameras so that they can have evidence to prove that the protesters were armed and thus compelled the application of deadly force to disperse them. A claim that protesters vehemently dispute. In the absence of such evidence, the claim that protesters were shot at by the military in self defense would be hollow.
Almost thirty years after the Tianemen square massacre of pro-democracy protesters by the Chinese military, the communist government is still trying to come to terms with the ruthlessness and recklessness with which a protest by unarmed civilians was quelled.
By the same token, the German soldiers who perpetrated the Jewish genocide about 100 years ago are still being held accountable for the crime.
If any keen observer of developments in Nigeria, that is less charitable should conclude that our dear country is now like a war theatre and Nigerians are in ICU where war casualties usually end up, that judgement may not be wrong.
Of course, Nigeria can be said to be at war on three and half fronts:(1) with Boko Haram in the north east, (2) with militants in Niger delta creeks and (3) with MASSOB/IPOB in the south east plus battle against Fulani herdsmen whom president Buhari recently gave security authorities marching order to rein in although the minister of interior, General Abdulraman Dambazau insists it remains a police action.
This is in spite of the fact that statistics from Global Terrorism Index in 2015 indicate that Fulani militants killed 1,229 people in 2014 up from 63 in 2013.
When the dramatic increase from 63 to 1,229 in one year is extrapolated, and considering the recent spate of killings in Benue, Ogun, Ekiti, Delta and Enugu states, number must have increased to at least 5,000 innocent Nigerians by now.
If such massive decimation of humans lives don’t deserve military action to curtail, how can the use of deadly military force against apparently am unarmed Biafran state protesters be justified?
Assuming, the recently held national conference is deemed not to have come up with resolutions that would address the myriads of grievances of Nigerians now manifesting as conflict points that have the capacity to degenerate into another civil war, then the unwholesome and highly troubling scenarios highlighted above are evidence that there is urgent need to set up a peace and reconciliation committee to put Nigeria back on even keel and make our country great again.
Onyibe, a development strategist, futurologist and former commissioner in Delta state is an alumnus of Fletcher school of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA.