Journalism of Courage

Carnage and poverty as national tragedies

By Sufuyan Ojeifo

Two existential issues -security and poverty-that bear great relevance to the assessment of performance of governments globally reared their heads back-to-back, in the last one week, in Nigeria. Both issues were so tangible that they could not escape essential appraisal and indictment. While the carnage in Bakin Ladi local government area of Plateau state on June 23, 2018 was so self-evident such that it could not be denied by the federal government, the Brookings report that Nigeria has overtaken India as the global poverty capital has been rebutted by government through the minister of industry, trade and investment, Okechukwu Enelamah.

The impotence (or was it complacency and collaboration by soldiers with the bandits as alleged by General T.Y. Danjuma?) of our security architecture and executing machinery was once again exposed when gun-wielding Fulani herdsmen attacked Nekan, Kufang and Ruku villages in a coordinated fashion, killing well over 120 persons. The characteristic ease with which they have unleashed terror on the middle belt states in recent months, without the apprehension of the perpetrators, has questioned the non-complicity of President Muhammadu Buhari in what is largely perceived and interpreted as ethnic cleansing.

In situations, such as we have consistently witnessed, where the security organs have failed woefully to protect the lives of Nigerians and/or moving on to apprehend the perpetrators of the dastardly acts of massacre, the reasonable conclusion is to lay the blame at the door step of the president.  The buck stops on his table and he cannot, therefore, escape vicarious liability.  And, quite unfortunately for him, he is of the same Fulani stock with the bands of Fulani gunmen that have been killing innocent Nigerians in the middle belt and other parts of Nigeria with reckless abandon.

In truth, Buhari may have been too passive, cold and complacent in his disposition to the killings, I am at great pains to point a finger of guilt at him as having possibly endorsed the madness that has cast a slur on his government and contributed to the discounting of the nationwide goodwill that he enjoyed going into the 2015 presidential election. In the same vein, it is possible that his perceived nonchalance (read as tacit support) is the stimulant that has sustained the herdsmen to continue to unleash orgies of violence on the Christian populations on a grandiose scale in the middle belt and minimally in other parts of the country.

Indeed, Buhari has a whole lot of assuring and reassuring to do to pacify the brutally-assaulted sensibilities of Nigerians, especially the Christian populations that have been at the receiving end of the serial massacres.  Of all the reactions that have trailed the killings on the Plateau, Senator Shehu Sani’s innuendo cannot go unnoticed. His suggestion that the dead should be buried in the Three Arms Zone in Abuja where the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, the seat of power, is located is his writ large pointer to Buhari’s blameworthiness.

Also instructive is the United States of America’s position via a statement by the spokesperson for the US Department of State, Ms Heather Nauret, which condemned “in the strongest terms the killing of civilians and destruction of property in Nigeria’s middle belt region over the weekend.  We are concerned by the recent increase in armed violence against civilians and call on political and community leaders to lend their voices to peace and to work together to find lasting solutions to these rural conflicts.”



It is heartrending that the federal government could not stave off this tragedy: it is tragic to our sense of humanity. What perhaps could absolve Buhari of complicity in this danse macabre is that he also faces the risk of a discounted electoral goodwill in the 2019 presidential election. He therefore would logically not encourage such an albatross.  Confidence by a vast majority of people who committed themselves to his presidential enterprise in 2015 has waned on account of this preventable tragedy. A politician who craves national support should be worried; except if the president is propelled more by a sense of ethnic than pan-Nigeria nationalism; and, perhaps, if he has a sure-footed unconventional strategy to garner the critical votes countrywide that will make certain his re-election.

But then, I have this surreal feeling that the president and his advisers are not getting some things right in their calculations. If ethnic colouration is being read to the prickly security issue that has been exacerbated by the Fulani herdsmen, what about the growing hunger in the land? The number of people that I see these days in the street of Abuja, begging for alms to be able to feed themselves and their children at home has increased exponentially. The practice is not anymore restricted to the Almajiris alone who have been doing that even in the midst of plenty.  And, this is quite instructive in assessing the performance of the economy in pragmatic terms.

The purchasing power of Nigerians has been eroded by inflation which, for instance, rose to 11.61 percent year on year for the month of May 2018 according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).  The productive base has been constricted as the sector has consistently witnessed collapse of manufacturing businesses.  Millions of Nigerians have lost their jobs.  The bazaar-canteen economic model that emphasises price indeterminacy continues to worsen matters. Those who have plenty money in their pockets end up buying few things as there is no pricing policy that fixes the marginal profits that can be made from the sale of products or goods.   

Indeed, the economic policies of the federal government promote resource accretion and accumulation rather than expenditure on capital projects in real terms, not in terms of sexed up figures by government and its officials.  Recently, Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, announced that N1.6 trillion in the 2017 budget had been released for capital projects.  She has not been able to provide the breakdown of this figure ministry by ministry at the behest of THISDAY newspapers. I believe that with this amount, a little bit of activities would have been on in the construction subsector with money passing through the hands of workers, artisans, etc., as salary and wages earned. This does not appear to be evident.

If the economy is out of recession, as claimed, going by the salacious figures released by the NBS, the credibility of the figures should bear correlation with the situation on ground.  They should practically result in food on the table for the masses.  But where there is growing hunger and millions of Nigerian households find it difficult to afford a meal per day, then there is disconnect between the figures and actualities; a development which reinforces the verdict of the Brookings report that at the end of May 2018, Nigerians had about 87 million people in extreme poverty compared with India’s 73 million people.

But expectedly, the federal government dismissed the report, saying it was compiled when Nigeria was in recession. Minister Enelamah advised Nigerians, the vast majority of who are hungry, not to be worried as government’s urgent infrastructure programmes and enabling environment for businesses would make poverty in the country to disappear. Many Nigerians surely do not believe his narrative. It is, indeed, tragic when government tries to dress a bad situation in an elegant garb, sexing up figures and failing to come clean on its stewardship. Taking government and governance into the realm of occultism is, to me, the greatest tragedy that has bedeviled our nation. Our innate character of opaqueness has become ingrained in our administrative system.  And this feeds the incidence of corruption in the system.


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