Between Terrorism and Terrorism

AbdulMuminAbdulmumin1

I’m devastated. I woke up in the morning of Friday, January 4,to the story of an unnamed student shot in Maiduguri. Like most Nigerians used to hearing news of assaults and atrocieties from the northeast, I muttered a prayer for the victim and returned to my business. My attention was drawn to the name about an hour later and, upon investigation, the victim turned out to be from my own family tree. Abdulmumin? My heartbeat stopped for a minute. Abdulmumin? I went for my phone at once. This very unlucky Nigerian isn’t another log of wood, not a mere statistic to be impersonally prayed for. This one is a brother.

Abdulmumin was my “school son” in secondary school. He was the most sociable student in our dormitory, and the truest dandy in our room. I was either three or four years his senior in school, but his knowledge of the vogue meant we relied on him for the latest songs, clothes, shoes and perfumes. Skip the next sentences please. (We used to dash to Abuja together from the Suleja-based boarding school to hang out with friends.) Our parents must not hear a word of that! But you must forgive this because, if what our clerics preach about purgatory is not exaggerated, the experiences there are just as found at government-owned boarding schools.

I began my enquiry on the online news media. At Sahara Reporters, that hub of sensationalism, Abudlmumin was merely “hurt”. Nothing more. Abdulmumin had been caught in a shootout between JTF soldiers and Boko Haram insurgents. Hurt. That Sahara Reporters didn’t sensationalise or investigate the story means that military brutality is, just like the many evils before it, already becoming non-news. At the Premium Times website, Abdulmumin was “hit by a stray bullet”. The stories kept coming, each with slightly different details, until friends and family of Abdulmumin intervened and thus contradicting narratives going viral on the cyberspace.

There were indeed no Boko Haram insurgents, they said. There was no shootout, they clarified. It was just another case of state authorised terrorism waged by the Joint Task Force, they accused. Abdulmumin, I learnt from their narratives, left Minna for Maiduguri on Thursday 3rd January 2013, with the post-holiday fervour (and fear, I assume) of settling down in that hotbed of terrorism. Vehicular movements are outlawed in Maiduguri from 9 pm but the bus that took Abdulmumin to Maiduguri didn’t beat the curfew regime, so the passengers passed the night at the Borno Express Park. It was on his way back to his base at 303, a private hostel in the university’s vicinity, in the early hours of the morning that he ran into that fate. Abdulmumin was in a taxi with other passengers and just as they approached a military checkpoint at Gwange quarter, the soldiers began to shoot at them. According to the narratives of eyewitnesses, the bullets that left those guns were not “stray”. They were “aimed”. And so they lodged a bullet in Abdulmumin’s head.

But, were they remorseful? The emerging stories scared me: When the taxi driver managed to stop and was forced out to lay face down, he reportedly called the attention of the soldiers to a shot passenger. “So what?” They responded, and then threatened to kill the driver if he misbehaved. That unfolding tragedy was checked only by the approach of the operation commander. Their exercise was, ironically, dubbed “Operation Restore Order”. The commander asked to know what happened and the soldiers gave that the taxi driver was speeding towards the checkpoint. Case one. The taxi driver told the commander that he didn’t see the soldiers, neither did he their checkpoint. Case two. In summary, the commander, God bless his heart, joined the driver in the taxi to have Abdulmumin rushed to the University Teaching Hospital where he is now a pitiable wreck in the Intensive Care Unit. Case closed? Oh no, the other passengers who were witnesses to that episode of human worthlessness were not dropped off. They were left with the soldiers!

What happened to the witnesses? London-based Nigerian blogger, Kayode Ogundamisi, shared a story of one of them. Hauwa Seidu, he wrote, was threatened with death if she dared say a word about what transpired. They then seized her identity card. The choice is left for her.

On the social networking media, all the Nigerians who commented on this flip of our history unanimously agreed that JTF is now a “government-endorsed terrorist group”, citing the security agent’s previous brutalities and killings, and clampdown on the media houses and journalists that reported on their exploits. This discord between JTF and the people to whom they consider themselves protectors seems to me a breach of trust. Oppression justifies terrorism, and much as these peace-keepers in khaki fail to set themselves apart from the ideologically hollow insurgents of Boko Haram, their opponents expand their reach. May God save us from us!

 Gimba Kakanda

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A Lesson from the ‘Little Jesus’ of Owerri

Governor Rochas

People are afraid of common sense. Soon as you utter a simple truth, watch them jump into their intellectual helicopters, rolling and rolling until they crash down into a forest of illogic.

I hate economists. What’s with the frown? Some of my good friends are economists. An economist friend always causes me migraine whenever I whisper “Rochas”. He hates “political showoffs”. Suraj Oyewale hates it when leaders act as though they spend from their personal purse. But the killjoys will always kill your joy. Another economist observes that Rochas’ humility is a strange case of conceit. He says that Rochas sees himself as a mini version of Jesus!

When you pass through the department of economics, you come out with a new approach to common sense. You’ve studied so many theories that you begin to think like a reincarnate of Thomas Malthus. You don’t know Malthus? Ah, you must have scored a justified F9 in your SSCE. I pity your parents (if they are economists); double registration spoils their scale of preference. Economics breeds a certain species of illusionary and self-confident thinkers whose propositions for third world countries is a leeway to destructive capitalism. That an idea works for America or Asia doesn’t make it a perfect model for Africa. To every people a context, to every context a specific social or economic framework.

You see, I don’t know what Thomas Malthus smoked when he declared that overpopulation can mainly be checked by disasters: Deaths and wars and famines and whatnots. Poor man, he didn’t know that a developed man is a machine. He didn’t know about the sciences of food production. He didn’t know that the most populous country today is more fed than the least populous. Economists are just as undependable as weathermen.

Calm down, I said to my friends. Easy, easy on Rochas. You want to build Nigeria? Build the people. Infrastructures don’t make a nation, people do. And it’s on this count that Rochas completed his seduction of my support. As a northerner, I love the challenge he has thrown on the desktop of governorship: Free education and allowances for students of Imo descent. As a northern Governor, I should despise this. You don’t know what this policy means, do you? Soon there will be an explosion of educated Igbo’s in and outside our civil service who the federal character principles cannot forestall. While Imo breeds educated and intellectual indigenes, the north breeds street beggars (and the states that propose to end the Almajiri child-begging have no feasible alternative in place!).

I wouldn’t have paid mind to this impending danger but for the realisation that I’m now an unschooled scholar of Nigeria’s psychology. Watch it, in about twenty years from now there would be sinister murmurings over Igbo domination of this and that sector. Trust me, I know my country.

Rochas’ populist policies earn my nod no matter the criticisms that his relationship with the masses is brewing hostility towards the elite class. And the critic that says his Father Christmas-administration is bringing the economy of the state to its knees fails to highlight the fallen socio-economic structures inherited from past years of misgovernance.

Don’t underestimate the wisdom of our economists, the breed that endorsed the proposed removal of fuel subsidy last year. Grand infrastructures are considered cornerstones of development where “third-worldly” derelictions aren’t threats. Build a billion dollar tower in Abuja, I will shrug. But build this in Minna, the devil that inspired that project may have to advise you to get me locked behind bars. Administrative wisdom is missing in this sub-Saharan hell.

My friends did not buy any of my postulations on Rochas’ welfarist agenda. Rochas must learn the ABC of governance and policymaking from Lagos state’s Governor Babatunde Fashola, they said. I laughed. The Internally Generated Revenues figures of Lagos state is the first dissimilarity.

And, secondly, Fashola’s elitism is better bred in Lagos, FCT and, maybe Port Harcourt, Calabar, Uyo, name it. My economist friends blabbered about “welfarism” (as championed by Fashola) without a pause to know the flipsides of those decisions. Welfare is granted with certain consequences, and while my pro-elitism friends praise Fashola, none bothers to know what happens to the Okada riders and the difficulties interposed by their ban. Is it criminal for a pauper to dwell in the city?

Rochas knows that Nigeria lacks structures, and while he invests in primary infrastructures and social amenities, his eye on the people remains unblinking. You don’t build a castle with leprous masons and blind bricklayers. You don’t build a functional society with an army of dependent and uneducated citizens.

The ideal way to cure the leprosy and cecity of this country is simply by granting the people that which will be used to build. Education. Emancipation. Rochas knows this. Human capital is ingloriously absent in northern Nigeria, and our clueless leaders still move around in their bomb-detecting SUV’s while Rochas joins queues at the airport and passes through security checks to board a commercial flight in this seasons of jet-crazed leaders. May God save us from us.

Page 2, Blueprint Newspapers

Why I Love Governor Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu

Governor Aliyu

People hate Governor Aliyu because of his oratorical prowess. My friends in the south have often led these antagonists whose main grouse is because an “Aboki” man not only has PhD, but surpasses their governors in confident expression of the Queen’s language. In Minna, our people envy Governor Aliyu’s royalty, and the grandeur with which he marks every traditional and religious festival as though he were an emir. Our Governor even owns an elephant!

Governor Aliyu came to us by chance. He came in after a political permutation struck out the candidate chosen by his predecessor. When I saw Governor Aliyu, I saw change. I knew he wouldn’t let the goons of the outgoing Governor Abdulkadir Kure’s days return to feast on our treasury. He was an intellectual, who had earned a PhD at a big American university. So, I wasn’t surprised when he shamed all those sycophantic journalists, friends and aides scrambling to label him “His Excellency”. Governor Aliyu asked us to call him a servant, our “Chief Servant”. Shun gaudy garbs—that’s what intellectuals do!

Governor Aliyu is a renegade. He set himself apart. He refused to live in the Government House. He leased his private residence to the government and, for this, every infrastructural development in the state capital starts from there, such that the only streetlit roads in Minna are those on his route, where his convoys of bomb-detecting SUV’s navigate from his residence to the Government House daily. That’s what Chief Servants do.

You see, Governor Aliyu is a man of style. He knew that he is the Moses to free us from the economic prison built around us by the previous administration. That was why, in imitation of Vision 2020 of late President Musa Yar’adua, Governor Aliyu proposed Vision 3:2020, a blueprint to get Niger State ranked among the three most economically developed states in Nigeria. That’s what visionary leaders do.

While he awaits a miracle to implement his policies, Governor Aliyu sees the need to end the beliefs held by our superstitious people that Zuma Rock was a palace of the jinn. Not that Governor Aliyu was afraid of the jinn, but he hired white mountaineers and helicopters to, in their word, “conquer” Zuma Rock. Governor Aliyu signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a Canadian tourism development company to jointly invest USD 700 million in turning the ambience of Zuma Rock into a tourist site. That’s what responsible servant leaders do!

Governor Aliyu knows his people. Aside from his initial grassroots intervention initiative, Jama’a Forum, which kicked off with the flurry of his Vision 3:2020 project, his elitist airs were understood implicitly in his demolitions of structures without a definable development blueprint. Our visionary governor plans to build a five-star hotel in a town that has no single industry; now various state-owned landed properties are to be sold and the proceeds invested in construction of a “Three Arms Zone”, a grand structure modeled after Abuja’s. Our Governor knows what “Three Arms Zone”, fashioned after America’s Capitol Hill, will do to his ego. But our Governor doesn’t just serve the elites alone, he knows what his people need is an escape from the monstrous poverty that haunts them in their houses. So he rganized and designed ostentatious programmes – carnivals, festivals, symposia, seminars, colloquia and workshops – repeatedly, to get the media abuzz. Governor Aliyu only does what people see. This is a man who can donate a billion dollar if, say, James Bond wishes to pay him a three-minute visit.

People envy Governor Aliyu because he glamourises our newspapers every day. The journalists love him. His Vision 3:2020 policies were implemented on the many billboards bearing his name and grinning, chubby face across the state. Even in the hinterlands, there are testimonies of his achievements written in the faces of billboards. May God bless the companies contracted to plant these bearers of a future unseen

Only Governor Aliyu and his policy analysts know how to recover the billions invested in tourism (and his many PR stunts) when there are no tourists ready to rub shoulder with Boko Haram freedom fighters. Only Governor Aliyu propagates free education hype when every school in Niger state now is a glorified abattoir. Only Governor Aliyu hires white mountaineers when what this wasteland of a state needs are “white” farmers (the Zimbabweans, yes!) to till this state with the largest landmass in Nigeria. Only Governor Aliyu thinks that the “idlers” of Niger state need his investments in inessential carnivals and cultural revival flaunts when there is no pipe-borne water in Minna…

And so my wise governor proved his intellectual wisdom again when the who-is-who in Nigeria, including his envied colleague, the Jesus of Owerri, Owelle Rochas Okorochas, headed to Minna on the 28th of December, 2012 for his daughters’ wedding extravaganza. His propaganda machinery was launched to cover up his failures: Streetlights were installed and repaired, roads were tarred and patched, electricity and, yes, water(!) were stable immediately before and throughout the duration of the wedding. They even renovated our central mosque. In just three weeks. But a complete blackout was registered in Minna soon as the guests left. That’s why I love Governor Aliyu

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