THE New York Times had this report two days ago about Boko Haram militants “still roaming the countryside with impunity.” It actually titled that report: ‘Boko Haram is back. With better drones’. The American newspaper dropped hints about the terrorists using “sophisticated drones.” It did not elaborate on this – and provided no proofs. That report was a direct violation of the latest order from our Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Buratai. He released a statement on Friday warning the media against “giving prominence to the criminal activities of the terrorist group (Boko Haram) through sensational headlines.” Doing so, he said, “violates the Terrorism Prevention Act 2011.”
I know we live in denial. We boast in self-deception that we are the winners: Boko Haram has been defeated. We are the giant of Africa; no ragtag terrorism can overwhelm us. The overwhelmed enjoys fighting in the dark because the night covers his nakedness, his shame. And we have fought this enemy in pitch darkness for 10 agonizing years. We are murdering our nation in progressive installments. Death, like election, is a process, not an event. The end comes stage by stage until the final hour is here. Even the final hour is not final until the dead is buried and abandoned and left as food for maggots.
Is it not true that 10 years of Boko Haram’s campaign has inflicted death and suffering and poverty on every part of the country? Can we please admit that we have been or are being defeated or that we are almost in the house of shame and that we need help before it is too late? Samaria was overthrown by Sargon of Assyria in 722 BC but the conqueror himself said even after its defeat, the conquered remained a powerhouse of hostilities because it sought help. Samaria fell but did not land – it stood strong enough to form alliances with Hamath, Simirra, Arpad and Damascus. Then the allied forces dozed off and the victor roared and finished them off – all of them. He said he subjugated “the land of the west, the whole of it.” History says Sargon planted “certain alien tribes in Samaria and the land of Bit – Omri.” The victor here could be us and he could be the enemy. The loser is the one who slumbered.
How do we win a war that we are denying? Where I come from, we are taught from infancy never to hide our injuries. Bring it forth for the physician to treat and heal! But the army has warned against glorifying the terrorists with news reports. The army chief said on Friday that even calling those fighting us their names such as “Boko Haram Terrorists Group, JAS or ISWAP in Nigeria could amount to supporting or encouraging terrorism.” The army went further; it reminded all writers that there is a law called Terrorism Act. You report what terrorists do, you become a terrorist as well. Is that a provision of that law? Reporting is aiding. Darkness is wonderful; the one holding the torch is the enemy. That is the official logic here. It is a morbid sign of unwellness, a blank cheque for avoidable gangrene. But then, at the weekend, President Muhammadu Buhari was in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, where he also posted a shrill, shrieking message of urgency on terrorists and terrorism: “The frequency of attacks, the determination and resilience of the terrorist groups as well as the ease with which they raise funds and acquire sophisticated weapons are matters of serious concern which should engage our attention as a Community.” That was Buhari’s statement at the Extraordinary Summit of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government on Counter-Terrorism. I wonder how our army views that statement.
‘Trumpet in a herd of elephants; crow in the company of cocks; bleat in a flock of goats’ is what we know. Each has its distinct role and sound, and, even the ape does its own with grimacing ugliness. But here, the alarm bell must not ring out; the system says that will be a terrorist act. I also read Kaduna State governor promising to “collect” and ‘transport’ Lagos-based bad story tellers to Kaduna for trial: “You cannot sit in Port Harcourt or Lagos and start posting stuff that leads to societal instability in Kaduna and we let you go. We will file charges, we will go and collect you from Port Harcourt or Lagos and bring you before a judge in Kaduna and the judge will decide whether you are guilty. We’ve done that two or three times…” Is silencing voices of disagreement not exactly what Boko Haram has been doing to us for the past 10 years? The man forgot all his own squawky tweets pre his governorship. If the Swahili of East Africa heard him, they would retort that the ape does not see his own backside; he sees his companion’s. The Japanese would add their own that a monkey makes fun of the red behinds of his fellow monkeys. Take the truth from the parrot; snatch the trumpet from the elephant; make them sing only those songs composed by the hunter – that is how our country thinks we should be ruled in the 21st century. Nigeria enjoys killing every Shakespeare’s Cinna for his bad verses. It does this at dawn and at noon romances murderous bandits with pecuniary high-fives. It expends valuable time fighting patriots and spends good money feting marauders.
Have you watched that disturbing video of bandits negotiating the peace of Nigeria with Katsina State Governor inside Katsina State Government House? Look for it online if you haven’t watched it. As you watch the video, try and remember that Katsina is the home state of our president, the Commander-in-Chief of our Armed Forces. Bandits are plain terrorists dressed in the robes of dogo turenchi. They kidnap, they rape, they kill, they steal and disappear. But they were there inside a governor’s living room, resplendent, unhooded, and, with confidence, exchanging prisoners – and, maybe, banters and goro with the government of Nigeria. Nobody is disturbed by all these. No one is asking if these signals are not saying something about whether our country is dying or is dead.
There is no field the country has not covered with its bad behaviour. Even the courts get terrorized, dazed with big brother gazes. There was the Court of Appeal’s election petition verdict that has provoked a season of trauma and of war of words. Judgment has been given but the struggle is not over. Contests don’t end in Nigeria. Every conclusion introduces a new beginning. Election contests in Nigeria are like our father’s clock on the wall. With their two restless hands, they tick away forever, completing full cycles – and starting new cycles. Politicians barter everything for anything on Election Day. They spoil election officials with guns and gold coins. They get the results and proceed to help the courts open their shops. A season of haggling and arguments in dark and in lit places soon follows.
The sickness takes its toll on the lions of the courts. “The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of its behind,” says Joseph Sidwell. Some years ago, one judge told me she would walk into her courtroom and the devil would start pounding yam in her head. Another would see some litigants and their uninvited friends and would instantly go on break. He would come back and again start losing his mind, saying yes when he meant to say no. I do not envy them. Their duty is to pick the wrong and the right between two parties who may both sound just as right. A judge must act his name – he must judge – must make the right and just pronouncement and damn the consequences. The synonym of consequence here is repercussion. Judges become pigs when, for a party, they start ‘hunting for truffles buried in briefs.’ Defining what is just and what is justice in our presidential election case is the debate of the moment. A verdict has been given, the winner is everywhere happy; the loser is everywhere sulking. Judges know we do not really have a say again, no matter the strength of our arguments. Those we are paying to say it have read what they wrote and they are laughing at the nation this moment. They will say it again at the Supreme Court and they will ask the unhappy to take his further appeal to his Maker. And the power spin goes on.
Power may, however, be solid in strength but it is not insoluble rock. It is that cube of sugar that sweetens the powerful – with all the drab and drudgery. But it has limits and that is why the powerful should watch his acts, his words, the steps he takes, the part he plays. Nothing endures with power. The Biblical energy-sapping showdown between Elijah and the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel interests me here. Can we read too the same Elijah’s experience at Horeb? Blend the two experiences – the huff and puff on Mount Carmel and the “still small voice” at Horeb which quietened all storms. Can you see that the whispers eventually prevailed over the howling enemy? Power is strong but it has limits and limitations. Power is ultimately powerless, tasteless, useless.