The Pendulum By Dele Momodu, Email: Dele.email@example.com
“Life is a unique combination of ‘want to’ and ‘how to’, and we need to give equal attention to both.” – Jim Rohn
Our dear Commander-in-Chief, I write to you today with a bleeding and sorrowful heart. These past weeks have been extremely bloody in some parts of Nigeria. Every time I think of it, I get the feeling that those parts are not part of us. They belong elsewhere, probably in some remotest corner of the world. Those helpless and hapless citizens cannot be our own the way that we have allowed them to be treated. They are total strangers in a foreign land. As such, we’ve not been able to offer them the protection they deserve and succour they desire. They have been manacled, mangled and massacred so mercilessly and ruthlessly. They’ve been butchered like rams in abattoirs. I’ve seen lurid pictures of fresh corpses and bodies of innocent victims sent to early graves without reason. It is as if we have returned to the Dark Ages.
I don’t know of anywhere else where terrorists are having such a field day unhindered, unhampered and with such effortless ease at this moment. They are raiding our villages and towns with uncommon gusto, wanton abandon and without discrimination. They kill and maim the young and old, men and women, able and disabled. No one is spared in this gory brutality. Their job is made simple by protectors who have learnt the art of vanishing into thin air (when badly needed) and a Leadership whose template is already pre-determined and predictable.
The reason for my smug assumption is simple. I do not feel a sense of palpable revulsion in us. There is no sign of desperation to suggest we are determined to do something drastic about this unacceptable situation. There seems to be no impetus for speed and urgency in bringing this atrocious bloodbath under control. What we are hearing repeatedly are mere platitudes, words of ineffective promises broken and hope long lost. This is most unfortunate.
Sir, please don’t get me wrong. I’m not blaming you for this unprecedented crisis. It did not begin under your watch, although some may claim, uncharitably perhaps, that it has escalated under it. I cannot reasonably suggest that you are uncaring and nonchalant about this monumental tragedy. I think the problem is that of miscommunication, as is so often the case with your administration and this has been amplified by your body language. The problem of this magnitude requires a more resolute and concerted response. You cannot treat terminal cancer with Paracetamol. Wars are not just about weapons, whether the weapons of mass destruction. Words can indeed be more lethal sometimes. The Americans have mastered the art of matching words with action. They are not the only ones. Most leaders nowadays know that mastery of the spoken word is half way to being a successful leader because that way you inspire and motivate. The people wreaking this havoc on Nigeria are not spirits from outer space. They can be talked to. Even if they were spirits we have it in folklore that our great leaders of yore communicated directly with those spirits by speaking to them.
Going back to the problem, I believe that you have two or three options to deal with grave issue. The first is the instinctive recourse of a village bully and that is to fight back with superior firepower. However, no one is able to place a bet that we possess such military advantage, given the way in which these terrorists have been able to infiltrate even our military establishments and terrorise the occupants. You have tried this option and it seems that you have failed somewhat. The second option is to negotiate with someone you realise you cannot conquer in a free and fair fight, because it is obvious that they are fighting dirty and employing every available means at their disposal, whether sanctioned by the Geneva Convention or not. You appear to have attempted to utilise this option by setting up a Boko Haram peace committee to open up some dialogue with this dreaded group but it seems that committee has gone into coma, if not stillbirth or dead on arrival. The third option is what is known as the carrot and stick approach, or fight and play. That is also neither here nor there; even though it appears that you have not given this approach enough consideration. In fact it seems you have gone back to the tried and failed approach of deploying a suspect military might with what is glaringly becoming dire consequences.
I sincerely sympathise with the condition under which you’ve had to govern, ever since you became an accidental President. These indeed are not the best of times for Nigeria or Nigerians. Since you attained power, Nigeria has continued to meander from one crisis to the other. While it is possible that some politicians never wished you well some of the problems appear to be self-inflicted. I think in a genuine but flawed effort to enhance your image as a leader you recruited the wrong people and wasted too many resources on them. All you needed was to spend most of that money on building monuments that would outlive your government. Even your most vociferous critics would eventually have applauded you. The best punishment to inflict on your enemies is to continue to succeed and excel. I believe the biggest mistake you have made to date is playing into the hands of politicians by showing early interest in going for a second term. If you try your best and deliver on some of your electoral promises, no Jupiter can stop your forward march.
In seeking to secure another term in office, you have allowed some people to amass enemies on your behalf. They did not know or understand how to persuade people with reason and dialogue as demanded by democracy. The same lack of knowledge and understanding has led to the approach adopted in dealing with the Boko Haram threat. Every little disagreement is amplified and elevated to the level of fisticuffs. Every critic must be stricken down and criminalised by the attack-dogs. They dissipate energy on irrelevant things while the roof is on fire. The weight of your performance would have counter-balanced the burden of terrorism. But it seems your guys have pre-occupied themselves with fighting every imaginary enemy. This is what has led to the implosion and conflagration in you party PDP. As if that was not bad enough, Boko Haram has defied all your war strategy. As a matter of fact, the menace has quadrupled while we are being told we are winning the war. How, I often wonder.
I decided to write you after watching your last national broadcast because it dawned on me that we are sending the wrong signals not only to our citizens but also to the rest of the world. I’m addicted to watching international news channels, as I am sure are a lot of Nigerians, and I have since discovered that five animals dying would attract bigger treatment than 50 Nigerians being killed. Whilst we cannot blame the foreign journalists, we must of course blame our own attitude to crisis management. The reason for the cold shoulder of international journalists to our national tragedy and grief is because of our own seeming indifference to monumental disasters. Perhaps, it is due to natural and spiritual defects in how we respond to issues and communicate when under pressure.
I had tuned in to your broadcast last Wednesday with the anxious hope that finally you were going to speak extensively and comprehensively about reinvigorating your war against terrorism, in the wake of the killing of about 50 innocent students and the massacre of several more in Yobe. I was mortified when your opening lines started about what has become the new obsession for your Administration – the Centenary Celebration. I really don’t know who your speech writers are but they did their worst that night. You missed an opportunity to reassure the nation about any serious intent to take the war to the doorstep of those who won’t allow others to rest. I could imagine how a President Obama would have started that speech in respect of the same breach of American security:
“On Sunday, we lost 50 students to terrorists who invaded our Unity school to spread their campaign of hate and division. They burnt down the school and levelled it to the ground. On Monday, the same gang of killers invaded a village in Yobe and shot at everyone and everything in sight. Many of our citizens lost their lives. I have summoned a meeting of my service chiefs and I have instructed that the Army and Airforce immediately go after these guys and pursue them to their holes. They shall have no hiding place. We shall unearth them from every hiding hole. It is unfortunate that this is coming at a time we are celebration our hundred years of nationhood, when our very union is at stake and we are doing everything to cement that unity. It is ironic that these people chose to attack one of the very symbols of our togetherness, a Unity School.
“I have decided to scale down the centenary celebration. We shall now use the occasion to celebrate our brothers and sisters who lost their lives to these senseless and unwarranted killings. Never again would agents of darkness be allowed to roam our streets with the freedom they refuse to grant others. America will not go to sleep and allow this nonsense to have any impact on any of our citizens. My National Security Adviser has been mandated to report the latest developments to me on hourly basis. My heart reaches out to these victims and their families. Michelle and I offer our condolences to a grieving nation. We promise to do everything possible to protect innocent kids who are the future of this country. We must all resolve to say Never Again. God bless America!”
The centenary speech that you prepared had been overtaken by events and you should have realised this and immediately changed tack. I’m sure your fellow leaders were aghast to see that everything went on as normal without any sign of national mourning. Are we for real? I wish to appeal to you, Sir that something must change urgently. Please, don’t dismiss this as an unsolicited intervention from political opponents. Let me emphasise that this is not coming from APC. I am not a member of that Party. I’m only a concerned Nigerian who does not want you to fail no matter what your advisers tell you otherwise. This is the role I’ve played most of my adult life. I know if you succeed there will be a brighter future for me and my children. No country can succeed in an atmosphere of perpetual strife.
If you fail all of us from similar background would have been put to shame. When tomorrow comes and we say illiterate rulers ruled and ruined Nigeria, we’ll be reminded that a PhD holder also misruled and destroyed Nigeria. If we blame Northerners for the underdevelopment and terrible woes in Nigeria we are going to be asked if the Niger Delta became a Dubai under your tenure. Don’t be deceived by those telling you sweet things today. They are not your true friends. Your well-wishers are your constructive critics who can tell you as it is and not those deceiving you that they will commit suicide if you don’t declare your interest in running for the second term now. We know them very well as soldiers of fortune that are always available to serve potential customers like you.
May God help you at this very difficult task.
May God help you at this very difficult task.