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Guest Post: Are Bomb Attacks Here to Stay in Nigeria?

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ARE BOMB ATTACKS HERE TO STAY IN NIGERIA?

When the first suicide bomb attack occurred in Nigeria at the Police Headquarters earlier in June this year, Nigerians hoped fervently that suicide bombing would be one phenomenon that would not catch-on as a trend or repeat itself. However on Friday 26th August 2011, Nigerians’ worst fears were confirmed as they received the shocking news of the bomb attack at the UN House at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja. The blast has so far claimed between 19 and 25 victims, according to various reports, leaving Nigerians once again gripped by shocked, fear, helplessness and a blinding realization that bomb attacks are gradually becoming the norm, and that suicide bomb attacks could be gaining ground.

In the past one year alone, there have been a number of bomb attacks in Nigeria. The most dramatic ones that created nation-wide scare include the blast during the last Independence Day anniversary on Oct 1st 2010, the slew of bombs that were detonated during the April elections in various parts of the country such as Kaduna and Suleja; the recent attack on the Police Head Quarters and the blast at the UN House in Abuja. This is in addition to smaller bombs which have been going off in several parts of the North like Borno, Katsina, Gombe and Bauchi states. With each subsequent attack, the perpetrators have displayed an increasing level of daring, gusto, sophistication and brazenness. From using mainly locally made bombs and small explosives that result in very few casualties and injuries, it appears more sophisticated explosives were used in the attacks on Police Headquarters and the UN Headquarters.

For now, the main suspect is the Yusufiyya movement otherwise known as Boko Haram, the radical Islamic sect which has claimed responsibility for most of these attacks.  Boko Haram whose activities came to the limelight a few years ago has still remained a faceless and highly decentralized group using guerrilla tactics in its offensive against government targets. What is mind-boggling is that so far, with the exception of the group’s extreme aversion to western education, its targetting of government officials and structures, the identity of its spokespersons like Abu Zaid and Abu Dardam and its proclivity for detonating bombs, next to nothing seems to be known about the group’s core activities, it’s structure, it’s hierarchy and modus operandi. That opportunity presented its self in 2010 when the top leaders and financiers of the group were captured, but their summary extra-judicial execution by the police deprived the authorities the chance of getting crucial information on the group’s activities.

Many Nigerians were initially dumb-founded as to why the UN House — which houses 26 UN departments in the country — was targeted by Boko Haram given that their traditional targets have been local politicians, the police, churches, mainstream Islamic clerics who have condemned them, security agencies and other government symbols and just about anyone else who stands in their way. This attack on UN Headquarters in Nigeria has firmly consolidated Nigeria’s spot on the map of international terrorism, and could be the motivation behind the attack in the first place – to attract international attention. The target also hints at the links and collaboration with international terrorist networks in Somalia and Afghanistan which have similarly attacked foreign structures such as the recent attack on the British Council in Afghanistan on 19th August 2011. Boko Haram itself has claimed it has been receiving training in Somalia.

What is most disturbing and gravely worrying is that of all these attacks since last year, save for a few arrests here and there which most often end in a cold trail, no “… culprit has been fished out” and “no perpetrator has been brought to book” as the government usually promises.  Rather in some cases, the attacks have even been politicized depending on which political rival poses the greatest threat and challenge. Nigerians and all aspects of national life are held hostage to criminal elements yet the Nigerian State and the various security apparatuses: the Police, the SSS, the NIA and the NSA have proved grossly incapable of, and unable to protect lives and property, to make use of intelligence to find out about the perpetrators of such acts, their activities and to prevent attacks from happening. In many cases, including the recent UN attack prior information is received on impending attacks by perpetrators who in most cases are more interested in making political statements, yet the security agencies fail to take precautionary measures.  A UN official told reporters that the UN received intelligence last month that it could be targeted by the sect.

The many approaches adopted by the government to contain this calamity that has befallen Nigerians have all come to naught. The initial carrot-and-stick-approach  to reason and negotiate with Boko Haram failed, when the group vehemently rejected any form of dialogue. Similarly, the blitzkrieg approach adopted by the government in sending the Nigerian Army’s Joint Military Task Force (JTF) to the group’s home base in Borno state to contain it hasn’t yielded positive results. Without vital intel information on the group’s activities, leadership and operation, what the JTF incursion has succeeded in doing is ensuring the arrest and possible killing of several Boko Haram group members with many innocent Borno state residents caught in the line of fire and in some cases serving as collateral damage. The alleged killing of innocent citizens by JTF has fuelled resentment amongst many residents who refuse to even help security forces with relevant information on Boko Haram’s activities.

The question remains, what can be done about this quagmire Nigeria has found itself in? Numerous calls have been made for a complete overhaul of the nation’s security apparatuses which are severely ill-equipped; the staff and officers not adequately trained in security challenges of the 21st century; they are characterized by a dearth of intel gathering and a general loss of confidence and lack of trust in these agencies by Nigerians. Obviously, the gross deficiencies of the nation’s security agencies did not start or occur under the present administration, but are a product of systemic decay over several decades, necessitating a whole-scale reform. However, if such reform were to be embarked-upon immediately, in the best-case scenario, the fruits of this overhaul would only become manifest in the medium to long-term of at least 3-5 years and even up to 10 years. Plus, this has to go hand-in-hand with reform in areas such as infrastructure provision and renewed fight against corruption to ensure whatever funds are ear-marked for such overhaul do not end-up misappropriated in the typical Nigerian fashion.

A similar argument is also articulated on the need to provide job opportunities to the teeming unemployed youth who are increasingly becoming angry, disillusioned and susceptible to manipulation and radicalization by different interests. That also falls within the ambit of medium to long-term strategy to deal with the situation. Besides, the new Super Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala whom everyone has high-hopes of literally turning the economic fortunes of Nigeria has warned that she is no magician, who with the wave of her wand can immediately solve the country’s economic woes and create employment opportunities.

What is critically needed is a short-term approach to the situation. To that effect, the government has stated it wouldreview its strategy and change it’s approach in dealing with Boko Haram based on fresh intelligence which links the group’s activities with powerful influential forces for political reasons. How this will be achieved and what precisely will be done remains unclear at this moment, because as the BBC reports: “when asked by the BBC what he would do about Boko Haram, he (President Goodluck Jonathan) gave no direct answer but acknowledged it posed a threat”. So far, agents from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have arrived Nigeria at the request of the Nigerian government to help with investigations. While that is commendable, it should be noted that critical information can only be provided by local sources who have a knowledge of the terrain and Nigerian environment.

In the face of all these challenges, an urgent and sincere appeal should be made by governments at all levels, involving religious and community leaders for people to cooperate, provide information and report any suspicious activity to the authorities. Information is critically needed at this stage to even understand the group’s operations. The JTF should engage meaningfully and constructively with ordinary citizens whose lives it is meant to protect, so that it can regain their trust.  In addition, intelligence agencies should use such information to infiltrate the ranks of these groups and sabotage them from within.

We need drastic, realistic and concrete measures to combat and halt this disturbing phenomenon. Nigerians hope that very much unlike the Blackberry trend which has spread like wild fire across the country, this is one trend that would be nipped in the bud by the government and security agencies.

By Zainab Usman of zainabusman.wordpress.com

Opinion

Who Will Explain Coronavirus To Buhari?

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Coronavirus (COVID-19), an exorable doom, threatens life on the planet. It is exorable because it is conquerable. This explains why world leaders are taking the charge to combat this ominous apocalypse. It is a time for leadership from the fore-end; a time when citizens must hear their leaders speak to them; see them take action, making assurances and fulfilling those promises. The counsel, consolation and firm statement of a leader is imperative at this moment.

In Canada, Justin Trudeau, prime minister, despite being in self-isolation and his wife battling the virus after contracting it at a conference in the UK, is leading the fight against this dreaded disease from the fore. He is providing regular updates of the efforts of his government to roll back this scourge, listening and speaking to citizens.

In a popular broadcast on March 13, Justin spoke to citizens of Canada announcing measures to relieve the financial stress brought on by the pandemic on Canadians.

“We do not want any Canadian to have to worry about whether or not they’re going to be able to pay their rent, whether or not they’re going to be able to buy groceries, or care for their kids or elderly family members. We need to make sure that Canadians have the options and the ability to follow the best public health advice and keep themselves safe,” he said.

In the UK, Boris Johnson, prime minister, leads the struggle against coronavirus. He provides updates, alongside health experts, on the measures his government is taking to tackle the spread of the disease. And in the US, Donald Trump is not shying away from speaking to Americans on the virus.

As a matter of fact, President Muhammadu Buhari’s lapses are often easily dismissed by his supporters or by Nigerians who do not know better. Some of them say, ‘’ Why must the president speak when the minister of health and the NCDC DG are already doing that?” This is a contemptible rationalisation of incompetence. Are they suggesting the president lacks the capacitance to understand the issues?’’

Really, I surmise the president has been walled off the ‘’candid cameras’’ over the years by his handlers – not just now – because he lacks the intellectual propensity to understand and discuss incisive issues. The last presidential media chat he held was in 2015 and it was a woeful outing. Also, his non-choreographed media interviews have been abysmal to say the least.

The truth is the unfiltered Buhari is a vacuously gaffing one. On October 14, 2016, standing beside Angela Merkel, German chancellor, Buhari said his wife, Aisha, ‘’belonged in the kitchen and the other room’’, when he was asked to comment on the first lady’s criticism of his government.

On April 18, 2018, at the Commonwealth Business Forum in London, the president said the young citizens of the country he leads are lazy.

“More than 60 per cent of the population is below 30, a lot of them haven’t been to school and they are claiming that Nigeria is an oil producing country, therefore, they should sit and do nothing, and get housing, healthcare, education free,” he said during a panel appearance with world leaders at the forum.

In a February 2016 interview with UK Telegraph, Buhari dropped another clanger. He said the young citizens of his country have a knack for criminality and should not be granted asylum in the UK.

With the Buhari experience, it is indubitable that Nigerians must place a high premium on education — not just certificate – in choosing their leaders. The cost of electing leaders who do not have the intellectual grit to understand and handle matters is far too high.

The senate has asked the president to speak to citizens on this threat, and Nigerians are also asking the president to speak to them. This is an abnormality. Citizens must not beg to hear from their president. But because it is Buhari involved here, we have to beg and even excuse the crass inefficiency and vacuity.

Perhaps, the president is still trying to get a hang of it. I think he has ‘’capable handlers’’ who can break it down to him in ABC.

Mr President, speak to your citizens. The words of a leader are more resounding and assuring than the blandishment of proxies.

PS: Let’s follow all health protocol as advised by the NCDC.

• Wash your hands regularly with soap under running water.

• Cover your mouth and nose properly with handkerchief or tissue paper when sneezing and/or coughing. You may also cough into your elbow if a handkerchief is not available.

• Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.

• Avoid self-medication, report to the nearest health facility when you experience any of the above-mentioned symptoms.

Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist.

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Opinion

Sanusi: Once Upon An Emir, By Wole Olaoye

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We are all potential Ex-es: ex-student, ex-director, ex-lecturer, ex-senator, ex-governor, ex-president, ex-oba, ex-emir…. The inimitable Zik famously reminded us when he had a spat with Ukpabi Asika that Ex was an inevitable prefix for any human being as was evidenced by the fact that a certain young man who would someday become an ex-Administrator, was the son of an ex-postmaster!

So, what’s so apocalyptic about Sanusi Lamido Sanusi joining the ranks of ex-potentates? Nothing? Everything! Don’t ever think that bell you are hearing is tolling for the former Emir of Kano. No. It could be signalling the beginning of a comprehensive demystification of traditional rulership by plebeians holding tenured political power. In centuries past, no plebeian messed with the traditional institution. The halo of nobility, the sheer vastness of a prince’s hereditary powers, rights and privileges, made the subject know his place.

Yesterday’s subjects are today’s political sovereign. They make no pretences to sophistication. They load a gun to kill a spider. When you dethrone a monarch and then deprive him of his liberty, forcefully banishing him to a place without electricity and potable water, you are playing god. If it was all a public relations Olympics, the calm dignity with which Sanusi handled the humiliation made people all over the world admire his chutzpa and hand him the gold medal. A

Life and its many puzzles! Why is it that for some men and women, “their sleep is taken away unless they cause some to fall”? What do you do about an ego that knows no satiation? As the Preacher in the Good Book timelessly says, “All the rivers flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full… The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear content with hearing… there is nothing new under the sun”.

The Yoruba have a poem that says just that. “The horse struts and frets and then dies. Being a veteran walker is no immunity to getting lost. Nothing new under the sun. I’ve seen kings reduced to slaves; and servants who mounted the throne. Haven’t my eyes beheld both river and sea? Haven’t I seen a hunchback on spindly legs, and a midget climbing a ladder to add condiment to the soup pot? Tell me, has anyone ever started a building from the roof?

The new Emir of Kano, Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero, is a cousin of his predecessor. As royal intrigues go, when the dust is settled the sword will be sheathed and brother will embrace brother. That is the way of princes. Eventually, outsiders will realise that all they can ever be in palace politics is outsiders. Our very own Nobel prize winning Kongi was not amused by the scandalous extra-judicial detention of the former emir.

He put the emir’s travail down to his progressive stance: “Emir Sanusi was a one-man EFCC sanitisation squad in the banking system, taking on the powerful corrupters of that institution…. “Most important of all, and most pertinently for the nation, Sanusi was one of the early warning voices against religious extremism whose bitter fruits the nation is currently reaping….

The doors of enlightened society remain wide open to Muhammad Sanusi. As for his current crowing Nemesis, a different kind of gates remain yawning to receive him when, as must, the days of governorship immunity finally come to an end.” Support for Sanusi is not limited to radical voices.

Veteran technocrat Alhaji Ahmed Joda penned a panegyric in support of the ex-emir: “The purpose of this letter to you is not to commiserate with you, because I know that you must have known the likely consequences  of the principled position you have taken. The reality we must face in Northern Nigeria is that the evil forces of feudalism that have kept us in bondage for so long are still there and fighting. You have been the only voice that has been telling us this truth….”

It is easy to kick a man given a pin-fall by fate, or piss on the grave of a fallen warrior. Dead men don’t bite. Real friends show up when you are in life’s valley. Say what you will, I would rather have a friend like Nasir el Rufai when the chips are down. In the midst of all the turmoil, conspiracy theories have surfaced to the effect that the dethronement is but a political sleight-of-hand to propel Sanusi to Nigeria’s presidency in 2023. Caution! Let’s separate the issues. Political succession is totally different from fundamental human rights. Sanusi is not my next president.

My views on power rotation are well documented. The ex-emir will go down in history as a champion for the rights of the poorest of the poor. He advocated for a new Northern Nigeria where old backward practices such as the almajiri system and irresponsible parenting will be abandoned. His was the voice crying out in the desert, lift my people up from the cesspit of penury. The attempt to demonise him after dethronement through various allegations, including one on religious fundamentalism, is dead on arrival. The same fate will befall the vilification of El Rufai on account of his loyalty to Sanusi. Please quote me: Modern challenges can never be resolved with a resort to medieval solutions.

Christopher Hitchens’ Q&A may someday apply to the ex-Kings College boy who’s now an ex-king.

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Opinion

Sanusi Dethronement: The North Only Beheads The Bearers Of Truth

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By Fredrick Nwabufo

Northern Nigeria is prostrate. It is the axis of uglies – banditry, insurgency, kidnapping, diseases, ignorance, and drug abuse. Alas! The region’s elite are aware of the problems, but look away because the disequilibrious status quo sustains them. What is petrifying, however, is that they maul and clobber at anyone who spits the truth in their faces.

I think, this is the mortal sin of Muhammad Sanusi II, emir of Kano – beyond his politics with Abdullahi Ganduje, governor of Kano.

But wait!

The World Bank says 87 percent of Nigeria’s poor are in the north. And that while poverty is plummeting in the south, it is rocketing in the upper region.

READ: Dethroned Sanusi Will Be Under House Arrest – Ganduje’s Aide

“Poverty in the northern regions of the country has been increasing especially in the north-west zone. Almost half of all poor lived in the north-west and the north accounts for 87 percent of all poor in the country in 2016,’’ the Bretton Woods institution said in its report entitled ‘Advancing social protection in a dynamic Nigeria’ in February 2020.

In August, 2019, the federal government revealed that 1,460 people were killed by bandits in seven months. And that the north-west is the worst-hit by this bloody enterprise. The killings have steadied, expanding in proportion and execution in the region.

In his accustomed manner, Sanusi recently vocalised these depressing figures of retrogression in the north – as regards the World Bank report — earning himself praise from progressive Nigerians and reprimand from the usual suspects — those stuck in the cesspit of bigotry.

Also, the gadfly emir of Kano, whom I regard as the John the Baptist of the north for his vociferous condemnation of this status quo, is alone in his advocacy against irresponsible polygamy, Al-majiri and child marriage – practices the northern elite espouse. He is the face of a progressive north; the northerner of the new age.

As a matter of fact, on different occasions he had complained about the northern elite whom he said wanted to silence him for speaking the truth about the region.

‘’Our colleagues and compatriots among the elite do not like statistics. Numbers are disturbing. I recently gave a speech in which I said the north-east and north-west of Nigeria are the poorest parts of the country. This simple statement of fact has generated so much heat; the noise has yet to die down. The response to this speech has been a barrage of personal attacks and insults aimed at silencing any voices that dare shine the light on the society to which we are saying Bring Back our Girls,’’ he said at a lecture held to commemorate the Chibok girls abduction.

READ: Sanusi Breaks Silence After Dethronement As Emir Of Kano (Video)

And I guess they can only take the throne away from him but cannot take away his royalty in the community of decent humans. Really, I believe the emir would rather give up his throne than be gagged by the shareholders of iniquity.

To say the least, Sanusi’s dethroning was not unexpected. Ganduje had always shown his hand in this plot. Really, the emir of Kano never hid his dislike for him. But what is there to like about a governor who was allegedly caught on camera stuffing wads of dollars into his babariga? In the build-up to the 2019 governorship election in the state, the emir was not shy in expressing his disapproval to Ganduje’s candidature.

So, Ganduje, who considers Sanusi a ‘’loud mouth’’, plotted a bitter revenge after he was re-elected. He had moved to remove the emir in 2018 but for the intervention of some ‘’higher powers’’. However, he whittle-down the power of the emir by creating new emirates from his domain. He was not done though. He rustled-up allegations, set up probe panels – all in the desperation to embarrass Sanusi.

But Sanusi was still talking.

Really, one of the most abrasive places to exist is in the circle of non-progressives. You talk different, think different or act different, they will feel threatened. Even when you try to clown around; the aboriginal clowns will still feel threatened because you do not look the part.

I think, Emir Sanusi is light-years away from the people he is dealing with in Kano government. He is needed more at the top echelon of government where he can contribute more meaningfully to the development of Nigeria.

Northern Nigeria is not ready for an emir like Sanusi. He is ahead of his time.

Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist.

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