Senator Marco Rubio stood ramrod in the midst of the rancorous audience. He looked at the audience’s insolent countenance like a subpoenaed witness in a murder case. He indeed had been summoned to the CNN-organized Town Hall meeting on the United States’ Parkland shooting on February 14. A grieving father of one of the students who was killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting angrily confronted Marco over his insistent opposition to gun control. Another diffident student called the National Rifle Association (NRA) contributions to Rubio’s election campaign fund “blood money.”
Then, one of the student survivors, 17-year old Cameron Kasky, was handed the microphone. With grief-encrusted voice and the audacity of a fief-holder, he had asked Cameron, one time contender for the office of the most powerful president in the world, pointedly: “Will you collect donation from the NRA for the next election… for the sake of the 17 students killed; will you?” Cameron, even though not embarrassed or annoyed, merely waffled out an answer. Rubio was consistently heckled and jeered. In an interview with Christianne Amanpour last week on the activities of the students, Kasky had said that he had no single compunction asking Rubio that damming question. “They are our representatives; we put them there,” he had said matter-of-factly.
In Nigeria, public office holders feel embarrassed and even scandalized by public scrutiny of their stewardships. It may not be unconnected with a phenomenon called the Kabiyesi mentality. In traditional Africa, the king could do no wrong; he was next to the gods. To Nigerian public officials, from the zenith of power and majesty where they stand, condoning enquiries into their acts from ordinary folks looks demeaning. Worse still, the character demanding account of stewardship may be one little scrawny rat who can barely afford one meal a day. The 17-year old Kasky put the issue properly in perspective: If you can’t swim, don’t dive into the river. This is why openness and accountability must be the apron that public office holders wear in their dealing with issues affecting the public.
Only God knows how President Muhammadu Buhari and his minders feel at the moment. The abduction and rescue of the 110 school girls in Dapchi, Yobe State has provoked ceaseless public scrutiny, jeers and scoffing skepticism. Dapchi has indeed put a smelly apron on the Buhari government. It is apparent that government hasn’t acquitted itself properly in this matter. Unless Buhari truly desires to govern zombies and marionettes, the questions being asked by Nigerians on the abduction saga seem germane and fitting. The questions seem to confirm that a mess is dressed by government in the cloak of a Salvation Army.
The abduction and the rescue leave so many unanswered questions in their trail. Just like the earlier abduction of about 200 girls from Chibok, this even has more yawning holes. Being the representatives of the people to whom the power to govern them is ceded, the state and its runners owe the people adequate protection. Once there is a doubt as to whether this role is fulfilled, is fulfilled haphazardly or fulfilled in breach, it is incumbent on the people to ask questions. Which is what Nigerians are doing at the moment.
Governments, especially in Third World countries, have often hidden under the shawl of national security to fool their people. Originally, national security is the security of a nation state, which includes the security of its citizens, economy and institutions. It is one of the fundamentals of government business. Originally, it was conceived to mean protection against military attack. Now however, national security has widened to include non-military dimensions, chief among which are economic security, energy security, environmental security, food security, cyber security, etc. Thus, national security risks have gone beyond governments. The new perspective is a fitting reply to African military despots whose reading of it was security of the Head of State. In the Dapchi abduction and rescue, national security is being fingered as culprit of government’s hiding of some strategic facts from the people.
Back and forth accusations are being made on how demonic characters called Boko Haram insurgents, drove past several national borders and state-manned sentries to enter Dapchi. While the Yobe Commissioner of Police said the military that was hitherto guarding Dapchi curiously withdrew its sentries a few weeks before the attack, the Yobe governor harangued the military consistently in the wake of the abduction for abandoning its responsibilities. Is Dapchi bereft of any iota of security? Are its residents some Stone Age people who could not alert security people that a number of suspicious buses were driving past in a convoy? And when the insurgents struck and were ferreting the girls into captivity, didn’t anybody see them? Was there no one to raise alarm? In the school, was there no one who owned a cell phone who could alert security officials? As we speak, there is no clue of someone who has been brought to book over this visible shirking of responsibility. As the Yoruba say in a very instructive proverb, even though the wasp and the bee disown culpability of assault on the farmer, his swollen face is indicative that some felon had stung him in the face. In a Buhari-led government under which this heinous kidnap took place, everyone is going about their businesses unscathed.
The rescue story, as told by government, is even more mysterious. Aftermath its negotiation, the abductors, with their school girls trophies, just drove in a convoy of buses into Dapchi like some matador. From the account reportedly given by the girls, they were, enroute Dapchi, flown from God-knows-where and equally ferried by boats. Which raise questions. Does Boko Haram now have its own airline? If it doesn’t, what is the name of the airline? Are the girls, secondary school students, as illiterate as not to be able to provide the name written on the jet? From where were the girls transported; Nigeria? If not Nigeria, since it was an international flight, from whom did the pilot seek clearance to leave the country of flight to Nigeria, the country of destination?
Oh, I forgot: National Security would not allow the Buhari government to answer the questions above nor announce the amount involved in the rescue effort. Rather than say this, Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed hit Nigerians with another bombast – no ransom was paid. This sounds very ludicrous. A terrorist organization like Boko Haram, known for its deadliness, suddenly became so Red Crossly that it kidnapped 110 girls for about two weeks, clothed, housed and fed them and handed them over to our government, literally shaking government’s hands like they do at treaty agreement signing!
The reason why government cannot be allowed to, in the name of national security, leave Nigerians in the dark about activities like this is that, experience has taught the people that Nigerian governments are run by extremely heartless people who see Mammon and self in every governmental transaction. Till today, no one knows how much government has expended on this shady and cloudy Boko Haram business which has become a money-making machine for government officials and ostensibly, military big epaulettes. Not long ago, when the Buhari government requested for another $1 billion to fight insurgency, Nigerians cried foul. It makes sense that, in the thinking of these Boko Haram racketeers, the insurgency must not end so that their illicit earnings would be perpetually nourished. This is why the skepticism of Nigerians about Boko Haram abducting Dapchi and Chibok girls is growing higher by the day. Who says this whole drama could not have been a collaboration between some God-knows-who in government/military circle and some hirelings, with the aim of stoking the fire of their persistent bleeding of Nigeria’s national resources?