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President Jonathan: It is time to halt the fiddling

09 April 2014, 10:54 Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi

In the classic, Quo Vadis, a 1951 American epic film adapted from Henryk Sienkiewicz's classic 1896 masterpiece, Emperor Nero is said to have played the fiddle while Rome burned. The most contemporary parallel of that fable is perhaps the tenure of Nigerian president, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. The allusion to the ancient Roman leader who according to legend played his fiddle while Rome burned may not be misplaced when juxtaposed with the disconcerting happenings in the polity especially in the security sector and the reaction of the Jonathan led administration.

Former Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar described it as ‘mind-boggling’ in a recent interview. The killings at the headquarters of the State Security Service, SSS, a stone throw from the Presidential villa, as a result of an alleged jailbreak clearly shows the huge security challenges the present administration is currently facing.

In an orgy of mindless killings, 14 people were allegedly killed in Taraba and Plateau states a few weeks ago. According to media reports, seven persons were brutally murdered on a Sunday night and several houses burnt during an attack on Buwa village in Ibi local government area of Taraba State by armed men. In Wase town in Wase local government area of Plateau State, gunmen invaded the community and sent 7 other Nigerians to their untimely death.

On January 26th, at least 78 people were killed in two separate attacks in north-east Nigeria, one on a busy market in Borno state and the other in neighboring Adamawa. Again on February 15th, a vicious attack blamed on the Boko Haram sect left 106 dead in a village of Izghe in Borno.

A few days after, on February 19 another attack by scores of the insurgents again in the north-east town of Bama left 60 people dead, many with their throats slit. Perhaps to crown its claim to supremacy over the nation’s armed forces, on February 25th, insurgents killed 43 people when they attacked a secondary school, Buni Yadi in Yobe state. Recent hostilities between Fulani herdsmen and Tiv youths have claimed about 50 lives at Gbajimba, in Guma Local Government Area headquarters in Benue State. The Northern Youth Leaders Forum (NYLC) in the aftermath of the crisis claimed that about 3,300 youths may have been killed by Boko Haram in the North. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 700 people have been killed (and still counting) in 40 separate attacks across the northeast in 2014 alone.

These are just a few incidences of the growing spate of killings of innocent Nigerians in many parts of the nation. As I pen these words, the dailies are awash with another violent killing of 5 policemen, and three civilians in the ancient city of Maiduguri, the hotbed of the insurgency that has ravaged the country in the past three years. Also about 60 persons have been killed in the raging Benue crisis. A timeline of terrorist motivated killings in the country in the past few years shows that thousands of civilians, many children have been killed.

This evil like a cancerous strain has spread across states such as Katsina, Plateau, Benue, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Borno, Adamawa, Yobe States, among other parts of Nigeria. In Katsina, a day before a state visit by the president, scores of people were also killed by terrorists. It is intriguing that the severity of this dastardly act did not prevent the President from cancelling his trip. Worse still, it is not on record that the president paid any condolence visit to the families of the deceased during the insensitive visit. The question on the lips of many Nigerians today is when will the killings stop? But a much more pertinent question for many is when will GEJ stop fiddling with the time bomb of insecurity ravaging the North and other parts of the country and offer lasting panacea to the crisis which has claimed many lives he is supposed to protect as a Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces? It is rather saddening that the president has started trading blames with the governors on an issue that falls squarely on him.

The President has spent a great part of the current year junketing across the globe with public funds in needless ventures that could have been handled by subordinates in government. While the country witnessed a mounting and coordinated assault on it citizens a few weeks ago, Jonathan was a on a 6 day trip around the world in which he attended the celebration of Namibia’s 24th Independence Anniversary before departing for Rome and the Vatican for talks on March 22, with Pope Francis and Monsignor PietroParolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State. He also spent ample time in the Netherlands after conferring with the Pope where he met with Dutch officials and attended the Nuclear Security Summit. Meanwhile, at the home front, while the president wines and dines with world leaders of more developed nations, hundreds of Nigerians continue to lose their lives in terrorist related events The other area that calls for concern is the president’s reactions whenever such killings occur.

In other climes where a measure of sanity applies in governance, it is not out of place for a sitting president to shelve official engagements to commiserate with the families of such victims. Apart from emotionless and stilted utterances of regret and condolence by his handlers to the victims’ families, the president usually chooses such sensitive periods to embark on foreign travels or organize state sponsored events which blur the national mourning of the events. The case of the centenary celebrations, a few days after the killing of young secondary school students perhaps shows the president’s disposition towards such sad occurrences. Since the killings, he has hosted a wasteful centennial celebration, travelled across Nigeria to organize regional rallies and also illegally commenced his campaign for the 2015 elections. He has also journeyed to Namibia, Italy and The Netherlands, in a needless globetrotting that belies the massive security problems confronting the nation.

Alas, his rhetoric at the regional rallies he has attended also shows the hitherto dictatorial side of him Nigerians must carefully study in the coming months. At the rally in Kwara he was reported to have subtly threatened to withhold crucial developmental projects from states whose ‘governors continue to abuse the president.’ Also at the rally he promised retribution for any political appointee who ‘steals PDP’s mandate.’ These statements are certainly not presidential neither are they accepted utterances of a true statesman.

The above listed events shows that we may perhaps have a president who is clueless on one hand and also largely insensitive to the plight being faced by Nigerians, (many of whom have been brutally murdered in recent times) who have lost hope of safety and security in the PDP led government and are yearning for an alternative. More disturbing however is that fact that we now know that we have a president with a dictatorial tendency he has struggled to keep hidden for so long but which has started manifesting for all to see. The end of fiddling of fiddling Emperor Nero is a lesson that does not need to be told. 

Senator Adetunmbi represents Ekiti North Senatorial District and is also the Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Interior

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