By Zainab Suleiman Okino
By this time in 2015, the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), had become the toast of Nigeria’s voting populace. Buhari was the man to beat, and a beautiful bride at that, having made national security one of the three campaign promises of the party, the other two being anti-corruption war, good governance and economic development. That kind of robust campaign that put the then ruling party, PDP on the edge and in a jittery mode; scared and piqued at the bad outing in the offing, is today near absent even though officially, campaigns are starting in September.
This time around, politicians do not appear proactive in talking straight, especially on the key issues of economy and security where the government of today is scored abysmally low. Here are some guesses. It is either that security is too hydra-headed a problem for them to discuss; or the candidates seeking to replace Buhari do not have tangible and measurable panacea to it; and would not want a miserable and lousy job of it like the Presidency under Buhari is doing.
With the exception of Peter Obi of the Labour Party who is in the habit of reeling out statistics (he has been accused of presenting false or inaccurate figures) and to some extent, Atiku Abubakar, who also spoke extensively on economic issues in his recent Arise TV interview, the candidates generally do not seem to have developed a blueprint to combat our security challenge or tackle the nation’s economic morass.
Instead, attention is more focused on the mundane quarrels over the fallout of the primary election, personality clashes or name calling even among them, none of which can rescue Nigeria from its current predicament.
The security challenge is so overwhelming that at the end of their National Security Council meeting last week, the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno admitted that Nigerians are so fed up, they have resorted to self-help, even as he spoke about new strategies to combat the new wave of terrorist attacks within the Federal Capital Territory and Nigeria generally.
For example, as at last week, all schools in Abuja had to hurriedly shut down, because of news of possible attacks within Abuja; the news created palpable fear expectedly, and since then, everyone has been on the edge, in an attempt to take responsibility for their personal safety, in the face of apparent failure on the part of government to contain incessant terrorist attacks and kidnap for ransom.
Coming shortly after the Kuje prison break which unleashed 64 hardened and unrepentant terrorists on Abuja and environs; the ambush and killing of guards brigade officers who went on special mission to Bwari in response to a distress call from Law School for security reinforcement, including other security breaches around the country, it is justified for the voting populace to seek to know the security plans of those who want rule/govern the country.
According to the latest security report by Beacon Consulting, in their analysis of developments and trends for January 1 to July 31, there were about 3,829 abductions, 7,246 fatalities and 1,501 injuries. Just as the economy has nosedived, with the Naira exchanging for 720 Naira a dollar, and a projection that it might get to 1000 Naira for a dollar, in a global world yet to recover from Covid 19, and the ongoing Ukraine-Russia war, it also makes sense to see implementable, tangible and measurable economic blueprint of the presidential hopefuls.
Our political elite are yet to understand that the world has gone beyond platitudes; beyond such promises of infrastructure, skyscrapers and castles in the air. What we need is the kind of modern security system promised by ex-president of the US, Donald Trump, the kind of security system used to bring down Iranian commander in Iraq, Qassim Suleimani; a drone system that can capture and eliminate the enemy without contact. This is in contrast with Obama’s use of the proximity of US base in Jalalabad on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border to target Osama bin Laden.
On the contrary, in the name of security, or classified information, the security architecture is opaque, not properly structured, and in some cases target the wrong enemies. An example is the unfortunate bombing of six little girls in Kurebe village in Niger state, IDPs in the North east and innocent people mistaken for bandits in Katsina. The six little girls according to a Premium Times investigation, were killed by the Nigerian Airforce explosive artillery shells, indicative of a failed intelligence. That is not the kind of intel that a nation at war should have and apply.
Besides, military training institutions like the NDA and others alike, are no longer citadel for elite corps owing to the influence of corruption which further engenders half-baked military corps that relegate competence and capacity to the background. We also have leaders that do not think outside the box, but would rather stick to the way things were done in the 60s and 70s. But then, the political elite as presently constituted does not fare any better.
The four leading contenders to the position of president are not entirely free of past baggage and misdeeds and their parties are only interested in winning election, while the followers/voters do not ask hard and concrete questions on the economy and security and how their action plans will affect us positively and change the narrative from the current case of despondency to that of hope; hope for the younger population desperately in need of succour and hope for Nigerians to be able to travel on their roads without fear of being abducted.
The ruling (sorry governing) APC is desirous of using its current hold on power to consolidate, and possibly use the system to outmaneuver their challengers. The opposition PDP is just trying to cash in on the security mess and global recession to woo voters; so they engage in self-glorification while seeking opportunity for revalidation, and practically saying ‘we told you these APC people were not up to anything good! Was your life not better under PDP?’ all in an attempt to sway votes. In other word, PDP too has nothing new to offer, other than seeking for relevance to come back to power’.
Not even the third force as represented by Peter Obi has given us a blueprint on the nexus between security and politics. Part of the reasons we have food security challenge is farmers’ inability to access their farms; work the farm for produce in our subsistence-style farming that has sustained us over the years. That is no longer feasible because of insecurity, hence sky-rocketing cost of food.
Any serious politician seeking for power would want to address such an important issue, but the frontliners would rather blame the current situation on those in power, than tell us their own solutions. The other day, I watched the vice-presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Datti Ahmed on TV, and saw how he parried the question on their party’s security template. He said he would not disclose their strategy, because security is a sensitive issue. Other than the band-wagon effect, emotions and social media influence that LP is riding on, why do they think Nigerians are not entitled to their security template, on which the party can be assessed. If we do not know what the party has to offer now, on what basis will their performance be evaluated when in power?
Warts and all, our political elite are yet to tell us how their emergence will curb or combat the current security challenge that has normalised banditry, kidnapping for ransom and terrorism in general. This time, we demand to know the ‘how’ of their platitudes of ‘doing this and that’.
That Emirates hammer
Anybody still looking for evidence of how unhealthy Nigeria’s economy is should read through the correspondence sent to the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika by Emirates Airline dated July 22,2022. The summary of it is that Nigeria is owing Emirates up to the tune of US$85 million, and the latter is therefore unable to sustain its 11 weekly flights to Lagos and five to Abuja. Conversely the airline could not meet its operational costs in the face of ‘mounting losses’, and has decided to ‘cut’ the number of ‘flights’ to mitigate losses.
This has finally put paid to all the lies that Nigeria is a rich country and has no problems meeting its international obligations. A handful of Nigerians may be rich, but their riches might have pauperised the country. Obviously, Nigeria’s money is in the hands and pockets of individuals with access to it, and who bypass government account and enrich themselves, despite the so-called reforms of payment platforms like Remita and Treasury Single Account, (TSA). So, the agencies in the sector that are in charge of all aviation handling costs accruable to their partners such as Emirates cannot meet its obligation.
This does not speak well of the giant and biggest economy in Africa. To avoid other airlines following suite, international embarrassment and make Nigeria a pariah state, government should wade in and clear the debts owed Emirates and others like it, in order to remain relevant in the global scheme of things. Those stealing our resources should understand that Nigeria’s image out there and present predicament can affect their chances of enjoying looted funds within and outside the country. A Nigeria that works for all of us is more important than a Nigeria that works for only a handful.
Zainab Suleiman Okino is the Editorial Board chairman of Blueprint Newspapers/ [email protected]