BY JAMES YEKU
The recent and sudden urgency that has facilitated the Nigerian military’s expurgation of terrorist activities in the country’s North-East would have been an epochal and celebrated march against Islamist insurgency had the Chibok girls not been pawns all along in the political chessboard of the Nigerian State. It is almost a year, and just some days before Nigerians go to the polls, yet the over 250 girls that were kidnapped by Boko Haram in April 2014 have not been found, while the man who, as supposed commander of a staggering and fund-deprived armed force, swore to protect all Nigerians desperately seeks reelection – to an office that appears to have been reserved for members of Nigeria’s morally wretched class.
A number of commentators are right to point out that President Jonathan’s bid to extend his stay in Aso Rock smirks of callousness, and a morbid lack of integrity, a moral logic that appears to have eluded any recent Nigerian ruler. Or what but a corruption of public trust and abuse of office would explain the tragic dancing feet that greeted the violent drums of Boko Haram’s bombs in Kano last year? That the president preferred wiggling and waggling to the hypocritical chants of brownnosers at a political rally to charting a strategic military course for the rescue of both helpless Nigerians and lost territories eloquently arrests any possibility of a defense of the Nigerian government.
What astounds many observers and civil rights advocates in particular may be the brazen nonchalance that has repeatedly followed similar acts of terror since the girls were abducted. Even the military has had to engage with mutiny within its own ranks as soldiers and their commanders abandon rescue efforts to trade in media fabrications, bringing one another before shambolic tribunals, while apathetic Nigerians, satisfied with lies and ethnic sentiments, watch a once effective army and its supposed commander-in-chief reduce themselves to an agency of election sabotage in some parts of the country. The Nigerian president and its repressive state apparatus failed the Nigerian people when it mattered most.
Yet the people too seem to be sympathetic to their own processes of victimization. The problem is not only that President Goodluck has scandalously failed the Chibok girls, and their families, and us; it is also that you have Nigerians, ethnicist apologists of the Jonathan charade, who have accepted that we deserve to live below sub-human standards, that we should not hold the man who swore an oath to protect us accountable for the many lives lost to corruption – yes people die daily in Nigeria because our president is corrupt – and insecurity, and that we must continue to pray and hope that somehow things will just work out. We relocate agency in a manner that is not even founded on the Christian ethic we hypocritically invoke in our may the-lord-help-us rituals. It is this nearly irredeemably defeated way of thinking, that we cannot speak truth to power or even seize it if we must which fuels the carnage that is visited on us by the Nigerian state. It saddens me to see so-called educated folks, church/mosque-goers many of them, who are not bold enough to stand up for truth.
Truth is, if the people refuse to see their own chains, it is impossible for any, not even the APC, to free them.
Unfortunately, what appears to be most crucial for President Jonathan in the weeks leading to elections is using a renewed effort to rescue the Chibok girls as ticket to return to office. His mobilisation of state resources to win an election many Nigerians, with the exception of some whose judgments of his administration are subtended not by merit but sadly by religious and ethnic solidarities, want him to lose. But of course Nigerian leaders know nothing of shame; they impose themselves on a population that doesn’t want them. When they renege on their pledge to serve and protect the electorate, they never resign from a position, as it is done in societies where public accountability means something. This repugnant lack of any moral capital is why a president whose acclaimed economic achievements are not reflected in the daily lives of Nigerians will contest for an office he should have shamefully resigned from since April when the Chibok girls were kidnapped.
This is why the resurgence of the Nigerian military does not seem to impress a number of people who are still calling on the Nigerian government to find the missing girls. In particular, reclaimed territories that do not bring back the Nigerian girls will not flatter observers like me, or any other concerned Nigerian who understands that the fate of the Chibok girls was informed by a political class too corrupt to contemplate a calculated response to a colossal crisis it is too ignorant to cognize.
Only few people will be fooled by the military’s strides in the North East. Waiting this long to bring back the girls in other to score a very cheap yet inhumane electoral point is just another way to convince the world that our drowning government is clutching at a straw. This struggle is a desperately wicked effort to continue an administration that has succeeded in making the Nigerian state the abject giant of a vast empire. Nigerians should be bold enough to vote out a president without a conscience. It is a little sad that the major contender in the race does not offer a viable alternative either, yet it is the man who had the golden opportunity to calibrate Nigeria’s economic progress but who has refused to that should be shown the exit door later this month. If the military eventually brought back our girls, we would be glad for their return, but not hoodwinked into being continually led by the pretenders in Abuja. In my view this will serve to atone a bit for the way the Nigerian government and its corrupt military have ravished the innocence, and perhaps future of the Chibok girls.
Voting the president out will be his price for politicsing trauma!
James Yeku is a doctoral student in English at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada. He is writing his dissertation on politics and performative identities in Nigerian social media texts.