By Jude Ndukwe
So much has been said about the growing fractious relationship between the military and the civil society. Before now, our military especially the army, had been the bastion of discipline, restraint and civility. Growing up, a lot of us fantasized about how we would join the military, and shine before our civilian mates with our neat and well ironed uniforms, shiny boots and smart looks. We fantasized and boasted about how we would defend our nation and people against any external aggression from any quarters no matter how powerful. We boasted of how we would dare fires no matter how wild, jump into them to save trapped citizens. We even boasted of how “bloody civilians” would confront us and instead of retaliating, we just laugh them off because “they do not know what they are doing”. Our dream as future military officers was to serve the people and the nation and make ourselves the envy of many through our behaviours.
We never ever thought that a time would come in our lifetime when the military would turn its guns on civilians, fellow citizens, no matter the provocation. We also never thought of a time that the mutual hatred and mistrust between the military and the civilian populace would be so toxic that a civilian band would attack and kill a retired military General the way it happened to General Idris Alkali in Jos, Plateau State. But, alas, such a time, unfortunately, is now with us!
Last week, we witnessed the avoidable clashes between the army and members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN). I can confirm from my personal experience and interaction with the Shiites that IMN is never a violent group as some would want us to believe. And they are hardly discriminatory in their operations. I delivered a paper at the group’s 3rd International Quds Conference which held in Abuja on July 29, 2017. Apart from the fact that I am not only a Christian, I wish to emphasise that I am also a knighted Catholic.
There were also other Christians at the event. I am also aware that there are several other Christians who have become part and parcel of this annual conference. So, the narrative being created by some government officials about the Shiites as violent people full of hate for others is not only wrong but also misleading and mischievous. The truth is that unlike other Islamic denominations, the Shiites have no record of any act of willful violence against the nation nor can anyone tag them as terrorists, yet, they are an Islamic group some government officials love to hate, malign and calumniate.
In a government report following a public inquiry into the massacre of the Shiites in December 2015, it was said that 347 Shia Muslims were killed by men of the Nigerian Army and their corpses dumped in a mass grave in the northern city of Kaduna. The report also demanded that all those involved in the killings be arrested and prosecuted. But up till now, nothing has been heard about it. Those indicted are rather praised and become emboldened to continue the wanton killing of fellow citizens, they are trained to protect, even at little or no provocation.
This vicious cycle has continued unabated. Citizens have become endangered species in the hands of the military. The military has turned itself to a uniformed emperor that must not be questioned, that must not be criticized and not even complimented. Is this our dream military?
The other day, video of a lady military officer who led a group of other military officers to viciously assault a civilian simply for complimenting her for her beauty, went viral. That was the height of military bestiality and excess show of hate for the civilian populace, and this has increased over time as culprits are either covered up or allowed to go scot free by those who are supposed to punish such erring officers. To make matters worse, the army keeps needlessly engaging Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in exchanges over matters in which they are clearly in breach of common sense, law and civility.
The other day, a soldier attached to Operation Safe Haven, shot dead an unarmed security personnel and injured two others attached to Diamond Bank in Jos over an innocuous argument about a parking space. That was a citizen, probably someone’s father and husband, with other loved ones, who had life snuffed out of him just like that as if he did not matter or his life was of no importance.
These and many other gruesome examples show that the issue is not just about the Shiites and the label of recalcitrance imposed upon them by those who take joy in mowing them down hiding behind such labels, it is about the loss of discipline and professionalism in the Nigerian army.
Let us even assume without conceding that the Shiites were wrong the first time when they were said to have “blocked” a consignment of ammunition in transit, resulting in they being fatally shot, what about the one that happened in Abuja shortly afterwards? Was there another consignment being blocked?
I read what some military officer said that they would not allow the Shiites to breach the rights of other citizens, the question is this, when has it become the primary duty and responsibility of the military to guarantee the rights of citizens in peace time? What then is the function of the police and their different specialized arms trained to deal with such issues as it should be?
With the way it is now, the Shiites have become endangered species who must not exercise their rights as citizens, they must not assemble, they must not associate and they must not express themselves freely despite the fact that their leader, Sheikh El Zakzaky and his wife, have been in illegal detention and unlawful custody of government going to three years now. This surely is a recipe for continued breach of the peace. And it is not only the Shiites that have become endangered species in the hands of the military, we all have.
While military sources have given six as number of casualties at both incidents in Zuba and Abuja, the Shiites have since released names of the victims numbering 34. Viral videos of the two incidents in both Zuba and Abuja show fleeing Shiites being shot at; even after they had been dispersed, they were still pursued by gun wielding officers. Their offence was that they had stones and catapults as “weapons”, and the army would have none of it, yet, in this same country, former president Goodluck Jonathan had his convoy stoned by some mischievous and misguided youths in Bauchi and he gave a stern instruction to his security personnel not to open fire. He was rather ferried away amidst the hail of stones. That was the Commander-in-Chief.
So, in such situations, particularly the unwarranted killing of the Shiites in Abuja, the army has other options to neutralize the protesting Shiites, that is, if they must be involved. Or else, deploying anti-riot policemen to such a scene would have made more sense than directly engaging youths exercising their rights of assembly, movement and association over government flagrant disobedience to valid court orders granting their leader bail.
Just few days ago, on TV, the army spokesman, John agim, was quoted to have said that “Several times, those people were arrested and they were released without any sanction. We have a country where nobody is sanctioned for doing something wrong. Evans, the kingpin kidnapper, he came out confessing. Over one year now, what has happened?”
When you have a military with this mindset of meting out immediate punishment and inflicting death as punishment to offenders because it does not believe in the judiciary, then the nation is in deep trouble. When an army spokesperson thinks that self-confession is enough to conclude a criminal matter in a jiffy and declare an offender guilty by force and not by law, it becomes a monumental security challenge that requires an aggressive reorientation of our military high command to bring them at par with best civil practices all over the world in military/civilian relationship. It is such beliefs as that of Agim that have reduced our military once envied for its discipline and professionalism to that feared rather than respected by citizens.
However, there is hope.
The military just handed 13 people suspected to be responsible for the murder of General Idris Alkali to the police after a painstaking investigation, for further investigation and prosecution. Based on the worrying trend which is the crux of this piece, those suspects handed over to the police for prosecution would probably have been treated more differently, the military way! That they were handed over for the law to take its course rather than take the law into their own hands themselves is a way forward.
The Shiites are not just citizens, they are a religious group that is aggrieved, and genuinely so. Rather than treat them as a leprous part of the society that must be exorcised and excised by all means possible, they can actually be meaningfully engaged and all areas of differences resolved to the satisfaction of all parties, with respect for the rule of law as a guiding principle.
This way, the needless confrontations between citizens and security agencies are reduced to the barest minimum and the needless loss of lives arising from there is avoided. We cannot continue to cut short the lives of citizens in numbers the way we are currently doing.
Nigeria is not a jungle, and no person or group of persons should reduce it to such.
ABEOKUTA AND ITS PERENNIAL FLOODING: GOV. ABIODUN TO THE RESCUE
By Elijah Udofia
Saturday, July 4, 2020, is a day the people of Abeokuta, particularly those living very close to the city’s waterways, would not forget in a hurry. Like in the days of Noah, the floodgates were opened and the showers came down heavily, causing floods of havoc that ravaged portions of the city. For somebody who was in the capital city of the Gateway State for the first time, the sight of flooded roads, with water subterranean enough to swim, floating household possessions, evacuated trees, washed way bridges and people congregating on high rise buildings, waiting for the water to recede, is something he or she will live to remember for a long time.
On that day, the heavens opened and brought with it sorrows, but thankfully, without blood. The torrential rain which started at about three in the morning did not stop until six in the evening, thereby thrashing hard on the ancient city for 16 good hours, non-stop. It is instructive to note that July of every year, has always been a period when the city experiences great flooding, occasion by torrential rain. Apart from the destruction of critical public infrastructures, mostly roads and bridges, it is always a time when those living close to the canals, have their hearts in their mouths. Hardly a year passes without these areas experiencing flooding which lead to loss of properties and in some cases, life or lives as the case may be.
The recent one affected mostly areas are; Isale-Oja, Kuto, Ago-Ijesha, Ijeun-Titun, Ijeja-Igbore road, Gbangba, Elite-Lantoro road and Oba Adeleye’s recreational park. One is however happy that areas like Ijaye and Isale-Igbein, which used to experience serious flooding had been taken care of, by the construction of Lafenwa, Sapon, Idi-Aba, Ajebo road and Onikolobo, Omida and Sapon road. It should be noted here that the issue of flooding in Abeokuta is not new, as previous governments, including military administrations, had course to contend with this menace. The presence of the Vice President, who came to inspect the extent of damage caused by flooding two years ago, is an indication that the issue is not a child’s play. What is disturbing however is that the damages caused are becoming more devastating, which calls for concern by all and sundry?
Being the head of a government that came to power on the popular mandate, the State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, immediately the rain ceased on Sunday morning, ordered a team of government officials, led by the Environment Commissioner, Hon. Abiodun Abudu-Balogun took a tour of the areas affected by the flood and came up with a report to enable the government to respond accordingly.
As if that was not enough, the Governor, the following day, personally went round the affected areas to see things for himself. Prince Abiodun who was shocked due to the extent of damage caused not only to public assets, but to the property of the people, there and then, promised that his administration would assist them in mitigating the effect of their loss.
“I am here to look at the damage caused by the rain that fell on Saturday. Though I have sent my Commissioners and other government officials to inspect the damages, I decided to also come and see things for myself. I am happy that no life was lost, though you lost properties.
“I want to assure all of you who lost property to the flood that we will support you. In a few days’ time, government officials will come to see you to take down your names and properties affected, so that we can look at how to compensate you”.
On what the government intends to do to settle the matter once and for all, Prince Dapo Abiodun said the dredging of the canal that crisscrosses the State capital was on-going, while clearing of refuse in the gutters, was also carried out. He then informed the people that the government has assessed the damage caused to the roads and bridges with a view to carry out a comprehensive and proper channelization of the waterways.
“I want to assure you that we will repair the damaged roads, expand the gutters and bridges so that when rain falls, the gutters and the bridges would be able to accommodate the large volume of water. With this, the problem of erosion would be a thing of the past”, he promised
Governor Abiodun attributed flooding in the State capital to rapid development, besought the people to desist from dumping refuse or building structures on the waterways as these also contributed to the flooding. Collaborating the position of the Governor on the ways to find permanent solution to the menace of flooding in the State, the Commissioner for Environment, Hon. Abiodun Abudu-Balogun, noted that regular dredging of the waterways, converting some old culverts to bridges as well as delisting drainages to allow free flow of water will be done by the government.
The Commissioner disclosed that dredging is currently going on at Isale-Oja to Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library up to Orange Valley View Estate, adding that the government is not only looking at Abeokuta alone, as dredging is also ongoing in 16 places across the State. Though the government ultimate goal is to find a permanent solution to the problem, in the meantime, a temporary arrangement according to the Commissioner, was going on at the sites, as allowing the affected areas to remain unattended to, will adversely affect the socio-economic well-being of people and adds to their suffering. The Commissioner appealed to residents of the State to properly dispose of their refuse and desist from dumping them on waterways, to minimize the effects of flooding.
For Alhaji Bello Mohammed, Secretary, Isale-Oja, Kuto, Community Development Association, his community has been experiencing flooding on a yearly basis in the last 10 years. He opined that proper channelization of the canal with an adequate drainage system, would bring an end to the flooding. Also, Mrs. Abike Awosanya and Abideen Musibau, residents of Ago-Ijesha, in Abeokuta South Local Government, said that they want the government to urgently find lasting solution to the flood problem, as it has affected their means of livelihood and make life unbearable for them.
Also bearing his mind, Mr. Raphael Anthony, a motorcyclist, who plied Ijaye-Kuto route, appealed to the State government to regularly dredge the waterways and expand the drainages system as the existing ones can no longer accommodate large volumes of water, during heavy rain. More so, Mrs. Florence Adegbite, an apprentice hairstylist at Ijeun Titun, opined that, “from what I am seeing, I think the State government would need help, particularly from the Federal government to permanently address this problem, a huge amount of money will be involved.
Though Government has a big role to play in bringing an end to the flooding issue, l observed with pain that the actions and inactions of the people are not helping in this regard. A walk through the State capital, one will see the non-challant attitude of the people as they dump refuse even at places where they are not supposed to.
Some simple questions I would like to ask are, what is refuse doing on road medians? Why do people turn gutters, drainages which are supposed to carry water to the canal, to refuse dumpsites? Why do people find it difficult to clear gutters, even those in front of their houses? And most importantly, why do people build structures on waterways that were invented/constructed to serve as drains to the river. All these questions need urgent answers, if the problem of flooding in Abeokuta, is to be addressed.
Now that Governor Dapo Abiodun’s government is showing commitment by putting in place measures that will permanently solve the problem of perennial flooding in the capital city, it is imperative for citizens to also play their parts, because as the African saying goes, “one cannot clap with one hand”.
Udofia, Head of the Governor’s Press Crew, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, Ogun State.
AREGBESOLA COMES TO JUDGMENT
BOTH RAPISTS AND POLITICAL RAPISTS ON RAMPAGE IN NIGERIA
By: Ademola Orunbon
There is no doubt that rapists are really on rampage in Nigeria. More worrisome is the frequent news of children and teenagers being raped almost in every nook and cranny of the country almost on a daily basis, with most of the cases going unreported. The situation is so bad that the notorious rapists are no longer strangers to their victims as they could even be members of the family or trusted neighbours and even domestic servants.
Despite the fact that human rights activists are quite unrelenting in their efforts at exposing the dangers our teenagers are being exposed to daily in the hands of these rampaging rapists and their collaborators, the situation has not really been brought under control. Enlightenment programmes on sexual education and the rights of the child against all forms of abuse should be stepped up and extended to even the schools, churches and mosques
The most worrisome of the current trend is child sexual abuse which is really on the ascendancy in the country. According to The Cece Yara Foundation, an international non-governmental organization, child sexual abuse has become more prevalent than most people even realize. The organization maintained that the menace is likely the most prevalent health problem children face with the most serious array of consequences.
According to the Foundation, one in every four girls experienced sexual violence in the country while one in 10 boys experienced sexual violence before the age of 18. The Foundation also disclosed that one in eight girls experienced unwanted sexual touching just as one in 10 boys experienced sexual violence before the age of 18. Aside Lagos State which really has a law against child sexual abuse and molestation, only a few States are really doing much to tackle this ugly trend. Many reasons have been adduced for the rising cases of rape in the country, especially those involving children and teenagers. One of the reasons is the rising cases of unemployment and moral decadence in the society.
The increasing intake of hard drugs by our youngsters is another contributing to the rising cases of rape in the country. We really want to join other partners across the country, especially rights advocates and non-governmental organizations which have taken the matter up to the public space with condemnation and advocacy. While condemning the rising cases of rape in the country, we implore our government to take the fight against the ugly trend beyond the level of mere rhetorics to real action.
Enlightenment programmes on sexual education and the rights of the child against all forms of abuse should be stepped up and extended to even the schools, churches and mosques. The campaign should start from the individual family with our young girls properly tutored on the need to know everything about their rights and how to protect themselves from being abused. The Point is however happy that recent cases are generating an unprecedented global wake-up call to the increasing rate of child sexual abuse in the country and the world at large. We only hope that the tempo will be sustained for the message to sink in foe all concerned to know the right thing to do as we join millions of other advocates against child sexual abuse and rape in the country.
We also call for prompt trial and prosecution of all cases of violations and abuse of our young girls as deterrent to others. Also, we implore all other States in the country to borrow a leaf from Lagos State where a law is currently in place to take care of issues relating to child sexual abuse and rape.
Also, other rapists that wrecking the country is political rapists, the way politics has been reduced to a trade shorn of every modicum of morality and respectability by some Nigerian politicians leaves much to be desired. Without a stretch of decency, our politicians appear to be travelling on the road to infamy. If their penchant to display hubris and character flaws is anything to go by, and the knack to approbate and reprobate or speak from both sides of the mouth is of major worry, the APC politicians have succeeded in sweeping baloney in their political space with their brooms.
It is a pity that those who found themselves in the commanding heights of leadership in Nigeria automatically transform themselves to semi-gods the moment they get power and position. Nigeria political office holders are in the main arrogant, pompous, and irritatingly proud and disrespectful until death, the ultimate reaper, levels them. Let me hasten to say that there are few exceptions, the reason I qualify the declaration with the phrase ‘in the main’. And so, the average Nigerian politicians have raped and still continue to rape not only their pauperized followers but the entire citizenry on all fronts. To be precise, our contemporary experience under the APC-led federal government appears to be very worrisome.
No man born of woman is so important that the world cannot do without his mortal presence. When politics is reduced to the level of deification of an individual whose credo is: “But for me, the world would collapse”, it needs to be expressly made clear that, that is the biggest lie ever told. History is replete with carcasses of warriors, geniuses, inventors and charismatic statesmen and women after whose demise the world moved on to even greater achievements. It reminds me of the truism in the wise saying of an anonymous bard: “In life nobody is indispensable or irreplaceable, including you. And your replacement will always be better than you. For every Queen Vashti there is an Esther waiting to take your place. For every Saul there is a David ready to take your place. For every Eli there is a prophet Samuel ready to take your place. Many people due to their position, their talent or their beauty think they are irreplaceable – how wrong you are!.”
It is time for us to begin discourage men (and women) without a second address or known source of income in politics! There are those who pride themselves as professional politicians. There are those who have been in one appointive position or the other since time immemorial. There are those who have contested for one political office severally but failed and have amassed stupendous wealth from selling out to the opposition. Please let them go and rest! They have contested in every imaginably election; give us a break please, or go home and find something to do. Our tragedy in Nigeria today is that Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) tarred longer than necessary in seeking public office. Had he retired earlier – or, better still, had he been allowed to retire earlier – we would not have seen today’s misfortunes!
On the flip side, it looks to me as if there is a cycle of rejuvenated evil residing in humanity in our present world. These days, we are faced with a serious challenge of how to manage our sanity in the midst of a flurry of bestialities that keep erupting from left, right and centre. The orgy of violence perpetrated across all ages manifests the baloney of insipid malfeasance that is capable of infecting the left-over values we hold onto with spider web. The incidence of rape has overshadowed political discourses. It has displaced politics, economy and international affairs from our chats and local gossips. This is a rare development in our country. In most cases, in Africa and around the world, these are the three dominant topics people find engaging because of their predominant impact on their lives. The two possible exceptions to this fact are South Africa and India where rape cases are cyclical routine.
What has been responsible for rape ascendancy in our national gossip are the tragic and incredible patterns of the reported incidents. When a 75 year-old man is invading the undeveloped vagina of a 10 year-old girl with gerontocratic vitality, obviously this becomes a national news highlight. When a son (no matter his age) is desecrating the collapsing pudenda of his mother’s senior or age mate by exploiting the woman’s debilitating physicality to have a taste of “his route to the world”, of course, it is of national interest. When a brother decides to forcefully expand the unripe vagina of his 5 year-old sister by pounding and jerking her to death, of course, this ghastly scenario is of national significance. When five Yahoo-Yahoo boys, possibly excited by the number of unfortunate idiots they have scammed in one day, organized a rape circus for a flirting teenager, of course. When Hussippupi, an internet fraudster having over two million followers on Instagram, even much more than what Aliko Dangote and Femi Otedola had, in fact, this takes precedence in national debates.
When a girlfriend plotted to have some of her friends raped by a monstrous gang of six – just to profane their virgin territories, which also is a serious case of national importance. And the list is endless. The lesson of homily in all of these sadistic sexual extravaganzas is that if the world is not coming to an end, then the end is coming to the world. The degree of sexual debasement, sexual harassment, sexual defilement, sexual perversion has attained an alarming crescendo to make GOD to extend the timeline of Covid-19 or to even upgrade it to “Covid Finale” so that we can all sing “Home, Here We Come” chorus.
Orunbon, a journalist and political analyst, wrote in from Federal Housing Estate, Olomore, Abeokuta, Ogun State.
Can be reached via; firstname.lastname@example.org, or 08034493944 and 08029301122.
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