By Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians let me start by saying that I hate conspiracy theories generally. The reason is simple. They are like superstitions. They are not capable of any logical, rational, scientific analysis or basis yet people have wholesale beliefs in them. They consider them to be true, even though they know they are stranger than fiction. It is almost impossible not to engage in all manner of guesswork, speculation and conjecture in Nigeria. The rumour-mill is one of the most vibrant, and sometimes lucrative, pastimes in our clime. Indeed, rumour mongering is a national pastime at which Nigerians excel and shine in all their glory. Nigeria is a country where all tales are believable, no matter how improbable!

Please, forgive me because I’m about to indulge in some high-level conspiracy theories myself. These particular theories have risen above the realm of mere conjecture to attain the level of first faction and then reality, because of the many times they have been avowed and disavowed and the blurring of falsehood, fake news and truth that has thus been occasioned. By the time I’m done, I’m sure you will understand my predicament and appreciate my acute frustration.

Just as much as the allegations of massive corruption levelled against the Jonathan government, the other major reason he was sacked as President was the spate of rising insecurity, insurgency and banditry in most parts of the country. The abduction of the young and innocent Chibok girls from their secondary school and the way they literally vamoosed from the surface of the earth was like the last straw that broke the camel’s back and it obviously helped to quicken the downfall of that government at the polls. It was impossible not to view the government as irredeemably clueless from that moment onwards. The hype and media frenzy generated by the incident, and the blame and guilt laid at the doorstep of the forlorn, gormless and doomed government, was so huge that it soon became a global fad, with national and international celebrities and human rights activists falling over themselves to show solidarity for the plight of the girls and their helpless and hapless families.

Today, I’m now reasonably convinced that the entire melodrama was meticulously planned and masterfully executed in order for some people to paint President Goodluck Jonathan as pathetically incompetent, and the reason his government must be sacked urgently. I confess to believing the full narrative at the time, like most Nigerians, hence my almost fanatical support for Major General Muhammadu Buhari, in that sad period of our nascent democracy. I wish to express my sincere apologies once again for believing that tale by moonlight and for being amongst those who plunged Nigeria into this unmitigated disaster from which we may not fully recover in decades to come unless God decides to deliver us miraculously.

In 2015, when President Buhari assumed power, the insecurity was largely limited to the North East, around Borno/Adamawa axis. Of course, there were kidnappings, militancy and oil theft in the South South and South East, but these were not as bad as what was unfolding in the North East. If, at that time we thought that there was insecurity, it has certainly become child’s play when compared to what obtains today. Those who stoked and fanned the embers of insecurity in the North East for their nefarious political ends now realise that they have bitten more than they can chew. There is an Australian boomerang effect, and the plot and gambit has turned full circle. We are now in the situation where people are running with the hare and hunting with the hounds in order to curry the favour of the Government which seems to be shielding the bandits, insurgents and terrorists and things are simply just falling apart. It is now so bad that nobody can tell the difference as to who is chasing who, because these bandits and terrorists seem far better organised, disciplined and equipped than the Nigerian military.

As I write this, terrorists, insurgents and bandits have encircled Nigeria. While Boko Haram continues to wreak havoc with mathematical precision, in its traditional domains of the North East, other terrorists, warlords and janjaweeds have emerged in the Northwest and there are bandits in nearly every zone. They operate with so much confidence and gusto. They dare the authorities to come after them knowing, each time that there is a clash, it is the Nigerian military that is worse off with its nose proverbially bloodied!

The latest chapter of this macabre theatre, and most sordid period of our history, is that, under the nose and eyes of President Buhari, Boko Haram, has been elevated to the level of the Ijaw militants who were fighting to avenge the despoliation of their environment by the oil corporations. At least we knew what they were fighting for, just as we know what IPBO is fighting for even if we still have some flicker of hope in Nigeria. The difference with Boko Haram is that no one has explained their grievances to us. Rather, we are told and forced to treat them with the same awe and trepidation we accorded the Niger Delta militants without anyone detailing what Nigerians owed them in reality and imagination. The cheeky suggestion that the fight is against western education is absolute hogwash, and it just won’t wash!

This dangerous development of political machination and manipulation has been festering and engendered slowly, but surely and steadily, by using all manner of subterfuge to catch most of us unaware. Lately it has taken on frightening proportions whilst still being painted as if they are minor inconsequential skirmishes with an economic bias that we need not pay much heed to. Thus, in Zamfara, we were told it was a war for gold rush. In North Central, around Benue in particular, we were told it was a clash between farmers and Herdsmen. Many lives were wasted while the criminals easily bolted away, like artful dodgers. The Federal Government showed little or no empathy. Seeing the share number of the dead made my intestines spin around and I was dazed and dizzy as if in a tizzy.

In the meantime, we all buried our heads in the sand, telling ourselves, all of this was confined to the North and they dared not bring their wahala down south. We should have known better! Give anybody an inch and they will take a mile. Give this lot a little and they want all, because they know that they have the full and wholehearted support of the Presidency, in whose hands they are well protected.

Very soon though, from the Middlebelt, the insecurity navigated its way Southwards. If we thought it was a joke initially, the bandits left no one in doubt of their determination to show how ready they were to spread their campaign of hate and terror to every part of Nigeria. As terrible as the situation was, our President appeared unruffled and unfazed. Even when it became apparent that our security forces were failing spectacularly and falling catastrophically in the battlefield as if they were being struck down by daemons President Buhari still did not bat an eyelid. Truth be told, our military had fallen on bad times, and there was nobody at the helm, no Commander-in-Chief to give a rallying cry to the troops and be their focal point. Simply put the leadership had gone AWOL too! Despite the hues and cries of generality of Nigerians, the President blatantly refused to retire or sack his service chiefs, who had not only outlasted their tenures, but they had also outlived their usefulness. We wondered what the unholy pact was between them that made it impossible for the Commander-in-Chief to whip them into shape and line. That there is some kind of unholy covenant, a secret concordat between the Presidency and the erstwhile service chiefs is given fillip by the aberrant decision to give them a golden handshake by offering them ambassadorial postings as compensation for incredible failure.

As days climbed over months and months climbed over years, the situation deteriorated. And all we got for the unabated sorrows was the automated condolence message and futile promises that government was trying hard to fix the problems. But nothing was fixed. As we stand today, virtually all major tribes in Nigeria, minus, maybe, the Hausa/Fulani, are clamouring for self-determination, self-governance and, in extreme cases, their own stand-alone nations. The Igbo people of South East Nigeria are mostly united in their quest for a Biafra country, including those who do not share the same ideology with Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. You can’t blame them. President Buhari has shown them no mercy. At every opportunity, he sends his security forces with clear mandate and directive to crush any act of perceived, purported rebellion. Bizarre animalistic and reptilian names were given to the various military exercises that the armed forces used in terrorising and subjugating the people of this region. A true parody of the inhumane maltreatment of the people of the region. This would probably have been accepted, tolerated and endured if the attitude were the same elsewhere.

In the last few weeks, and as recent as two days ago, the Muslim cleric, Sheikh Gumi, has been seen strolling in and out of the forests where the bandits are comfortably ensconced, without any fear of attack or antagonism. In fact, the visits are now televised, and many are wondering what’s going on! In this same country, those who have not carried machine guns, Kalashnikovs and other weapons of mass destruction have been promptly declared persona non grata and dangerous criminals and terrorists by the Inspector General of Police and the Governor of the Central Bank, whose business it has now become to police the bank accounts of innocent protesters. Just imagine for a second a Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye entering a forest to negotiate with terrorists and the uproar it would generate worldwide.

So, some powerful, untouchable, inviolable Nigerians actually know the location of the terrorists. And the security forces also know the forests they reside in. I’ve been wondering what happened to our Air Force. Meaning, it is not that our own hawks can no longer capture chickens but some powerful people in government are not allowing them swing into action. It is well!

Can Sheikh Gumi do us a big favour please? Sir help us find out what would appease the bandits and terrorists so that we can get the sacrifice ready for the gods with feet of clay. Terrorism has become a competition here apparently. Many personalities now liken them to the Niger Delta militants. And since we set up an Amnesty Commission for them, let’s humbly do the same now and do so with immediate alacrity. Hopefully, this would calm the insurgents and terrorists down and protect the defenceless school kids who are being subjected to constant and incessant harassment by these hoodlums and bandits clothed in the false garb of devoted and devout jihadists, but who know nothing about the mission they profess to be carrying out.

As for the herdsmen, I don’t know if another Amnesty can be graciously arranged for them. And let them be banished to their Northern Nigeria where many are already accustomed to the itinerant tradition and custom. Too many problems have been generated by them while traveling long distances in the forests. The time has come to put a permanent stop to this archaic system of cattle rearing. I commend Governor Nasir El Rufai for embracing modern methods of cattle rearing. The budget for these herdsmen won’t be too different from the fertilizer bazaar, import duty waiver and oil subsidy bonanza that some influential Nigerians used to enjoy in the past. We can call it “herdsmen subsidy” for want of a better expression. In moments of dangerous madness, human lives must be protected with everything at our disposal. I suppose the Presidency will be extremely happy to extend the principle of federal character and proportionate distribution of the nation’s resources to assuage the feelings of these ill-judged innocent kinsmen of Mr President.

It is obvious to me that our security forces are not hopelessly lazy. They are only hampered, hindered and handicapped by circumstances beyond their control, but within the control of powerful others within the corridors of power.

My conspiracy theory is that some powerful people see the bandits as their own kindred spirit and would rather protect them than have them maligned, traduced and destroyed for the vermin that they represent to those whom they pillage, rape, destroy, maim and kill. The body language is unarguably easy to decipher. Let’s stop pretending not to know how to smell the fish. This cesspit smells and stinks to high heavens.

Nigeria is in bigger trouble than we are willing to admit. Who will bell the cat? After all, for whom does the bell toll? It tolls for us all, at some time or the other!

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