Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Why You Should Keep An Eye on the Northern Nigeria

Yes, our eyes are trained on the soap opera of the fuel subsidy protests and the re-invigoration of Nigerian civil society, but we should all be very worried about the North. Here’s why.

1 – Before fuel subsidy protests, we were facing an emboldened Boko Haram striking seemingly at will at a mosque around New Years’ Day and a church on Christmas day (you can read on this here), and a Nigerian government that has shown that it has no answer to their brutality. Arrests were made on the Christmas bombings, but thanks to focus on the fuel subsidy issue, many Nigerians did not notice that persecution and investigation of the Christmas Day attacks have stalled.

The worst thing that can happen to the situation in the north is for Nigerian media to look away in favor of another story. With the fuel subsidy taking over media coverage and the presidency’s continued ineffectiveness in security issues, the situation in the north will continue to worsen.

2 – The State of Emergency has done absolutely nothing to improve the situation of the northern states most impacted by Boko Haram attacks. There have consistently been attacks since the closing of borders and  heightened surveillance in the state, and the Boko Haram has been so bold as to release a video justifying their attacks on their most recent killings of Christians (perhaps they will release another justifying their killings on Muslims). With their ultimatum for southerners to leave the north, the islamist sect has declared itself owner of the north and determiner of who stays and who does not while the government looks on impotently. Following the group’s ultimatum for Christians to leave the north, they since killed 12 in Adamawa on the 7th of January, 8 in Yobe, and that's just to name a few of the atrocities carried out by Boko Haram in January.

3 – If the situation worsens we will start to see reprisal killings of a higher and higher scale. During the fuel subsidy protests in Benin, there has been the burning of a mosque and citizens have reported killings of Hausas in the Sabo area of Benin on twitter. Following the bombing of an Islamic school in Sapele, Delta State, Many southern regional groups like the Igbo Massob and the Yoruba Oodua People's Congress, and the south-south Niger-Delta Youth for Radical Change have called for northerners to leave the south-east. Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) vow to defend Nigerian Christians from Boko Haram (without elaborating on how) certainly does not help with the petering away of trust that Nigerian society, as any other forward-moving society, is built on. In addition to worsening economic climes and intra-national security, the last thing Nigeria needs is wide-spread ethnic tension and reprisal killings.

It is not clear that there is anyone that GEJ even must listen to on the issue of fuel subsidy. He will get no pressure from his political party; Nigerians vote personalities, not parties, into power for gubernatorial or presidential elections, so PDP could still win another election regardless of how unpopular Jonathan becomes in his final term as president. It makes sense, then, that GEJ would rather the Nigerian populace focus on the fuel subsidy protests than on the rapidly deteriorating security situation: one problem he has the power to control, and the other he so patently does not.

The situation cannot stay a stalemate for long; the senate president has been asked by his members to tell the president to revert the pump price to N65.00, but there is as yet no official word from the President. With the protests and strike entering its fourth day, one wonders how long the protesters can conceivably hold on, how long the labour can hold its ground and maintain support, and how much pain the presidency is willing to allow be inflicted upon the citizenry.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Holding Up The Mirror to Ineptitude

On my Twitter feed, I’ve been tracking and commenting on the fuel subsidy issue. But in the haze of the nation’s collective rage on the fuel subsidy removal, and in the euphoria of being virtually surrounded by a heightened sense of political awareness on the part of Nigerians on a level made even more intense thanks to social media, it is entirely possible that we may be allowing ourselves to be distracted by other pressing issues at hand.

Boko Haram has been responsible for two killing sprees in as many days. In Gombe, Gombe State, the Islamic sect sent a gunman to go to a Deeper Life church service and kill 6 and injure 10. In the other, the sect claimed responsibility for the killing of 20 in a church in Mubi, Adamawa State. These attacks, they claim, were in response to the government’s admittedly-laughable State of Emergency in both states.

And those are only in the past two days. On the 3rd of January, in Dutse, some suspected Boko Haram members attacked Birniwa Divisional Police Headquarters in Jigawa State, killing a teenage girl and a police officer before setting fire to the building. In a ridiculing of the State of Emergency put in place by President Goodluck Jonathan, explosions rocked both Maiduguri, the sect’s stronghold in Borno State, and Damaturu, Yobe State, late on Wednesday, the 4th.

This Vanguard piece also has a great timeline of Boko Haram’s attacks on Nigerians. In the face of government’s ineptitude in dealing with them, the sect has even grown so bold as to issue ultimatums to Christians to leave the North, lest they be killed.

It makes sense that the government would rather face a group of protesters it does not believe will hold firm to its purported ideals than its ineptitude in the mirror. And so we must do exactly that: stand firm. And we must hold that mirror up high.

It is good for us to train our eyes on issues like the fuel subsidy removal that directly affect us, but it is also very important that we do not let the rug be quietly swept from under us in other areas. Let us not be inured to the deaths of those that have suffered at the hands of a ruthless band of crazed men. Let us not forget to hold accountable the government that has allowed them such boldness as to believe that our lives are worth more when we lie blown to bits, our blood on our walls, our eyes devoid of life.

The Beginning of the End of a Bad Marriage?

I published this piece on the fuel subsidy protests in

The history of Nigeria has for too long been like a bad Nollywood movie. Nigeria is that battered housewife who has taken her beatings quietly, allowed her earnings to be squandered by her wasteful, alcoholic, extravagant, unworthy husband.

Even when we choose our leaders, it seems we choose to stay on our most destructive trend. Our political leaders and our religious leaders often look the same. We flock to pastors who call our children witches, imams who sleep with our daughters, empty suits who take our tithes to buy exotic cars and gallivant around the world, then return to us to preach humility and simplicity. These beatings, these abuses, these insults to our intelligence, we have taken silently.

For decades, nothing has happened. But 2011 has taught us, from Egypt to Tunisia, right down to the most intractable situation in Libya, that in a moment, decades can happen.

You can read the rest here.