This is a big problem in every democracy, especially in a multi-party democracy. For as long as there is partisanship, politicians will always take advantage of the incumbent’s failures, poor judgment and matters that are entirely not caused by the government to attack it in order to gain public sympathy. In a developing country like Nigeria, it is worse. And in this times of the internet, the social media is a ready tool to exacerbate political mudslinging to gain demographic advantage.
Since Boko Haram began, the trouble the country had at the teething stage was to accept the group’s activities as pure terrorism or national security breach. While the government at the time treated it with levity because it viewed the menace as a political instrument to blunt the popularity of the incumbent government, the people of the areas worst hit by Boko Haram thought it was the government that devised a method to cause disaffection in their communities and repopulate the places.
Even so, supporters of the then government were vehement in their understanding of the challenge we faced.
To them, it was politics. All efforts by neutrals to make the government toe the path of reason fell on deaf ears. Instead, the government dug deeper. It merely put up mild resistance as the terror group bared its fangs. Community after community fell. Voices of reason were tamed, in some cases these muffled voices could only muster what looked like indifference at best or passive support For the despoilers at worst. The international community watched on with utter despondency. We clowned about while terrorism ate deep.
What is poignant is that it appeared our security was compromised. It seemed the president at the time became hostile to his own security reports. It was as if those reports were doctored. Or infiltrated. Otherwise how come the government treated Boko Haram as a political calculus? Things don’t just add up. And the whole thing blew up in our faces a couple of years down the road. That is why till date, there are citizens who do not believe that Chibok girls were indeed kidnapped. They still see the gruesome event as some kind of political chess game. And this explains why the recent kidnap in Dapchi has met with mocking and outright denial.
Some Nigerians alleged that it was “staged”. To achieve what is a question that has not been lucky to meet a decent answer. Why is this? Because, for Dapchi to have happened and within a month got a response and the girls released means that Chibok was poorly handled. In order to deny credit as a result of politics, it’s better to remove any credibility from the Dapchi episode. It was arranged they say, but that is the place we now live. A place of lack of trust for government and lack of empathy for fellow citizens.
This is also what makes it easier to sell politics as the reason herdsmen killings have not been curtailed. Even where government has not obviously done enough, and must be criticised, but the better narrative will be to input politics in the tragedy. With politics, it becomes difficult to attack the problem. Political and community leaders rather than focus on finding solutions to a deadly campaign spend more time pointing fingers at one another. This comes with mutual suspicion, lack of trust and mutually assured destruction.
The problem in Taraba state for example is as old, if not older than the state. In Benue, it’s the same thing. There has always been communal clashes in these areas. The crises ranges from land ownership to herdsmen face off. People have pointed out different reasons why these crises persist yet come back to blame politics. Pray how does a politician kill the people that will vote for him or her in such a manner that everyone will notice. Surely, it is possible for politicians to implement poor policies that can aggravate tension or proffer ill fated solutions that will lead to more killings. It does not then mean that the politician wanted citizens to be killed.
It is equally important for citizens, especially senior citizens to guard their words.
In times of crisis, the expectation is that all hands must be on deck to solve problems. Elders like General TY Danjuma should not aggravate a bad situation with sweeping allegations like the type he levelled last weekend. You cannot say the Nigerian Armed Forces colluded with killers to murder citizens. It is an unwelcome anger. It can never solve any problem.
In a multi ethnic country like ours, suspicion will abound. Government at all levels must work to ease off obstacles to national integration. State governments in particular must realise that development can only thrive where there is peace. Therefore, should not hide behind their own ethnic group to encourage violence that will come back to haunt them.