Jonathan and a nation in self-denial

President Jonathan recent unscheduled visit to the decaying Ikeja Police College has been hailed by many of his country men and women including hundreds of his erstwhile ‘Facebook’ friends. The visit was remarkable in many respects. It was the first time the president would create time to address a domestic issue in the midst of his ever busy international engagements, which this time, was taking him to Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

The international engagement was to consolidate the war efforts of ECOWAS and international community’s resolve to chase out Islamists that took over half of Mali even in the midst of our own unfinished war with Boko Haram that has made the North-eastern states of Borno and Yobe ungovernable for close to two years.

The visit was also remarkable because the police institution in terms of power and influence, touches every body’s life; the privileged, the deprived the dispossessed, the depressed, as well as the depraved. Others that look up to the police to survive our harsh environment include musicians, independent oil fraudsters, and even politicians who all have so much to hide or fear from those they claim elected them. The police’s power and authority, as we can see, surpass that of soldiers, priests, doctors, lawyers and even judges.

The visit, said to have been provoked by a week-long expose by the Channels Television on what was described as ‘the dehumanising conditions trainee policemen go through in the college’, was carried out unannounced by the president accompanied by Mamman Tsafe the Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) Zone Two, and the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Umar Manko. They inspected the women’s hostels, the kitchen, and the dining halls.

Amidst the decay and stench of what goes for a police college, President Jonathan ought to have been persuaded that if we have a brutish, sadistic and corrupt police force, it was because that was exactly what we cultivated. The president was visibly enraged, but unfortunately not by the decay he saw but by the fact that Channels Television was allowed to film and wash our dirty linen in public. But it is sardonic that while all Nigerians can see is a parallel between the rot in the Police College and Jonathan administration, described as the most corrupt in our recent history even by his PDP leading lights, what President Jonathan saw was “a calculated attempt to damage the image of his government”.

When the president, like an ostrich that buries its head in the sand claims “Ikeja Police College is not the only training institution in the country,” the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Police Affairs , Mr. Usman Kumo, insisted he cannot pretend to be unaware that “All police colleges, barracks and formations in Nigeria are dilapidated and uninhabitable.”, attributable to poor funding, welfare and lack of equipment, problems which ‘had not been addressed for many years’.

The President’s attempt to play the ostrich has once again demonstrated why his administration has been involved in ‘motion without movement’ (apology to Olatunji Dare) for about two years. Nothing demonstrated this better than the on-going Boko Haram war against government institutions and innocent Nigerians resulting in the recent bombing of St. Andrews Protestant Military Church located in the Command and Staff College, Jaji.

As it is now the practice, each of President Jonathan’s periodic reassurance to end the Boko Haram insurgency has in the past two years been met by a more devastating bloody attack on innocent Nigerians. Instead of seeking help, we seem to be more interested in expending about $1b monthly on security as recently alleged by El Rufai, the former minister for Abuja Federal Territory.

Whilst we continue to live in self-denial, the former French ambassador to Mali, an expert in Islamist insurgency, only last Friday told the world during Amanpour CCN program what our president has refused to admit that “Nigeria cannot overcome Al-Qaeda backed Boko Haram without external help”. A day after this bitter truth, the new British High Commissioner, Dr Andrew Pocock, told reporters in Abuja that “Nigeria is not alone in the fight against terrorism” and that. the “United Kingdom (UK) wants to increase its aid to the Nigerian military in its fight against the Islamist sect, Boko Haram, and other terrorists in the West African sub-region.”

Outside our shores, we can also see the French President François Hollande, who instead of living in self-denial, quickly appealed to the United Nations and European Union immediately France discovered after its troops encounter with Islamist militants in Mali, that the desert fighters are better trained and equipped than France had anticipated before its military intervention. The result was that the EU met the following day, and decided to throw its weight behind the multi-national military operations while also “reiterating the EU’s commitment to providing swift financial assistance to the African-led international support mission in Mali (AFISMA).”

Government attempt to play the ostrich by its handling of the twin suicide bomb attacks on St. Andrews Protestant Military Church located in the Command and Staff College, Jaji, Kaduna State on November 27, 2012, was a shame and a disservice to our men in military uniform. Why do we delude ourselves by keeping everything in secrecy? Journalists who accompanied Governor Yakowa and other non-military officers were barred from both the scene of the bombing and the hospitals. Officials of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, and the Kaduna State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, and the Red Cross were also barred.

As a nation, we continue to live in self-denial long after America with her unquestionable scientific advancement and as the world biggest military budget has admitted it cannot prevent all militant and suicide attacks. Last year a deranged soldier turned his gun on his fellow American soldiers killing and maiming many before he was overpowered. American authorities and the military did not bar journalists from reporting and celebrating those who lost their lives in the service of America.

But here, all we were told was that the death toll in the bomb blast was 15. That was the figure the Commandant of the College, Air vice Marshal Ibrahim Abdullahi Kure, gave while conducting the then Kaduna State Governor, late Patrick Yakowa round the church. Apart from the speculation that many more were killed and injured, no one has told Nigerians anything about these courageous men who made the supreme sacrifice for our nation. In the US, when a foot soldier dies in the service of the nation, he is celebrated. Stories are written about his state, town, family, siblings and his abridged hopes and dreams.

Of course few days ago, when the Deputy Director, Public Relations of the SSS, Ms. Marilyn Ogar, paraded before newsmen an 18-year-old Ibrahim Mohammed who she claimed confessed to have accompanied two suicide bombers to the gate of Command and Staff College on the day of the attack and one Mohammed Idris, a yam hawker and a native Jalingo, Taraba State as the prime suspects in the mindless murder of innocent Nigerians at Jaji, she met with an incredulous audience.

Frustrated Nigerians who are now calling for foreign intervention have lost faith in the police and the military precisely because government that should ordinarily see them as citizens and focus of governance, has continued to play the ostrich and has reduced them to periodic participants during elections.

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