It is mostly loud silence in critical quarters across Nigeria over escalating insecurity in the country with the exception of a ‘prayer walk’ led by a leading cleric, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, Sunday. There was a national uproar the previous week at the National Assembly, including a call on the president to resign. Even the usual statement condemning situations of this nature by notable figures are missing.
The past two weeks witnessed the horrendous killing of symbolic targets in a manner that suggests an attempt to set one religion against the other by whoever is behind it – local, foreign or whatever interests. Generally, kidnapping, abduction and killing have simply escalated. Kaduna, Adamawa, Kaduna-Zaria Road, Kaduna-Abuja Road, Lokoja-Abuja Road, Birnin Gwari and, of course, Borno State have been the spaces of gruesome exploits in the past few days. It is an ‘everywhere’ war over which there is no national consensus about where it is coming from. Some people say it is the incompetence of the government of the day; others say it is organised religious assault while there are whispers that it is corruption fighting back. How a nation could be confronting a security crisis of this magnitude without its elite coming together towards a quick national consensus is the puzzle starring Nigeria today.
Associated with the the ‘silence’ is whether it is because some of the most regular voices are also confused or overwhelmed by the unfolding situation or they are tired of speaking. The latter is speculated. Speaking on November 22nd, 2019 in the aftermath of his 85th birthday, General said that the level of polarization in the country is such that the gains of the Nigerian civil war could be reversed. He said a few more words on the topic but this sentence is enough.
Chief Obasanjo has been on record as saying that the government is not reading intelligence properly. Having been there twice, very few will dismiss such view coming from him. The speculation is that Obasanjo is probably too angry to speak. Aside from Obasanjo, General IBB, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and not to mention General TY Danjuma have all commented on the security situation. So also has the Sultan of Sokoto.
These are the names that dominate the public sphere on sensitive matters of this nature but who are all silent so far. Obasanjo’s views are important not because he is blameless but because he is always able to stick with the lesser evil. The Sultan’s view is important because he never uses threatening language in his interventions. Bishop Mathew Kukah’s is the view of a trained peace practitioner even as controversial as he may sound to his critics. General Gowon has the symbolism of the one who preserved the nation without stealing it blind. He also remains the closest to a national icon in the sense that he has resisted being dragged into any ethno-regional conclave.
The most noticeable silence is that of the Federal Government which has the ultimate job of securing all else. There hasn’t been such a clear, authoritative kind of national briefing that cannot be disputed and is, therefore, calming. It is not clear if this is because such a revealing briefing could have the unintended consequence of compromising security efforts but the present silence could even be more problematic as it creates more room for alternative interpretations to sink and sediment.
In a country where independent anti-war current is not a powerful feature of civil society politics yet and where the religious groups are not united as to be engaged in solidarity against crisis of this nature, the way out could be a matter of speculation.