For several days now, Kaduna city, which is not just the capital of the state named after it but also the base of the ruling elite in the North, has been in the news for the wrong reasons. A presumably inconsequential brush in one of the local markets led to a conflagration that has, at the last count by official sources, claimed more than 22 lives.
In response to the ugly development, the state governor, Nasir el-Rufai, has been imposing curfews which have managed to impose on the whole metropolis a peace of the graveyard. Elsewhere, even in Africa, losing 22 lives in a matter of hours due to a needless conflict is enough for the country to ask why? But this is Nigeria where human life has lost its sanctity. This is a country in which crisis- induced deaths can only attract attention if the number is in the multiples of tens and twenties.
The focus of this editorial is not just a reaction to the madness that goes by the name Kaduna crisis. The intention, actually, is to use what is going on in the city to beam the searchlight on the pervasive feeling by ordinary Nigerians regarding the sense of insecurity that is so palpable in a polity that has a plethora of security agencies that are proving incapable of executing their mandate, which is to ensure that lives and property are protected.
Kaduna, we need to stress, is another manifestation of the annoying incompetence within the nation’s security architecture. At every moment, the security apparatuses are taken by surprise.They are always caught on the wrong foot. They have nursed themselves into positions where all they do is engage in fire brigade approach to national disasters, an example of which is what is playing out in Kaduna. Proactive measures that can nip crisis in the bud are fast becoming a strange attitude among the security operatives. They prefer to wait, in a manner of speaking, for the dam to break and they start to run around trying to quell the resultant flood.
We insist that what is happening in Kaduna, as bad as it can possibly be, is not the issue here because even more security challenges are playing out in places like Zamfara, Plateau, Taraba and Benue. The North East is a different scenario on its own. Any observer of the security situation around the country will be pained by the nonchalant disposition of the political class which may be enjoying the dance of the macabre and pleasantly exploiting the inherent political benefits there may be. But they must be reminded that, often, no one knows for whom the bell tolls. At the moment a whole army general has been reportedly missing for weeks somewhere in Plateau State. He is presumed dead.
What is going on in Kaduna is being blamed on a minor brush in a market where local folks are striving to eke out a living for themselves and their families. That it developed to this near unmanageable level, among people who have co-existed in peace for a long time is proof that Nigerians are on edge, and that this kind of a situation needs just a spark. The hardship in the land is making the ordinarily happy people turn on themselves at the slightest push. In the face of this excruciating penury, the political class is swimming in opulence and throwing their wealth around.
In our opinion, the government, at all levels, owes itself a duty to douse the tension in the land. In particular, the poverty in the land has reached emergency levels and the people cannot comprehend it. If we are one people, one nation under one God, then what is going on in parts of the country is, in our considered view, not only condemnable but at the same time unacceptable for the simple reason that it is not supposed to be so. The people are fed up with the platitudes that are the response from the governing class each time there is such a disturbance that claims lives.
Appeals for calm and suggestions to people to give peace a chance hardly ever serve any useful purpose because those on the receiving end of such half-hearted and pretentious admonitions are hungry and angry. Not too good a combination. The various levels of government, at this time, must reassure the people that they still feature in their governance calculations. Adopting policies and programmes that can ease the pain the people feel is a preferred approach. That is a more pragmatic way of restraining the people from remaining on this obnoxious path that is likely to compound their hurt rather than assuage it.
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