By Promise Adiele – Convener, Third Force Movement
By ‘conviction’ in the title of this essay, I do not mean it legally. Rather, I use it as a word which indicates truth based on verifiable evidence. It is difficult for many people to distinguish between ‘belief’ and ‘conviction’ although both words are intricately intertwined. This kind of confusion is more prevalent in our religious circles. Those who subscribe to ‘belief’ operate at the level of faith, in other words, they accept as true and factual what they have not experienced or encountered. ‘Belief’ thrives on hope. In ‘belief’ the mind inevitably straddles two scopes, the real and imagined. But ‘conviction’ is deeper and more exalted. When we are convinced, we have experienced it, lived it, and encountered it. Those who adhere to the doctrine of ‘belief’ will quickly conclude that a young woman with a distended stomach is pregnant. But those who align with ‘conviction’ will only conclude if they confirm the real status of the young lady after medical examination. Call ‘belief’ innocent ignorance and you won’t be wrong. Call ‘conviction’ verified truth and you won’t be wrong either. Today, I will focus on conviction as an isolated archetype of assured mindset.
Last week, the cerebral, but taciturn Professor Attahiru Jega spoke as a man with conviction. He hardly speaks but when he does, the world is compelled to listen. Jega is not someone given to frivolities. He became a study in self-control among psychologist when he famously exhibited behavioural tranquility only found among angels. It was during the last presidential election when a certain character, Godsday Orubebe, sought to disorganize the announcement of the election results. Jega remained calm. People were shocked. Afterwards, the name ‘Jega’ unofficially made entry into Nigeria’s English language lexicon as ‘self-control’ or ‘ignore’. ‘I will Jega you if you provoke me’. The audience doesn’t need to ask the meaning of Jega. It means, ‘I will ignore you’. Call it Nigerian English if you like. But last week, there was no election or Orubebe. Professor Jega was simply professing his convictions about Nigeria. He was true, direct, and accurate. According to him, “Unfortunately, he (Buhari) has disappointed so many people. He still has time to correct things if he has the capacity to do that. Many people wish him well but are worried about the direction the country is taking. But frankly, his government has been very disappointing”. The Presidency’s lubricated propaganda machinery headed by Garba Shehu and Femi Adesina has not replied Jega. Perhaps they have not replied him because truth does not always ask for a reply. Jega was not talking like someone operating on the sphere of ‘belief’. He spoke with conviction. The current administration headed by Mr. Muhammadu Buhari is a disappointment given the way millions of Nigerians (including me, God forgive me) supported him during the 2015 election. Not that the Goodluck Jonathan administration was a dream come true but if we agree that nothing is too good or too bad except by comparison, then Buhari’s administration pales into disreputable insignificance when placed side by side with the Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.
Jega was very sure of what he was saying. Nigerians are utterly disappointed in the Buhari administration for many reasons and to recount them here will be violating one’s sensibilities. There is no Nigerian (unless those whose psychological state of mind qualify them for rights of exorcism at the nearest Babalawo or Dibia)) who does not know what a disappointment this administration has been. From the North to the South, everybody agrees that Nigeria is experiencing the worst government since independence. If Jega, a Professor of Political Science, a man that understands the nature of modern government, says it, then it is true. Jega is a northerner and not a Southerner. He was INEC chairman when Buhari won the election. He is not a contractor or a businessman. Therefore, the stale and sterile defence from apologists of this government to always say that critics of this government are angry because they are no longer getting money will not hold.
That many people wish Mr Buhari well is not in doubt. He is our president and we don’t want any harm to befall him. However, people are worried about the direction the country is going. Nigeria is rudderless like a ship without a captain. We are currently operating on the wheels of the often quoted Biblical phrase “to your tents O Isreal”. The apparent abysmal lack of leadership in Nigeria has turned a few people in positions of power and authority into tin-gods, those who take laws into their hands and act arbitrarily. The debate in some quarters that Mr President is not in touch with reality, dementia if you like, does not sound reasonable even if some people insist it is true. The President owes Nigerians a duty to do what he was voted to do – lead. Right now, nobody can say anything for certain concerning any aspect of Nigeria, not education, not Medicare, not security, not infrastructure, and not governance. The gods and all their cohorts must be angry with Nigeria.
Furthermore, Professor Jega professes his conviction that “Governance has been very poor at the federal level and many of the states, which is why we are seeing challenges everywhere; whether it is insurgency, banditry, armed robbery or other things.” To be sure, the poverty of governance in Nigeria deserves an inquest. But the most challenging problem in Nigeria now as noted by Jega is insecurity. Bandits are emerging everywhere. There is a progressive breakdown of law and order all over the country. Fulani herdsmen are gradually taking over the country while the federal government looks on in admiration. What happened recently in Yoruba land is just a tip of the iceberg. It has been happening all over Nigeria. It happened in Delta State and many Deltans died. As I write this piece, many Nigerian farmers pay sums of money to Fulani herders to have access to their farms. When they refuse to pay, they are killed. At no time has anybody arrested any Fulani herder. When our law enforcers are called, as it happened in Enugu and across Nigeria, they bluntly refuse to act citing that there was no order from above to arrest Fulani herders.
To a well-meaning mind, it appears that the game plan is to conquer Nigeria and hand it over to the Fulani ethnic group before 2023. Mind you, I am not saying that every Fulani person is bad or that all bandits in Nigeria are Fulani. That will be pedestrian. I have colleagues in Ahmadu Bello University who are Fulani. They detest what their compatriots are doing across the country. Some of the perspectives they gave me about the Fulani war of crime and conquer are not fit for public consumption. Let us leave that for another day. Now, bushes around Benin-Ore Road are havens for criminals. Fulani bandits, kidnappers, and armed robbers populate the bushes there and make sporadic forays onto the road to unleash mayhem on travellers. Some people will argue that there are criminals from other ethnicities too. We agree, but when you interview one hundred people kidnapped or attacked by bandits, ninety-five of them will tell you that their captors were Fulani herdsmen.
Besides all the problems Professor Jega highlighted, there seems to be a premeditated police action in the South-East targeted at people in Imo State. It defies explanation why the military will declare war on citizens whether armed or not. I do not have complete information about what happened in Orlu and other places in Imo State but I have seen several videos of Nigerian military personnel shooting at unidentified people. It smacks of brute force and an unconscionable dearth of ethics for trained military persons to shoot citizens at sight. In developed countries, when a citizen provoke the state or even kill a police officer or a military officer, the citizen is arrested and prosecuted accordingly. If some unscrupulous people under whatever guise in Imo State provoke or kill men of the Nigerian army, they should be arrested and made to face the law rather than killing people, among them children and women. It shows a country steeped in primitive attitude, it shows a country, according to Jega’s convictions, that does not have direction. Indeed, it shows a country governed by vindictive hate and murderous intentions.
While we agree with Jega’s convictions, we wish our country can be stable and safe. But unfortunately, 2023 is so far away and Nigerians will wait a little longer. Like Jega, we all have our convictions. If our leaders do not wake up to their responsibilities, if government at the centre does not embrace a positive approach to governance, then chaos and anarchy are inevitable. Though this may sound cataclysmic, it is the reality.
Dr Adiele teaches in the Department of English, Mountain Top University firstname.lastname@example.org