– The Sun News

Nigeria’s soft spots

Kene Obiezu

The largest congregation of black people anywhere in the world with its signature electricity blackouts, pervasive giving and taking of kickbacks, dry taps, packed settlements, idle youths, broken roads, expensive food, high-priced oil and leaders who say one thing and do another has in the last ten years or so bloodily expanded its map of avoidable woes to include places hardest hit by its self-inflicted difficulties. They are easy to target. They are easy to set ablaze. They are perverse locations for butchered bodies. They are Nigeria`s soft spots.

They are those communities who for many years have been left without clean water, good roads, good schools, constant electricity because policies and plans have not been made or sustained or enforced to close the development gaps between them and the urban areas. They are those communities who live literally on the edge of Nigeria`s many struggles with corruption and underdevelopment. They are those communities now vulnerable to the many arrows fired at Nigeria `s vulnerability from enemy quivers. They are those communities forced by inequality and inequity to be Nigeria`s unwilling shields. They are those communities living Nigeria`s lack of equity and now, with Nigeria`s terrorist enemies.

The government will never make it official. The government will never admit that their security plate is overflowing . Yet, anyone who has followed the harsh explosion of each bomb detonated by Boko Haram and Fuluni herdsmen know that while the urban areas have been relatively safe for reasons of demography and concentration of security resources in and around them ,the rural communities have taken the bombs, bullets, fires, knife-cuts, rapes and brutal murders. They are Nigeria`s reluctant heroes.
In the many ways it shows its very ugly face, insecurity is a feature of rural life in Nigeria. It is a ghost that stalks our rural communities and makes all of us to shake our heads solemnly.

In most of our villages, tarred roads are absent and where present are full of potholes. Police men, soldiers, men of the Civil Defence lack efficient vehicles and firearms for their operations and operate from buildings crying out for renovation . The rural communities lucky enough to be electrified always sleep in the dark or resort to generators whose noise, fumes and possibility of explosion can do great harm to people and the environment. Drinking water is got from sources full of debris, leading to multiple cases of cholera, diarrhea, malaria among others and in the case of the Nigeria`s Niger-Delta region, sources polluted by the extraction and refining of oil, resulting in cancer among others .

Obviously, living in the villages with these difficult everyday experiences is not enough. Our rural communities must now experience bullets, bombs and fire.They must also look beyond their shoulders everyday.They must sleep with open eyes. They must also live in camps as refugees on their own lands.

Birnin Gwari in Kaduna State was the latest exhibition of brutality. Bage , Chibok , Dapchi, Riyom, Agatu, Zaki Biam, Rann, Nimbo have all featured at one time or the other in the gallery of terrorism`s darkest arts in Nigeria. Now, they live without the peace, serenity and sense of safety which used to be second-nature to our villages

Women and children speak of and to vulnerability. This vulnerability darkly emphasized by the fact that manhood is the premium qualification in Nigeria becomes criminal when they are cut down in attacks carried out without painstaking planning or robust resistance

A stable country is not a country without soft spots. When a country`s is able to secure its soft spots, it is rewarded with stability.
Multiple terrorist attacks on rural communities of northern Nigeria, pockets of agitation in Southeast Nigeria and relative restiveness in the Southsouth Nigeria betray how divorced Nigeria is from stability.

This pervasive vulnerability that becomes fatal with every new attack indicts successive federal, state and local governments in their collective and inter-generational failure to build rural infrastructure, especially rural security. The federal and state governments in their financial emasculation of the local governments must take the greater share of the blame. Rural communities used to be havens of peace and communal life. They have always known poverty and deprivation.

The local government system has been the most affected by Nigeria`s drought of good governance. Under successive federal and state governments famished for robust ideas and political will, the trickle of funds and institutional exemplars has left a severe thirst for governance that will execute projects at the local government levels.

This will need to be fixed. Nigeria`s Constitution is a great starting point. When strengthened, local governments can drive development and security at the rural levels. In the face of deadly attacks, the security they can provide can make the difference between bliss and bloodshed in our poorest villages. Policing in Nigeria can also be de-centralised.
Governments at all levels should immediately institute heartfelt inquiries into the bloodletting in some of our villages. While we should do everything to prevent floods from seasonally destroying the homes and crops in our local communities, we could transform their experiences by providing them security infrastructure, good roads, electricity and clean water.

A vast majority of Nigerians live in rural areas. Nigerians living in urban areas are from rural communities. Nigerians living in other countries trace their roots to many rural areas in Nigeria.

In Africa, there is no place like home. That is why we should do everything to soothe the pains of those whose value live in rural areas.

Obiezu writes from Abuja


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August 2018
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