Gbomogbomo as metaphor

Parents and family members of Dapchi school girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in Yobe State.

The Yoruba have a way of describing social deviance and allied deviant behaviours. While growing up in the ancient town of Owo in Ondo state in the late 60s, one or two cases of missing children upped the ante of parental guidance and protection. As children, we were warned not to lurk around the idyllic and isolated bush paths at the back of the homesteads because of the evil of gbomogbomo (transliterated as stealer of children).

I cannot remember if any child I knew then was a victim. I cannot also remember that anybody was arrested by the police in connection with child theft. Perhaps, those in the nefarious trade did so with some tinge of mystique. Yet, the mantra: beware of gbomogbomo became a compulsive cautionary refrain in security alertness that compelled parents and wards to resort to obligatory self-help.

Indeed, the societal concerns then were neither corruption nor badly-managed economy. Parents and wards were concerned about the damage gbomogbomo could cause to the home. Today, due to degeneration of values in government, the concerns have morphed from child theft to mind-boggling corruption that has become endemic in our body-politic, breeding large-scale abject poverty among the vast majority of Nigerians.

The resultant dysfunctional socio-economic and political system has continued to produce some dialectics that put our polity on perpetual edge.  Samplers: our rigged federal system with its concomitant foibles and the Boko Haram insurgency with its associated vagaries are veritable instances. Even, the idea of restructuring which is a proposed panacea for curing the mischief of our rigged federalism is an indicted intellectual capital in the rash of polemics for recalibration and redefinition of the wheel.  Yet, arguments largely point to restructuring as the best way to go in the quest for a new political order.
Nigeria’s current political system, which unremittingly promotes cries of marginalisation by some sections of the country and feeds ethno-religious conflicts in addition to nepotistic considerations by leadership in appointments to strategic national offices, location of financially-viable infrastructure projects and distribution of our commonwealth in mute disdain for fairness, is nothing but a mockery of true federalism.

For a new Nigeria to emerge from the old order, it is about time we gravitated in the popular trajectory of power devolution. Over-concentrated powers in the national government must be devolved to the state for deliberate achievement of precise and target-specific projects in order to promote fast-paced development at that level and thus put an end to the monster of wastefulness that Nigeria’s federal government has become.

The powers vested in the president are almost absolute. Little wonder that the presidential race has become an emotive issue. The prehistoric mindset – that Nigeria’s presidency is the beginning and the end of the quest for political identity and power – continues to reinforce itself. This explains the characteristic politicking that has always defined the contestation for the presidential niche.

Entrenched interests have consistently fanned regional, religious and ethnic embers in desperate bids to appropriate the position. The grand conspiratorial alliance against Goodluck Jonathan in the 2015 presidential election thrived on such primordial considerations. He did not survive the contrivance of national insecurity as well as the created perception of incapacity of his administration to deal with it. Boko Haram, our modern day gbomogbomo, having previously made episodic incursions into Abuja and its environs, had put the greater part of the northeast zone to rout.

The crown capping of the insurgents casus belli was the abduction of 276 Chibok schoolgirls on April 14, 2014. The Chibok debacle happened about a year to the March 28, 2015 presidential election. The Dapchi shame, involving the stealing of 110 schoolgirls, happened on February 19, 2018 about a year to the scheduled February 16, 2019 presidential poll. Our Chibok and Dapchi schoolgirls have become objects for political bargain in the hands of our modern day real or prearranged gbomogbomo.

The Chibok incident shattered the Jonathan administration. The Dapchi farce has ridiculed Muhammadu Buhari’s presidency.  In my first article on the abductions of our schoolgirls in Chibok and Dapchi, in which I sardonically described the existential incidents as the whoredom of karma, some inevitably cruel fates, I had hinted of my second article with which I would explicate my suggestion that the Dapchi schoolgirls abduction, in particular, might after all be contrived.
Some fifth columnists in the administration may be involved in the farce for self-serving agenda. It may also be a contrived schema to launder the administration’s image that has ebbed due to the president’s cold response to and shambolic handling of the genocide unleashed on farmers by Fulani herdsmen in Benue, Plateau and Taraba. Nevertheless, it is a chimera to think the reign of Boko Haram is going to end anytime soon. It will outlive the Buhari administration. Jonathan had heavily funded military operations against it, but unfortunately, some former military chiefs had turned the war into money-making bazaar. The Buhari administration has been recouping the billions of naira for hardware that went into private pockets.  That was how insensitive some former military chiefs acted to over-maximise the opportunity presented by the war for pecuniary gains. We now have, in addition to sophisticated gbomogbomo, a band of crude gbewiri (thieves in Yoruba).

The fact that Buhari, a military general, is in the saddle, has not completely changed the narrative. The Boko Haram war has become a big government business. Despite the claim by the administration that the sect had been technically degraded and defeated, it is still intermittently attacking soft targets.  And, this is the point in issue.  How come the sect still had the capacity to move to Dapchi where it seamlessly hauled away 110 schoolgirls?

It is metaphoric that the military would allow the underbellies of their commanders-in-chief to be exposed in the comparative contexts of the Chibok and Dapchi schoolgirls abductions. The ease with which the girls were evacuated in both instances has taken conspiracy beyond the realm of mere theory. In Chibok, it was easy for the gbomogbomo to purportedly move the girls into Sambisa forest in Borno state.  But in Dapchi, those who know the Yobe state terrain very well say there is no forest to move the girls into.  They claim that it is a wide expanse of desert land with thick layers of sand that make vehicular movements impossible.

A prompt pursuit of the insurgents by military troops would have, therefore, mediated spatial distance that the insurgents had gained for about two days after the incident before the information was released to the media for reportage. This aspect needs to be investigated by the 12-man committee set up to find out the circumstances surrounding the Dapchi schoolgirls abduction.
Contrary to the original assurance, there is an increasing loss of confidence in the ability and commitment of the Buhari administration to completely obliterate the Boko Haram insurgents.  The insurgency now plays a political bargaining role in our presidential politics. Besides, fifth columnists may continue to deploy it to force successive administrations to appropriate humongous sums for the battle.  This means big arms supply contracts from which pecuniary interests would be serviced.

Some elements in government, whose responsibility it is to negotiate the release of abducted girls anytime the need arises, would wish that the multi-billion-naira-cash-for-captors-exchange racket continues. This is the irony of our nation, which craves citizens patriotism in the face of contrived national insecurity.

Postscript: The Buhari administration may announce at some point in the future that it has secured the release of the Dapchi 110. That will be good news. But I hope it does not turn out as a deliberate gambit to gain critical mileage in the 2019 presidential poll. That will be extreme political brinkmanship.

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