On March 24, 2022, nine villages in Giwa local government area of Kaduna State were invaded by bandits. At the end of their sacrilegious expedition, 50 persons were killed, 100 were abducted. One of those abducted was Fr Felix Zakari of St Ann’s Catholic Church, Zango Tama.

On March 26, 2022, bandits attacked the Kaduna International Airport During their operation, an official of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency was killed. The airport was shot down for some hours.

On March 28, 2022, a train travelling from Abuja to Kaduna was attacked by bandits using explosive devices and guns. Over 300 passengers were on that train. The number of those killed is yet to be determined. So also is the number of those abducted. It was a further battering of the already battered image of Nigeria.

Among those killed in the attack was a young dental surgeon, Chinelo Nwando Megafu. She had tweeted before she died that she had been shot, asking for prayers. Some Nigerians replied by calling her a liar. How could you have been shot and you are still tweeting? Are you dead already? These were some of the cynical and vicious questions she got in reply.

On March 29, 2022, a day after the attack, Nigeria’s hopes of playing at the 2022 World Cup were dashed. The Super Eagles, in a recurrent show of ineptitude, forced their Ghanaian counterparts to a 1-1 draw having played a goalless draw in Kumasi on March 25. Nigeria was eliminated on the away-goals rule.

To vent their anger, fans vandalized the stadium in Abuja. A friend on Facebook wrote that he was distancing himself from this “jungle” called Nigeria. I told him that whereas all is not well with Nigeria, calling Nigeria a jungle amounts to use of jungle language. It’s alright to be angry. But to call another person’s country a jungle is a mark of incivility.

It is at a time of crisis that the real identity of a person is unveiled. Nigeria is going through a crisis. Bandits are operating at the ease at which hot knife cuts through butter. Nigeria’s real status as a badly-governed country is unveiled by security operatives whose manner of operation is way below the standard of efficiency expected of security operatives worth the name. Government has repeatedly demonstrated that it is unable to secure our land. While all this is going on, politicians are holding party conventions, positioning themselves for the 2023 elections, and party agents are all over the social media using the kind of vicious language used on Dr. Chinelo Megafu as she was dying from bullet wounds inflicted by bandits.

The Academic Staff Union of Universities is on strike. There is power outage. We can no longer afford to pay for diesel to power our generators. We cannot fuel our cars. Airlines cannot procure aviation fuel. There is insecurity in our homes, on our streets, in our airports, at our train stations, on our farms. There is poverty in the land. These indeed are difficult times. And times like this bring the beast out of some of us. That is the sense in which it is said that moments of crises are revelatory moments showing the true identity of persons we see every day.

But our leaders are preparing for next year’s elections. And, for as long as that is their priority, they neglect what matters. What is the cause of insecurity in Nigeria? Who are the indigenous and foreign sponsors of bandits in northern Nigeria? Surely, they are not ghosts. Why is there a repeated failure of intelligence that has rendered our security agencies utterly incapable of preventing terrorist attacks?Why is government unable to secure Nigeria?

The issue at hand is larger than the 2023 elections. The issue is a political culture that facilitates banditry, corruption and poverty. The issue is our attitude that makes us use uncivil language and engage in uncivil conduct.

I have always been an ardent soccer fan. I would love Nigeria to be at the next World Cup. But the way we run our football reveals who we are. It shows that our problem is bigger than football. Our problem is not football but our attitude. From football administrators to egotistic and over-rated footballers who prefer to show how much they can dribble in selfish possession of the ball, to the football fan who, out of blind nationalism, believes Nigeria could and should go to the World Cup despite all the defects in the Nigerian football family and in the national team itself, can we truthfully say football in this country is run the way it should be run?

The issue to be faced now is: how can we salvage this country? The solution is not in fleeing to countries of the global north. That, we all know, is what is in the mind of many young Nigerians. Neither is the solution in calling Nigeria a jungle. That is the language of unproductive anger. It may make its user feel good. But feelings don’t last. They are transient. Neither is the solution in fueling and fanning embers of separatist sentiments in the mistaken belief that one ethnic group is morally superior to another.

During the Nigeria-Biafra War, every news bulletin on radio was preceded by a slogan culled from a speech made by then military ruler, Yakubu Gowon. “To keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done,” said Gowon. But the solution to our problem is not in keeping Nigeria one at any cost. Such “oneness” will only be to the advantage of victimizers, not to the advantage of victims.

We need to rectify the terms of our living in a country called Nigeria. It is an undeniable fact that the current “one Nigeria” only serves those who are in control of her oil wealth because the constitution is programmed to be to their advantage. And if, for whatever reason and by whatever means, this country splinters into new republics, for as long as these new republics are also governed by leaders with a self-centred sense of entitlement without regard for the common good, which, by the way, is not peculiar to members of any particular ethnic community, we shall end up with geographical flashpoints of discontent bearing different names as republics, a relocation of epicentres of incivility and bad governance.

In order to salvage this country, Nigerians urgently need profound attitudinal changes. We need to be converted to what is true, to what is good, to what is loving. Self-centredness is not peculiar to us. It is found in every country in the world. Selfishness is the world’s oldest pandemic. But this pandemic can be managed by cultivating virtue, by making and enforcing good laws, and by cooperating with the grace of God.

We are in the season of Lent, and politics is not unrelated to the pious observances of this season. Our Lenten observances are meant to draw us closer to God. They are meant to lead us to love God above all things and to love our neighbour because God, whom we love, created them. Politics, in the true sense of the word, is not a vice. Politics is related to the greatest commandment. Properly understood, it is about love of God and love of neighbor.

© Rev. Fr. Prof. Anthony Akinwale, OP.