Minna the capital of Niger State in Northcentral Nigeria, is only miles away from Abuja. In fact, Suleja and Madalla which are all towns in Niger State are only a stone throw away from Abuja. Niger State has been in the news since 2011 when the Christmas day Bombing in Madallah threw Nigeria into morning. There was also the abduction of dozens of school children in Tegina as well as the multiple attacks on soldiers by terrorists in Shiroro Local Government Area.
Bandits are known to occupy large parts of the state, from where they have subjected mostly rural dwellers to an unbearable existence.
However, it is not only banditry that comes to mind when one mentions Minna. The hilltop mansion of octogenarian former Nigerian president Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida also comes to mind. While his rule between 1985 and 1993 was brutal and bloody, its greatest harm was ushering in Sani Abacha, who was arguably Nigeria’s most brutal military dictator.
Protests erupted in Minna days ago, drawing several gunshots from the police. The protesters say they were protesting against the increasing hardship in the country. The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has accused opposition parties in the country of sponsoring the protests. Given the proximity of Niger State to Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, the protests have especially resounded within the Federal Capital Territory.
For Vice President Kashim Shettima, the protesters would pass for Nigeria’s new collection of clowns who are as clownish as those that celebrated the demise of the Naira on Social Media platform, X. For his principal, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is already feeling the searing heat just eight months into his four-year- term, the ‘clowns’ may just be the crows of calamity that are mortally threatening Nigeria’s sacred cows.
The APC may look at the Minna protesters and see nothing but a sea of hired mouths and hands chanting trash and waving trivia, but even the blind in Nigeria, who are many in the APC, know that all is not well with Africa’s most populous country.
There is hunger – but also anger. There is poverty – but also insecurity. There is corruption – but also carelessness. Such is the ceaseless stream of problems that now pound Nigeria, and for all that the alarm bells toll, the czars that congregate Nigeria’s corridors of power hold on to their heinous hardness of hearing.
The prices of goods and services continue to rise. Families that were relatively well-off have seen their stores gradually run out of stock. As stores have run out of stock, frustration has set in to push many Nigerians to the precipice. Many young people are eager to leave the country in search of greener pastures, while the unemployed and penurious among them have been rather quick to answer the irresistible calls of the many criminals that daily comb Nigeria for recruits.
As if to add insult to injury, Nigerians have been forced to add mounting insecurity to the mound of poverty already served them. For years now, Nigeria’s insecurity crisis has left lasting scars on rural communities. Many of Nigeria’s rural citizens who were proud and productive farmers have found it impossible to continue their work as a result of disruption of farming activities by insecurity.
These terrorist attacks have not just exacerbated food insecurity, it has also torn many families apart through rampant kidnappings. If rural areas were thought to be vulnerable to bandits because of their remoteness, the fact that bandits now routinely attack Abuja is immensely frightening.
A spate of kidnappings within the Federal Capital Territory has left many residents fearing for their lives and safety.
The protests in Minna at once smack of mischief but also of misrule. During the general election of February 18, 2023, the good people of the state voted massively for President Tinubu. The massive protests are a sign that their faith in him has not been repaid. The renewed hope he promised them for their votes him has simply not materialized.
But if there is pain and disappointment on their part that they have misplaced their hopes and expectations yet again, then there must also be regret that they voted for the wrong person and party. To make matters worse, it cannot be said that they were hoodwinked or deceived. The warning signs were there all along from the moment the APC swept seismic elections to vault into power in 2015.
The new administration Is just getting to grips with the desperate situation of the country. Eight months in, it would be wrong to blame it for the disaster class that its predecessor put together, or the shambles that the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its minions reduced the country to between 1999 and 2015.
Having vied and won the hot seat, the president should be ready to beat the heat. Unless something is done fast, the protests will snowball into something else. But in a country where nothing but corruption, insecurity and poverty had worked in decades, there will be no quick fixes. What then to smother the rapacious rage of angry and hungry citizens?