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Boko Haram: Blame it On Rio

By Victor Chendekemen Yakubu

Recently I watched a movie entitled Blame it On Rio released in 1984 by Orion Pictures Corporation. It made a boring evening lively for me. I slept that day reflecting on the motive for the movie. I learnt so many lessons from it as a man. But now I can derive more lessons from it at the wake of the Boko Haram experience playing out in the Nigerian state.

The storyline is about a couple whose marriage was mired with problems. They thought of a vacation in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil to ease tension and resolve whatever marital problems were affecting their marriage. They both agreed to undertake the vacation. To make it more interesting, they invited another couple with a similar problem to go with them. On the day of departure, the woman changed her mind as she preferred vacation elsewhere other than Rio. The reason for her not travelling with her husband is the main thrust of the movie. After intense argument, her husband had no choice but to allow her travel alone to her preferred destination while he finds his way to Rio. Finding no option at the late hour, he sought solace from his male friend. In fact his wife instead of travelling him decided, changed her mind and served him divorce papers. He was sulking about the divorce proceedings. Since both of them had similar problems, they decided to console each other while thinking of what to do with their marital lives while in Rio. It was apparent that nothing could be best for them other than the vacation in Rio to allow them “think” their falling marriages, meditation on next step and console each other.

The two friends in dire strait made the journey in company of their two beautiful teenage daughters. Tell me what you expect from this kind of vacation for two depressed men? While in Rio, a lovely city tagged the New York of Brazil, the two men had a lovely time-out and their virgin teenage daughters went bizarre experimenting love in all possible places. One thing led to another and temptation began to have a grip on them with the help of wine. The men began to discover soaring secrets about their love lives. A few days into the vacation, secrets began to unravel themselves between the friends and their two teenage daughters. Keep in mind this is fiction, a Hollywood invention. While the first man was in love with the daughter of his friend, the friend on the other hand was in love with the wife of his friend. And this was the reason why the wife refused to follow him to Rio. The punch line is given at the end of the movie, “You can blame the night, blame the wine, blame the moon, but when all else fails, you’d better blame it on Rio.” And the producers rightly entitled the movie ‘Blame it on Rio.’ It was the vacation in Rio that


opened their eyes to understand the problems they carried to Rio from home. The ineptitude of the men seeking solutions to their love lives in the wrong quarters made them reconcile quickly with their spouses and this salvaged their marriages. Thanks to the vacation in Rio.

This motion picture has striking semblances with our present situation in Nigeria. The only difference is that while Blame it On Rio is a motion picture, the one in Nigeria is real. In the middle of a simmering national disaster our President Musa Yar’Adua embarked on a journey to Brazil. In his entourage was the Minister of Defense Dr. Shettima Mustapha, selected dignitaries leaving behind the police chief and army commanders to deal with the Boko Haram dissidents. Nigeria is building for itself a negative cliché as the regional hotbed for religious crises, a multi-religious country with multifaceted talents for 21 st century challenges. Brazil on the other hand, is the land of samba, a destination for tourists and fun seekers wishing to get away from the problems of their lives. Or rather let me say a destination for those who wish to forget their problems temporarily. It’s no wonder that our president had some time-out as guest of the Brazilian government in the process negotiating business deals for Nigeria. Brazil played out its niche as destination for fun-loving tourists, offering our president shoulders to cry on by his chief host on the nagging problems of leading Nigeria’s over 140 million people.

There are recurring motifs in the lives of both countries. While Nigeria is the most populous black nation on earth seeking to lead its people to prosperity, Brazil on the other hand is house to most of the black slaves no thanks to the slavery of the 15 th century. Apart from battling with poverty in both countries, the issue of official corruption is top in the lives of these two nations. Nigeria and Brazil are rated highly in corruption index and this alone has incapacitated the growth of these nations. The President of Brazil Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been embroiled in corrupt charges involving members of his family. President Yar’Adua’s problem is of a different genre bordering on the question of his legitimacy as elected president which inadvertently is a sign of corruption. The Brazilian president’s public rating is heading to the south but he thinks it’s going up north. It is reported that his auditor general Jorge Hage said, "People are not stupid, they know corruption has always occurred in Brazil, and it's just that more of it is being uncovered now, for the first time in Brazilian history, we have a systematic effort to fight it." Nigeria’s EFCC is putting up face by fighting corruption like the proverbial two steps forward and three steps backward. It’s a pity that Farida Waziri and her EFCC men are battling corruption with corrupt officials in government to contend with. Let’s offer her our support in this gargantuan task.

We thank God that Mr. President returned safely from this trip. The conditions at home are hot. The Niger-Delta militants are still making demands and the north was on fire. The samba dance in Brasilia is


over and it’s time to face the real and original problems he left before the journey. What made President Musa Yar’Adua visit Brazil even when his home was boiling? Recently at the G8 summit in Italy, President Hu Jintao of China left the meeting to help quell a riot in Xinjiang region. He left back to face a nation in great turmoil. But our president left Nigeria to Brazil despite the rioting, burning, maiming and killing in the north. Government sources confirmed to the public thereafter that the president could not postpone the journey at the wake of the Boko Haram uprising because he had postponed it last year. Pretty good excuse for a presidential visit. At that point in time the fire had engulfed Bauchi, and was spreading to Borno, Yobe and Kano. Yet he gave presidential orders and decided to frolic to Brazil less the Brazilians should think him otherwise. This is a good reason. Now that he is back, he will be faced with the gory report card of how the Boko Haram insurgents were quelled and brought down for peace to reign in those areas.

The president will be briefed by the security heads that they have done their duty. The Police Inspector General Ogbonnaya Onovo will boast that he mobilized his officers and men and contained the insurgents. Of course the military offered some collaboration. His evidence will be the dead bodies of the over 700 members of the group including their leader Mohammed Yusuf killed while ‘trying to escape.’ An African adage says, “A lamb that decides to act like a wolf should be ready for the hunter’s arrows.” The picture of the mosque, residence and bomb making materials of the group will be shown to Mr. President to illustrate their success. Since it will be unsafe and un-presidential for him to visit the area, the President will be lured into granting an international media conference or media broadcast to assure Nigerians of government’s resolve to deal with ‘enemies of state’. As palpable calm has been restored in the affected areas, the President will be assured that “there’s no cause for alarm” the security agents are “on the alert” to deal with further cases of insurrection against the Nigerian state. I believe those security chiefs will advice the president to go ahead and deliver a speech which will warn politicians using religion as a weapon to desist from such acts or bear the consequences. As usual, government will make promises to bring the culprits to book to assure us that something will be done. I guess my sample of the speech will cover issues that we know about already but nobody should be surprised to hear these words, “Prior to my travel to Brazil, I ordered the security services of our country to deal decisively with the uprising of the Boko Haram sect. I am glad that after my arrival, I have been briefed by the security heads on the situation. Everything is under control. I assure Nigerians to go about their normal businesses as their peace and security is guaranteed. May Allah bless Nigeria.” Other issues will be added to make the speech verbose, mellifluous and PDP-oriented: as in “this is the handiwork of enemies working against this government” and of course the usual Nigerian speech writers byline: “my government is prepared to


deal decisively with any disgruntled elements squarely to protect our nascent democracy.” Let’s wait to hear more from Aso Rock in the days ahead.

As someone who grew up listening to speeches from coup leaders, there’s no speech again that will be different from what I have heard except if the speech was written in Rio. Nigerian leaders whether military or civilian blame certain forces for their inefficiency in handling serious national issues. I am yet to decide whether to blame the speech writers or those who deliver such speeches. I ask myself: If the president had not travelled to Brazil would the situation have been different? Would the over 700 Nigerians felled by bullets been alive today? But would their being alive have changed their philosophy, ideology and stereotyped feelings about western education, infidels, women and authority? Does it matter whether our president was around or not to attend to Boko Haram insurgency? The questions are many. What if more fanatics of Boko Haram would have poured in from our porous borders with Niger Republic and Chad? Where would have been the Minister of Defense to give orders for the containment of their rising numbers against our forces? At this point in time, then both the President and the Minister would have relied on phone calls and emails to issue instructions back home. For your information, this is nothing new to us in Nigeria. A former governor of a state near the village of Mohammed Yusuf, the leader of the Boko Haram, always found comfort in king-sized beds of foreign hotels and relied on emails to rule his state. Why should Nigeria be bothered about accountability when most of the time, leaders spend unquantifiable times outside their domains pursuing elusive investors, endless personal comfort and unending political agenda while their people boil in ignorance and poverty. The modern instruments of phone and email are not invented by people who were amassing weapons to kill whole villages to achieve their feat. Uncountable hours of research efforts and logical reasoning won the day. Thomas Elva Edison, the American inventor did over 1,000 experiments to produce the light bulb hanging in our homes today. He confessed that it was ninety-nine percent perspiration with one per cent inspiration. Today we hardly know who Edison was but yet we enjoy his research effort. Our leaders waste precious resources under corrupt canopies to perpetuate ignorance in the midst of national emergencies like the case of Boko Haram and all that they stand for.

It’s not as if I never wanted the President and his moderate entourage to travel to Brazil. Far from it. Every president travels around the world. President Barack Obama was in Ghana recently and not in Nigeria. So if President Yar’Adua visited Brazil, perhaps Honduras, Chile, Paraguay or Haiti will be jealous to ask why not their country. Former President Obasanjo loved foreign trips. President Yar’Adua should enjoy his foreign trips while they last because he is president of the happiest people on earth. I want to see Mr. President in many countries as possible in order for him to see the challenges those


countries pose for the so-called ‘giant of Africa’. As leader he might have the courage to confront the squalid conditions of our people, consolidate the gains of such visits into educating our youth that western education is not evil in the 21 st century. By every standard, informing our youth that religious extremism is not what made America to land on the moon forty years ago. Hence religion is meant to make a person a better person and not twist his reasoning to harm other fellows, but make him beneficial to him neighbour and accountable to His Creator. For religious unrest in most places of the world has dealt a deadly blow on many a nations’ prosperity prompting different peoples to resolve that religion must not becloud their sense of patriotism and loyalty to nationhood.

Every leader in the past had travelled to seek foreign investments to Nigeria. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, a culprit of foreign travels, frolicked countries of the world seeking foreign investors to Nigeria to rectify electricity, roads, railway and other social services. But my grandmother of eighty-two is still asking me whether he’s still in power. I answer her in the negative and yet she’s wondering what happened to all his foreign trips. Electricity generation has gone from bad to worst. Our roads are still the dead-traps that they are. Brazil like Nigeria is battling with corruption at official level with low per capita income, rising unemployment and general poverty. This is where President Yar’Adua went to for official trip to maintain bilateral relations with the Brazilians and compare how the ship of statecraft is moved. Outside sports collaboration, I sense that we might not see better results once the file is placed in Aso Rock library. With benefit of hindsight, what would you expect from this visit? Obasanjo went to Brazil a couple of time and Lula visited Abuja twice and he may come again under Yar’Adua. Apart from the normal photographs and speeches, nothing much might translate for the Nigerian economy in terms of improvement of social services and the increasing ignorance in the domain of Mr. President. What we are sure of, is that while the president was away being presidential in Rio with Hajiya Turai acting the First Lady that she is, Nigeria was harvesting the lives of its youth. Mohammed Yusuf was cut down with his followers but yet he had multiplied his doctrine in the minds of many idle youth and this is what we shall be battling with for years to come. Do we have to ‘Blame it on Rio’ that our president travelled to Brazil to improve bilateral relationship? This is far from it. The president made adequate arrangements.

Before the President embarked on the Brazilian journey, he acknowledged the security report on Boko Haram but did not tell us why so much time was wasted in curbing this dreaded monster right from infancy. This monster was allowed to grow into a fiery serpent consuming many lives along with it. If more practical preemptory measures were taken long ago, perhaps those wasted 700 lives would have been alive to undertake rehabilitation in the maximum prisons of our cities. This is where the President needs to exert his energy not minding which religious sect, denomination or section is involved. The


issues of the Boko Haram philosophy attacking police stations, religious places of worship and refusing western education are pointers of a deeper socio-cultural malady. It’s not anything that is modern that is western and it’s not everything that is western that is condemned by Islam. In the arena of social life today, western education is quintessential to social emancipation and total departure from cultural inhibitions detrimental to the growth of modern societies. This does not in any way affect one’s religious affiliation or convictions. The recurrent cases of religious unrest in the north of Nigeria, border on ignorance, unemployment and poverty which directly should be blamed on the leadership. Our sense of nationhood should spur us to fight the triple evils which for long chased away development to the region.

The President needs to tighten up his resolve to fight the social malice affecting the poor people of Nigeria. A thousand trips to Brasilia and Rio may be appropriate for him and his entourage, but the urgent issues left behind by the Boko Haram revolt are crying for attention. The lost of over 700 will not kill the ideologies of those who believe that Mohammed Yusuf was their hero. Most importantly, Nigerian leaders must always separate the chaff from the grains when things like this happen because there is more than meets the eye. Nobody offered those youth a better alternative. So as the saying goes, “You do not cut off your tights because your child excreted on them.” Nigeria must invest a greater percentage of its resources into education and public enlightenment of citizens of their civic responsibility, loyalty and patriotism to the Nigerian state. We do not need to take a vacation to Rio or Brasilia to realize that our house is falling down. We need to fix it before it falls. Watching Blame it On Rio a second time taught me that the solution you seek in Rio is necessary only if you open your heart to know that the problem is not outside but inside. After all, it is only when there is a crack in the hole that the lizard gets a hiding place. Nigeria deserves better treatment from its leaders and unless we concentrate on solving those problems from within we may not find a shoulder to cry on in far away Brazil when the chips are down.

YAKUBU is priest of the Catholic Diocese of Zaria, is former Director of Media Service Centre, Kaduna.


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