Internally displaced persons have been languishing from hunger and dying in droves while Nigerians out there have been made to believe all along that the victims were being taken good care of. At least, that was what the governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima had made us believe until Nigerians came to know the truth.
As recently as April 2016, Governor Shettima told the world in a keynote address he presented at the first annual dialogue on Rebuilding Peace in Borno State organized by AOA Global, a humanitarian advocacy group, that internally displaced persons, IDPs, consume a whopping 1,800 bags of 50 kilogrammes of rice daily. That number represents three trailer loads of rice. Daily?
Before this time, the state’s former deputy governor, late Zanna Mustapha, had some time in December 2014, told the world that the Borno State government was spending a humongous N600 million monthly in feeding IDPs in only 20 out of the 27 local government areas in the state.
However, despite this supposed huge expenses by the Borno State government, very disturbing reports came out from the camps recently of people especially children dying of malnutrition in these camps. One of the reports said that at least 30 children were dying from malnutrition, on average, daily while there were about 1,233 graves of citizens who died of acute malnourishment out of which 480 were children’s discovered by Medecins Sans Frontiers.
In a bid to cover up their negligence and corruption, some government officials had claimed that the children were already malnourished in Boko Haram camps where they were held captive before being rescued. But that narrative has refused to take hold, and will never take hold. Many have dismissed such claims as they have the the purported “rescued of Chibok girls”. It speaks of the highest level of incompetence for a state that hosts the world’s deadliest terror group, Boko Haram for the past 7 years to be unable to provide basic help for victims of the group? Were Shettima and his partners not aware that unlike the purported stage-managed rescued Chibok girls, the reality of such rescue is that the victims would need intensive care?
Why would Nigerians who survived the onslaught of the dreaded sect for years showing resilience while in captivity be left to die after regaining freedom? Why would those who were forced to live in Sambisa die in Bama? Why would children live under Shekau but die under Shettima? Even if their conditions were so desperately hopeless, does it mean that the government of Shettima did not make adequate provisions medically and otherwise for such situations despite the hundreds of millions bandied about as the sums expended on taking care of the IDPs?
Those innocent Nigerians had no reason whatsoever to die once rescued from Boko Haram! Their rescue should have been a joyous journey back to life and not a sad, pathetic and shameful one to death! And just like the outgoing USA Ambassador to America, James Entwistle asked recently, “Nigerians are dying of starvation in Nigeria. How can that be?”
Indeed, how can that be?
If the Doctors Without Borders could have an inpatient therapeutic centre in Maiduguri where they immediately referred 16 of these malnourished and dying children to, nurture them back to life with utmost and intensive care, the Borno State governor and members of his team should be held responsible for the needless and avoidable deaths of citizens directly in their care!
They should be made to account for all the donations both in cash and in kind that have come the way of the IDPs through the state government from foreign countries, local and international donor organizations, corporate entities, NGOs, religious organizations, individuals etc.
Another fact we must not gloss over is the reality that some of these children actually became malnourished while in the camps as we have heard of how officials shortchange the IDPs in the distribution of food and medicines. Obviously, somebody somewhere is feeding fat at the expense of these vulnerable children who deserve our all in order to be alive. That is the height of heartlessness.
Maybe Kashim Shettima is still waiting for former president Jonathan to call him before he wakes up to his responsibilities just like he lamented in the wake of the Chibok saga that the former president did not call him until after 19 days following the incident. He declared this as one of his defence for his poor handling of the Chiobk issue, and when he was reminded that he, as the chief security officer of the state should have reached out to Jonathan, he said he did not reach out to the former president because he assumed that he would have been briefed! Briefed by whom? If a governor could think and act this way then, how do we expect such a ruler to be able to handle even more intricate matters of nurturing dying children back to life?
It is such act of carelessness and incompetence that Shettima has grown with to the extent that he cannot take care of a small proportion of citizens put under his care. Or, is he still waiting for Jonathan’s call. His excuses so far for this inexplicable and unfortunate occurrence are at best lame in reason and defective in intelligence.
This is the effect of politicising serious matters just for mundane purposes. If Shettima and his team had used the Chibok matter as a learning process rather than as a divisive tool, if they had focused on the larger picture rather than on the narrow prism of pulling Jonathan down, they would by now have appreciated the enormity of the catastrophe staring them in the face, and would have risen to the challenge rather than sacrifice those innocent citizens including children in desperate need of the care of a certain governor and his officials.
To put an end to this carnage of disturbing proportions, I wish to appeal to former president Goodluck Jonathan to place a call to Alhaji Kashim Shettima, the governor of Borno State, perhaps that is all he needs to wake up to the enormous responsibility that fate has placed on him, and save us the embarrassment of war-like images from his domain.
Jude Ndukwe is a political analyst who lives and works in Abuja, Nigeria. He is a member of The Trent’s Elite Columnists. His column is published every Friday. He tweets from @stjudendukwe.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.