Most Dangerous Country in the World to Be a Student

By John Otim


A prolonged period of military rule has taken its toll on Nigeria. The country with one of the most robust population in the world. Not every Nigerian is affected. But a great many are.

The ready acceptance of authority, the reluctance to express one’s own ideas. One encountered people like that. Students, colleagues, people on the streets. In hindsight it is understandable. A slip of the tongue can lead to trouble.

The day General Muhammadu Buhari first took power December 31st 1983 I was cruising in a taxi from Zaria City to the university town of Samaru. Some 12 kilometers away. I would have taken my own car. I preferred to go public. In the middle of an event like that it was the perfect way to gauze the popular mood.

We woke up with news of the coup at six in the morning. Just the hour for that kind of business. On radio the voice that announced the coup, was that of Colonel Sani Abacha of the Nigerian Army. A total unknown at the time.

GEN Sani AbachaIn the years ahead General Abacha would metamorphose into the supreme Military Ruler of the land. He would terrorize an entire Nation in a way none had done before. Throwing into jail thousands including a powerful ex-Military Ruler. Executing a few including Ken Serowiwa the writer and popular human rights activist from the marginalized Ogoni people.

That first day of the coup, five of us passengers were crammed inside the speeding taxi. My co-ridders merrily chatted above the roar of the late morning traffic while I busied myself to make out what I could of the outside world. My companions seemed well satisfied with the turn of events. There were no people on the streets waving banners and protesting the coup.

The Khaki Boys are back!’ One of the passengers announced quite unnecessarily, glee written all over his broad handsome face.

‘Khaki Boys’ was a phrase I was familiar with. I first heard it from the lips of my own colleagues. Fond words Nigerians use to describe soldiers. In that fondness there was approval and perhaps resignation. What will be will be.

My co-passengers merrily waved at armed troops as we drove along that chilly windy afternoon. December weather can be fun here. When the North-East Wind blows from the desert in the north bringing chill, and refined dust barely visible.

We stopped at the only check point on the short drive. My co-ridders were smiled at the two soldiers manning the post. The soldiers were young and courteous, their uniform clean and crisp. Someone had prepared for this event. The two men smiled back.  

‘Thank you for saving us.’ The students called out. Coming from Uganda I knew what soldiers were but I kept my own counsel.

My co-passengers were students. Not a care in the world. It was the height of the oil boom and students enjoyed a comfortable life. In a country where there was plenty and life was easy, there was little need to worry.

For most of its independent life Nigeria had known nothing but military rule. Now an experiment in democracy and civil rule was abruptly cut down after only four years. It seemed crude and cruel.

I was waiting for colleagues in the department of political science to express an opinion. Surprisingly they fell in line echoing whatever the coup leaders in Lagos were saying.

A new election had just returned to power the government led by Shehu Shagari. A new Cabinet had been sworn in. The government was getting ready to begin a new mandate. Surely four years was not too much to wait.

But now with General Buhari’s coup, sweeping arrests were going on across the land. A prominent journalist/academic who hailed the soldiers on the morning of the coup was thrown in. Nearly all of the new Cabinet including Shagari were thrown in. Civil servants were laid off in their hundreds. Executions were taking place in Lagos. Across the land soldiers horse-whipped desperate civilians queuing for essential commodities.

There had been problems with civilian rule. Corruption. Nepotism. A struggling economy. But where in the world were there no problems. When had these problems not been part of Nigerian life.

The country was trudging on. The new democracy, not perfect, was working. There existed room for dissent. The universities were vibrant.

In four years there would be another election. Repetition can bring stability even progress. In a few years maybe, general prosperity could emerge for the first time in this still poor but richly endowed country.

Needless to say this did not happen.

What happened was Muhammadu Buhari. His first appearance as Supreme Leader. People didn’t know this but Buhari was in fact a deferment of the future. Through him a series of military dictators followed including Sani Abacha and Ibrahim Babangida. Amazingly through all these, General Buhari remained celebrated by a large section of the country.

Today as General Buhari approaches the end of his second term as an elected leader. And the end of his second coming as Supreme Ruler. It is clear to all, including his supporters, that the future of this otherwise great country, has once again been deferred. With many of its young students being most unfairly and brutally punished. Whatever popularity Buhari once had, has evaporated.

kidnaped schoolgirls unfairly and brutally punished

Although Buhari was elected on a mandate that promised to end corruption, today corruption is ripe in Nigeria. The economy is at its lowest point. Mass kidnapping and high-jacking especially of school kids has paralyzed the Nation.

In the north east of the country, the terrorist group Boko Haram operates with impunity. Today Nigeria is one of the most dangerous places on earth. Certainly the most dangerous country in the World to be a student.

Nigeria rose up this morning to cheery news of the release of all the 343 schoolboys kidnaped recently from Government Science Secondary School in Niger State.

“However, this news compounded the fears of the shocking news of the kidnap yesterday of over 317 girl students, at a Government Boarding School yesterday in Zamfara State.” Reports about kidnapped Jengbenge schoolgirls