MAKING COMMON SENSE
BY BEN MURRAY BRUCEÂ
The comments made by Lt. General TY Danjuma at the maiden convocation of the Taraba State University on March 24, 2018, were weighty. Very weighty.
I have just read the responses from the federal government to Danjuma’s statements and I cannot say the same.
We are not addressing the issues raised by Danjuma preferring only to address what we see as a threat to the status quo and it is most unfortunate.â€¨When Danjuma said: â€œThe armed forces are not neutral. They collude with the armed bandits to kill people, kill Nigerians,” there should have been a pause to find out the reason he said so and not a knee-jerk response to label him an alarmist or an anarchist.
It was also not too long ago that former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida made similar public statements. These are not men given to careless talk.
Amongst the trio of Obasanjo, Danjuma and Babangida are perhaps three of the most constantly recurring decimals in Nigeria since the Civil War. If they speak, we as a nation ought to give more than heed to what they say.â€¨A week to Danjuma’s outburst, Amnesty International said pretty much the same thing. On Monday, March 19, 2018, it published a report stating that “Amnesty International gathered testimonies from multiple credible sources showing that the Nigerian army and police received multiple calls of up to four hours before the raid on Dapchi, but did not take effective measures to stop the abduction or rescue the girls after they were taken by Boko Haram fighters.” Those are very strong words from a body that has no political interest in Nigeria.â€¨The million dollar question is: why have they reached the same conclusions as Danjuma?
This allegation is something that the military authorities have to take an in-depth look into and not just issue a statement condemning people who raise such red flags.â€¨It is plain to see that Nigeria is completely divided along ethnic and religious lines including and perhaps especially the once monolithic North. Comments by top officials of the present administration have not helped matters either.â€¨After the January killings in the Middle Belt, the Defence Minister, Mansur Dan-Ali publicly came out to blame one of the sides and absolve the other. Speaking to State House correspondents on January 26, 2018, Mr. Dan Ali said: â€œIf those routes are blocked, what do you expect will happen?Â These people are Nigerians. It is just like one going to block the shoreline, does that make sense to you? These are the remote causes of the crisis. But the immediate cause is the grazing law. These people are Nigerians and we must learn to live together with one another. Communities and other people must learn how to accept foreigners within their enclave. Finish!â€
On the surface, those in the frontline states of the Middle Belt can easily construe that statement as partisan speak and the minister should never have spoken along those lines. It is almost justifying the deaths by saying that the killings happened because grazing routes are blocked.
Perhaps these are the statements that provoked the intervention of Danjuma. If I had been present, I would have rebuked my Defence Minister for making such a statement and asked him to issue a clarification.â€¨Being a leader involves anticipating the consequence of both your statements and those of your appointees. Before he became president, Muhammadu Buhari had expressed similar sentiments as Danjuma when he felt certain people were not being treated right in the Nigerian project and if my memory serves me correctly, he was not treated by the authorities as Danjuma is being treated today.
The has been global outrage over the civilian deaths in the Eastern Ghouta region of Syria but if you quantify the number of deaths in Nigeriaâ€™s middle belt region just this year alone, it rivals the deaths in Syria, yet we are a nation that is not in a state of war.
My counsel to the Buhari administration is to see Danjumaâ€™s intervention as a wake-up call and not an indictment. The nation is dancing very dangerously on a precipice and if it is not pulled back, the consequences, as Danjuma rightly said, could make Somalia a childâ€™s play.
Nobody in his right mind will call for self-defence when the state is living up to its responsibilities. But in a situation where hundreds of Nigerians have been killed from Zamfara to Kaduna, to Plateau, to Benue, to Adamawa, to Taraba and no one has been arrested, tried or even identified as a culprit, it will be very hard to tell people to fold their hands and do nothing while their lives and means of livelihood are at stake.â€¨The results from the 2015 elections saw that the president won convincingly in Benue State. However, when the president visited Benue on March 12, 2015, the state capital was like a ghost town. None of those who voted for him came out to welcome him. The streets were empty. Why was that so?
The answer to that question should be instructive to the president and more so in view of the recent comments from Danjuma. At the end of the day, the buck stops at his table and no one else. History beckons.â€¨Is he going to be the Nigerian president that demystifies an icon like Danjuma, who once was his benefactor, or is he going to be the Nigerian leader that listens when stakeholders speak? Listen and make amends.
One thing is certain, Danjuma was not the first to speak up and it is unlikely that he will be the last.
â€¢Ben Murray-Bruce is the Senator representing Bayelsa-east