Nigeria, still in search of peace and progress

RingTrue with Yemi Adebowale, Email: yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 07013940521 (text only)

Pulling Back Nigeria from the Precipice

For me, the biggest sin the Buhari administration has committed against this beautiful country is its blossoming seed of division. This country has never been this divided. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo was apt when he remarked in August 2016 that, “at no time in our history, except probably during the civil war, has Nigeria been so fractured in the feeling of oneness and belongingness by the citizenry.” Unfortunately, things have gone from bad to worse. Brothers are rising against brothers. There is so much hatred in our beautiful country because President Buhari wittingly set his clan against the rest of the country. For example, he brazenly tells the rest of the country to surrender their lands to his kinsmen for grazing in this modern era of ranching. Our President’s clannishness is frightening. The most terrifying is about the leadership of our security agencies.

I often shed tears whenever it dawns on me that almost 100 per cent of the heads of our security agencies are from just one sub-section of this country. I cringe each time I look at the list. Let’s go: Director-General, Department of State Security Services, Lawal Daura; National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno; Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Burutai; Chief of Air Staff, Sadique Abubakar; Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Retired Colonel Hameed Ali; Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of NDLEA, Mustapha Abdallah; Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Mohammed Babandede; Chief of Defence Intelligence, AVM Mohammed Usman; Commandant, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Abdullahi Muhammadu; Inspector General of Police, Idris Abubakar; Director General, National Intelligence Agency, Ahmed Rufai Abubakar; Minister of Defence, Mansur Mohammed Dan Ali, Minister for Interior‎, Abdulrahman Dambazau; Controller General of the Nigeria Prison Service, Ja’afaru Ahmed.

Mr. President, how does this list smell? Does it smell pan-Nigeria? It is bad enough that they are all from the north. It is even worse that they are all Muslims. In a country where religion remains an issue, concentrating the security apparatus in the hands of one tribe and one religious group is a betrayal of trust of those Christians and southerners who voted for you and an affront on our constitution. Catholic bishops have repeatedly stated that these lopsided appointments into key security positions had created a sense of a loss of belonging in many parts of the country, hence the constant cries of marginalisation, agitation for secession and calls for restructuring. For me, this is the main reason killings and abductions across our country have persisted. Our biased security chiefs simply look the other way while the killings persist.

This is why Fulani militias persistently pummel the rest of the country despite Buhari’s avowal to stop the killings. On Tuesday, Fulani militias resumed their reign of terror in Benue by killing two people along the Naka/Makurdi Road while they were returning from the burial of the Catholic priests and 17 parishioners killed earlier by herdsmen. The deceased, riding on a motorcycle, were ambushed and slaughtered by the herdsmen. Naka/Makurdi road has been abandoned for a long time due to the negative activities of herdsmen along this federal highway. Governor Samuel Ortom confirmed these recent killings while receiving in audience the Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, saying “Killing is still ongoing. Just on Tuesday, two people returning from the burial were killed.”

The ineptitude of the security chiefs has also exposed states in the North-west to attacks by bandits. Just on Tuesday, bandits returned to Zurmi Local Government Area of Zamfara State where the home of the Commissioner of Youths, Sports and Skills Acquisition, Abdullahi Gurbin, in Gurbin Bore village was attacked. Thereafter, they abducted his wife, three children and three other relatives.

Juxtapose all these with the vote of confidence President Buhari passed on the army chief, Tukur Buratai last Thursday and you will agree that something is clearly wrong somewhere. This vote of confidence is preposterous despite the glaring ineptitude and obvious bias of our security chiefs. This was what influenced the protests this week by Catholics across the country.

Alfred Adewale Martins, Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, remarked: “The central message of the protest is to stop killings in Nigeria; call on the federal government to be alive to its duties of protecting lives and properties and set agenda for true national discourse among others.

“People today feel a sense of helplessness and hopelessness in their homes especially when the signal they are getting is that they do not have enough personnel to secure every inch of this nation. We ought to have intelligence agencies that will act to prevent attacks and to nip the attacks in the bud.

“Our sorrows have been compounded by the fact that no one has been held responsible, no one convicted for the murder and destruction that has turned responsible people into internally displaced person. We urge the president to intervene in this problem in a more divisive way in order to save the country from tribal or religious war; we say all of these with due sense of patriotism for our nation Nigeria, because we believe in the strength and unity of Nigeria.”

For the Cardinal of the Abuja Catholic Diocese, John Onaiyekan, Nigeria is in a state of emergency and well-meaning Nigerians must unite in fighting “the great evil that had befallen the country.” He added that if murderers were allowed to continue killing, “it would come to a time when people will begin to use other means of self-defence.”

The leader of the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Pa Reuben Fasoranti added: “Nigerians are at a crossroads; we are tired of the killings, kidnapping going on across the country and the President is mute about it… We are dissatisfied with the state of affairs in the country. The country is not being run properly. Look at the killings in the North. The President is very silent about it. We are all Nigerians. If he can keep silence about the killing of his people, that is bad enough.”

The task of taking back Nigeria won’t be an easy one. The opposition must form a genuine coalition, otherwise, all their effort will be in vain. The priority is now one, as stated by Obasanjo, adding, “If we do not join hands to repair this country now, it will collapse and this could be disastrous.” Fasoranti agrees saying, “it will be the joy of everybody to present a formidable team to confront the evil government that is there now.”

These opposition figures must also face the fact that it is not much about the platform, but the quality of candidate they can put forward as Presidential candidate. This country needs a leader capable of restoring our feeling of oneness, and returning us to the good old days when we see ourselves as brothers. Nigeria needs a leader capable of rising above ethnic and religious sentiment; a detribalised leader that will see every Nigerian as the same, whether Christian, Muslim, northerner or southerner. We need a leader who is physically and mentally fit. This is the sort of candidate opposition figures must jointly put forward to pull back out lovely country from the precipice. By now, they ought to have settled for one, with a long queue behind him. I am convinced that this beautiful country will be one again by 2019; a country where love, peace and unity will dominate.

Boss Mustapha’s N64m Website

I quivered while listening to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, justifying the N64 million expended on FG’s upgraded website “aimed at bringing governance close to the people.” I wonder how many people have access to the internet in our penurious country. That aside, Mustapha wants Nigerians to believe that the cost of training staff for the website and acquiring computers were responsible for the high figure. Haba! N64 million for a website? This is preposterous. If it costs this much to establish an “enhanced interactive website,” then, only governments, big corporations and wealthy individuals will be able to own one. This is clearly not the case in practical terms. There are so many high quality interactive websites owned by ordinary Nigerians that cost less than two per cent of what Mustapha spent on his voodoo website. Most public officers take Nigerians for fools, while trying to justify ludicrous spending. I doubt if they even think deeply before talking. It is shocking that the SGF was justifying N64 million on a website amid so much unemployment, hunger, poverty, disease and malnutrition in our dear country.

Reflections on Buhari’s Abacha Accolades

We will always remember the late General Sani Abacha as a brutal, corrupt, inept, Godless and purposeless leader, who sent so many Nigerians to early graves. Abacha’s killer squad remains indelible in our memory. This wicked General ran one of the most crooked governments in the world to the extent that a British school, University of Wolverhampton, once ran “Abacha thievery” as a module in one of its courses. Surprisingly, our President does not give a damn about the atrocities of this evil man because he built roads and bridges. Speaking at the villa on Tuesday when he hosted the phony Buhari Support Organisation (BSO), led by Hameed Ali, Comptroller-General, Nigeria Customs Service, Buhari said that regardless of what anyone thinks about Abacha, “it must be remembered that subsequent civilian presidents spent billions of Naira in infrastructure, yet, have had little to show for it.” He added: “No matter what opinion you have about Abacha, I agreed to work with him… the PTF roads we did from here to Port Harcourt, to Onitsha, to Benin and so on… On top of other things in education, medical care and so on.” So, building of roads and bridges can now be used to justify the assassination of opponents and massive looting of Nigeria’s treasury by this beast? Abacha is our President’s hero. This same Buhari told the nation years back that Abacha did not loot Nigeria’s treasury. Buhari in June 2008 gave the late dictator a clean bill of health in Kano after a remembrance prayer marking the 10th year of his death. He said there was no basis for accusing Abacha of corruption: “Ten years without the late Abacha, the said allegations remain silent because there are no facts. All the allegations leveled against the personality of the late General Sanni Abacha will remain allegations. It is 10 years now; things should be over by now.” He added that rather than maligning Abacha, the late ruler deserved to be praised for initiating developmental ideas that moved the country forward.

But 10 years after, after Buhari denied that his former boss looted the treasury, his government last month announced that $322.5 million was returned to Nigeria by the Swiss Government as part of funds looted by the late maximum ruler. What a country! Wonders will never end in Nigeria. Abacha is believed to have stolen nearly £5 billion while in office, out of which over $1 billion had been recovered from various sources around the world.

Our President’s friends are indeed mind-boggling people. He spent over an hour with another of such incredulous friends, Ali Modu-Sheriff, last week Thursday at the Villa. President Buhari and the former governor of Borno State met behind closed-door with Sheriff sneaking out after the meeting which took place in the president’s office. This is the first time both men are meeting since the notorious Sheriff was ousted as PDP’s caretaker committee’s chairman. He had earlier met with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa on September 22, 2017. Sheriff apparently went to brief Buhari on the good job he did for the ruling party, by helping to destabilise the opposition party. I guess he would be making demands and asking for proper remuneration for a job well done. This man, who has a lot to tell this country about the rampaging Boko Haram, is busy dining with our President. Judgement day is around the corner.