Obasanjo’s Letter and The National Question

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“After all, no one is stupid enough to prefer war to peace. For, in peace sons bury their fathers. But in war, fathers bury their sons” -Herodotus

Let us begin with the quaint questions: Do our political pilots of the ship of state ever identify with, or listen to the concerns and cries of the largely marginalized masses? Or, do they hear only their heartbeats, of what William Shakespeare referred to as “vaulting ambition” that overreaches itself and eventually falls on the other side? And if they truly do, to what extent do they walk the talk in finding lasting solutions to long-winding social, economic and political challenges? Do these same people understand the grave implications of their long-delayed actions or inactions?

That is, especially so in the face of the escalating wave of insecurity characterized by the devastating Boko Haram insurgency, the killing spree by armed herdsmen and kidnapping for ransom, that have cumulatively led not a few Nigerians to what the late Afrobeat music icon, Fela Anikulapo Kuti referred to as “Sorrows, Tears and Blood”.

The answers to these pertinent questions have become imperative, going by the different reactions that have trailed the recent letter of former President Olusegun Obasanjo to incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari. On the deteriorating security situation in the country the former wrote: “Nigeria is on the precipice and dangerously reaching a tipping point where it may no longer be possible to hold danger at bay”.

Obasanjo furthermore emphasized the implications of inactions thus: “When people are desperate and feel that they cannot have confidence in the ability of government to provide security for their lives and properties, they will take recourse to anything and everything that can guarantee their security individually and collectively.” That is where the danger lies.

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has endorsed the letter, describing it as “timely”. Its president cited that in Taraba State, his deputy, Rev. Caleb Ahima could not travel out of his parish without military protection, saying that the state is under siege. But it is not alone. What was triggered off in Borno State over a decade ago has since spread to Adamawa, Yobe, Taraba, Benue, up to the North western states of Zamfara, Sokoto and Katsina, the president’s home state!
But sadly, while patriots such as Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Chief Emeka Anyioku, former President Goodluck Jonathan are all raising the alarm over the insecurity situation and calling for meaningful dialogue, the Myetti Allah cattle rearers are calling for the head of Obasanjo. In fact, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, another Fulani man went ahead to openly threaten that should there be war in the West African countries against his tribesmen, they would conquer! That, to concerned Nigerians, is going beyond the boundary of decency!

Not helping matters was the response from the president. He stated that those castigating him over the kids glove approach to insecurity were unpatriotic, insisting that the challenge is a global one and that the alarm raised is about “isolated cases”! But socio-cultural groups such as the Ohaneze Ndigbo, the Middle Belt Forum and of course the Afenifere that lost the daughter (Mrs. Funke Olakunri) of their chieftain, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, in a dastardly manner do not think so.
Currently, the country is more divided along religious and ethnic lines than ever before. One of the causes is the culture of impunity. Ordinarily, perpetrators of heinous crimes against humanity should be behind bars grinding their teeth in utter remorse, waiting for the Day of Judgment. But it becomes worrisome when proactive and preventive measures, either on the part of state or federal government are few and far between.

For instance, in August 2016, some 53 villages in Southern Kaduna, including Gad Biyu, Akwa’a Agwan Ajo were attacked by armed herdsmen with 57 injured,16 churches and 1,422 houses burnt, but the expected rapid response from the government was a mirage.

Not long after, and as if adding fuel to an already flaring flame of the ethnic/religious distrust in the troubled state, the Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai claimed he had paid an undisclosed ransom to some of the suspected killers so as to sheathe their swords! Such a controversial government policy, including questionable amnesty granted to criminal gangs in states such as Benue, Katsina, Rivers, Imo and Kano is viewed as a tacit support for mass murder by some political leaders, by not a few peace-loving Nigerians. This undermines our security perception.

It is time for our leaders to learn from the hands of history. Over the centuries, no nation, or part of it that sheds so much innocent human blood has enjoyed sustained peace or prosperity. From the ethnic cleansing of the Jie people in China in 350 AD, through that of Sicilian Vespers in Italy in 1282, the religious persecution of a quarter million Jews in Spain between 1492 and 1614, the killings of herdsmen in Central Kalahari in the 1990s to the Sudan crisis in 2003 and Uzbeks in 2010s should have informed us of the folly of taking the lives of those we can never replace. Vengeance, as all the holy books say belongs only to God. And history, repeats itself for a people who refuse to learn from its open hands.
Ayo Baje, Lagos