Campbell: Nigerian Elite Panicky, Weighing Radical Options

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By Bayo Akinloye

A former US Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell has described Nigeria’s political elites as panicky and as such, considering “radical options” against the backdrop of the worsening insecurity in Nigeria, although they have yet to agree on “radical restructuring” of the country.

Campbell, the Ralph Bunche senior fellow for Africa poli cy studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, said in his latest post on the CFR website that, some Nigerian movers and shakers appeared panicky over the worsening security nationwide.

He cited calls by a former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, for President Muhammadu Buhari to seek foreign assistance to tackle the nation’s deterioration of security.

“The bottom line is that…something of a consensus among Nigerian elites seems to be forming that the country is in deep trouble and that radical options must be considered,” Campbell pointed out.

Last Sunday, Robert Clarke (SAN), often critical of the Buhari government, had raised a fresh dust,when he recommended that the country’s democratically-elected administration should hand over power to the military to save Africa’s most populous nation from disintegrating as he wondered whether Nigeria would survive another six months.

However, the former U.S. diplomat, who had served twice in Nigeria, as a political counsellor from 1988 to 1990, and as an ambassador from 2004 to 2007, further noted: “But no consensus exists about what state collapse would look like, what the way forward should be, and what’ radical restructuring of the Nigerian state’ would actually mean or how it could be achieved.

“For now, however, the outlook would seem to be continuing, perhaps accelerating instability and uncertainty.”

On April 27, President Buhari, in a virtual meeting with the U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, requested that the headquarters of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) be moved from Germany to Africa so that it would be closer to the fighting against terrorism in the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin.

Campbell noted: “In the face of the deterioration of security, doom and gloom about the future of Nigeria is widespread in public discourse. Still, Clarke went further than most—and on national television.”

“Buhari’s AFRICOM request is an indication of a willingness to consider hitherto unacceptable options. Twenty-two years after the military left power and civilian, ostensibly democratic federalism was restored, it is striking that the army felt it necessary to issue a denial of any intention to seize power,” he added.

On May 3, in a statement, the Defence Headquarters stated, “We also wish to remind all military personnel that it is treasonable to even contemplate this illegality. The full wrath of the law will be brought to bear on any personnel found to collude with people having such agenda.”

The military high command further dissociated “itself from such anti-democratic utterance and position,” categorically stating that the “Armed Forces of Nigeria remain fully committed to the present administration and all associated democratic institutions.”

According to the army spokesman, Brig.-Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, the military will continue to remain “apolitical, subordinate to the civil authority, firmly loyal to the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, and the 1999 Constitution as Amended.”

Assuring the elected leadership that it would not make any attempt to seize power or disrupt the country’s democratic dispensation, the Army promised: “We shall continue to discharge our constitutional responsibilities professionally, especially, in protecting the country’s democracy, defence of the territorial integrity of the country as well as protection of lives and properties of citizens.

“The current security challenges are not insurmountable as the military, in partnership with other security agencies, are working assiduously to ameliorate the challenge. Nigeria will know peace again.”