BY ILIYASU GADU
Just last week, I wrote about my recent chance encounter with a foreign diplomat and the discussion that ensued between us on Nigeria. At the conclusion of our robust engagement, he had stated that no foreign power had any designs on disintegrating Nigeria as people have come to believe. But his poignant observation was that Nigerians could by themselves through acts of omission and or commission disintegrate the country if they do not rein in some of their actions. With the developments that followed the unfortunate killing by Mrs Funke Olakunrin on the Benin-Ore expressway just a few days after, that statement is turning out to be eerily prophetic.
That incident has served as casus belli for a torrent of divisive speeches and statements that indicates clearly that Nigerians so fervently want a second civil war, we are walking head long and eyes wide open to it. We looked at what happened in Rwanda, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria and wonder why it did not happen here. We wish to see the majestic River Niger from where our country got its name and the River Benue its biggest tributary turn crimson red with the blood of the innocent. We will not be satisfied until we see orphans and widows, and all manner of the destitute littering our streets.
We want to exchange the music of Davido, Flavour and other acts for the staccato of machine guns and the roar of cannons. Instead of being entertained by Nollywood actors on TV, we would rather prefer to see our country turned into the subject of distressing news reports by embedded foreign reporters beamed to the world. We want to see Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kaduna, Enugu and other cities razed to the ground with bullet riddled and bombed out buildings. Indeed we cannot wait to start killing each other in great big bleeding batches, we are literarily on our knees goading and begging uninterested foreign powers to help us do it.
For this macabre dance we wish on ourselves, a cast of characters can be identified as the main culprits.
First off and naturally on top of the pile is the administration of President Buhari. Ponderous, lethargic and seemingly comfortable in this, the administration appears overwhelmed and lacking a sense of urgency in tackling the existential challenges facing the country. Several months after being re-elected and inaugurated for a second term, the little matter of constituting a cabinet continues to enervate President Buhari. While the country rocks with all manner of challenges, President Buhari chooses to remain aloof and detached, concerning himself only with matters of his personal convenience and immediate political space. Nowhere is this amply demonstrated than in his handling of the insecurity ravaging the country. When he shows any urgency at all it is to gather security chiefs for symbolic gestures that merely fulfil righteousness rather than to attend to the substance of the matter at hand drastically and decisively. In the four years and counting since he assumed office, he has remained stuck to his provincial and nepotistic mind-set contrary to what the office requires for a complex country like Nigeria
It is no wonder that this has given fillip for personalities and groups who have lost confidence in his ability to be even handed when dealing with national issues to accuse him with some justification of being a sectional ruler among other identifiable failings of his presidency.
Then there is former President Olusegun Obasanjo the prolific letter writer to Nigerian presidents. Obasanjo bears an ego bigger than the size of the Olumo rock in Abeokuta his hometown and believes that he alone has the monopoly of political wisdom by which reason he should determine the political direction of Nigeria. The framers of Nigeria’s constitution should have written his name into it to provide him with the legal and constitutional basis to nail his claim to ownership of the country. Where his unsolicited, self-seeking directives to governments which he couches as advice are ignored he proceeds to try to distract the government without minding the consequences. In our present circumstances, a lot of the palpable political tension that has gripped the country can be attributed to his unguarded tendentious statements regarding the state of the nation.
Following closely behind Obasanjo is my elder kinsman, former Army Chief and Defence Minister, General TY Danjuma. Not too long ago, at a public function he called on his people pick up arms and defend themselves as he alleged that the armed forces were colluding with their attackers. Ironically it was General Danjuma who first made the statement that no country ever survived two civil wars. Recently in pursuit of this crusade, he led a delegation of Northern Christians which included Generals Zamani Lekwot and Joshua Dogonyaro to ‘’report’’ the Nigerian government of President Buhari to the British government on its handling of national issues.
Meanwhile in southern Taraba state where Danjuma comes from a ferocious orgy of mutual bloodletting has been going on now for months between the Jukuns and Tivs without any attempt by the general to wade into it using his considerable influence in the area.
At this point, you have to ask what is it with Nigeria’s retired generals. From the earliest point in their military careers till date they have been involved in subverting the political and constitutional order in the country one way or the other. Where their counterparts in other parts of the world are engaged in the useful pursuit of helping through research and the application of military techniques to the challenges of national development, ours trained expensively with tax payers money are busy trying to subvert the national will.
Included also in the cast of culprits are the ethnic and based groups like the Arewa Consultative Forum, Northern Elders Forum, Afenifere, Ohaneze, and the legion of clerics and groups from the religious divides. Of these, some individuals come to view due to their active roles.
Ango Abdullahi of the Northern Elders Forum is one of those. He is best known as the former ‘’imperial’’ Vice-Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University Zaria which he ran as a fief during his tenure. In that capacity he helped nurture the academic career of thousands of Nigerians from all parts of the country. Nowadays he is an unrepentant ethnic champion promoting hate and division in the country.
Then there is Yinka Odumakin, ‘’permanent’’ Secretary of the Afenifere group. He takes his job as license to ill inform and incite with impunity no matter the consequences of such utterances. He and his wife Joe raked in a cool 24 million naira from President Jonathan’s national conference. And because President Buhari has not obliged him another confab, he has become a trenchant, truculent ethnic irredentist threatening damnation on the corporate existence of Nigeria.
Chief Femi Fani-Kayode cannot be left out from this gallery. He is a loose cannon who believes the Nigeria he wants can only happen at the expense of others. As someone who witness first-hand the trauma of being caught up in a political upheaval as a kid when mutinous soldiers stormed his father’s house in Ibadan and as former Minister in his later years, one would expect Chief Fani Kayode to be more circumspect in his utterances and statements on national issues. Not a few believe that his conduct does not represent the genteel traditions of Cambridge University of which he is an alumnus.
Finally but not the least of all the culprits, are the great Nigerian people. Docile, easily amenable using sentimental factors of ethnicity and religion, we demand so little else from those that seek to rule over us or speak for us. This situation is so aptly captured in late Fela’s hit song, ‘Suffering and Smiling’. As a result we easily get manipulated into surrendering what should be our right to choose who should serve us and under what terms. And those who are currently beating the drumbeats of another war in the country are doing so in the belief and knowledge that the great Nigerian people can be whipped into supporting participating in the adventure even if they stand to suffer more from it.
Gadu, a public commentator can be reached via: Ilgad2009@gmail.com 08035355706(sms only)