By Dele Sobowale
“Allow an intolerable situation to go on for too long; and, suddenly, there are no good options left.” Arthur Burns, 1904-1987.
Arthur Burns was the tenth Chairman of the US Federal Reserve Bank, equivalent to our Governor of Central Bank, under President Richard Nixon. He was appointed at a time the US economy was going through a recession after years of expansion. Tough decisions, destined to be unpopular, were required. The late economist made those remarks as he was stepping into office. But, Burns’ statement can be applied to several non-economic situations. Some of us have known or heard of the person who was advised by doctors to have a toe amputated; and who refused bluntly. Then, he was asked to get the foot amputated; as the condition got worse. Eventually, it was a choice between his entire leg being removed or losing his life. Tough choice; but self-induced.
Nigeria is facing one of the most difficult choices we have ever confronted with the instruction by some state governors to their citizens to “defend yourself”. At the very least; it is an invitation to anarchy. That judgment is not mine alone. In fact, it was passed on to me by US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis,1856-1941, who in 1928 made the point that when government becomes openly ineffective and unjust “it breeds contempt for law; it invites everyman to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.” The Federal Government of Nigeria has now become perceived, even by those who should be its natural allies and supporters, as ineffective and unjust.
Until recently, Governors Darius of Taraba and Ortom of Benue states were lone voices in the wilderness when they instructed their people to “defend yourself”. The latest three – Governor Maisari of Katsina State, Matawelle of Zamfara and El-Rufai of Kaduna – would have been the last anybody would expect to join in that campaign. Now, they are leading it. Their three states already form Nigeria’s equivalent of the Bermuda triangle; everybody entering there risks being kidnapped, killed or captured for ransom. Katsina, if anybody needs reminding, is the President’s own state.
Strengthening the drift to chaos are the implicationsof the call, shared by other governors nationwide – total loss of confidence. None of them believes that Buhari’s government can protect them anymore. And, since they lack any means of securing the lives of the people and their properties, they have turned the task over to the people themselves. Increasingly, the President is becoming a leader without followers. When the matter is security, most Nigerians now despise him. That was not what people expected when they elected a tough-talking ex-General to office in 2019. There are other consequences of this letdown.
YOU CAN’T GO HOME ANYMORE SIR – WITHOUT A BATTALION.
“As you make your bed, so you will lie in it.” Old adage.
Mr Udoh, God bless him, my favourite teacher of all time, drummed that adage and others into our heads in Primary Four at St Peters School, Ajele, Lagos Island – with interpretations. I can never forget it.Your bed is frequently at your permanent home. All the others – hotel rooms, official quarters, barracks, Aso Rock – are temporary abodes. A day will come when you will have the front door slammed in your face. President Buhari is gradually getting close to that day when he will need permission to enter Aso Rock. He will probably head for Daura. Although he has not asked me, I will still offer him free advice. Despite his monumental mistakes, I wish him the best after life inside the Rock.
This, however, is not the first time I would show concern for a President nearing the end of his temporary stay in the Rock. In April 2015, after former President Jonathan had conceded defeat; he had told reporters of his plan to return home to Otuoke, Bayelsa. I was curious to find out where our out-going leader was going. I went to the place and wrote an article titled “Jonathan’s Long Trip Back To Otuoke”. I could go to Otuoke because, despite some level of insecurity, it was still safe to go there.
Unless things change drastically for the better, only someone bent on committing suicide will go to Daura — Buhari’s permanent home. But, there is a contingency plan which makes it possible for me to know the situation in Daura. My ten years of living and working in various parts of the North made it possible to build a network of friends everywhere. From those in Funtua, Dutsin Ma, Katsina, and Jibiya, I have a good idea of the situation in Daura.
When Buhari left in May 2015 to resume work as President, Katsina State was one of the most peaceful in Nigeria. Fences around properties in GRA areas were low; and one Maigadi was sufficient to secure the biggest mansion. Nobody ever heard the word BANDIT. Today, bandits share power with the Governor; who recently ordered the people to “defend yourself”. The highest fence, with barbed wire, no longer deters the bandits. This is the situation in Daura where Buhari will lay, or attempt to lay his head in peace after he departs from the Rock.
My advice to him is: Your Excellency, please don’t go; unless the National Assembly will pass a bill authorising the deployment of a battalion to guard you. If not, for everybody’s sake, please stay in Abuja. Daura, under your watch as President, has become one of the most dangerous places on earth. And, those mean sons of wagons, called bandits, can only regard kidnapping you as another great meal ticket. Ask Governor Maisari if you don’t believe me. That is the bed made by incompetence, procrastination when making necessary changes and executing badly. Millions of people in Katsina will suffer for decades on account of having their son as President of Nigeria for eight years. So will the rest of us.
THE CURE MIGHT BE WORSE THAN THE DISEASE
“A weapon is defensive or offensive depending on which end is pointing at you.”
Premier Aristide Briande, 1862-1932, VBQ p 271.
Every time I am in a group discussing the insecurity in Nigeria, somebody must eventually remind all of us that some Governors have asked Nigerians to defend themselves. I smile; because no prescription for curing a serious ailment can at the same time be more deadly if misapplied. Bandits will be killed; but, innocent people will also get murdered. When bandits are not recognisable, until they strike, it is safer to strike first and ask questions later. And, since the dead don’t talk, every corpse becomes that of a terrorist – even if an innocent person who walked into the community. Even a neighbour, with who one had a quarrel, might be murdered in the night; and the murderer would in the morning point to a “bandit” he ambushed and eliminated. Who will investigate?
The leading terrorist group against which the rest of us must defend ourselves are the ever-present herdsmen. They are visible everywhere, night and day. If all other Nigerians take the order to defend themselves at face value, then any herdsmen seen anywhere where grazing has been outlawed should be regarded as target for self-defence. The herdsmen, usually armed, will also act in self-defence, but soon there will be few herdsmen alive. One fellow announced a solution during one discussion. “If you can’t get the herder, then annihilate the herd”. Again, that is a recipe for genocide on a scale unprecedented in this country. Not even during the Civil War, 1967-1970, were so many innocents massacred as we will experience once self-defence becomes accepted as the solution. It is one calamity Buhari should pray does not occur – as the Life Patron of Mayetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria. His insistence on reviving imaginary grazing routes is already provoking that sort of reaction. It will amount to a civil war within a civil war if it gets underway….
To be continued