By Sonnie Ekwowusi
A country divided by totalitarian nepotism, ethno-religious politicization, communal injustice, treachery, deceit, betrayal, fraud, sponsored murder and bloodletting cannot stand. Viewed against the backdrop of the oddities in Nigeria today this assertion becomes truer for us in Nigeria. Although like Pontius Pilate many people of our time still ask the sobering question; what is truth? But the truth resides in the sanctuary of every human heart. Starved of the truth the human heart takes revenge in making the human being restless. Compelled by the escapable natural law in his or her heart, every human being is inclined to sit in judgment on his actions. A guilty person might escape human justice; he might take flight from his guilt through ingenuous human rationalization, but he cannot escape the inescapable penetrating judgment of his conscience.
Last week the Hon. Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed tried to come to terms with the pangs of his conscience or discharge a heavy moral burden reposed on him by his conscience on the stewardship of the Buhari government. In trying to do as aforesaid Lai publicly admitted that Nigeria is heading for extinction. He uttered this self-indicting confession in his letter inviting prominent Nigerian stakeholders for a town hall meeting in Kaduna last week to discuss collapsing Nigeria especially the heightened state insecurity in the country, secessionist sing-songs across the country, incessant kidnapping of Nigerians, hired assassinations, gun-running and gun-toting in the country and so on.
In the said letter, Hon. Minister Lai stated, inter alia, as follows: “As you may observe, Nigeria has failed to manage its diversity. Despite huge human and material resources the country is heading for the brink and there is an urgent need to pull it back from this catastrophe. Increasingly, we are seeing this lack of capacity to manage our diversity manifesting in a general state of insecurity as witnessed in the incidences of farmers/herders clashes, Boko Haram insurgency, banditry, ethno-religious clashes and intolerance, cultism, drug addiction and kidnapping. Closely tied to all these are the dangerous threat to the unity of the country and its continued existence as one indivisible nation. But the story of Nigeria has not always been this negative. How did we get here and what can we do to change the narrative to present our country in the best of light? This requires teamwork, reflecting all diversities, leveraging on all our collective creativity to pursue with diligence the project of rescuing Nigeria.’’
Lai is not lying. He speaks the truth. This is the first time a Buhari irredentist; loyalist or confidant is publicly acknowledging the fall of Buhari. Buhari’s fall was predicted in 2015 after he was unable to form his cabinet six months after he took power. And from 2015 to date the man has been floundering and floundering with power. The truth that Shehu Garuba and the Presidency cannot tell Lai Mohammed is telling without batting an eyelid. Perhaps they may say, only one man is falling. Nigeria is not falling. She is only chastened, not brought to nought. No injury is done to Nigeria because only one man has fallen. It may be so; Nigeria is not falling; only one man has fallen. Buy don’t forget that the men who built Nigeria laid one stone upon the order in order to fortify her and make her strong. Now one man is constantly removing one stone after another from Nigeria in order to weaken it and bring about her final collapse. What many men had labored over the last 60 years to build one man is destroying with reckless alacrity. Lai laments that the failure to manage Nigeria’s diversity resulting in the reign of anarchy-herders clashes, Boko Haram insurgency, banditry, ethno-religious clashes and intolerance, cultism, drug addiction and kidnap in Nigeria-is a big threat to “the unity of the country and its continued existence as one indivisible”
Lai is right. No authority on earth can stop us or hinder us from speaking the truth we see and experience every day. Nigeria has become a massive killing field. Secessionist threats, incessant kidnap of Nigerians, hired assassinations; Gun-running and gun-trotting are presently the order of the day in Nigeria. Kidnap in particular has assumed a disturbing monstrous proportion. For instance, last week an Imo State traditional ruler and his entire cabinet chiefs were kidnaped by dare-devil kidnappers. To worsen matters, the unity of Nigeria is in jeopardy at the moment. Drumbeats of war and separatism resound loudest today than in the past. Far off now are the days when peace reigns in Nigeria either in people’s hearts or in the polity. Today there is no peace in Nigeria, only a caricature of peace. Why? Because peace reigns in the crannies of justice. But unfortunately communal justice has been taken away from Nigeria. And communal justice having been taken away what is Nigeria but open robberies as St. Augustine would say?.
I agree with Lai Mohammed that “the story of Nigeria has not always been this negative”. For instance, despite the palpable failures and weaknesses of the Jonathan government the government never permitted the AK-47 wielding Fulani herdsmen to be freely invading the nooks and crannies of Nigeria and killing and maiming their victims. Under the Jonathan government the farmlands of the people of South-West were never trespassed on let alone confiscated by the ravaging Fulani herdsmen.
Under the Jonathan government the country was contending with probably only the Indigenous People of Biafra (IBOP). But today under Buhari’s watch the country is battling all sorts of secessionist groups. In fact Nigeria is facing a monumental existential threat at the moment probably the deadliest since the Nigerian Civil War. Is it Sunday Igboho’s Oduduwa Republic? Is it Asari Dokubo’s New Biafra government? Is it Pedro Obaseki’s Midwest? Is it the Arewa Youth Assembly giving Yorubas or Igbos in the North quit notices to vacate the North? Or, is it the Oodua Action Movement/Oduduwa Grand Alliance For Independence is agitating for one thing or the other. So, whichever way you turn to in Nigeria today it is the secessionist sing-songs all the way. More importantly, unlike former President Jonathan, Buhari subscribes to and implements totalitarian nepotism. 90% of Buhari’s political appointees comes from his own side of the country in violation of the Federal Character Principle enshrined in our 1999 Constitution.
So, my dear Hon. Minister Lai Mohammed, to answer your question “How did we get here and what can we do to change the narrative to present our country in the best of light?”, I would say that we got here simply because President Buhari has refused to correct the palpable lopsided political appointments in Nigeria. We got here because Mr. President does not see the whole country as his constituency. In other words, we got here because Mr. Buhari refused to give true federalism a chance to thrive in Nigeria. Failed federalism breeds secessionist agitations while successful federalism breeds unity and strength. Unity has a price tag. It is not something imposed from the top through executive fiat. You cannot decree that the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable while at the same time putting obstacles to the unity of Nigeria. Insecurity of lives and property in Nigeria has worsened today because it was compromised right from the outset. How many Fulani herdsmen murderers and kidnappers have been arrested and prosecuted in the law court?. None or may be a handful.
As regards the escalating Boko Haram insurgency, the Buhari government lacks the untrammeled poise, avowed determination and doggedness to dislodge Boko Haram. Mere braggadocio and grandstanding cannot defeat Boko Haram. Is it true that Boko Haram has infiltrated the Nigerian army and the Nigerian army has infiltrated Boko Haram? If true, an army divided against itself cannot stand. “What can we do to change the narrative to present our country in the best of light?”. Balanced political appointments, communal justice, true federalism, equity and fairness to all.