By Douglas Anele
It seems that President Buhari is following the footsteps of his fellow northern predecessors in treating the south east shabbily because for them Igboland is a conquered territory.
But marginalising the Igbo has not in any way really benefitted the north, let alone the country as a whole. I am convinced that no administration can achieve positive change in Nigeria without carrying the Igbo along, that is, without implementing policies and programmes that would unleash the creative potentials and enterpreneurial spirit of Ndigbo.
Gowon tried it after the civil war in several ways, one of which was ignoring Biafran scientists, engineers and technologists, a pool of creative talent that, if adequately encouraged, could have teamed up with experts from other parts of the country to trigger the much needed scientific and technological breakthrough. Now, we are all suffering the boomerang effect of Gowon’s lack of vision.
President Buhari should realise that assisting Ndigbo by providing incentives and opportunities for them to thrive nationwide and especially in their homeland will drastically reduce agitations for actualising Biafra; it is also one of the smartest ways of pulling Nigeria out of the slough of underdevelopment.
If he continues to neglect the Igbo, he will inadvertently be telling the people that they were right by not voting for him massively in the last election, that those who accuse him of hating Ndigbo were correct after all. Having said that, some of the worst enemies of Igboland are prominent Igbo sons and daughters, who through selfish acts of omission or commission have contributed to the decline of Igboland as the centre of educational excellence, indigenous manufacturing enterprises and artistic creation.
Top on the list are cash-and-carry selfish politicians that operate on the principle of “all is fair in politics as long as it makes you rich in the shortest possible time.” By abandoning the core values of Ndigbo such as hard work, honesty, good name, respect for truth, justice and belongingness, most Igbo politicians have weakened the status of Ndigbo as torchbearers of Nigeria and made them vulnerable to anti-Igbo policies of successive federal governments.
Based on the negative triumphalism of some prominent northerners and their irritating dismissive attitude to agitations for self-determination in the south, most prominent northerners will not support devolution of powers and fiscal federalism, which is a conditio sine qua non for radical transformation of Nigeria. Now, Senator Ali Ndume’s claim that the north is not afraid of restructuring is deceitful.
Members of the northern elite, or “internal” colonialists, are addicted to the relatively easy wealth that flows from crude oil and the ports: they will not accept any geopolitical arrangement that threatens their vested interests. But as long as we continue to practice hunchback federalism, it would be difficult for Nigeria to progress on a sustainable basis.
On the issue of security of lives and property, the present administration has achieved some success, especially the degradation of Boko Haram’s capacity to commit heinous crimes against the citizens. On the other hand, the noticeable increase in armed robbery, kidnapping, attacks by herdsmen, and sabotage of petroleum infrastructure by Niger Delta Avengers outweigh the gains made by government regarding Boko Haram insurgency.
Contrary to the assertions of Buhari and his subordinates, lives and property are less secure now than they were on May 28, 2015. Indeed, there are good reasons why the security situation has grown worse since Buhari assumed office. First, the menace of herdsmen has reached an unprecedented level. Apparently, now more than ever before, the herdsmen destroy farmlands, maim and kill innocent people with impunity because they believe that one of their own is in charge and he would not go all out to stop them.
To buttress my argument, there is a legitimate case of double standard against the federal government: compare the seeming unwillingness of law enforcement agencies to deal decisively with the rampaging herdsmen who are committing heinous crimes and the lethal force both the army and the police have been using against non-violent Biafran agitators in the south east.
Second, because of escalating economic hardships in the country right now, there is a corresponding increase in the number of anti-social behaviours nationwide. Millions of Nigerians feel alienated from an administration they expected to improve their lives through the implementation of people-oriented programmes.
Instead, Buhari, Lai Mohammed, Garba Shehu and others have perfected the sermon of telling us how incompetent Jonathan was and how PDP messed up the country, as if the “gospel of blame” is a real alternative to creative problem-solving strategy urgently needed for tackling our multi-faceted problems. Besides, every student of sociology or psychology knows that anti-social behaviours and neurosis are directly proportional to increasing economic hardship and feeling of alienation in the society, especially among the common people.
President Buhari and his subordinates who regularly exhort Nigerians to bear the pains as sacrifice for a better tomorrow conveniently ignore the deep physical and mental wounds that result from prolonged privation and suffering, with the potential of turning Nigeria into a Hobbesian state of nature if the situation is not reversed quickly. For most Nigerians, life is becoming a bitter struggle for survival, whereas the people they elected to uplift their living conditions are making empty promises and taking care of themselves, their families and cronies.
Last week, the influential United States-based software, data and media company, Bloomberg, correctly noted that Buhari’s rigid leadership style is making Nigeria’s economic problems harder for his government to solve. It follows that the longer the President sticks to his current style of governance, the more difficult it would be for the country to climb out of the dark valley of recession and, consequently, the more devastating the effects of recession on the suffering masses.
Sometimes I feel Nigerians deserve what they are going through now. Some of us who soberly considered the antecedents of Buhari and the charlatans promoting his presidential ambition made it clear that he cannot perform the magic APC was promising: that although the man might have good intentions for wanting to be President so desperately, he was too old, intellectually unprepared and too committed to the domineering military cum Muslim Fulani weltanschauung to handle adequately the complexities of governing Nigeria at this time.
I was insulted and abused by some faceless fanatic intellectual Lilliputians who stupidly thought that I must have been paid handsomely to denigrate the reputation and presidential ambition of Muhammadu Buhari. Of course, the opium of change peddled by Lai Mohammed and others was too tempting to be critically assessed by gullible Nigerians who naively thought that “all will be well” immediately Buhari becomes President. Now that he is President and things are deteriorating with the speed of light, some of my critics are apologising.
Although it would be too hasty to write off this government yet, Nigerians should get ready for more hardship. I may be wrong, but the signs are not good for optimism right now because the fundamentals of our economy are not strong.
Let us quickly pluck the low hanging fruits from our analysis. The economy outlook is gloomy mainly because the current administration does not have a solid economic team. Therefore, President Buhari must look beyond irrelevant political cum ethnic considerations and select the most qualified Nigerians to manage the economy on his behalf. I support the anti-corruption drive of the present administration.
Yet it seems to be more of appearance than reality. Playing to the gallery in the media is easy; but what is needed urgently are real structural changes in the system that would make high profile corruption more difficult and less profitable. Moreover, no matter the temptation to the contrary, corruption must be fought firmly, decently, justly and legally.
If Buhari wants the country to progress, he must treat all parts of Nigeria fairly, and understand that he is the President of all Nigerians, not of a particular party, ethnic group, religious affiliation or socio-economic class. In my opinion, his best shot at greatness is to do for Nigeria what Mikhail Gorbachev did for the defunct Soviet Union.