By Dele Sobowale
“O! What a tangled web we weave/ When first we practice to deceive.”—Sir Walter Scott, 1771-1832
“Seven states of the North are only represented in my cabinet by junior ministers…. In Southeast, I got 198,000 votes but I have four substantive ministers and seven junior ministers from there.”
Civilian politics, like military politics, has not been kind to Buhari. In 1984-5, his colleagues, especially those who actually planned and executed the coup on December 31, 1983, quickly saw his tendencies towards nepotism and particularly “Dauranism.” In 1984-5 one Daura was one of the most powerful people in Doddan Barracks. In 2015-2019, another Daura is one of the most visible powers in government. It is possible that if Buhari should return as President in 2019, he will find another Daura to appoint to high office. Those with any memory would recall that in 1984, it was an Emir who was allowed to bring into the country 53 pieces of luggage unchecked at a time when the rest of us were frisked down to our underwear at the airport. That is only a prelude to the second part of this series and it serves as take-off point and rebuttal of what Buhari said last week – part of which is quoted above. It was vintage half-truth delivered by Buhari in the usual monotone to the fateful gathered at his feet.
On Thursday, January 18, 2018, the President had told selected leaders of the All Progressives Congress, APC, being hosted to a dinner in clear words. “Don’t allow anybody to talk of ethnicity. It is not true.” Given the audience of “Yes-men and women” present, people guaranteed to have checked their gray matters at home before coming, it was like a gospel. They must have clapped. That was how devotees of Hitler and now of Trump applaud whenever their “god” said something easily disproved as nonsense by thinking people. So, permit me to point to the half-truths and falsehoods contained in the statement above.
First, it is the constitution, not Buhari, which compels every President to appoint Ministers from every state. President Shehu Shagari, 1979-1983, NPN, performed just as poorly in the Southwest during the 1979 general elections. He still appointed Ministers from all the UPN states. The same was true of Obasanjo in the 1999 elections. So, there is absolutely nothing special about Buhari appointing four Ministers from the Southeast.
Second, in another demonstration of what has become Buhari’s penchant for half-truths offered as proof, he talked of seven states in the North represented by junior ministers. He must surely have forgotten to mention the substantive Ministers appointed from the North because that will not help his story. So, let me help him out by mentioning a few. The Ministries of Petroleum Resources, Justice, Defence, Interior, Agriculture, Education, Water Resources, Environment, Information and Culture and Sports are all headed by Northerners. All cabinet rank appointments including the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief of Staff, National Security Adviser, DG-NIA, DG-DSS, among others, are all Northerners. Why were all these not mentioned in the narrative? The answer is simple, the Buhari we once loved dearly has transformed into a poor politician and is just now learning how to deceive. He is making a harsh of it.
The first part of this series last week ended with an unfinished reference to Buhari’s visit to late Lam Adesina, the Governor of Oyo State, under the Social Democratic Party, SDP. A clash between farmers and herdsmen in the state brought the former military Head of State, who was, even then, a patron of the herdsmen. Was it a mission for reconciliation and to promote peaceful co-existence? No. Buhari was there to argue for the rights of the herdsmen to operate anywhere – apparently including on the farms of the Yoruba people who have inhabited the area for generations. From available evidence, not once did Buhari utter a word expressing sympathy for the farmers. And, even now, it much appears not to have changed.
When the rape of Agatu occurred in April 2016 and the whole world raised voices in outrage and sympathy, there was one voice that was not raised immediately. The President of Nigeria, who would send messages to Europe whenever terrorists attacked and killed six or ten people, said nothing immediately, after about three hundred members of a small ethnic group were wiped out. When I visited Agatu in early May 2016 and filed my report, the most remarkable part of it was the absolute absence of any sort of humanitarian support for the people apart from soldiers stationed there. Almost two years after, nobody has been arrested and none will ever be prosecuted for the carnage.
Again, people will recollect that a community in Enugu State was also razed a few days before Agatu. The annihilators got away with the mass murder. But, something interesting occurred two months after the Enugu and Agatu mass murders. Five herdsmen were reported missing in one of the Southeast states. Suddenly, security forces swamped the area in search of the missing herdsmen; villagers were interrogated and some detained briefly. The difference is clear.
In May 2016, I made the observation that given the methodical approach the herdsmen took in executing their attacks, the Agatu killings would eventually become the first installment for several large scale atrocities that would follow unless Buhari acted swiftly. He did not. His recent meeting with Benue State leaders and the promise to ensure the culprits are punished sound hollow given his track record of not punishing those who embezzled Internally Displaced Persons’, IDPs’, Funds and those who shielded Maina.
During Buhari’s meeting with the elders of Benue States’s several ethnic groups, the President of Nigeria could not even bring himself to mention the name Miyetti Allah; neither were their leaders condemned for promising large scale bloodshed and carrying it out. Instead, Buhari asked the leaders to “accommodate your countrymen” and to “restrain your people.” The victims were asked to allow the murderers to continue on their campaign of plunder and murder in order to accommodate them. What was Buhari’s reward for them if they complied with his one-sided instruction? Nothing. A national leader without a sense of justice is merely asking for chaos as the victims eventually get tired; get angry. Then “anger supplies the arms” (Virgil, 70-19 BC.)
I have bad news for Buhari. I was on the road from December 26 to December 31, last month on a tour which took me through fourteen states tracking the hardships Nigerians suffered as a result of FG’s inability to manage fuel supply. In Benue State, it was clear that the farmers were no longer ready to accommodate the destroyers called herdsmen. They were ready to fight back. Nobody listens to Buhari anymore – not even the herdsmen for whom he pleads.
As if to prove that they are not deterred or perhaps even encouraged by Presidential promise of retribution, the herdsmen once again slaughtered twenty-eight in Taraba State – including a traditional ruler.
Herdsmen have lived peacefully with other communities in the past and until now. But, they have become a national terrorist group only in the last three years. The question is: what has changed? The answer is: look at Aso Rock, Abuja. There you have a life Patron of the MACBAN. Rightly or wrongly, the herdsmen believe they can get away with any atrocity as long as the Rock is theirs.
ADESINA VERSUS ADESINA
“You are entitled to your opinions; you are not entitled to your own facts.”—Senator (Prof) Daniel Moynihan, 1974.
Harvard Professor Moynihan, went from the classroom to the US Congress in 1976, and left us with several gems. The one about facts and opinion is one of them. That observation made forty-one years ago has pitted two of Nigeria’s best known Adesinas against each other in what James Russell Lowell, 1819-1891, would call the “the strife of truth with falsehood”.
Pastor Femi Adesina, a Presidential spokesman, published a few weeks ago what he claimed to be the “Twenty-one achievements of Buhari in 2017”. I have already disputed one of them. But, that should not delay us here. Adesina, former President of the Guild of Editors, a journalist must know all about the sanctity of truth. After all “Facts are sacred; comment is free”. Among the achievements F. Adesina claimed was the emergence of Nigeria from recession – which was credited to his boss. Never mind that Buhari spent a good part of the second quarter in bed in London, Adesina gave him credit for the recovery.
Last week, the second Adesina turned up. The President of the African Development Bank, ADB, announced that it was the ADB which pulled Nigeria out of recession by providing $600m – without which there would have been no recovery.
I waited for more than a week for the response from Adesina 1. None came. So can Adesina 2 be right and another falsehood has been exposed?