March 29, 2018

General Gowon, say something – anything!


General Yakubu Gowon (Rtd)

By Ochereome Nnanna

THE elite in every part of the world is a close-knit cult. There is more that unites than separates them. In this charmed cult religion, region, state of origin and such primordial sentimentalities matter very little, though these are often very potent weapons which the elite use to manipulate the masses in order to control and use them for their own selfish ends. What matters most to the cult members is common interest.

This is very true of the Nigerian elite that took over the affairs of this nation after the civil war that “kept Nigeria one” (whatever that means). Before the war, the civilian political class was generally more educated and enlightened, while the bulk of the military, especially officers from the North, were mostly secondary school leavers. But after the war, the soldiers gained the upper hand and have dictated the pace of politics since then. The reason for this is not farfetched.

General Yakubu Gowon (Rtd)

After defeating Biafra and stumbling on the additional windfall of oil wealth from the Niger Delta, the military class decided that they reserved the exclusive right to dictate the fate of the politics and economy of the country. That explains why the crop of military officers who plotted the counter-coup of June 1966 which restored the North to power and went on to rally the nation against Biafra’s independence, have been in power ever since. Two of them – General Olusegun Obasanjo and retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari – have even ruled Nigeria both as military officers and elected presidents. Two others – Generals Yakubu Gowon and Ibrahim Babangida, failed in their own attempts to come back as elected civilian presidents.

You must have noticed how all of them except retired Lt. General TY Danjuma, drifted over to Buhari against out-of-favour President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015. Danjuma refused to join the Buhari train because of his firm determination to ensure that his native Taraba State is never ruled by a Fulani Muslim. He must have seen the currently unfolding agenda ahead of time under a prospective Buhari presidency. I saw it too and wrote tomes forewarning Nigerians but I was called names.

Within three years everybody now knows where Buhari has taken us. I shudder to imagine where this nation will be in the next five years if he is re-elected in 2019. He has failed woefully in all the three priority areas on which he campaigned: the economy, security and ant-graft war. Just look at the numbers. The regime is celebrating a marginal recovery from recession but ignores the widespread poverty, unemployment and exploding criminality, particularly in hardest-hit North. The anti-graft campaign of the regime that only focuses on the recovery of alleged stolen public funds from officials of the Jonathan regime has lost steam and Nigeria has slid further from 136th in 2016 to 148th in 2017 among 180 countries surveyed by Transparency International, TI. Corrupt members of Buhari’s cabal are treated as untouchable by the anti-graft agencies.

Security appears to be the worst undoing of this regime. Boko Haram, which has been declared defeated several times, has become so potent that Buhari is now begging them to drop their weapons and accept amnesty! The manner in which the Dapchi girls were abducted and returned by the terrorists left most Nigerians with little choice but to conclude that this regime is now taking the nation for a ride.

The armed Fulani militias killing people all over the Middle Belt and South have now overtaken Boko Haram as the number one threat to the nation’s security and unity. They are not only grabbing lands, some elements in the Fulani community are also claiming to be owners of lands around the Middle Belt “through conquest”. In some communities in Delta State, villagers now pay “protection” fees to armed Fulani herdsmen before they can access their farmlands! The killings in Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Nasarawa, Southern Kaduna, Kogi and most communities in the South East, South-South and South West are daily occurrences.

The armed forces, police and security agencies have been reluctantly sent to some of these places, but the reports we get everyday is that they collude with the bandits rather than protect the people from them. Gen. Danjuma only said what local people have been complaining about without anyone paying them any attention.

On this issue of failure to protect Nigerians from armed Fulani bandits, Buhari is losing the comradeship of most of his colleagues who fought for the Federal side during the civil war. Generals Obasanjo, Babangida and Danjuma have spoken out aloud because Nigeria’s unity and territorial integrity are in danger. Only Buhari does not seem to see the danger. Even the non-soldier friends of this regime, such as Professor Wole Soyinka and the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, have seen it.

But one man has continued to keep silent: General Yakubu Gowon, the man who led the war to “keep Nigeria one”. What is the matter with General Gowon? His native Plateau State has all but been conquered by the Fulani militias who have been savaging its local communities since 2002. It was from Plateau State that the armed herdsmen phenomenon took its root and spread out. These bandits are driving the indigenous Plateau peoples into squatter camps as refugees.

It is shocking that Gowon, who led the effort to prevent Biafra from breaking away fifty years ago won’t even open his mouth to condemn ethnic bandits whose activities are putting the nation on the verge of anarchy and possible disintegration. How does Gowon sleep at night after watching videos of mass slaughters and mass burials in his native Middle Belt? The man dies in him who keeps silent in the face of tyranny!

Gowon prays, but prayer without work is nothing. He must come out of hiding and speak up for Nigeria.