By Rotimi Fasan
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has only recently returned to the country after a state visit to the United States of America. This was at the invitation, we have been told several times, of the US President, Donald Trump. It may be true that Buhari was not received with all the fanfare, pomp and circumstance with which Emmanuel Macron, the French President who visited just before him, had been welcomed to America. Not many have been accorded such lavish display of affection even among western leaders.
If in doubt ask Theresa May or Angela Merkel. The Trump presidency has been anything but friendly, even to traditional allies of the US. The Buhari administration has thus understandably been making so much of the president’s visit to America. If nothing else the visit, at the very least, signaled either recognition or acceptance, if not both, of the Buhari presidency by the most influential country and leader in the world.
It is also a significant achievement viewed against the backdrop of the apparent disdain with which the Barack Obama White House treated Nigeria under Goodluck Jonathan. One wonders what those IPOB partisans who had been banking on Trump’s support against Buhari make of this apparent rapport between Trump and the man they perceive as their number one enemy.
With the kind of recognition Buhari appears to have got from America, would it not look like all is well? That all the hue and cry about lawlessness overtaking the country is exaggerated? How can a president from a so-called Third World country in close talk with the putative most powerful man in the world – how can such a president not consider himself lucky to win the attention of such a truculently crude and incorrigible figure? Will it be out of place for Buhari, given the attention from the US, to further ignore the ‘noises’ about insecurity and corruption in the country? Never mind that Trump had himself described Nigeria among other African countries by very uncomplimentary remarks not too long ago.
Perhaps, Buhari’s failure to seize the opportunity of that visit to press America for a better deal for Nigeria’s crude oil even when Trump was urging him for a ‘fairer’ trade deal, to wit, to open our doors to more import from America, perhaps Buhari was so full of gratitude for the recognition from Trump that he didn’t think he should sour the atmosphere by asking for a better economic deal for Nigeria. He even told reporters at the White House Press conference that he didn’t think much of the sh-thole allegation against Trump because, according to him, he had learned from his own experience that such reports should be taken with a pinch of salt.
May be Buhari was just plain intimidated by Trump’s reputation for being brusque and he didn’t want to be on the receiving end of his erratic bahaviour. Whatever was the case, the point is that invitations like the one that took Buhari to America could desensitise him to the situation at home, creating for him a false air of order.
Yet, the country is far from order. Indeed, chaos seems to be the order of the day. Donald Trump himself alluded to this sense of chaos when he talked about the killing of Christians and the vast empire of corruption in Nigeria. No day passes now without reports of multiple cold-blooded killings in different parts of the country. These are acts perpetrated by murderous marauders called herders – people Buhari insists are harmless stick wielders that only carry cutlasses to clear their path. But Nigerians cannot disbelieve the facts before them. They know their killers are members of a particular ethnic group with weapons beyond the efficiency of a cutlass much less a rude staff to prod their cattle. Nigerians cannot forget the fact that those who have made them rootless in their own country are invariably garbed in military fatigue and carry out their murderous activities with professional efficiency. While Buhari can’t be accused of giving them direct orders to go about their plunder, his failure to bring them to account in a way that convince Nigerians he is committed to their security make him guilty by omission. His is a case of guilt by failure at the very least.
That he could not get his Inspector- General of Police to act or make his service chiefs take on the intruders in any way make him complicit in the act of ethnic cleansing that is being executed across different parts of this country. What has been going on in the name of herdsmen killing is a grand case of ethnic cleansing for these killers not only belong to a different ethnic stock from their preys, they take over the sacked towns and villages of these hapless Nigerians after sending them, the rightful owners, to settlements for displaced persons. Yes, that is the report currently filtering in. Yet, Buhari insists on behaving like all is well. He goes about campaigning for re-election, telling everyone his is a labour of love for Nigerians even when the same people tell him they are tired of his government.
Nigerians may not have got to the point where they are going after one another in the indiscriminate manner the herdsmen terrorism demand. But that is not to say that all is well with the country. Daily, our state of lawlessness is proclaimed before us. Governors are falling off moving vehicles while lawmakers are locking themselves in their homes or jumping out of moving vehicles to evade arrest. They are appearing in court on bed (thought that ended with Olisa Metuh) or stealing the mace- their own symbol of legislative authority. The national legislative body has delayed, more or less, refused to pass the budget half way into the financial year. Presidential orders are being flouted with impunity and close surrogates of the president are themselves guilty of corruption even when nothing happens to them.
Amid all of this, political parties are getting poised for the next round of general elections while party congresses degenerate into centres of violent encounters. Human life is worth nothing more than a bullet and those who have the responsibility to act to stem this tide of blood-letting have somehow convinced themselves that there is nothing to worry about. Nothing seems to be working according to order, yet our leaders, particularly our president, go about as if all is just fine. We are back in a sense to the state of insecurity that preceded the 2015 election, the only difference are the actors. Then it was Boko Haram. Now it is herdsmen who have turned killer men. But the question remains, what is Buhari doing about this? Are Nigerians being invited to self help?