By Obi Nwakanma
Three issues urgently required the attention of this column today, because in fact, they speak to the current national crisis under the presidency of Muhammadu Buhari and his APC party. I wanted to address the possible misuse of presidential power with the use of the DSS to arrest a serving senator of the Republic, Senator Enyi Abaribe and the misuse of court procedure in his arraignment before Justice Binta Nyako who promptly said, “I gave no orders for his arrest.” I wanted to write about the killings in Plateau state, and the on-going spread of violence in Nigeria that is threatening to unleash a massive volcano of armed resistance that will scuttle this country as her national defences thaw, especially as Nigerians trust their security forces less and less, and as the Nigerian Armed Forces and National Police fracture into ethnic armies and partisan militias. But space limits me.
However, Nigerians must now understand why the Buhari administration, three years going, and walking like a listless drunk into the last year of what should be a one-term presidency, has failed woefully. That regime is now the Nigerian albatross. Three years ago, Nigerians elected Buhari to lead a “change” agenda. He rode on the “change” mantra retailed by the All Peoples Congress (APC) and their supporters. The APC – folks now call them “A Party for Cows” – was a coalition of disgruntled politicians, many sidelined by the PDP government for all kinds of reasons including the former PDP president, Obasanjo; many who had lost their deposits in other parties; and the Tinubu faction of the old party Alliance for Democracy (AD), which felt that Jonathan had ignored them to deal with a mainstream group of the Yoruba “Afenifere.” Tinubu flexed his immense media and financial muscle, Rotimi Amechi and Anayo Okorocha supported, and Tony Momoh put his moral capital together, and together they mustered up the resources that backed Buhari’s CPC for an alliance to unseat Jonathan and the PDP.
The PDP of course had it coming. As a party, it had taken Nigerians for granted for sixteen years. It was a very corrupt party, and it had made mistakes. In the surge of public discontent over the abduction of the girls from Chibok, with Oby Ezekwesili leading the national weep-fest, Nigerians turned against Jonathan. The phallanx of Lagos-based media quickly called him “clueless.” In fact, I had a very fierce debate with an old friend of mine, the late literary critic and scholar Abiola Irele on this question at a bar in Johannesburg in April 2014.
He was the first person that used the word “clueless” about Jonathan to me. Jonathan, Irele argued, was weak, clueless, and compromised. He conceded too easily to the forces that held him hostage and did not have the strength of character to lead a complex country like Nigeria. Jonathan’s easy, peaceful demeanor; his willingness to make concessions for peace, gave him the image of a “weak and clueless president.” Indeed Jonathan, out of a clear sense of “compromise,” conceded the presidency of Nigeria to Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 to avert violence in Nigeria, following an election which was totally rigged in the North of Nigeria, and in which this same Buhari had threatened to unleash a bloodtide, should he not win the elections of 2015, in his now famous “dog and baboon soaked in blood” comment.
I have right before me, as I write this, a report in the Vanguard of May 15, 2012, titled “2015 will be Bloody if…” (see https://www.vanguardngr.com/2012/05/2015-ll-be-bloody-if-buhari/) in which our now President Buhari actually said that there were three Boko Harams: the Boko Haram led by Yusufu whom he defended subtly, insinuating that, that Boko Haram only became violent to avenge the death of their leader; the other Boko Haram, in Buhari’s mind, were “the criminals who kill and steal,” and the third Boko Haram said Buhari, was “the Federal Government.” Very clearly, President Buhari knew exactly what he was talking about.
He is now at head of the three Boko Harams, including the chief of it all, the Federal Government. Afterall, the late General Abacha did once say, “if an insurgency lasts more than 24 hours, the government has a hand in it.” Word.
But Jonathan clearly surprised Buhari and everyone in 2015 by handing Nigeria to the former to avert violence. Already primed, however, and with no other agenda, this trained militia of “herdsmen” – a travelling force of mercenaries, many of whom may have been trained in Libya, were unleashed, and they now roam the North of Nigeria, and are moving South without restraint. Which is why all the talk coming from the presidency this past week, making excuses for the current security situation is lame, vexatious and insulting to Nigerians.
On Wednesday, Mr. Femi Adesina, issued a statement – one of the dumbest I have ever read by any official spokesperson of a government – asking Nigerians to do a “checklist” of people killed under the 16 years of PDP’s governance of Nigeria, suggesting that there was also violence under the PDP which should therefore not make hay of the current violence as a result. Two things quickly stood out of this letter: Mr. Adesina imagines Nigerians to be dumb. Adesina’s self-serving, finger-pointing, mojo-measuring response to the violence that has metastasized across Nigeria suggests that the presidency is living inside a fog, and does not really care, and if it does, clearly has no answers to the economic and social crisis that this president has unleashed on Nigerians. Nigerians did the checklist in May 2015.
It is why they gave a mandate to Muhammadu Buhari and the APC to change the situation. But rather than change, it has grown worse and unbridled. Yes, from 1999 to 2007, there were a series of political killings and assassinations in Nigeria, and randomized kidnappings in the South of Nigeria. Obasanjo in fact even used the force of the nation to bring a brewing insurgency in the Niger Delta to heel by carpet-bombing Odi. Obasanjo, had the support of many now in the APC. I still remember this picture of Adamu Oshiomole, standing side-by-side an isolated Obasanjo as he was sworn-in after a massively rigged election.
The NLC lost its moral compass with Oshiomole. Yar Adua and Goodluck Jonathan put an end to that sense of insecurity in Nigeria. They negotiated the end of the Niger Delta militia uprising, and ended the situation of kidnappings in the East. And let us be fair, Nigerians had a bounce in their steps, in terms of their well-being under Jonathan. Under Jonathan, Nigerians began to sense a little more confidence creeping in; poverty was abated, more folks had access to spending money, cleaner water, food, and there was a growing confidence in the economy, indicated by the move of many Nigerians returning home from the Diaspora in increasing numbers as a result of the improved social conditions under Jonathan. Goodluck Jonathan and his crew were not saints. But one could drive from Abuja to Jos.
There was Boko Haram which Jonathan inherited, but he was proactive in finding solutions. He had confined them to the Sambisa forest, and wedged them between the Nigerian, the Cameroonian and the Chadian forces. Boko Haram was just about being crushed when Buhari, and folks from the APC raised the ruse about Jonathan’s “abuse of human rights,” and used their international network to prevent the US, the UK, France, and South Africa from selling arms and equipment to Jonathan’s government, which forced the National Security Adviser, Colonel Dasuki charged with dealing with the National Security challenges posed by Boko Haram in that regime, to seek black market alternatives for which he has been in indefinite detention and called “corrupt” by Buhari’s administration. That’s the “checklist” Mr. Adesina, and the records should indicate, that when the former president Jonathan moved forcefully against Boko Haram, the current president Buhari had a hand in restraining and undermining Jonathan. Today, Boko Haram is operating full blast from the North East, and the Fulani militia, known as the “herdsmen” from the North-West. And the center certainly cannot hold for much too long.