By Tony Eluemunor
It is amazing the amount of acrimonious, malicious and vindictive argument that came in the wake of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s outcry that Islamic Jihadists/terrorists have deliberately marked out a large swat of African land from Mali to Nigeria for the establishment of an Islamic State after their failure to defend the Islamic state that they had declared around Iraq and Syria. The bitterly spiteful debate shows the nature of the ruling party and its supporters; they are not ready to take corrections or criticisms as though the All Progressives Congress is a religion and not a political party and President Mohammadu Buhari has become a god who can do no wrong.
If we were engaged in a debate about a less severe matter here, I would have left the insecurity of life and property in Nigeria, to mock Obasanjo, after all, he played totally personal and dastardly politics instead of addressing the beginnings of Islamic arms slinging in Nigeria, when the chance came. Pan back to 2004 please.
THE KANO DEBACLE
President Obasanjo, acting under an ultimatum by the Council of Ulamma to ‘deal’ with Plateau State, tried to rationalize his declaration of State of Emergency there in 2004 when he unconstitutionally suspended Joshau Dariye, the Governor.
Obasanjo even went to the extent of justifying the riotous decimation of Christians in Kano (yet again) where about many Christians were slaughtered as a reprisal killing in reply to the killings in Plateau state within the same time frame. Then, he suspended Dariye for failing to keep his state peaceful…but he failed to lift a finger against the Governor of Kano state… after all, he too failed to maintain peace in his state. But Obasanjo forgot that he had the duty to maintain peace in any part of Nigeria—as he controlled the Police and the Armed Forces as well as the Department of State Security, etc.
Obasanjo said that the situation in Yelwa threatened peace in Nigeria, forgetting that Kano had by then acquired the reputation as the fertile state for frequent ethno-religious strife. Really violent clashes had been taking place in Kano in the three years preceding the Plateau State riots, and those were three out of Obasanjo’s then four years in Aso Rock Presidential Villa. In those three years Kano people killed Christians, burnt their churches and houses and looted their property while protesting the staging of ‘Miss World’ beauty pageant in Nigeria, American invasion of Afghanistan, in support of Osama bin Laden, and against American attack on Iraq.
Indeed, the particular Kano killing Obasanjo had pretended to be a reprisal killing for the Yelwa crisis in Plateau state, was in protest against American continuous presence in Iraq; according to newspaper reports of the violent demonstration and the setting on fire of the Kano branch of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Acknowledging the problems posed by Kano, The President wrote in a letter to the Sultan of Sokoto:”You will agree with me that what we have in Kano is a chronic situation whereby when there is an ethnic dispute or clash anywhere bordering on religion…Muslims of any sect and at any level in other parts of Nigeria, but particularly in Kano take it upon themselves to slaughter innocent people from other parts of the country based on their ethnicity, religion and social situation as reprisal.”
Obasanjo did not ensure that any participant in the killing orgies in Yelwa or Kano was charged to court. Blood-letting had become a normal thing in the North. It is like the present situation where rampaging Fulani herdsmen attack and wipe out whole communities, and the Kaduna Governor, Nasir el-Rufai would joke that the Fulani never forgets a wrong—as though the Fulani has the right to kill at will to avenge any evil—real or imagined. In that same lackadaisical way, even the President has called upon the people of Benue to be more accommodating to their neighbours just when 77 dead Benue people killed by suspected herdsmen were being buried.
Obasanjo who suspended Dariye, set up a State of Emergency in Plateau, failed to release a report on the Yelwa killings over which he suspended Dariye.
Dariye was punished for national crises which Obasanjo as the President should have been held responsible for. In fact, Dariye was punished for his anti-Obasanjo and pro-Atiku Abubakar politics; he was one of the James Ibori-led PDP Governors who openly opposed Obasanjo’s re-election in 2003. The core leaders of that opposition—Dariye, Bayelsa’s Dipreye Alamieyesigha, Abia’s Uzor Orji Kalu, Adamawa’s Boni Haruna, Benue’s George Akume and Delta’s James Onanefe Ibori would be relentlessly pursued, some weeded out of PDP or even impeached by Abuja-manipulated kangaroo panels. Alamieyeseigha suffered the worst fate; he was murdered when he was not allowed to receive adequate medical treatment for the surgery he had in Germany.
The second leg of this article is that crime, random crime as opposed to religious-induced one, has long made Nigeria unsafe. As David Kaplan wrote in “The Coming Anarchy: How scarcity, crime, overpopulation, tribalism, and disease are rapidly destroying the social fabric of our planet” in the Atlantic Monthly of November February 1994, “The cities of West Africa at night are some of the unsafest places in the world. Streets are unlit; the police often lack gasoline for their vehicles; armed burglars, carjackers, and muggers proliferate”
Kaplan wrote: “In cities in six West African countries I saw similar young men everywhere—hordes of them. They were like loose molecules in a very unstable social fluid, a fluid that was clearly on the verge of igniting. He argued that in the villages of Africa it is perfectly natural to feed at any table and lodge in any hut. But in the cities this communal existence no longer holds. You must pay for lodging and be invited for food. When young men find out that their relations cannot put them up, they become lost. They join other migrants and slip gradually into the criminal process.
In the poor quarters of Arab North Africa,” he continued, “there is much less crime, because Islam provides a social anchor: of education and indoctrination. Here in West Africa, we have a lot superficial Islam and superficial Christianity. That is why there is less crime, especially riotous killing in the Islamic country of Turkey than in Northern Nigeria.
Martin van Creveld, a military historian at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, in The Transformation of War, stated: “so fighting in many ways is not a means but an end. Kaplan wrote a far back as 1994: “When I asked Pentagon officials about the nature of war in the 21 century, the answer I frequently got was “Read Van Creveld.” The top brass are enamored of this historian not because his writings justify their existence but, rather, the opposite: Van Creveld warns them that huge state military machines like the Pentagon’s are dinosaurs about to go extinct and that something far more terrible awaits us.”
Debunking the great military strategist Carl von Clausewitz, Van Creveld, who may be the most original thinker on war since that early-nineteenth-century Prussian, writes, “Clausewitz’s ideas… the period of the “threefold division into government, army, and people” which state-directed wars enforce is ending. Now, political, social, economic, and religious motives were hopelessly entangled and the new armies consist of mercenaries, all were also attended by swarms of military entrepreneurs (who buy guns for the herdsmen, for example). They robbed the countryside on their own behalf”… like the herdsmen and bandits or kidnappers
David Kaplan’s article appeared in 1994. Martin van Crevid wrote even before that, but the Nigerian military was unprepared when Boko Haram or Zamfara Bandits appeared decades later.