By Owei Lakemfa
NIGERIA today is three nations. The nation that holds President Muhammadu Buhari infallible, that which sees nothing but fallibility, and, the ‘Third Force’ which sees serious problems and wants to find solution irrespective of who is President of the party in power. This group thinks that if the heavens fall, it will fall on all Nigerians and it is, therefore, wiser for a collective struggle to prevent such calamity by all means necessary.
The Nigerians who present President Buhari like a deity whose thoughts and actions should not be questioned are mainly those who benefit legally or illegally from his administration or hope to do so. Such benefit may not necessarily be economic or the crumbs from the palatial table in Aso Rock, it can also be political. My concern is not about this group who walk the truth on its head, giving the President the wrong impression that he is the best thing to happen to democracy since 1861 when American President Abraham Lincoln allegedly declared democracy as the government of the people.
This tribe gives the president a false impression of ‘All correct Sir!’ rather than assist him to review many of his policies, some of which are parochial and derailing the country from the path of peace, peoples’ welfare, development and an assured future. My concerns are not these jobbers and their opponents. Rather, I am concerned about the broad section of the Nigerian people who are the victims of a system which is multiplying poverty, dashing hopes, phenomenally increasing insecurity and for whom another four years may be hellish.
Those of us who are politically conscious but are non-politically partisan realise that Nigerians face a collective tragedy unless the main political actors, the two leading political parties who run the National Assembly, the states, the local governments and the economy, join critical Nigerians to change this system.
If you have freedom of movement and you cannot safely travel on the road, what kind of freedom is that? If over half your territorial space is strongly contested by terrorists, kidnappers and bandits, and you claim you are “on top of the situation”, what kind of delusion is that?
How can you have freedom of belief and you are endangered not because you constitute a danger, but because you are Shiite, what kind of freedom is that?
If the judiciary is free and the government pointedly refuses to obey court orders for four years as in the cases of Sambo Dasuki and El-Zakzaky, what kind of free judiciary is that?
If marauders kill your kinsmen, burn your homes, send you to Internally Displaced Peoples camps, occupy your lands, and rename your towns and villages as has happened to over 50 villages and towns in Plateau State, yet you are assured of ‘security,’ what type of security is that?
If the president and commander-in-chief declined to declare the marauders as terrorists and fail to send in the military and security forces to expel the invaders, retake the occupied lands and resettle the victims on their ancestral lands, and you say you want peace, what kind of peace is that?
If your major economic programme is agriculture and food self-sufficiency, yet millions of farmers have been rendered landless, are in internally displaced peoples camps or are too afraid to go to the farms due to insecurity, is that a programme?
If a government spins a project like the Rural Grazing Area, RUGA, and rolls out its ‘pilot’ schemes, designates land, awards contracts and has unbudgeted billions of Naira to spend on it, but nobody in government takes ownership for the project, was it done by ghosts?
If the administration borrowed as much as N2.66 trillion in the past year, increasing the country’s debt to N24.39 trillion, but built no schools, hospitals, mass housing or improve the welfare of the people, what kind of economic policy is that?
If you have a Federal Government that picks almost all the service chiefs and heads of security agencies from one part of the country and it says it is running an inclusive system, what kind of federalism is that?
I am a pan-Africanist who believes in the unity of the African people. I accept Kwame Nkrumah’s teachings on the need for Africa to unite as a single political system with a common currency, economy, military, and capital. But it does not mean marauders will be free to roam our space, kidnapping, killing and seizing towns and villages. Anybody coming to Nigeria must be ready to accept our secularism, diversity, unity, laws, and constitution. This is not ethnic profiling because the bandits and kidnappers shooting directly at approaching vehicles, do not care about the ethnic, regional or religious origins of the people in the vehicles; their intention is simply criminal. So, those who profile or defend bandits based on ethnic considerations are wasting their time. The issue is that we are all endangered and need to collectively deal with the criminals, or they will deal with us individually.
The fact is that we are at war; no not the declared one with Boko Haram, but the undeclared one by local and foreign bandits who have made most of the states in the North virtually ungovernable and spread their ‘guerrilla warfare’ to other parts of the country. Abuja which used to have a light population is now crowded as people flee various parts of the country. Many influential people who have retired to their farms and their home towns in the North or had settled in places like Kaduna are now taking refuge in Abuja. So also are the poor who are fleeing farms and abandoning the trade.
How can the influential leader of a community be seized right in his home and spend two months in captivity as happened to Alhaji Musa Umar, the Magajin Garin of Daura? Imagine the trauma of being held at gun-point by people who were probably on drugs. Given his relationship with the Presidency, he probably will now have guards round the clock; how can those he rules over be free to access him? How can he feel safe when he was kidnapped right in his home? If he is moved to Abuja, he would not only lose touch with his people but will feel a sense of alienation.
Professor Wole Soyinka is not just a genius, but also one of the most courageous men in our history who is known to embrace danger like a man engaged in a tango. Now he says he is afraid; not for himself, but the country. At this crucial time, we need to listen to such voices. My simple prayer is: for Nigeria’s survival, God should guide Buhari and his fellow elites, aright.