We’re with Obasanjo on this — Ohanaeze, SMBLF;
•We’re studying the letter — ACF
By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Dapo Akinrefon, Ben Agande, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Daud Olatunji & Dennis Agbo
ABEOKUTA — Former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday sent an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari on the security situation in the country, with his missive to the President drawing the support of ethnic socio-cultural and political organizations from virtually all the geo-political zones in Nigeria saying if Nigerians resort to self-help there is danger ahead.
Obasanjo’s open letter to the President, released by his media aide, Kehinde Akinyemi, in Abeokuta, Ogun State, came against the backdrop of the spate of killings executed by kidnappers, bandits, insurgents and armed robbers across the country.
Aside from Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, which said it was still studying the letter, the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF; Pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere; as well as Southern and Middle Belt leaders all concurred with Obasanjo on the need for the Federal Government to stem the tide of killings.
But the Presidency’s reaction yesterday was simply that it would respond to the former President’s open letter when ready.
Obasanjo’s letter read: “I am constrained to write to you this open letter. I decided to make it an open letter because the issue is very weighty and must be greatly worrisome to all concerned Nigerians and that means all right-thinking Nigerians and those resident in Nigeria. “Since the issue is of momentous concern to all well-meaning and right-thinking Nigerians, it must be of great concern to you, and collective thinking and dialoguing is the best way of finding an appropriate and adequate solution to the problem.
“The contents of this letter, therefore, should be available to all those who can help in proffering effective solutions for the problem of insecurity in the land. One of the spin-offs and accelerants is the misinformation and disinformation through the use of fake news.
“A number of articles, in recent days, have been attributed to me by some people who I believe may be seeking added credence and an attentive audience for their opinions and view-points.
“As you know very well, I will always boldly own what I say and disown what is put into my mouth. But the issue I am addressing here is very serious; it is the issue of life and death for all of us and for our dear country, Nigeria.
“This issue can no longer be ignored, treated with nonchalance, swept under the carpet or treated with cuddling gloves. The issue is hitting at the foundation of our existence as Nigerians and fast eroding the root of our Nigerian community.
“I am very much worried and afraid that we are on the precipice and dangerously reaching a tipping point where it may no longer be possible to hold danger at bay. Without being immodest, as a Nigerian who still bears the scar of the Nigerian civil war on my body and with a son who bears the scar of fighting Boko Haram on his body, you can understand why I am so concerned.
“When people are desperate and feel that they cannot have confidence in the ability of government to provide security for their lives and properties, they will take recourse to anything and everything that can guarantee their security individually and collectively.
“For over ten years, four of which you have been the captain of the ship, Boko Haram has menacingly ravaged the land and in spite of government’s claim of victory over Boko Haram, the potency and the activities of Boko Haram, where they are active, remain undiminished, putting a lie to government’s claim.
“The recent explanation of the Chief of Army Staff for non-victory due to lack of commitment and lack of motivation on the part of troops bordering on sabotage speaks for itself. Say what you will, Boko Haram is still a daily issue of insecurity for those who are victimized, killed, maimed, kidnapped, raped, sold into slavery and forced into marriage and for children forcibly recruited into carrying bombs on them to detonate among crowds of people to cause maximum destruction and damage.
“Boko Haram will not go away on the basis of sticks alone, carrots must overweigh sticks. How else do you deal with issues such as only about 50% literacy in North-East with over 70% unemployment?
“Herdsmen/farmers crises and menace started with government treating the issue with cuddling glove instead of hammer. It has festered and spread. Today, it has developed into banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery and killings all over the country.
“The unfortunate situation is that the criminality is being perceived as a ‘Fulani’ menace unleashed by Fulani elite in the different parts of the country for a number of reasons, but even more unfortunately, many Nigerians and non-Nigerians who are friends of Nigeria attach vicarious responsibility to you as a Fulani elite and the current captain of the Nigeria ship.
“Perception may be as potent as reality at times. Whatever may be the grievances of Fulanis, if any, they need to be put out in the open and their grievances, if legitimate, be addressed; and if other ethnic groups have grievances, let them also be brought out in the open and addressed through debate and dialogue.
“The main issue, if I may dare say, is poor management or mismanagement of diversity which, on the other hand, is one of our greatest and most important assets. As a result, very onerous cloud is gathering. And rain of destruction, violence, disaster and disunity can only be the outcome.
“Nothing should be taken for granted, the clock is ticking with the cacophony of dissatisfaction and disaffection everywhere in and outside the country. The Presidency and the Congress in the US have signalled to us to put our house in order.
“The House of Lords in the UK had debated the Nigerian security situation. We must understand and appreciate the significance, implication and likely consequences of such concerns and deliberations.
“No one can stop hate speech, violent agitation and smouldering violent agitation if he fans the embers of hatred, disaffection and violence. It will continue to snowball until it is out of control. A stitch in time saves nine, goes the old wise saying.
“With the death of Funke, Chief Fasoranti’s daughter, some sympathetic Nigerian groups are saying ‘enough is enough’. Prof. Anya, a distinguished Nigerian Merit Laureate, has this to say: ‘We can no longer say with certainty that we have a nation’.
“Niger-Delta leaders, South-Eastern leaders, Middle-Belt leaders and Northern Elders Forum have not remained quiet. Different ordinary Nigerians at home and abroad are calling for different measures to address or ameliorate the situation.
“All the calls and cries can only continue to be ignored at the expense of Nigerian unity, if not its continued existence. To be explicit and without equivocation, Mr. President and General, I am deeply worried about four avoidable calamities:
“1. Abandoning Nigeria into the hands of criminals who are all being suspected, rightly or wrongly, as Fulanis and terrorists of Boko Haram type.
“2. Spontaneous or planned reprisal attacks against Fulanis which may inadvertently or advertently mushroom into pogrom or Rwanda-type genocide that we did not believe could happen and yet it happened.
“3.Similar attacks against any other tribe or ethnic group anywhere in the country initiated by rumours, fears, intimidation and revenge capable of leading to pogrom; and
“4. Violent uprising beginning from one section of the country and spreading quickly to other areas and leading to dismemberment of the country.
“It happened to Yugoslavia not too long ago. If we do not act now, one or all of these scenarios may happen. We must pray and take effective actions at the same time. The initiative is in the hands of the President of the nation, but he cannot do it alone.
“In my part of the world, if you are sharpening your cutlass and a mad man comes from behind to take the cutlass from you, you need other people’s assistance to have your cutlass back without being harmed.
“The mad men with serious criminal intent and terrorism as core value have taken cutlass of security. The need for assistance to regain control is obviously compelling and must be embraced now.
“A couple of weeks ago at a public lecture, I had said, among other things, that: “In all these issues of mobilization for national unity, stability, security, cooperation, development, growth and progress, there is no consensus.
“Like on the issue of security, government should open up discussion, debate and dialogue as part of consultation at different levels and the outcome of such deliberations should be collated to form inputs into a national conference to come up with the solution that will effectively deal with the issues and lead to rapid development, growth and progress which will give us a wholesome society and enhanced living standard and livelihood in an inclusive and shared society.
“It will be a national programme. We need unity of purpose and nationally accepted strategic road-map that will not change with whims and caprices of any government. It must be owned by the citizens, people’s policy and strategy implemented by the government, no matter its colour and leaning.
“Some of the groups that I will suggest to be contacted are traditional rulers, past heads of service (no matter how competent or incompetent they have been and how much they have contributed to the mess we are in), past heads of para-military organisations, private sector, civil society, community leaders, particularly in the most affected areas, present and past governors, present and past local government leaders, religious leaders, past Heads of State, past intelligence chiefs, past Heads of Civil Service and relevant current and retired diplomats, members of opposition and any groups that may be deemed relevant.
“The President must be seen to be addressing this issue with utmost seriousness and with maximum dispatch and getting all hands on deck to help. If there is failure, the principal responsibility will be that of the President and no one else.
“We need cohesion and concentration of effort and maximum force — political, economic, social, psychological and military — to deal successfully with the menace of criminality and terrorism separately and together.
“Blame game among own forces must be avoided. It is debilitating and only helpful to our adversary. We cannot dither anymore. It is time to confront this threat headlong and in a manner that is holistic, inclusive and purposeful.
“For the sake of Nigeria and Nigerians, I pray that God may grant you, as our President, the wisdom, the understanding, the political will and the courage to do what is right when it is right and without fear or favour.
“May God save, secure, protect and bless Nigeria. May He open to us a window of opportunity that we can still use to prevent the worst happening. As we say in my village, “May God forbid bad thing.”
No comments yet — Presidency
Meanwhile, the Presidency yesterday turned down every entreaty to respond to the letter by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Attempts made to get the reaction from the spokesmen of the President did not yield any results as no one was ready to comment on it.
However, a Presidency source who did not want to be quoted simply said: “When we are ready, we will come out with a statement.”
We’re with Obasanjo on this — Ohanaeze
But reacting to Obasanjo’s open letter, Ohanaeze Ndigbo said it aligned with the former President, saying he raised the same issues and fears of insecurity problem it expressed last weekend when it reacted to the ignoble killing of the daughter of Pa Ruben Fasoranti, Mrs. Funke Olakunri.
Ohanaeze recalled it canvassed an emergency security summit over the problem, warning that failure to convene the discourse on the way out of Nigeria’s insecurity quagmire would spell doom for the country.
Media Adviser to President-General of the apex Igbo group, Chief Emeka Attama, in statement over Obasanjo’s letter said: “Ohanaeze’s reaction is that this (Obasanjo’s letter) is in tandem with the views canvassed by its President General in a recent press release— a strident call for the convening of a national discourse on the way forward in the present security debacle.
“This is the only step that can assuage the current situation. It requires urgent action. We endorse his position absolutely. The sooner the better as things are really getting out of hand. Delay could spell doom for the country.”
SMBLF aligns with Obasanjo
In its reaction, the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, SMBLF, threw its weight behind the former President’s position.
Speaking on behalf of the forum, spokesman of the group, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said: “We endorse Obasanjo’s letter. It is a patriotic duty for any elder statesman to do at this time because the country is drifting to the edge of the precipe, we are on our road to Kigali.
“While some people have embraced the culture of silence, I think the former President has done well to speak truth to power at the risk to his personal safety.
“Nigeria today lies prostrate in the intensive care unit and we just hope that the government will listen to Obasanjo to determine the way forward.
“So, to avert war, we need all the leaders of Nigeria, across board, to determine the way forward before it is too late.”
PANDEF accuses Buhari
On its part, the PAN- Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, did not only support Obasanjo’s position but also accused President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s of clandestinely supporting the coordinated war on the South and Middle-Belt by rampaging Fulani herdsmen militias through obnoxious policies.
National Secretary of PANDEF, the umbrella group of royal fathers, leaders and stakeholders of the coastal states of Niger Delta, Dr. Alfred Mulade, conveyed the group’s position in response to latest missive of former President Olusegun Obasanjo to President Buhari, decrying the escalating insecurity in the country.
The statement read: “The insecurity situation in Nigeria today has risen to an unspeakable dimension. It is no longer out of place for any right-thinking, well-meaning Nigerian and friends of Nigeria to conclude that we are in a state of an orchestrated and systematic war inflicted on the South and Middle Belt by dissident elements effectively demonstrated by Fulani herdsmen militias.”
The regional body lamented that the actions of the dissidents were “surreptitiously supported and encouraged by the federal government, headed by Buhari through obnoxious policies.”
It said: “Following the dastardly murder of Funke Olakunri, daughter of Afenifere leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, last Friday,Vice President Osinbajo was reported to have hinted of plans by government to deploy soldiers on our highways.
“On the surface, it might appear as if they are doing so much, but clearly, it is grossly inadequate and out of pattern. The government cannot be saying one thing and doing a different thing, altogether.
“The government has, by its action encouraged criminality, insecurity, banditry and kidnappings in the country, particularly in the South and Middle Belt, when it cannot arrest, or refuse to arrest and prosecute any of the perpetrators of these heinous crimes.
“It is appalling and stands against rational reasoning that, up till now, the security agencies have not made any arrest of any Fulani herdsman, kidnapper or bandit ravaging the length and breadth of the South and Middle Belt.
“How are we sure that the same soldiers that are being deployed will summon the will power to curb the insecurity situation in the South and Middle Belt part of this country by Fulani herdsmen?
“To fuel our curiosity, when certain northern elements issued ultimatum to compel the government to unilaterally implement RUGA, and even went ahead to call southern governors and leaders unprintable names, an action which portends danger for this country, the government has not reacted reassuringly.
“If we had a serious government, these northern elements, who had the guts to give ultimatum to government on this kind of serious security issue capable of setting the country on fire should have been arrested and prosecuted.
“We are persuaded to align with the recent letter written by former President Obasanjo to President Muhammad Buhari. The inferences and conclusions arrived at, and the advice proffered make the message a rehash of what the Southern and Middle leaders have been advocating, which forms the core of panacea for a secured and peaceful coexistence.
“We wish to advise the government that security knows no ethnic or political religious barrier, it is at the core of human existence and so should be handled as an existential issue.
“The essence and primary responsibility of government is to provide security for its citizenry, without which, no government has the legitimacy to exist,” it said.
We’re studying Obasanjo’s letter — ACF
Reacting, Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, said it was studying the open letter written by the former President to President Muhammadu Buhari.
In a terse one paragraph reply to Vanguard enquiry, the Publicity Secretary of of ACF, Mohammed Ibrahim Biu, said the group would will make its position known after studying the letter.
“Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) is studying Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari and will make it’s position known soon,” the statement read.