By Olusegun Obasanjo
WHEN former President Olusegun Obasanjo spoke at the first memorial of the Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC, Founder, Dr. Fredrick Fasehun in February, he dropped heavy bombshells that the Presidency has not responded to till date, but which won’t go away. I bring readers of this column excerpts from that wonderful speech.
LET me put myself in position of Dr. Fasehun today, if he were alive and only on two current issues of national importance – security and political structure. When he was alive, both were of great concern to him. What I say from now on could be attributed to him if he were alive or could be shared by both of us as he unburdened his mind to me on a number of occasions when he was here with us.
The first duty and responsibility of a leader of any human community or organisation is security of life and property of all the members of the community, the organisation or the society.
Guaranteeing total security
From time immemorial, this started as individual, developed into family, settlement, community, national, multi-national and alliances. These are all to strengthen, enhance and guarantee total security. For every individual or family, there are layers of security apparatus and arrangement. They are complementary and supplementary. The inadequate ones are buoyed up by others to ensure adequacy of security.
There is no doubt that the national security architecture, apparatus, system and arrangements in Nigeria today have failed to measure up to the needs of the citizens in different parts of the country. …Yakubu Dogara, with his understanding as a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, on February 6, 2020, put it graphically: “From Boko Haram-ISWAP led by Al-Barnawi, Boko Haram led by Shekau and Ansaru insurgency to farmers/herders conflict, banditry, kidnappings, ethno-religious conflicts, cattle rustling, etc, we are confronted with a crisis that is unparalleled in our history. The death spiral appears unstoppable.” Even the President himself confessed that he was shocked to come to know that things are that bad.
The governors in different states of the country as the chief security officers of their respective states were taking measures to enhance and buoy up security for their citizens. These measures vary from paying off bandits, to hunting them down with vigilantes and hunters and to innovative joint efforts like Amotekun. What these governors have shown was that they were concerned and they cared. I would not know if any of them was shocked but most of them took steps as they deemed fit to enhance the security of life and property for their citizens and to augment the failing and inadequate security provided at the national level.
Whatever we may feel individually or collectively by these different measures, these governors must be commended and where necessary, they should be helped to refine and make robust and efficient the effective measures they have taken, from Katsina to Zamfara, from Adamawa to Benue and from South East to South West. From my personal observation as I talked to people and people across the board talked to me, nothing has united the people of South West like Amotekun since independence except independence itself. Not even the civil war was such a unifier.
I commend the governors of South West for their bold and courageous measure taken beyond political party affiliation to improve security architecture and care for their citizens. I particularly commend Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State for his leadership on this matter and for sharing their thinking with me. Security measures are never static and security is the responsibility of all of us but by appointment and elections, some have more responsibility than others.
It is instructive to note that the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, NSCIA, under the leadership of Sultan of Sokoto, became extremely worried about the level of insecurity in the country and then called on President Buhari to declare a state of emergency for security in the country. The NSCIA has followed the line of other organisations, institutions and individuals who have expressed dismay and disappointment at the level of insecurity and criminality all over the country as if there is no government in charge in this country.
Calling for an emergency is a wake-up call for the Federal Government to know the magnitude of the level of insecurity and to take effective measure or measures to stem the tide. The Northern Elders Forum has spoken out on the pervasive insecurity in the nation. The Governor of Borno, Babagana Umara Zulum, has pointed out that in his eight months in office, Auno, a community in his state, has been attacked six times. The questions the apologists of Buhari’s administration must answer honestly are as follows:
*Are these points not true?
*Are all these people speaking the truth enemies of the government?
*Are apologists just telling the President what they believe he wants to hear?
*Do they believe that they are being fair to Nigerians and indeed to President Buhari?
*Do they remember that there is a day of judgement when they have to render account before God?
I know for sure that God has the best in stock for Nigeria. And do they consider the present situation as the best for Nigeria?
The governors of South West acted, believing that Amotekun is one of the necessary measures. And most people of the South West support them. I will strongly advise that Amotekun and other measures put in place should continue to be refined and improved upon to serve as adequate complement and enhancer of present, disappointing and inadequate national security architecture and provision. We must learn from the past, particularly from Native Authority Police.
Professionalism and adequate equipment for the job are imperative for a serious security apparatus. Security is the foundation of all human development and progress. Common assured security should lead to common and shared prosperity and development. There has been embarrassing paralysis and katakata in the present nation’s security house as if we have nobody in charge. If it had happened before, it was not so brazenly in the public domain. This type of situation cannot do credit to us as Nigerians and it can only sap confidence in the security architecture for people to say, ‘no wonder’. The President must accept the challenge and the responsibility.
This year, 2020, is set aside by the African Union, AU, in its agenda to silence the guns. If we don’t silence the guns in our own land as contribution to AU agenda, guns will continue to silence us individually and collectively. Let our leaders, particularly, be bridge builders rather than wall builders, more of peace-makers than peace-talkers. War-mongering, conflict-encouragement, threats and intimidation, exclusion rather than inclusion and lack of justice, harmony, wholesomeness, cooperation, security, well-being and common prosperity can only lead to our being piecemeal looted, consumed and destroyed.
Let me move to the second currently germane and raging issue of our political structure and arrangement which if Dr. Fasehun were here would have been of great interest and concern to him. He showed concern about this issue when he was alive.
The agitation at the end of the last century was for ‘true federalism’ substantially brought about by Abacha’s autocratic and pernicious rule and self-succession and perpetuation and the process by which the democratic Constitution emerged. My administration was an inheritor of part of that agitation. The product of the political conference set up to address the agitation in part, if not in full, and which was personally handed over to the National Assembly was not advanced to conclusion by the National Assembly.
President Jonathan’s efforts of a National Conference did not even get to the National Assembly. Today, the agitation has moved up to restructuring. Thanks to Buhari’s administration and its impunity and all. With the fractional political division, poor management of the economy, the non-protecting security and the politics of uncertainty in the land, we should not allow the restructuring agitation to degenerate to self- determination agitation.
Window of opportunity
There is still a window of opportunity for us to nip in the bud a possible and indeed likely agitation for self-determination that will be violent, destructive and all-empowering. We have descended to lack of civility bordering on uncivilisation, indignity, mutual disrespect and crudity in the language of our debate, dialogue, discourse, address, comments and remarks across tribe, section, religion, region, ethnicity and community. If not halted, it will degenerate and poison the atmosphere to the tipping point or point of no return. If the issue becomes conceptualised as an issue of freedom or liberation, there will be no wall or gate to effectively prevail against it. Some well-meaning Nigerians are worried and understandingly so.
Threats and intimidation do not build a community, they rather destroy. The language of love, knowledge, understanding, appreciation, consideration, compassion, cooperation, forgiveness and accommodation should be the language to build our nation. We should be honest and courageous enough to tell ourselves home truth for self-education and for edification of our country. If we shirk our duties to our country because we are afraid of threat, intimidation, blackmail or being called names, we are not worthy of being called patriots or nationalists. “….