Viewpoint

May 3, 2020

30 years after they tried to balkanise Nation: Nigeria is almost a failed state — Tony Nyiam

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A map of Nigeria

Lt. Col. Tony Nyiam (ret.) was the most senior military officer among those who tried to change the Nigerian narration through a coup de’ tat led by Major Gideon Orkar in 1990. But while many are not alive to tell their stories, Nyiam is one of the few surviving to look back and talk about how they tried to excise some parts of the country from Nigeria. To him, things are not better now than before as Nigeria is almost a failed state. Excerpts of the interview:

Has anything changed in Nigeria since Major Gideon Orkar’s April 22, 1990, attempted coup?

Going by the Constitution, ‘federal-character’ guides the appointment of Federal Government key officials. But this administration’s appointments are full of corruption. An example is the institutionalization of nepotism in the appointment of key officials.

The nepotism has been against the Hausa and the Middle Belt people of the North and particularly against the Yoruba, Igbo, and South-South people.

The government’s persistent non-transparent practice is different from the days of Sardauna as Northern Region’s premier.

Ahmadu Bello’s physician (before taking up the position of the Vice-Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University) was a Christian, Dr. Ishaya Audu. One of Sardauna’s longest-serving confidants was not only another Christian but also a Yoruba civil servant, Chief Sunday Awoniyi.

The most consistently favored in this federal administration are the President’s paternal Fulani and maternal Kanuri people.

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Lest we forget, President Goodluck Jonathan’s closest aides were Fulani, namely his Personal Secretary (PS), Alhaji Hassan Tukur, and National Security Adviser (NSA) and Ahmadu Bello’s relation, Col Sambo Dasuki. And Col. Sambo Dasuki turned out to be more loyal to Jonathan than many of Jonathan’s kinsmen. President Jonathan made another Fulani official, Alhaji Dikko, one of the longest-serving Comptrollers-General of Customs. Dikko was, in fact, Buhari’s (Daura) kinsman.

Under this Federal Government, the Service Chiefs, the armed forces have become essentially self-serving military forces.

Hence, AK47 wielding herdsmen, even the foreign ones, are treated as sacred cows even when they kill Hausa/ Middle Belt/ Southern Nigerian people.

Unprecedented numbers of people are killed, women are raped and men kidnapped for ransom by transnational bandits.

These have been going on in Niger, Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi, Katsina and Kaduna states. From the high to the low level of morale of the members of the Nigerian Army, there are several reasons for this; there are allegations of soldiers or army units being sent into the Boko Haram war operation without proper armament, equipment, and kits.

Given another opportunity, will you do it again?

What opportunity are you referring to? And do what again? Rest assured, I see it as a duty to be on the side of the oppressed in their struggle to free themselves from ‘slavery’. Lest we forget, I was not part of coup d’état against a democratically elected government.

As a country, Nigeria is divided along ethnic and religious lines. Will this ever stop?

It can’t be stopped with the existing corruptive social, political, and economic structure. What’s long overdue is the Nigerian people’s approved organically arranged political-economic structure.

The system of governance in Nigeria needs to recognize the importance of organically evolved ethnic–nation-state alongside the synthetically, that is, ‘human-construct’ Nigerian – state. The Nigerian ‘Unity – in – Diversity’ advantages can begin to be taken only when the truth of Nigeria is a country of many nations is recognized and practically put into practice.

In the midst of a global pandemic, herdsmen are still operating and killing people. Doesn’t that make Nigeria a sick nation?

Without a doubt, the Nigerian state under the current administration is, in terms of the national insecurity experienced by the people, and almost failed state.

You are right that not even the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic has stopped AK 47 transnational herdsmen from continuing the invasions of the Hausa, Middle Belt, South-West, South-South and South-East farming communities, so as to forcefully acquire their grazing land.

To the extent that this government is treating herdsmen as a sacred cow, it could be accused of being complicit in the attack of the original landowners of Nigeria by the armed transnational militia.

It does appear that the administration prioritizes the herdsmen’s national interest above the Nigerian national interest. The appointment of over 80% of the armed forces and other national security agencies chiefs from the North-West where the President hails from is clear evidence of nepotism and favoritism. What’s worse, the service chiefs have, except for a few of them, performed awfully. Evidence of this is the poor state of national security.

This government is known for fighting corruption and mismanagement which were the reasons given by Orkar for the 1990 coup. Would you say the fight against corruption is going well?

Some of us are not fooled to think that there is the sincerity of purpose in the war against corruption. The direction, or the focus, of the fight against corruption, does not demonstrate that the administration is a respecter of the universal principle that “he who comes to equity must come with clean hands”.

Can those at the top echelon of this government, for instance, swear by the Koran that they did not know that most of the money used to finance the last presidential election was fraudulently sourced? Fraud, by the way, is the embezzlement of public funds put in trust by the Nigerian people (in this case) to officials of government.

There are allegations of the open-secret of, at least, two fraudulent sources. Can officials also swear with the Holy Koran that there was not much rigging in the 2019 presidential election?

Do they not know that the use of dishonest means to gain power, or into elected office, is graft, which is a synonym of the word corruption? Can they swear by the Koran that they did not know about the plot to frame Chief Justice (CJ) Onnoghen to have their way? Do they not know that the nepotistic way they favour the President’s paternal and maternal kinsfolk with Federal Government appointments is corruption?

The meaning of corruption as “the cause to make rot something” we see clearly in the corrupting of the judiciary by the government’s agent’s intimidation of judges.

This government has made no more than a 25% score in the scratching of the surface of corruption. They are completely ignorant, or deliberately ignoring, the under-currents on which the waves of corruption in Nigeria flow.

The underlying structure on which the institutionalized corruption is anchored is being overlooked. So, who is fooling who in the so-called war against corruption?

Orkar talked about the northern oligarchy and their quest to dominate other Nigerians forever. Looking back, would you not say that has been addressed with former President Obasanjo’s eight years and President Jonathan’s six years?

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There is an attempt to give the civilized Fulani clans a bad name under this administration. I am being more direct. There is less of northern oligarchy as there are those who are exploiting their ethnicity, or faith tradition, for personal gain.

Take for instance the present Sultan of Sokoto family. Sultans Abubakar and Damicidio were men of noble character.

That is why there was no killing of any Ndigbo in Sokoto during the 1966/1967 pogrom against Eastern Nigerians in the far North of Nigeria. Another example of a de-tribalized Fulani is the richest black man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote. Check it out; there is hardly nepotism in the Dangote Group of Companies. Merit, or who can do the work best, is what’s paramount to Aliko.

That’s why, amongst other reasons, he has been most successful. Alhaji Aliko Dangote, the one-time Surulere young man, is indeed one who possesses the qualities of a Lagosian, one of which is to ‘Live and let others too live’.

His best friends are not necessarily Fulani. Check them out and you will find the Otedolas or the Niyi Adebayo’s or the Segun Awolowos or the Herbert Wigwes.

The crude idea of members of a clan, in conjunction with their transnational AK 47 armed kinsmen, thinking that Hausa, Middle-Belt, South-West, South-South and South-East, peoples’ land are soft targets for them to covet needs to be banished.

When you look at the reasons for the attempted coup, will you say Nigeria is better?

I want to make this clarification. It was not a coup but a pro-democracy action to stop an ethnic group from perpetuating itself in political power in Nigeria.

As to whether the situation is better, you can see from the evidence presented earlier that the social, political, and economic situation of Nigeria is worse.

What do you think of Nigeria today?

Nigeria is in a near failed-state situation.

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