By Sola Ebiseni
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari is the most taciturn Nigerian leader. He seldom talks and when pushed to do so, you wish he never did. Only those too young or are not on the field of political events, in the country, would be shocked by such utterances or actions by Buhari.
In his public life, in or out of office, the common denominator of his speech, acts or deliberate emissions, is an unfortunate combination of appeal to violence, or hate which reeks with the scourge of sectionalism when statesmanship or nationalism is most required.
It started with his messianic coup of 1983, based on allegations of corruption against the government of President Shehu Shagari. Nigerians still could not decipher why the President on whose table the bucks stopped, was only under house arrest, while his Vice, Alex Ekwueme, who was never charged with or tried for any offence, was left to languish in Kirikiri Maximum Prison.
There are those who believed that the real reason for the coup of December 31, 1983, was actually to stop Ekwueme or any Southerner becoming President in 1987. Buhari’s was the first and only military administration wherein both the number one and two in government were Northerners and of Fulani origin.
In his bids later to become elected President and after two futile attempts, 2003 and 2007, Buhari couldn’t imagine that his popularity in the North would not give him victory. Towards the presidential election in April 2011, he told his supporters in the North: “You should never leave polling centres until votes are counted and the winner declared and you should lynch anybody that tries to tinker with the votes”. Several people, including 10 corps members, lost their lives in Bauchi in the violence that attended Buhari’s defeat.
Before he became President, he was seen to be among some Northern elite who believed fighting Boko Haram was anti-North. The Nation newspaper of Jun 2, 2013 reported him to have faulted the Federal Government’s clampdown on Boko Haram Islamic insurgents. He accused the government of President Goodluck Jonathan of killing and destroying their houses, while the Niger Delta militants were given special treatment by the government; that unlike the special treatment given to the Niger Delta militants by the Federal Government, Boko Haram members were being killed and their houses demolished by government.”
He accused President Jonathan of failing from the beginning to address the security situation in the country as he added that he had never been in support of the state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states.
Again towards the 2015 elections, Buhari finally threatened: “If what happens in 2011 should again happen in 2015, by the grace of God, the dog and the baboon will all be soaked in blood.” He said, a bloody dispute might erupt within the country’s political class.” The magnitude of corruption and insensitivity in Nigerian leadership is legendary, but that there is a storm of awareness now. “God willing by 2015, something will happen. They either conduct a free and fair election or they go a very disgraceful way”.
Boko Haram members have been more emboldened since the inception of President Buhari’s administration. I stand to be contradicted that before this government, Boko Haram terrorists never had the gut to directly challenge the Nigerian military like they now do, directly attacking military formations, killing soldiers and carting away large chunk of military hardware, arms and ammunition, even claiming responsibilities for bringing down the country’s war planes.
They have extended their activities to the contiguous territories in the entire North and in alliance with Fulani ethnic militias dominate the entire country. It is a waste of time attempting to catalogue the activities of Boko Haram and its Fulani militia with its genocidal effects in every state of Nigeria.
While Boko Haram dominates Borno,Yobe and most parts of the North East, the activities of the Fulani ethnic militia, masquerading under the cloak of herdsmen, are particularly targeted at the territories of other ethnic nationalities in Adamawa, Taraba, Southern Kebbi, Southern Gombe, Southern Bauchi, Southern Kaduna, Nasarawa, Plateau, Benue, Niger, Kwara, Kogi, the Federal Capital Territory; and communities identified as the Middle Belt of the country. It is the Fulani against other ethnic groups in Zamfara. The three geopolitical zones of the South also feel the attacks of the ethnic Fulani militia with equal degrees.
The Federal Government is always quick to play down this clear genocidal war as farmers/ herder’s clash, even of foreigners, while also admonishing against ethnic profiling of acts tantamount to ethnic cleansing. To confuse Nigerians, the Arewa Consultative Forum would rather describe any reaction from the Southern groups as an attack on the people of the North. Quite constructive is the fact that the ordinary Yoruba people, for instance, could easily identify and distinguish every Northern tribe resident in their territory.
They know there is no tribe called Hausa/Fulani. They know the Hausa people with their clear indigenous negroid physique and black complexion, who live and conduct their businesses of buying and selling peacefully in the cities and with no interest in land beyond lease for residential purpose, compared with the clearly Arabian appearance of the Fulani with aggressive claims to land as of right to graze his cattle at the life of any recalcitrant indigenous owner.
The South East was most peaceful when Buhari became President. Only Ralph Nwazuruike was peacefully canvassing for the actualisation of the sovereign State of Biafra with his MASSOB. Even the more aggressive Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, members were not initially armed in their campaigns.
The Federal Government spared the herdsmen described as the world’s fourth deadliest terror organisation but declared IPOB a terrorist organisation, drove its leader into exile and its vast members underground. The armed herdsmen became more daring and uncontrollable emboldened by the alleged complicity of the Federal Government who could not effect the arrest of any of them but would rather admonish the people of Benue State to find a means of living with the assailant tribesmen of the President.
The Eastern Security Network, ESN, was born of necessity in the fashion of the Western Amotekun when it appeared the Eastern governors were not forthcoming in the face of unbridled criminality of the seemingly intractable armed herdsmen. While there could be no justification for the destruction of public infrastructures and utilities and attacks on security personnel, the overt action of the President in checking the activities of the armed herdsmen to guarantee the security of the natives would have doused the tension.
In that case, the people themselves would have stood up to the IPOB which has now been inadvertently made heroes. Whether out of fear or by its popularity, the total obedience of the people to the stay-at-home order of May 30 and June 1 in commemoration of Biafra is eloquent testimony of the need for dialogue rather than insulting the Igbo youths and threatening them with the civil war language their elders were then treated.
Unfortunately, such or greater provocative actions as IPOB,are prevalent in several parts of the country. Boko Haram which is dominant in the North East, wipe out communities, take over local governments, hoists flags, attacks military barracks, kill soldiers and take over the Sambisa forest which is said to be almost twice the territorial size of the South East.
Very close to the Federal Capital, Governor Sanni Bello of Niger State alerted the nation that Boko Haram terrorists had taken over 50 communities in the state, mounted their flags, killed several people, kidnapped women, forcefully took wives from their husbands, sacked and took over three military camps in the area. In virtually every part of the North, education account of incessant kidnapping of school children.
The President may be right that those of us in primary school during the civil war years may not fully appreciate the gory events of the war, yet it is no excuse to be reminded how our parents were killed and be threatened to be treated in like manner .
On page 354of his book, Tragedy of Victory, General Godwin Alabi-Isama, described then Captain Buhari as one of such non-commissioned officers who were given commissions on the battlefield for their gallantry and effective command and control ability. However the situation of Nigeria today, acercerbated by this most sectional administration, is far from one most citizens will commit themselves to the task of keeping it one.
Some of the leading lights of the war, like Olusegun Obasanjo, TY Danjuma and several others not given to public visibility, already accuse Buhari of a Fulanisation agenda. At the recent conference of ethnic nationalities in Abuja, Dr. BitrusPogu, the President of the Middle Belt Forum, warned those touting one action or the other by the North, to count out the Middle Belt, so defined in territory and tongues to cover more than 75% of the North. Buhari may have more war lessons to learn.