By Ochereome Nnana
Since Muhammadu Buhari became president of Nigeria, the word “war” has never been far from his lips whenever he addresses matters concerning the Igbo nation. This happened even when a group of 100 youth corps members serving in Daura Local Government Area paid him a courtesy visit while on holidays on September 13, 2016, barely a year after he assumed office.
Shockingly, he isolated those from the South East and South-South and asked them to tell their kinsmen calling for Biafra to “forget it”. He narrated how he fought in the Biafra war where, according to him, “two million” people were killed. Before then, the Biafra war death toll had been regularly put at “one million”. The leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu likes to quote “five million”. Statistics can be a donkey, you know.
You hear the overtones and undertones of the same whenever Igbo leaders and South East Governors go calling on him. So, when you hear him uttering such nihilistic verbiage as “rude shock awaits them”, “treat them in the language they understand”, “they will not have access to sea”, “hit them very hard”, “dot in a circle” and others, it is the mouth speaking from the abundance of the heart. How can you speak to a section of the country like that and expect love and harmony from them? In life (and after life) you only reap what you sow.
With Buhari, you never see the kind of open arms that Shehu Shagari extended to the Igbo just nine years after the war, or the inclusiveness of Umaru Yar’Adua’s government in 2007 to 2010. In fact, until Buhari’s coming as an elected president, no Nigerian leader ever alluded to the civil war in their interaction with Igbo people or Easterners except in reconciliatory terms.
Both in body and spoken language, our president has descended from the Olympian height of our presidential office. He appears to be competing with the idle political jobbers in the Coalition of Northern Groups, CNG and other Arewa platforms which have nothing positive to contribute other than antagonising and amateurishly trying to intimidate the goose that feeds the nation – the South.
It is said that when a goat chews the cud, its kids watch. Yerima Shettima of the so-called “Arewa Youths” recently boasted about how “they” defeated the Yoruba to grab Ilorin from them and how “they” led Nigeria (aided by foreign powers) to defeat Biafra. Nobody can call him and other reckless top government officials that ran their mouths in the “Biafra boys” and “spare parts” noisemaking to order because the ultimate Big Man is also helping himself to a much more incendiary rhetoric.
The funny thing about all this buccal warmongering is that wars are already at the doorsteps of the president and the Arewa sabre-rattlers. It has been for eleven years now. We are talking about Boko Haram terrorism, bandit terrorism, herdsmen terrorism, ISWAP terrorism and other terrorisms. Nigeria has nearly three million refugees in camps, and 98 per cent of them are Northerners.
These wars, perpetrated by the Northerners against the North, have reduced the North which was once the reference point of peace and low crime rates to one of the most terrorised and violent crime-prone places on earth. These agents of terror and criminality in May 2019 abducted Buhari’s in-law, Alhaji Musa Umar. He is a District Head in Daura. The president’s native Katsina State and North West Zone remain the epicentre of insecurity. Buhari’s kinsmen have repeatedly called him a failure for his inability to protect them from people making war on them.
How many times have we had to enlist Sheikh Ahmad to negotiate with bandits to free innocent school children abducted en masse? It is ironical for a person or people who cannot defend their homestead with all the money and powers of the Nigerian state to keep breathing “war, war, war” at other Nigerians whose only sin is that they want to be free from agents of backwardness and darkness. Imagine threatening “war” even on the harmless matter of restructuring!
Today, all over Igboland, the governors look the other way as Nigerian armed forces pull defenceless young men from their homes and higher institutions on suspicions of being IPOB and Eastern Security Network, ESN, members. Many of them are extrajudicially murdered, while some are taken to unknown destinations where their fates remain unknown.
President Buhari should pull back from the edge of the precipice. The only cause of insecurity in the South is herdsmen terrorism, nothing more. If the president does not like Igbo people, no problem. He should just leave them alone or let them go. War is a journey into unknown. You know where you start but you know not where you end. Nigeria can be fixed, but war cannot achieve that.