Thoughts on Nigerian federalism and securitisation

By magnus onyibe

In his no-holds-bared interview on Arise tv, broadcast on 10th June 2021 , president Mohammadu Buhari, who is also the commander in-chief-of the armed forces of the federal republic of Nigeria , a position that he ascended since May 29, 2015, basically responded to the most critical questions that have been boggling  the mind of most Nigerians.

The anxiety is owed to the fact that president Buhari’s disinterest in holding media interviews as evidenced by the fact that the past six years or so of his leadership represents an unusually extended period of time that Nigerians have been unable to hear directly from their president.

And that is the origin or justification for the insinuations and presumptions that president Buhari has not effectively been at the helm of affairs in Aso Rock Villa and which  perhaps gave fillip to the conspiracy theory that our collective destiny as a nation is in the hands of a cabal.

Before their unfortunate and sad demise arising from complications from Coronavirus disease in 2020 ,  then chief of staff to the president, mallam Abba Kyari was alleged to have been the driver of the sinister cabal just as mallam Isa Funtua , a close confidant of president Buhari who is also his Inlaw (his son is married to Buhari’s daughter) was also claimed to be a member.

Evidently , it was not enough that mr president had been speaking through his coterie of spokespersons, ranging from the minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, media adviser, Femi Adeshina, special assistants on media , Garba Shehu and Laureta Onochie as well as a battery of other defenders of the Buhari doctrine in the social media.

The change of tact which has seen president Buhari engaging in a tet-a-tet with the fourth realm of the estate via the AriseTv interview , can be likened to a successful coup detat by AriseTv. And it is actually a scoop by the trend setting Arise media group led by Nduka Obaigbena whose intention was perhaps aimed at helping the misunderstood president get better understood by those that he is leading via a candid conversation.

Although, the interview was more of a monologue rather than a dialogue since the masses did not get to ask the existential questions for which they have been dying to receive answers ,(as a typical media chat with the president should be) the one way communication was nevertheless an improvement on the silent treatment which president Buhari had hitherto applied in the management of his relationship with the masses before AriseTv broke the jinx.

And AriseTv ‘s quest for getting president Buhari to engage with the apparently neglected masses or the electorate is justified or underscored by the fact that when he first campaigned for their votes in 2003, and particularly since 2015 when he first got elected president and subsequently in 2019 when he got re-elected, then presidential candidate and later president Buhari visited  Nigerians and interacted with them in their locations or natural habitats nationwide.

But since his assumption of office , definitely not by omission, but by commission, (bearing  in mind that his spokesmen have been celebrating his taciturnity) mr president seem to have become content with being cocooned in Aso Rock Villa, while only resorting to third party communication with the hoi polloi who obviously are not enamored, but are abhorrent of such attitude of off handedness.

The cold shoulder treatment that president Buhari has dished out to Nigerians in terms of little or no direct communication with them in the past six years of presiding over their affairs has largely contributed to the apparent disconnection between president Buhari as a leader and the critical masses that he is supposed to be shepherding.

That is what has created an atmosphere that became rife for the fertilization of negatively imaginative  minds that took undue advantage of the void to invent the death of mr president ( following his long hospitalization in the Uk in 2017) and the cloning narrative about a certain Jibrin Al Sudani that is allegedly Buhari’s body double. Such absurd claim festered due to the silence from the man at the centre of the rather absurd and burlesque allegation-president Buhari. 

Given the robust response by the masses to the 10th June rare, but candid interview that has now debunked the conspiracy theory that president Buhari had ceded the leadership of our country to the so called cabal allegedly featuring elder statesman, Mallam Maman Daura, and Abba Kyari as well Isa Funtua (two of whom are now diseased ), it has been a sort of coup de gras for the culture of silence between president Buhari and the long suffering Nigerian citizens who in their difficult moments have been craving words of encouragement directly from their president.

As for Nduka Obaigbena’s AriseTv, it is now undisputedly the new leader in broadcast news and Nigeria’s equivalent of CNN international. Although Nigerians  would have loved to see the panel of interviewers ask president Buhari hard questions, which did not happen perhaps based on AriseTv’s prior agreement with the presidency , it was nonetheless a commendable effort in cracking open the window into the mind of president Buhari who had hitherto been an enigma of sorts, if not a hermit in the light of his attitude or policy of little or no two ways interactions with Nigerian masses media chat  .

The assertion above is underscored by the fact that the AriseTv  interview now considered a peep into president Buhari’s mind, afforded him the platform to exhibit some presence of mind as he demonstrated a reasonable grasp of the issues bedeviling Nigeria and justified the solutions that he had proffered thus proving that contrary to allegations of high level of senility and dementia leveled against him, apart from the usual memory lapse associated with old age , he is to a large extent in control of the affairs of the country. The assertion above is reflected by some of president Buhari’s views previously conveyed by his media husbandmen and which he candidly re-emphasized while justifying the actions and inactions of his government.

Now, Mr president’s justifications for his policy actions may be adjudged by some pundits to be jaundiced, archaic and narrow in scope. But no one would be in doubt about whether the policies of government in the past six (6) years are products of president Buhari’s critical (although  somehow primitive) thinking and therefore bear his imprimatur. So fortuitously, the AriseTv interview has been both a revelation and or resource for the psychological assessment of president Buhari by non professional psychologists like my good self. It is definitely a two edged sword. On one hand , no more would critics accuse president Buhari of being a passive leader while heaping the blame of poor leadership on his advisers.The false claim that a combination of age (78) and poor health  have significantly imperiled  his faculty , as such he is suffering from dementia has been proven to some degree to be exaggerated . On the other hand , no more would president Buhari be absolved of the blame for the leadership miasma associated with this government. So, the days of innocence for president Buhari may be gone. Going forward, members of his inner circle such as the late chief of staff, Abba Kyari that used to be blamed  for manipulating the president(before his passage)  are now absolved. But that cloak or badge of dishonor has recently been attached  to the current Attorney General , Abubakar Malami who has been branded the new cabal executioner. Fortunately for him, that allegation has also been vitiated by the very revealing AriseTv interview.

Because mr president had been incommunicado by failing to have one-on-one conversations with Nigerians via media interviews , the fallacies  about him were unwittingly allowed to fill up the space because nature abhors vacuum.

One leadership style that had been the best kept secret during his first tenure as military head of state is having other people serve as a cannon fodder for  him. And that appears to be president Buhari’s administrative modus operandi which has taken Nigerians so long to decode. It is probably a tactical trait that he developed while in the military. The trend analysis below validate  the point.

During his time as military head of state(1983-85) his  second in command, late Tunde Idiagbon was a target for the flaks from aggrieved Nigerians for the maladministration of then general Buhari’s government. As Petroleum Trust Fund, PTF chairman, Buhari literarily dodged the bullets as the head of Afriprojects , Ahmad Salihijo, the consulting firm that he appointed to manage the infrastructure development agency set up by former military head of state Sanni Abacha , was also the cannon fodder that was blamed for all the inequities of the Development behemoth, PTF which was under the chairmanship of then General Buhari.

Let’s be clear , delegation  of power is not an anathema in management or leadership. But going forward , president Buhari will be defined by his actions and inactions while in office. Even mr president himself admitted that much when he was pressed to comment on what would be his legacy and he responded thus: “I will accept whatever verdict Nigerians pass on me. I hope they will be fair…”

In my personal assessment, the AriseTv interview has been an opportunity for discerning members of society to identity the pride and prejudices of Mohammadu Buhari on three fronts: (a)as a person , (b)a military officer and (c)as the president of our great country in the past six (6) years that he mounted the saddle of leadership.

My analysis of his responses to the questions posed by the AriseTv panel which is without prejudice is aimed at helping readers determine whether president Buhari has indeed been a re-born democrat as he informed  an eminent gathering  of democrats in Chatham House, UK some six years ago and the vast number of Nigerian voters that gave him their mandate via the ballot box to be their president in 2015. Candidate Buhari in that Chatham House presentation made a compelling case for himself as the best man for the job .

To put things in a proper perspective, an excerpt from presidential candidate Buhari’s speech at Chatham House in February of 2015 is worthy of reproduction:

“…It is much more important that the promise of democracy goes beyond just allowing people to freely choose their leaders. It is much more important that democracy should deliver on the promise of choice, of freedoms, of security of lives and property, of transparency and accountability, of rule of law, of good governance and of shared prosperity. It is very important that the promise embedded in the concept of democracy, the promise of a better life for the generality of the people, is not delivered in the breach.”

Those lines would melt the heart of any democracy advocate , adherent or devotee that attended the event and even those with the contrarian mindset of candidate Buhari not being suitable for the job due to his authoritarian and totalitarian antecedents .

He then threw in the clincher:

“I cannot change the past. But I can change the present and the future. So before you is a former military ruler and a converted democrat who is ready to operate under democratic norms and is subjecting himself to the rigours of democratic elections for the fourth time.”

If there were any cynics left in the hall , this closing stanza of then candidate Buhari’s swan song of democracy demolished any further doubts because by every measure , it was a perfect clincher.

And after that event, his ascension to the presidency was a sort of fait accompli in the eyes of both local and international stake holders.

But six years on: has president Buhari manifested what candidate Buhari professed in Chatham House in February of 2015 under the chairmanship of sir Richard Grozny and in the front of an audience comprising of very distinguished proponents and exponents of democracy and its ethos ?

You be the judge as l urge you to come with me as l shine the light on some of his responses to the questions that AriseTv panel posed to him in the epochal interview.

For the records, my analysis is based on objective principles and devoid of bias.

And mindful that Nigeria’s democracy which is still in its infancy and in the nascent stages is by no means liberal , my assessment is benchmarked against global best practice in democracy. But it is carried out without ignoring the limitations of the observance of democratic ethos that would arise from some environmental and situational dynamics in our beloved country .

Owing to time and space constraints, l will dwell on only four (4) of president Buhari’s many responses in the interview that has heated up the polity more than it has calmed the already frayed nerves of most Nigerians  :

The responses that l will be scrutinizing are:

(1) on the growing call for splitting up our country into multiple countries , (2) on excessive borrowing by the incumbent government and (3) on the unhinged state of insecurity bedeviling our country under his watch as well as (4) on  which political party and ethnic group president Buhari envisages that the person that would take over from him in 2023 would come from.

Here we go:

(1)On the AriseTv question “Dividing Nigeria to piecemeal is not any solution. It’s a wrong signal to all investors. So each Republic will become a paradise? How do we share what United us? What we have done together within such a record time? I’m surprised Nigerian elites watch these uniformed lots to make criminal statements everyday. We are all better off as Nigerians”

MY TAKE:

I concur with mr president about the advantages of keeping Nigeria as one. In fact the battle cry of Nigerian troops during the civil war was: To Keep Nigeria One Is A Task That Must Be Done.

But what is or are the benefit/benefits of keeping Nigeria as one entity ? 

Nobody has really enlightened Nigerians about that. I know that a bigger Nigeria offers the itinerant and land or space challenged lgbos a bigger platform to ply their trade in the production and marketing of sundry wares including sales of vehicle spare parts, (apologies to Justice Minister Abubakar Malami)

In like manner , one Nigeria as a single entity also offers Miyetti Allah , an association of cattle herdsmen dominated by the Fulani ethnic stock that are basically nomadic, a huge market platform and opportunity for the sale of their animal stock in a country with a population strength of 200 million  . It is also a settled fact that our country is as big as four countries in Africa put together. Hence it is often stated that one out of every four African is a Nigerian . So traders in the 200 million strong market of potential customers that Nigeria represents could have been subjected to processing their transactions through the jurisdictions of least four countries immigration  and customs authorities.  That experience can be cumbersome and harrowing, which is a major drawback for inter African trade which the currently introduced Africa free trade zone arrangement is designed to alleviate. So anything that would prevent the shrinking of the market is welcome by miyetti allah cattle traders , the lgbo automobile spare parts dealers and and the itinerant Yoruba artisan which is are legitimate quests.

Now, it was amazing to me when l discovered through research that one of the reasons , the civil war fought from 1967-70 could have been avoided or averted  was because  Miyetti Allah actually weighed in with the expression of apprehension that a war with the lgbos would hobble the cattle trade between the north and the east. While the  expression of their concern to their leaders was too late to halt the descent to war which had gathered momentum like a train already out of the station, it became a reason to keep Nigeria one which was ultimately achieved when the war was over with a collateral the loss of an estimated three (3) million souls. Some of the points that l have made in the submission above had been canvased in an opinion piece which l wrote and titled “Trade As Unifying Factor In Nigeria” lt was published on December,2,2020 in both traditional and new media platforms . Apart from the local dimension of trade which a united Nigeria would facilitate , president Buhari in his response alluded to international investors being discouraged if Nigeria were to be “divided in piecemeal.”

But mr president did not elaborate.

As a country with an estimated population of at least two hundred million people , Nigeria is a bride to be wooed by many suitors keen on engaging with the largest single market in Africa. Indeed Nigeria in terms of market size and opportunity in Africa is comparable to China’s 1.4billion population in East Asia and India’s 1.3billon people in the South Asia subcontinent. For the reason above, there is no point re-emphasizing the fact that there is strength in size and numbers.

So if our country is allowed to be balkanized with the excision of the lgbos, perhaps the Yorubas and even the middle belters may follow suit and pretty soon the experience of Yugoslavia that got split into six countries may be re-enacted here.

As president Buhari observed, such a scenario would not be in the best interest of all the ethnic nationalities. And l align with him on that score. 

However, to avoid the identified and imminent danger or consequences of a breakup , there is an urgent need for the application of more caution in the way the relationships between the ethnic nationalities that make up Nigeria are managed.

Put succinctly , there is need for sensitivity to the interests of all by the current leadership. It is rather unfortunate that it is the lack of such robust leadership disposition that is currently the trigger for the present malevolence that is pervading the Nigerian society which has made it so highly toxic .

Prior to the current degeneration of ethno-religious tensions into very dangerous levels, our beloved country had been experiencing a mere prickly heat between the multiple ethnic nationalities . But it never attained the level whereby sparks are being produced by religion induced terrorism , bandits kidnapping and killing , and herders-farmers conflicts which are now flying around with the possibility  of igniting the tinder box that is as volatile as the gunpowder which our country seems to be seating on.

It is worthy of note that before Nigeria’s current descent to a Hobbesian state of nature, a reasonable level of ethnic harmony had been maintained after the civil war as we had learnt how to accommodate each other after the British amalgamated its northern and southern colonies. But as the saying goes : when pushed to the wall, even a goat would bite.Therefore, our current leaders need to avoid a situation whereby the backs of those that are experiencing  oppression in the union are pushed against the wall.

At moments such as we are currently witnessing, l look back with nostalgia at how Nigeria as a nation had evolved in a little over a millennium, (since the 1914 amalgamation) and in the past 60 years after  independence from the British colonialist. The lowest point has only been the unfortunate 1967-70 civil war – a blithe which was quickly resolved.

By now, the healing of the wounds inflicted by the unfortunate war is expected to have taken place, 50 years post civil war. So what has changed in terms of the composition of the country and what is stoking the fire and who is opening old wounds? In my best judgement, not much  has really changed. Except that some analysts reckon that more radical islamists, and killer  herdsmen have migrated into our country in the past six (6) years . And they have become more brazen by seeking to seize ancestral lands from indigenes and the current leadership of our dear country has remarkably neglected that ground norm that has sustained our unity-strict observance of ethnic and religion balancing enshrined in the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria which has been serving as a glue.

It is trite to state that the art of balancing power between the north and south , Muslims and Christians via the federal character principle enshrined in the 1999 constitution was both a panacea to conflicts and an elixir for peace which our leaders past introduced and observed strictly.

The Federal character principle which our past leaders had the wisdom to enshrine in the 1999 constitution now in operation was supposed to serve as a equalizer in the manner that the possession of nuclear power by several Western countries resulted in a balance of power which more or less was a major contributory factor to the end of the Cold War between eastern and Western Europe and around the world.

Even the military in Nigeria , not known to be democratic was sensitive to the multi religion and heterogeneous ethnic composition of the people that make up Nigeria. In fact ,some  analysts have made the case that it is the neglect of that balancing art in the composition of the armed forces ruling council that was reportedly the justification for the toppling of then general Buhari’s military government in august of 1985-barely 18 months after he became military head of state in December of 1983 after staging a coup detat that terminated a democratically elected government led by Shehu Shagari.

It needs no restating that it is the complete disregard for the golden rule of recognizing, respecting and strictly applying the federal character principle in the current dispensation of government that has pushed the unity of our dear country to the precipice with the danger of being the proverbial straw that broke the Carmel’s back.

Prior to this current situation that is increasingly looking like a death knell for the continuity of our nationhood, the federal system of government as enshrined in the (1959) pre independence and (1963) post independence constitutions was whittled down to a unitary system, curtesy of then military Head of state Aguiyi Ironsi’s decree (decree no 34 of May 1966). It was enacted after the first republic was toppled in the January 1966 coup and the counter coup plotters six months after which ushered in Yakubu Gowon as military head of state, sustained the unitary system which was responsible for the attempted secession of the lgbos led by Odumegwu Ojukwu in 1967; the struggle for resource control in the Niger Delta first initiated by Isaac Adaka Boro in February of 1966,  and later driven by Ken Saro-Wiwa, both of whom are of blessed memory. The struggle for the control of the resources in their land sparked by decree no 34 of May 1966 was taken further by three governors from the Niger delta after the return to multi party democracy in 1999. These are the trio of James lbori , Delta state , late Diepreye Alamiesegha  of Bayelsa and Ernest Attah of Akwa Ibom state. That is in addition to the current separatist movement for the creation of a nation of the Indegenous People of Biafra, IPOB driven by Nnamdi Kanu, that has now been joined by the dance for Oduduwa state pulsating in Yoruba land and led by Sunday lgboho-the self acclaimed generalissimo of Oduduwa people .

From the forgoing, since the Nigerian train was derailed in 1966 by the coup and counter coup plotters, our country has been in the wilderness in terms of democracy. And when history was still being taught in our schools , we all learnt how our country at over 60 years has continued to exhibit infant tendencies such as religion and ethnic intolerance which has become such an albatross and which the novelist Cyprian Ekwensi drilled down as lack of patriotic leadership in his famous novel “The Trouble With Nigeria.”

So basically , both the leadership and follower-ship know exactly what is ailing our country.  But what is lacking is a patriotic leader with the political will or guts to cut the chase (as Americans would say) and do the needful.

As leaders like ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo, the sultan of Sokoto -the leader of the Islamic faith in Nigeria , His Eminence Saad Abubakar and even Abubakar Dangiwa Umar , a former military administrator who now leads from the street have advised different points in time , our political leaders and indeed all Nigerians need to be more tolerant and accommodating of each other to avert the clear and present danger.

If Nigeria  goes through another civil war, it would once again be derailed   as was the case in the 1960s when it was on track to becoming a leader in the comity of nations. Keep in mind that our country was once at per in poverty with a country such as Indonesia that is now more prosperous with a GDP currently in excess of $1.1 trillion, more than double of Nigeria’s which is estimated at about $450 billion.

In the light of the above  president Buhari should be guided by the fact that no nation has survived two civil wars and be more sensitive to the aspirations of Nigerians of other religions and ethnicity.

(2) On the  AriseTv question:

“Your Government borrows more….president Buhari responded thus:

“The previous earn more with nothing on ground. Did you ask them where they kept our money? If I knew where, may be I would not borrow. They sold oil at $100, we sell at $25 sometimes. They wasted money on power, no light, no road, no rail. We are the ones constructing bridges, building roads and rails. Today, I’m commissioning Lagos Ibadan Railway, I will commission Lagos Ibadan Expressway later, I will commission more across the country. No country can survive without infrastructures…..”

MY TAKE.

While not holding brief for  presidents Olusegun Obasanjo whose government could not even construct the road from lagos to Ota, in Ogun state the location of his farm and personal educational institutions-a university and a secondary school;  and Goodluck Jonathan who under his watch, could not complete the economically critically important east West road linking the rest of the world to the treasure trove of oil/gas exploration or even complete the upgrade of the Portharcourt airport , which is the closest airport to his homestead, Otuoke in Bayelsa state, it needs no restating that president Buhari has taken very good advantage of his position as president to roll out strategic infrastructure in these past six (6) years of being at the helm of affairs .

By comparison, while ex presidents Obasanjo and Jonathan who led our country for a combined period of about 15 years failed to facilitate the provision of critical infrastructure in their domain, president Buhari has in a spate of 6 years set up a helipad in his home stead Daura , approved the establishment of a multi billion refinery between katsina state and Niger republic as well as the construction of a modern railway system between katsina state and Niger republic, which is a big deal. That is in addition to the nation wide railway lines that he is forging ahead with their construction from Kano and Kaduna to abuja and from lagos to Ibadan and with plans to extend it to as far as Port Harcourt in the Niger delta  .

Perhaps the foregoing scenario is what president Buhari’s response to the allegation about his government borrowing too much was alluding to when he retorted that there is no infrastructure on ground hence his resort to borrowing to fill the  infrastructure deficit/ gap. If the conventional wisdom ‘charity begins at home’ is taken to heart , president Buhari has clearly outperformed both ex presidents Obasanjo and Jonathan in that respect.

More so because the road to Ota has remained commuters nightmare and Obasanjo can’t travel to his famous Presidential Library by air since there is neither a helipad nor airport in Abeokuta. Likewise , it was only after president Buhari took over the reins of government that the renovation work in Portharcourt airport was completed. Jonathan can now fly into Portharcourt,    but not into his homestead, Otuoke either by airplane or by helicopter since he did not put such air transportation infrastructure“on ground” in Bayelsa state as president, a feat which president Buhari deem fit to carry out by having a helipad in his homestead , Daura.

Be that as it may, the last time l checked, the Chinese that are currently constructing the rail lines were contracted by the previous government for the Abuja- kaduna and the lagos-Ibadan lines.  And since Government is a continuum , l commend president Buhari for carrying on with the  rehabilitation and expansion of the railway system across the country which was commenced by his predecessor and currently being expanded and executed under his watch.How about the upgrade of the airports in major cities like Abuja , lagos , Kano , Portharcourt etc that was in motion before his ascension to power ? Is the second Niger bridge being constructed with sovereign wealth fund which was instituted under Goodluck Jonathan’s watch by the former minister of the economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala nothing on ground? Was progress not made with the setting up of schools for the Almajiri and establishing institutions for the nomads in the north?  How about the twelve (12) federal universities also established to boost higher education in the north including the one that mr president just commissioned during his recent official visit to Borno state ?

In addition to the above infrastructure which l could recall on the spur of the moment , what the APC government and president Buhari met on ground in 2015 include the following:

(1)Naira -dollar exchange rate at N160k/$1 now trading at N500k/$1.

(2)Petrol pump price which was at 107 in 2015 is now selling at N170.

(3)Annual fuel subsidy cost which was at N654 billion in 2015

is currently gulping about N1.2 trillion even though it is being masked by the NNPC.

(4) Excess Crude oil Sales Account which was in excess of $2.4billion in 2015 is now down to about $72million in 2021.

(5)External debt stock which was about  $32 billion in 2015 is presently over  $54 billion .

(5) lnflation which was 9.1 in 2015 is now trending at nearly 15%.

(6)Unemployment rate which was a little below 11% when APC took over in 2015 is currently estimated to be over 33%.

(7) ln 2015 there was only the fear of Boko Haram. And one could travel from lagos to Sokoto by road without fear of being kidnapped or killed by religious insurgents/terrorists.

Today,one’s heart would be in his/her mouth if he/she were to travel by road just from lagos to lbadan or from Abuja to Kaduna  because of the fear of being killed or kidnapped by killer herdsmen, ISWAP or Boko haram. This means that in the last 6 years, two other variants of deadly threats to life have been added to the growing number of sources and causes of insecurity in our beloved country.

And guess what?

Some of the issues highlighted above are basically the reasons that our country has been in recession twice in the past six (6)years which is unprecedented. Interestingly, two of my good friends , Rueben Abati and Segun Adeniyi who as spokesmen for both presidents Goodluck Jonathan and Musa Yar’Adua are witnesses to the developments that l’ve highlighted above were on the AriseTv panel of interviewers and they did not contradict mr president’s claim of “nothing on ground”perhaps because their hands were tied.

(3) On the question “Two SW Governors came to me to say cattle rearers are destroying farms in their states, I asked them what happened to the grassroot security panels from Traditional Rulers to Local Governments who meet regularly to identify the root of their problems and identify crooks within their environment and apprehend the criminals. Who destroyed this system? Go back and fix it, give your people sense of belongings. I don’t like it when people campaign to become Governors and people trusted them with their votes and after winning, they can’t perform, they’re trying to push responsibilities to others. ……..we have three tiers of Government, Federal, State and Local. We have killed the Local Government totally. We will send N300m as allocation to a Local Government, one Governor will ask the LG Chairman to sign that he collected N300m but he will give him N100m and the Chairman will keep quiet…..is that how we will continue?”

MY TAKE.

Mr president has commendably identified a major problem in the governance system with respect to the alleged crime being committed by state governors who he accused of creaming off funds allocated to local governments. My question is having identified the crime. What solution is he proffering? President Buhari should not forget that the buck stops at his desk. Stakeholders such as the former Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC chairman, Attahiru Jega had in a paper presented at a seminar proposed the scrapping of local government councils  from our system of government which would make it only two as is the case in the USA from where Nigeria borrowed the presidential system of governance. By the way, how did the local government system get into the governance mix? Is the removal of that abnormality being considered in the ongoing review of the 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria by the National Assembly, NASS?

With respect to what appears like the ceding of security responsibilities by the president to the governors by virtue of the following comment :

“I don’t like it when people campaign to become Governors and people trusted them with their votes and after winning, they can’t perform, they’re trying to push responsibilities to others. ……..”

Is the above comment credited to president Buhari not a justification for the introduction of community and state police? What has made it impossible for the head of the executive arm of government, president Buhari to send a bill for the amendment of the 1999 constitution to achieve the objective of more effective policing via the involvement of local chiefs , community and faith leaders at the grass roots level that was his subject of reminisce in his response to the question by the AriseTv panel ? Is his complaint not akin to mr president protesting against himself? If the Presidency can’t push an executive bill to introduce community and state police system

that he has he so much romanticized, who will ? President Buhari’s nostalgic comment reminds me of the late quintessential leader of the masses (talakawa) and founder of PRP Aminu Kano who was reputed to be so connected to the masses that he would join them in protesting against government even if he was part of it.

In fact president Buhari’s comment is in tandem with the recent statement from the presidency unbraiding, Samuel Ortom, Benue state governor when he laid the blame for the persistent murder of Benue indigenes by suspected killer herdsmen on the door steps of president Buhari in his position as the chief security officer of the country. It is on record that following Ortom’s allegations of dereliction of duties against president Buhari captured in a video recording that went viral , the presidency and indeed the governor of kaduna state, Nadir El-Rufai lambasted the embattled Benue state governor by asking him to more or less resort to self help instead of waiting for the president to protect the unfortunate Benue indigenes that have become easy prey for the marauders intent on dispossessing them of their ancestral land that has currently been turned into a land flowing with tears and blood. Again, while not defending the governors, constitutionally, governors arms are tied as police commissioners in charge of security services in their states do not take directives from them.They answer directly to the lnspector General of Police, IGP who in turn takes orders from the president, who is the Commander-ln-Chief Of The Armed Forces of Nigeria, based in Abuja.

The point to be noted is that although in practice , the federal government basically pays the salaries of police officers posted to the respective states, it is usually the state governments that fund a huge chunk of the cost of operations by providing operations tools like vehicles and equipment.

So by and large , while the operations of the police force is basically financed by the state governments, the state governors are constrained by the constitution from having control of the police commands/authorities in their jurisdiction. In other words, governors provide financial power (obviously with the infamous security votes) for the police in their domain, but they lack the necessary control.

As the saying goes ‘power without control is nothing’

Would the enactment of the law establishing state and community police and the devolution of some political powers from the federal to state governments by reducing activities in the exclusive list, (that is currently estimated to be in excess of 66 items) not be a worthy part of the legacies that president Buhari would be bequeathing on posterity upon his exit in 2023?

(4) On the question “APC will continue to run Nigeria after my Tenure. So, Abati, tell anyone who wants to be Nigeria’s President in 2023 to join the APC….”

MY TAKE.

The statement above demystifies two myths about hitherto held views about president Buhari.

(1) That he is an lgbo hater and so would not allow someone of lgbo heritage become the next president of Nigeria (2)That president Buhari would not yield power in 2023 to the next person to be elected president because he would like to sit tight in office.

On the possibility of the emergence of Nigerian president of lgbo stock, it is appropriate that l refresh our memory by reminding us of a comment by late lsa Funtua ,an eminent northern leader and close confidant of president Buhari. The statement that the lgbos should ‘belong’  if they want to produce the next president was pregnant with meaning. And going by the AriseTv comment by president Buhari to the effect that he is not averse to the desire of the lgbos to have one of their own as no 1 citizen in Aso Rock Villa in 2023.

My forth coming book: “The Jostle For The Presidency of Nigeria: National Rebirth On The Horizon” deals with that extensively, so l recommend it to those interested in the nitty-gritty.

Be that as it may ‘Belong’ in my reckoning can be an euphemism for the lgbos to join the APC. That comment was first made by the media entrepreneur and political Influencer, Isa Funtua on AriseTv on January 3, 2019 before his sad passage a few months after . Those who could read between the lines could tell that the late bridge builder and Buhari inner circle member was flying the kite and baiting the lgbos.

That is less  than two years ago. After mallam Funtua’s free  ‘advise’ to the lgbos to join the APC train, president Buhari in not too many words has also reiterated the position that if the lgbos want to produce the next president, which he is apparently not averse to, they should join the APC.

That much was implied in the interview with the AriseTv crew.

The comment generated a firestorm of sorts  forcing the presidency and the ruling party APC to distance themselves from the bombshell comments which they were unprepared for at that point in time .Today , the PDP committee led by Bala Muhamed, governor of Bauchi state has proposed the jettisoning of rotation of presidency calculus adopted and applied by the PDP. And the Nasir El Rufai led APC committee has also recommended restructuring of the political system which was the main justification for the introduction of the presidential rotation equation.

In some of my past media interventions, particularly in the book titled “Ismaila Isa Funtua.Exit Of A Bridge Builder. Chronicles Of A Media Entrepreneur, Political Influencer And The Jostle For The Presidency Of Nigeria , 2023” (a rather elaborate title), l had relied on the conventional Wisdom ‘there is no smoke without fire’ to argue that the two northern political elites(including elder statesman and media royalty, Mamman Daura) that have the ears of president Buhari could not have made such statements with paradigm shifts capacity  such as the need for the choice of president being based on meritocracy instead of rotation, without the consent of the no 1 citizen and their confidant.

And my guess has proven to be correct as the cat has now been literarily let out of the bag with mr president taking ownership of the position through his invitation of the lgbos into the ruling party if they want to produce the next president.

Can anyone recall Buhari’s response to a question on whether he would yield power to his opponent when he was going to cast  his vote on Election Day 1999?

He told the reporter flatly that he will win.

This implies that losing the election was not an option . And he went on to win the 1999 presidential election even though the ruling party lost a couple of states to the main opposition party , the PDP.

Legend has it that till date most of the powerful players in both the APC and PDP can’t phantom how the victory was achieved because president Buhari, being the army general that he is, kept the winning strategy in his chest.

In any case , that is the stuff that real army generals are made of.

In the AriseTv interview where he issued the following response :

“ So, Abati, tell anyone who wants to be Nigeria’s President in 2023 to join the APC….” in my judgement conveyed more than the nominal or face value.

It is ominous in my reckoning that the APC would retain power at the centre.

I suspect that Buhari will do all within his power (hopefully legitimately)to ensure that the APC remains in power beyond 2023. The current membership drive and the dexterous manner in which the expected  implosion was averted through dissolution of the leadership of the party and the easing out of then embattled chairman,while setting up a caretaker comity was remarkable. That is what the PDP could not do when it faced a similar challenge of implosion before the 2015 election which it lost to the coalition of opposition political parties.

So sustaining APC as the ruling party, how much more ruling party had been predicted by pundits as an impossibility. That is why  the non implosion of the APC and it’s retention as the ruling party after president Buhari’s exit in 2023 must be part of the legacy that he would like to leave.

Given, the scenario above , after my layman’s mind reading of president Buhari by dissecting his persona- from the prism of his pride and prejudices , l wonder what the lgbos are waiting for to join the APC  in droves since that is what would make their dream of a person of lgbo heritage being at the helm of affairs in Aso Rock Villa in 2023 come into reality . This is a quest that the lgbos have fought and lost a war to attain and a mission that claimed over 3 million lgbo lives between 1967-70.

And it has remained  a cause for which the precious lives of several youths are currently being lost as they have been resorting to self help via Biafra separatist movement in their unbridled desire (certainly not inordinate) for the actualization of the agenda for the lgbos to be mainstreamed in the politics of Nigeria as it used to be before the unfortunate civil war.

In my assessment of the frosty relationship between president Buhari and the lgbos , perhaps mr president has not forgiven the lgbos after  their officers -army majors Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, Emmanuel lfeajuna etc assassinated in a bloody coup detat northern leaders such as the Saudana of sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello , prime minister of Nigeria ,Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Col Zakari Maimalari etc in the 1966 coup tagged the lgbo coup. Although there was a counter coup which was led by northern military officers six months after and army General ,Aguiyi lronsi and some notable  lgbo leaders, military officers and countless civilians were similarly eliminated in a military coup and pogrom that ensured , president Buhari over fifty (50)years after the war still appears to be nursing unconscious bias against the lgbos. Which is what his seeming disdain, distrust or neglect of the lgbos in the assignment of critical roles in government to them under his watch , appear to be conveying to keen observers. That may not be the true situation. But speculations are rife about the possibility.

“Nobody Can Rule Guiltlessly ” is a poignant quote by Arthur Koestler , who is the author of the book “Darkness At Noon Time”.

It illustrates the fact that no man is infallible. Koestler was quoting Antoine De Saint-Just, an English( Hungarian born)  military and political leader during the French Revolution. So no rational human beings expect leaders or indeed president Buhari to be guiltless. But he is expected to strive harder so that on a balance of scale, his leadership good would outweigh his guilt.

Taking the prognosis further , l suspect that president Buhari may also be struggling with his conscience with regards to the fact that equity and justice may not be served if he denies the lgbos their turn, in the turn-by-turn Nigeria ltd presidency(apologies to late lsa Funtua) who coined or termed the presidency rotation calculus with that appellation after it was hashed out during the 1994/5 Abacha convened national conference. I guess that it is such sobriety that makes president Buhari’s devotees refer to him as Mai gaskiya-the man of truth.

So while mr president may be disposed to the presidency shifting to the south and south -east in particular, l’m not convinced he would agree that the person who succeeds him would be a core lgbo man like someone that hails from Abia, lmo, Ebonyi, Enugu or Anambra states. My guess is that he would prefer a non core lgbo person to succeed him in 2023. And he has a coterie of acolytes from the south-East and south south that would fit the mold.

So when president Buhari made the comment:

“APC will continue to rule after my tenure .So , Abati tell anyone who wants to be president in 2023 to join the APC” he was reaffirming his inclination to honor his agreement with the leaders of other opposition parties who merged with his CPC to form the APC in 2013/14. That much has been acknowledged and confirmed by an APC leader in the south west , a former governor of Ogun state and media royalty , Aremo Segun Osoba.

By and large , what the president Buhari AriseTv interview comment indicates is that there is no contest about whether he will relinquish power at the end of his tenure in 2023.

In the event that the prediction comes to pass , our president would be more like Nelson Mandela, the leadership icon , and one term president of South Africa who willingly relinquished power , than Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe who was the president of his country for over 30 years and died in 2019 , two years after he was forced out of office at age 95 ;  or even Paul Biya of Cameroon who has been the president of that country since 1982 till date which is 38 years and at the age 88 years,  as well as Yoweri Museveni , Ugandan president since 1986 till date .

Clearly president Buhari recognizes the power of giving up power as espoused in a book titled: “The Power Of Giving Up

Power: How The Best Leaders Learn To Let Go”by Mathew Barzum, a businessman and diplomat who served as USA ambassador to the UK (2013-2017) during the tenure of Barack Obama the 44th president of the USA and the first African American  to serve in that role from 2009-2017.

That is perhaps why mr  president is unwavering in his commitment to relinquish power as the 1999 constitution dictates. 

In the book,The Power Of Giving Up Power, Barzun debunks the old doctrine by stating:

“If you let go of hierarchy, chaos will reign…or so many leaders believe.

“But when leaders find the courage to distribute rather than hoard power,…” the world becomes a better place devoid of the rancor associated with power Jostle or tussle.

Fortuitously, president Buhari has vowed that he would exit Aso Rock villa  in 2023 when the mandate that Nigerians gave him in 2019 expires.And l believe him. Skeptics have argued that after a disappointing third attempt at becoming the president of Nigeria in 2011, he vowed not to run for the fourth time , but he contested again in 2015 and won. In my view, the circumstances are different. President Buhari has promised to abide by the constitution and so far he has not equivocated about it . In fact, l’m of the view that mr president has implied or expressed at numerous points in the course of his reign , that he  is working towards his exit in 2023. Not many would disagree that he is also discreetly searching for his successor from amongst his devotees cutting across all the ethnic nationalities, but particularly from the south south and south east. As l stated earlier, that much can be gleaned from the AriseTv interview.

Another sign of president Buhari’s pending exit from Aso Rock Villa in 2023 is the speed at which he is seeking to develop infrastructure such as the railways especially the link to Niger republic , and the construction of gas pipelines from the oil/gas fields in south to the northern part of the country ostensibly for wider distribution of energy . These are clear telltale signals of a leader who is in his twilight zone.

So president Buhari’s critics can accuse him of nepotism, favoritism , or allege that he harbors   hatred (perhaps unconsciously) for the lgbos and he is insensitive to other religions apart from Islam, and they may be justified. But it would be difficult and unfair to suggest that he would be a sit tight president of the ilk of the despotic African leaders earlier catalogued.

Before Buhari, Obasanjo is the first Nigerian leader to give up political power willingly when he handed over as military head of state to a democratically elected president, Shehu Shagari in 1979. Thereafter the world rewarded him through his selection as a member of the prestigious Eminent Persons Group, alongside former prime ministers of the Uk and Australia and from other parts of the globe to mediate in conflicts around the world. Thereafter , Goodluck Jonathan who is the first president to have lost an election process and concede victory to an opposition party in Nigeria has also been similarly honored by the global community through recent assignments as a global peace ambassador.

So as Mathew Barxun, the author of The Power Of Giving Away Power … argues in his book, there is virtue in giving away power as per agreement.

I recommend the book with nuggets of wisdom to president Buhari and all the governors so that they may borrow a leaf or two from it . If my good friend Femi Adeshina, Presidential spokesman would be gracious enough to hand the book over to his principal, l would be glad to gift him a copy.

And if there is any leadership attribute that governors should learn from president Buhari , it is that they should prepare to let go of power when their time is up and allow their successors to operate without strings attached . As Peter Obi must have learnt from hand picking Willie Obiano to succeed him as governor in Anambra state with the expectations that he would be his puppet, but  got disappointed; which has also been the case with ex governor of Akwa Ibom state , Godswill Akpabio who handed over to his presumed stooge, Emmanuel Udom with the intention to continue to call the shots after his exit from power as governor, but was shell shocked to discover that Udom was not ready to be his lackey; and as reflected by the conflict between ex governor Adams Oshiomole of Edo state who fell out with his erstwhile godson , Godwin Obaseki who after being crowned, felt he had come of age politically, as such it was time for him to be a man in his own right  , and a disagreement that almost resulted in the conflagration of the ruling party, APC, ensured. The point being made is that presidents and governors must learn to let go of power willingly and look forward to enjoying the power that comes with giving away power.

As for president Buhari, while it is human to be hurt by a sad experience such as the unfortunate coup and counter coup in 1966 resulting in the death of his leadership mentors or idols like the highly revered Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa, Zakari Maimalari etc , to continue to live life in good conscience, it is always better to unburden oneself by forgiving and forgetting past grievances and healing old worlds as opposed to settling scores . Bearing a grudge 50 years after against the lgbos is both morally reprehensible and unacceptable in the eyes of our creator, no matter the religion one belongs. It may be an unconscious bias which president Buhari may be exercising unknowingly. But now that he has been made aware of it, he must do everything possible to exorcise himself of that demon of hate that can beget war of which the world is accusing him of being a harbinger.

At 78 , our president and in deed most of us in the present generation hardly have more than another two more decades here on earth before our time is up.

If mr president’s anti lgbo   rhetorics via his IPOB being a dot in a circle analogy, that is considered to be a hate speech by not only the lgbos , but also by Nigerians across the sociopolitical spectrum as well as the whole world, as reflected by the deleting of the speech by both Twitter and Facebook from their platforms , is not retracted and apologies tendered , then president Buhari who should be the chief peacekeeper may inadvertently be casting himself as a warmonger. 

In the event that such pall of darkness falls upon our country , the number one citizen of our country and the one who calls the shots in Aso Rock Villa may be setting the stage for the new generation including mine  and his children to live with the grudge of another war (ethnic hatred) for another life time.

I doubt if that is a legacy that president Buhari wants to bequeath to posterity.

Since forgiveness is like a two way street, the lgbo nation should also do well to accept the overtures previously made to them by president Buhari when he tapped ex Biafran soldiers in the south east for a 50 billion naira compensation in 2017.

In an article titled “ As President Buhari Turns On His Charm Offensive On The Igbos” which was widely published in traditional and new media platforms in the month of November 2017,  l discussed what was basically president Buhari’s olive branch to the lgbos.

Apparently, the charm offensive, a precursor to the 2019 elections did not sway the lgbo as reflected by the paltry number of votes that the APC and Buhari garnered in the 2019 general elections.

By the same token, the lgbo nation did not adjust their attitude even after the late lsa Funtua, (president Buhari’s close confidant at that time ) wooed them in his January 3,2020 interview on AriseTv by openly stating that the lgbos ‘should belong’ if they want to have a member of their stock as the number one occupant of Aso Rock Villa in 2023.

It is not by mere coincidence that it is a position that president Buhari has reiterated in the June 10, 2021 AriseTv interview currently creating ruckus in the polity .

In the final analysis , in case the lgbos are yet to recognize the olive branch thrown by president Buhari in 2017 and presently , now that l’ve brought it to their consciousness, they should make haste to settle their differences with Presideht Buhari who l presume would be disposed to letting bygone be bygone.  The expected peace and tranquility would enable our country witness a political rebirth or renaissance that would enable us join the ranks of emerging super powers often referred to as the BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – to which second-tier powers such as Indonesia, Turkey and Mexico are being added. Take note that some of the above listed  countries termed “rising powers” or “new powers” because of their rapid economic development, and expanding political and cultural influence were mostly at par with Nigeria in 1960 when our country gained independence.

Therefore,Nigeria and Nigerians are not being inordinate by aspiring to be in the same category or stage of development with the aforementioned countries.

So, although it is not an Eldorado or utopia, that won’t happen without patriotic leaders being at the helm of our affairs.

That task is the least Nigerians are expecting president Buhari to bequeath upon his exit in 2023. And it can be achieved through the setting up a truth and reconciliation Committeee to settle the prevailing ethno-religion induced conflicts now threatening to shread the socio-cultural fabric of our beloved country.

And l do not think it is too high a bar to set in order to scale the huddle of conflict into peace and harmony that Nigeria so badly needs at this point of her checkered history .

ONYIBE, an entrepreneur, public policy analyst ,author, development strategist, alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts university, Massachusetts, USA and a former commissioner in Delta state government,sent this piece from lagos.

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