By Sola Ebiseni
I owe today’s title to my hero, educationist, proprietor of the prestigious Mayflower School, Ikenne; essayist, columnist, rights activist and Nigerian patriot extraordinaire, the late Dr. Tai Solarin, in honour of who the Ogun State-owned University of Education is named. “The Beginning of the End” was the title of an article by Tai Solarin late 1974 which prophetically predicted the end of the Yakubu Gowon military regime in 1975.
As a secondary school student, even in my juniour classes then, I took delight in great columnists like Tai Solarin and later Tola Adeniyi, whose writings helped to sharpen our understanding and usage of the English language, apart from currency in national affairs.
Those men, unknown to them, sowed the seeds of political consciousness in young Nigerians like us. Pressure has been on President Muhammadu Buhari to address fellow citizens on the myriads of problems we are faced with, particularly the security situation. But like Shehu Sani, erstwhile Senator of Kaduna Central once said, those who clamour for Buhari’s address are often left asking what he eventually really did say.
In spite of the well-prepared Arise Television interview, which took place, not as an impromptu event or at the television studio, but right in the President’s office, his responses to the questions put to him have been used by some curious but less charitable Nigerians to lend some credence to the mischievous query of Nnamdi Kanu about the true identity of the Chief Tenant at Aso Villa.
I issued a statement on behalf of the Afenifere, as its General Secretary, titled: “Our President is irredeemable”, and I meant every syllable of those words. One of the highly revered senior citizens, who has seen it all in the nation’s public service and its politics, after reading my statement in the media sent this message to me. “I am no fan of PMB but I thought the interview was his best ever in spite of some of those gaffes, wilful distortions, dry humour, innate braggadocio, etc.
In the evidently ‘arrangee’ interview I noticed a well relaxed, sprightly PMB answered questions before they were asked without the usual nauseating drags aw aw … Recall that he preferred being interviewed by the foreign press and it usually never lasted this long! We all know how the master schemer – Nduka- operates! I do like the way you exposed some of his gaffes though!”.
That was the best and perhaps only favourable reaction, if I actually used the word “favourable” appropriately. The Arise interview was a great disservice to the nation not only for the international audience of the medium and the link between the questions and responses, suggesting nonexistence of mutual intelligibility between the President and his interviewers. The real issue is that our President was unapologetic in his sectional perspectives of national issues, revealing the abundance of his heart from his spoken words.
That was why he seized the opportunity to expressed his bottled up views, with no regards for their match with the questions asked. While Nigerians thought the President would use the medium to correct his errors and assuage the feelings of his countrymen and women on his gaffes reminding Ndigbo of the civil war genocide, he worsened the case in a most unpresidential manner by plotting the South East on the war map of Nigeria, likening it to a dot surrounded by assuredly uncooperative neighbours, comically exposing them as easy preys.
The President glowingly discussed his strategy to deal with his compatriots in the South East. Conversely and most curiously, for the over a decade of its destructive existence, the President and Commander-in-Chief needed Governor Zulum of Borno State to convince him that Boko Haram was composed of ordinary Kanuri people of Nigeria and not foreigners. In the case of Igbo youths, he needed no governor to tell him about their identity and to treat them in the same war language their parents were treated.
The situation in the North West is most tormenting to the President who could not believe that such horrendous attacks could be happening among people of the same tribe, territory, language and culture. Of course, we know they are not of the same tribes. Other tribes, including the larger Hausa, are at the receiving end of Fulani attacks.
In any case, is the President saying, in other words, that it is understandable, if not permissible, that ethnic militias and warlords would leave their own tribe, territory and culture to unleash deaths on other peoples. It is convenient, for the six years of Buhari in power, when such situation ensues and really assumes genocidal proportions, for the President to look away and dismiss the war as farmers/herdsmen clash.
The situation was not even this bad when Femi Adesina had realistically advised the oppressed people on the wisdom of land for cattle colony as the opportunity cost for their lives. Because the assailant militia herdsmen are not of the same tribes with the Benue State people, the only chance for security of the Tiv and Idoma people is to find accommodation for the killer herders on their land.
It is so laughable that the President of Nigeria in 2021 would be speaking like the Premier of Northern Nigeria of the 1960s. How could the President assume the powers of the Premier in creating grazing routes in 19 states and assured his audience that the Attorney General of the Federation would open some archaic gazettes to determine and rechart the old grazing routes.
In the face of the provisions of the Land Use Act and the 1999 Constitution which gives it special flavour and entrust all the land in a state in the governor for the use of the people of the state, the President must be speaking devoid of the knowledge of this legal reality or amusing himself of some dictatorial inclinations.
Either way, it is the duty of the Attorney General to advise the President against embarrassing his exalted office or send a memo to the National Assembly Committee seeking to amend the Constitution for the power to make all the land in Nigeria for the benefits of his nomadic cousins including, of course, those of the Niger Republic.
I have said in my statement on behalf of the Afenifere that the “President’s claim that his appointments in the armed forces is based on merit and seniority and not to satisfy geopolitical sentiments is not true and that his lopsided appointments was a violation of the letters and intendment of the provisions of sections 217-220 dealing with the Armed Forces of the federation and appointments thereto.
In any case, anyone familiar with the history of Buhari leadership will appreciate that he is the only Nigerian leader, even among military heads of state, whose government: himself, second in command as Chief of Staff Supreme headquarters (Tunde Idiagbon) and top echelon were all Northerners. It was after his death that many Nigerians knew Idiagbon was “Fulani of Ilorin”. The governors, it will appear, are more than ever before ready to play their roles as heads of governments of federating units.
The President has put them on the spot when he challenged them to rise in the defence of the territories and peoples of their respective states. Only those uninformed about the crooked constitution which would not know that the governors were not chief security officers of their states, both dejure or defacto.
Such references to governors in Nigeria are mere fanciful political statements. Yet many of the governors have now risen to the challenge of the President. Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State said he would no longer reward bandits with ransom payment; Matawalle of Zamfara State has invoked the most fundamental right and power of every living being which is the power to defend oneself against harm. It is a power beyond constitutional reproach.
He has asked Zamfarians to rise in self-defence. My brother(that’s what Seyi Makinde calls me, and I acknowledge our Afenifere brotherhood), puts his own in a most dramatic manner, in a typical Oyo version, when he went to Igangan and took responsibility for an attack by the Fulani.
He promised them it won’t happen again. His Ondo counterpart, our own Aketi, is seen by our people as the true Commander-in-Chief in the face of incessant herdsmen menace. In Rivers, Delta, Kebbi and even Katsina, the governors and their people have now vowed not to put their heads on the platter to be slaughtered.
I don’t know which end has just begun but I have no doubt that it is the terminal point of shenanigans and impunity. It is the synthesis of contending forces, the very light at the end of the present dark tunnel. I have this foreboding, the premonition that this nation is at a beginning of an unknown but a certain end.
*Ebiseni is the Secretary General of Afenifere