US assault on democracy; what lessons for Nigeria?

By Tony Eluemunor

Writing has become a curse. You write and write and those who should listen to you appear to hold wisdom in utter disdain; yes, in contempt, derision, scorn, condescension and with total disregard. 

Really, a writer could live with that. It is left for the individual writer to speak his truth to the winds even, and leave it at that. He might document it believing that administrations come and go, but Nigeria endures. So, one day, a regime that might embrace the views which a preceding one had refused to consider could be in power, and then, Nigeria would begin to retrace her steps.

Retrace her steps? Is there really a need for that? Reading through President Mohammadu Buhari’s recent interviews, in that unhurried comfort which newspaper reports afford one, without the hurried variation you get as you watch the real interview for the  first time on the television set, you have the choice to set your own pace, choose when to stop and what to read a second or even a third time for the real meaning, or, even an esoteric nuance, to sink in. 

That was when a strange thought invaded my mind; Nigeria has been bursting at the seams, but we are just watching it turn to shreds.

It is most likely that President Buhari’s answer which touches on his vow to speak to some miscreants whose activities are tearing up the nation and making the lives of Nigerians a living hell must have elicited that feeling in me that the nation is ripping apart. It had all started from the North-East. An insurrection had arisen, an insurrection like never before.

Boko Haram is its name. Those who owe allegiance to this group do not only hate everything Western or modern, but they appear to hate the very idea of Nigeria itself. They do not recognise our federation, the election that produces our leaders, and they have taken up arms against the motherland.

In the North-West, another group has been increasing the space it has commandeered. The group’s grouse is murky at best; that its members said they have been left behind as the benefits of a modern society have devolved on others leaving them high and dry. In terrifying videos after terrifying videos, they have talked about their having been left behind by a wicked society that has cared not a bit about their well-being.

Unfortunately, some of our so-called leaders still have the temerity to argue that there are a lot that are wholesome with an almajiri education. Such people have been resisting the efforts of some Northern governors to end almajiri education so that our children could acquire an education that should enable them to read and write and to master a trade if they were to put their minds to it.

That brings to mind the vexed issue of the age old cattle rearing which involves the traversing of the entire land by herders. What about the children of these herders? How will they be educated? Is that type of animal husbandry not just ancient but truly archaic and so totally out of date?

Should any Nigerian be allowed to live in the bush in this day and age, bereft of modern education, health facilities, electricity and modern amenities? And if some persons say that is the life they have chosen to live, should they be allowed to also destroy the lives of their children?

We have a problem on our hands, a really gigantic problem. The answer does not lie with Boko Haram’s beloved Islamic Republic. It does not lie in Oduduwa Republic. It does not lie in Biafra, whether of indigenous peoples or the 1967-1970 variant. The South-South also talks tough when its people are threatened. And the Middle-Belt has for long been on its own.

Our president has vowed to talk to the nuisance-inducing miscreants in the language they understand. Is that violence? If so, unmitigated violence has its uses. A nation must be ready to unleash it when ANY part of the country is under threat. Yes, any part of the country. But the Boko Haram insurgency has been on now for decades. So, too the killing of farmers by Fulani killer herders which we have been told are not Nigerian Fulani people, but Fulani herders from outside our borders.  Buhari has not spoken in such a language yet, or Boko Haramists and killer herdsmen have refused to understand his language.

Though we are supposed to be united in our battles against the lawless peoples in our land, Nigeria is tearing at the seams. Talks about some ethnic groups going their own ways have been rife for a long time now. Thus it is disappointing that in the two interviews that Buhari granted to two television stations recently, he did not showcase any road map that should bring Nigerians on the road to national unity. New questions and problems have cropped up. So, it must be futile for Buhari to think that the old answers would do. Killer herdsmen, for instance, would require state police to address.  Making the states more economically viable could require granting them more powers.

And someone should advise the presidency to listen more and accept advice, and to think things through before reacting. I just read something attributed to Malam Garba Shehu, Buhari’s spokesman, but I doubt if it emanated from that former newspaper Editor. I read a reply purportedly written by Mallam Shehu in reply to the Peoples Democratic Party Governors’ Forum.

The Forum had called on the presidency to shore up Naira’s foreign exchange value. The reply faulted the PDP Governors, arguing that a strengthened Naira value would militate against our ability to export goods, especially crude petroleum. I doubt if that emanated from Malam Shehu because he should know that Nigeria has been exporting oil, even when the Naira exchanged higher than the American dollar, but today, it is inching towards N500 to a single American dollar. I know that Garba Shehu knows that Nigeria is bound by OPEC’s quota.

Nigerians are frustrated. That is why many want to leave the federation. They have to be reassured. We must find the way back to a united Nigeria. And if that Nigeria never existed, it has to be invented. That is the task before Buhari. 

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