By Olu Fasan
LAST week, President Muhammadu Buhari urged historians and intellectuals to be fair to his administration. In a statement issued by Garba Shehu, his senior media assistant, President Buhari said: “Intellectuals and historians should be fair to us”. Of course, they will. But they won’t lie or distort the truth. For instance, historians and intellectuals won’t say that Buhari ran Nigeria well when, in fact, his administration is the worst civilian government in this countryto date: consider the unprecedented levels of poverty, debt, insecurity, abuse of power, etc!
They won’t say Buhari unified Nigeria when, in fact, he’s an unquestionably divisive leader who, as Colonel Abubakar Umar rightly said, has utterly mismanaged Nigeria’s diversity and deepened its traditional schisms. Recently, the BBC listed five major threats to Nigeria’s security and unity. They are, in the same order: 1) jihadism; 2) herders-farmers clashes; 3) banditry and kidnapping; 4) separatist insurgency; and 5) oil militants. Of these five threats, the first four became prominent and hydra-headed under the Buhari administration.
Take jihadism. The Fulani have always had a jihadist tendency, but it’s under President Buhari that they became gung-ho and in-your-face with the Fulanisation agenda, along with Northern hegemony. Similarly, herders and farmers have always clashed, but, under Buhari’s government, AK-47-wielding Fulani herdsmen became so emboldened to terrorise the Middle Belt and Southern Nigeria with great impunity.
What about bandits and kidnappers? Well, they have never been as brazen as they are under the Buhari government, shooting down military jets, killing army generals and kidnapping hundreds of school children. According to Global Rights, a US-based human rights organisation, Nigeria recorded more than 3,868 killings and 3,016 abductions in six months between January and June this year. Yet, the bandits are untouchable, so much so that prominent Northerners openly act as their go-between and ransom negotiators!
The fourth major threat, according to BBC’s list, is separatist insurgency. But does anyone doubt that President Buhari fans the flames of secessionist agitations with his insensitivity to, and utter mishandling of, Nigeria’s diversity? Take his deliberate trampling on Igbo’s legitimate feelings of injustice and marginalisation. Think of his tacit support for Fulani herdsmen against their victims in the Middle Belt and the South-West. And consider his stubborn refusal to countenance a national dialogue about Nigeria’s future and his outright rejection of the call for restructuring this country.
Recently, President Buhari arrogantly described those calling for restructuring as “naïve and ignorant”. His argument was that there are people from other ethnic groups in every state. He said: “We have different combination of ethnicity in many states. Even in Kano and Kaduna Igbo have properties. The same goes with Yorubas.There are Fulani in Port Harcourt”.
That argument betrays ignorance of the history of this country and the meaning of restructuring. When Nigeria had four regions were there not a mix of ethnicity in each region? So, why would Nigerians living outside of their core ethnic groups be worse off if Nigeria is restructured into six or eight regional governments, with power, responsibility and resources devolved to the regional governments to run their own affairs? Is restructuring the same thing as secession? Of course, it is not. Yet, truth is, the rejection of restructuring is a centrifugal force that can fuel tensions and separatist tendencies in Nigeria.
But President Buhari doesn’t give a hoot about such concerns. Instead, he is unleashing a reign of terror to silence agitations for self-determination.
The kidnap of Nnamdi Kanu from Kenya and the fatal raid on Sunday Igboho’s residence and current attempt to extradite him from Benin Republic have created a climate of fear in the South-East and the South-West. Prominent leaders and traditional rulers in the two geo-political zones are talking in hushed tones out of fear. Chief Ayo Adebanjo, the Afenifere leader, told Arise TV recently: “We are weak; Buhari is powerful”. And you wonder: Is Nigeria under military rule?
Of course, with Buhari, Nigeria is under a de facto military regime. He believes Nigeria’s unity can only be secured by use of military force. And for him, there’s no greater threat to Nigeria’s unity than some people on the fringes calling for secession. In 2017, he ordered the military to “fight and destroy relentlessly” such agitations because they “crossed our national red lines”.
But, for Buhari, jihadists, Fulani herdsmen, bandits and kidnappers, who account for thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons, have not “crossed our national red lines”, hence he treats their leaders with kid gloves.
Well, less than two years from now, Buhari will be out of power and command no instruments of coercion. He will then face the judgement of history. But history will judge him harshly. He will be remembered as someone who could have been the “father of the nation” but chose to intimidate and muzzle sections of the country; a leader who instead of being a unifier, decided to be a divider! But history will also deliver a harsh verdict on Buhari’s enablers; those currently egging him on. Of which, Femi Adesina, Buhari’s senior media adviser, stands out.
In a recent article, Adesina praised Buhari’s brutalities as military dictator, including giving “a red card to hard drug traffickers, who were executed by firing squad”.
He described Buhari as being “of iron and steel, one ready and willing to knock sense into contumacious heads, whipping everyone into line”. Nigeria, he said, needs ”iron and steel – an alchemy of GMB (General Muhammadu Buhari) and PMB (President Muhammadu Buhari)”. That sounds a bit like Joseph Goebbels defending the Nazi regime!
In 2008, Adesina wrote a damning article titled “The slap next time”, lambasting Professor Ibrahim Gambari for defending the despotism of General Sani Abacha. Interestingly, today, the same Adesina is in cahoots with the same Gambari, now Buhari’s chief of staff, defending Major-General Buhari’s reign of terror. Needless to say: history will be harsh on Buhari and his fawning bootlicking grovellers!