BY SOLA EBISENI
IN my struggle against a strange premonition of Nigeria’s slipping into its apocalypse, a strong counter force wells inside of me praying for redemption. Somehow, I am caught in the web of disillusionment with the country that offers nothing but death for my people; the irresistible defeaning calls for Yoruba self determination and the subtle rumbles inside of me pleading that this contraption could still be rehabilitated (I am constrained to avoid the use of the word restructuring again).
Growing up, this country offered so much prospects but, for me, the military was the toast. Just entering primary school at the outbreak of the civil war in 1967, our tabula rasa minds were pelted with stories of the invincibility of some big boys on the war front. So enamoured with such stories that my much elder brother, who was a student at Badagry Grammar School, jumped into the Army truck in Badagry spoiling for action. He only returned home, after a few weeks later, with a bag containing military souvenirs as token rewards of his exuberance.
Time there was that Nigerians were so proud of their country, particularly as we radically piloted the Southern African liberation struggles. The pivotal roles of the country climaxed during the Murtala/Obasanjo administration which was aptly demonstrated in the memorable speech of the late Nigerian Head of State, Murtala Muhammed, at an extraordinary meeting of the Organisation of African Unity, OAU, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 1976 where he told the western world, particularly the President of the United States of America that Africa had come of age.
It was in reaction to a letter from General Ford the then American president which tended to dictate to the African countries on the Angolan liberation struggles. He said interalia “the fortunes of Africa are in our hands to make or to mar. For too long have we been kicked around: for too long have we been treated like adolescents who cannot discern their interests and act accordingly… The time has come when we should make it clear that we can decide for ourselves..”
Far away territorially, from the theatre of the liberation wars, Nigeria was declared and incorporated into the membership of the Frontline States, comprising the Southern African countries of Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. British Petroleum and other business interests, in Nigeria, were nationalised to give vent to our disapproval of the country’s permissive roles in the war against apartheid.
Our Armed Forces and even the Police were the toasts of international peace keeping and enforcement operations organised by the UN and the OAU then. Our super power position in Africa, before the dethronement of apartheid, was only being contested by Egypt, even then, the world was not in doubt that the true leader around which other African countries would rally was Nigeria.
We sought a permanent seat in the UN Security Council with concomitant veto power, as of the right of the African giant. Nigeria became a more visible and leading member of the Non-Aligned Movement, which in actual fact, were closer to China and the USSR seen then as bastions of resistance against imperialism in the bi-polar ideological dichotomy.
While it lasted, it spoke to our activism in would affairs and the maturity alluded to by Murtala Muhammed in his speech earlier quoted. Such audacity propelled the Babangida administration’s erudite Foreign Minister, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, who with some other visible third world countries to champion the world Medium Power Nations.
Though we lost the UN Secretary General to Boutrous Ghali of Egypt, his election as the sixth but first African on the seat of the world number one public administrator, is not unconnected with the respect the continent garnered through the efforts of Nigeria leading other African countries in world affairs. Equally authoritative was our Emeka Anyaoku at the head of the Commonwealth. Not many Nigerians would still remember that the now most maligned Nigeria Police received gold medal, being adjudged, by the UN, as the most effective and disciplined force during the mop up security operations towards Namibian Independence in 1990.
For the West African sub-region, the super power status of Nigeria was indisputable. We championed the Economic Communities of West African States, ECOWAS, and provided the oxygen of its life. At our pleasure, behest and permanent command, the ECOMOG was established as the sub-regional armed forces for peacekeeping and enforcement to the surprise and envy of world powers, particularly France which is our main and true rival in West Africa.
Nigeria might not be a world super power, or a permanent member of the UN Security Council, but time there was, when it truly was the giant of Africa and in the West African sub region, the de facto super power. Those truly were times when Nigerians and our green passports commanded respect and no nation anywhere, least other Africans, particularly our dependent neighbours, would dare molest Nigerians. The foreign respect was derived from our internal stability.
The story was told of how Buhari, as a Military Head of State, dealt with and decimated the Maitasine group. Earlier, as a GOC, he was reported to have dealt fatally with and pursued Chadian soldiers who killed some Nigerian soldiers far into their country. Buhari, as the candidate of the APC, with a heroic bravado, gave vent to this episodes as reported in the Daily Trust newspaper of December 28, 2014.
Notwithstanding the difference in operations and sophistication between Maitasine and Boko Haram, not a few Nigerians routed for the candidacy of Buhari, convinced that, with him, Boko Haram would meet their waterloo in the same way as their Maitasine jihadists comrades. Chad today is the champion Nigeria must court to live in minimum peace.
The Nigerian armed forces remain the sophisticated, well trained army, which members would still hold their heads anywhere in the world. If you are in doubt, please read the account of Fl. Lt A. Dairo, how he ejected mid-air and escaped when his fighter jet was shot and downed in Zamfara state recently.
Such bravery, recounted in a typical James Hardley Chase fashion, was only possible in James Bond films those days. Like most Nigerians, Dairo had wondered why such a sophisticated and ruthless group like Boko Haram terrorists was still being called bandits. That is the crux of the matter.
The military is the only institution still imbued with such national patriotism in a country where the current leadership does not hide its preference for the ascendancy and domination of one of the constituent groups. Many proposals have been made to the Buhari administration to preserve the military as the only symbol of national unity and safe it from internal conflicts which are replete with inter-ethnic politics that may comprise its patriotism.
While Gumi was trying to introduce religious sentiments into the military’s internal operations, the only way other primordial sentiments may not set in is for the federation to employ other institutions for internal security. The most strident call is the establishment of State Police in addition to the introduction of National Guard at the Federal level.
Lest I forget, Afenifere has been under intense pressure to jettison calls for restructuring and embrace self determination which majority of Yoruba now route for. One of the reasons they canvass is that the Fulani North is already planning its own nation after the soon collapse of Nigeria. They allude to several programmes of the Buhari administration which not only favour the Fulani but also seek integrated development with neighbouring northern nations.
Nothing confirmed this fear than the recent interview of Bala Muhammed, Governor of Bauchi State on Channels television, that the Fulani has no nation beyond being Fulani with borderless territory all over Africa and that the solution to insecurity in Nigeria is to provide colonies for the global Fulani within the territory of Nigeria. We are watching.
A word for President Buhari and the President of Republic of Benin on Igboho. In my random studies of the Bible this Monday morning, I stumbled on verses 15-16 chapter 23 of the book of Deuteronomy which is relevant to the on-going diplomatic endeavours between Nigeria and Benin on Sunday Igboho and provides thus: 15 Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee: 16 He shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best: thou shalt not oppress him. These are divine messages both for the terror master who caused his servant to flee and the asylum proprietor. Let those who have ears, hear the warnings of the spirit. Nigeria, we hail thee.