Guest ColumnistInside Nigeria

How Buhari Can Avert This Looming War, By Dele Momodu

PENDULUM

DELE MOMODU

Fellow Nigerians, I know some fanatical supporters of President Muhammadu Buhari and his ruling party APC will likely dismiss this intervention as coming from an alarmist or Prophet of doom, but so be it. History has taught me a lot of lessons and so has Literature done as well. Anyone familiar with Literary appreciation would have encountered what is often referred to as “tragic heroes”, an oxymoron of sorts. Many leaders usually end up as tragic figures because of their proclivities for obstinacy and obduracy. They are haters of criticism and truth who see enemies in every critic.

When President Buhari won the election against an incumbent President in 2015, it was a miraculous achievement. The mandate handed to him was overwhelmingly national and there was palpable joy in the land that something new and remarkably progressive was going to happen. Change was the Mantra and Change was what everyone including some of those who did not vote for him believed would happen. Nevertheless, no one expected the President and his team to perform an instant magic. Things had gone from bad to worse under the various PDP administrations that we had somehow chosen to afflict us. It was obvious that the years of decay could not be susceptible to any quick fix. Many of us were already frustrated with the rascality and profligacy of PDP. That was why they were voted out. Despite not expecting immediate solutions from the Buhari government, we expected Buhari to stabilise the polity and the nation, not to make them overheated or worse, but alas.

Four years have passed since that landmark victory and the fifth one is already climbing on top of it. I will not bore you with the events of recent times gone past. The future has arrived and at least, for now, or till the Supreme Court decides, for or against, we are stuck with Buhari, a leader who has turned lethargy, laggardness and sluggishness into a veritable art form. Anyway.

I’m always willing to give everyone another chance because no one is perfect. At President Buhari’s age (he is nearer 80 than 70), no one expects him to change his stoic habits much. Indeed, some of those habits can be for the good of the nation if properly harnessed and channelled. If as they say, old habits die hard, we can at least help the President to hear and see what Nigerians and the rest of the world think of him and why he must have pity on millions of hapless Nigerians by doing the right things.

Walahi, I don’t believe Nigerians are difficult to govern. We are a breed of people who demand precious little from the leaders.  Accordingly, the simple things make us happy and satisfied. Most governments have understood this aspect of the Nigerian psyche and exploited it.  Labour union strikes have petered and fizzled out, in some cases, even being moribund at inception simply because the government has offered carrots and palliatives to weaken the resolve of the people and bring them to a situation where they are only puppets on a string. The people hardly demand innovation or creativity.  In any event, those qualities are seemingly lacking in our present leaders.

 

It is the lack of creativity, and a bit of flexibility, that is destroying the ruling party APC and by implication the nation. APC was born in anger, deprivation and hostility. The Party is a product of division and strife. Little wonder that it appears to be plunging us towards the abyss that is called war. If APC is not careful the Party will leave a legacy of having been birthed in conflict and having lived forever in warmongering. That’s the biggest tragedy afflicting a party that once held out so much promise and opportunity but frittered it away. Of all the possible political afflictions in the world, the worst is the lack of security, particularly under the reign of a retired Army General, whose biggest qualification for his present job is the rank and status he attained in his previous military existence. It is interesting to observe that on that occasion the country was involved in a war of attrition from which it has not recovered to date. The suspicion, mistrust and distrust that the civil war engendered will take generations to heal. However, we must make great effort to heal those wounds and ensure that the kind of debilitating soul-destroying war that the country fought never repeats itself.

Today, as if we never learnt our lessons, Nigeria is in the throes of the beginning of another monumental conflict that will make the civil war pale into insignificance. Many of the people I know have resigned themselves to fate. They are expecting the worst to happen, any time from now. But I pray against all evil machinations against our dear beloved country. No calamity shall befall us.

Yes, the drums of war are beating loudly. The ill-assortment of hopeless drummers appear rugged and determined to achieve the worst. The rest of us seem helpless, hopeless and hapless. The hawks are flying in their legions, the doves have crumbled and crumpled and have retreated into their nests. Only one man can stop the imminent explosion and that is the father of the nation, President Muhammadu Buhari. No father ever watches his children perish in fire without making every effort to rescue them. President Buhari must wake up from his petulance and act like a true father of all. He must not be peeved or angered by the insults and abuses that have been hurled at him. When he chose to once more be the helmsman of this foundering ship, he committed himself to become a rallying point, a unifying role model. He did not sign up to be the person who would not only superintend and supervise the break-up of the country but be the undertaker for the numerous millions of bloodied bodies that such a ruinous venture will unearth. President Buhari knows more about the recriminations, repercussions and heavy price of war as a veteran combatant himself. Nigeria cannot afford another bloodletting.

I’m surprised that our government can’t feel the pulse of the nation and see how close we are to the precipice. This could have been easily avoided if President Buhari was willing and ready to listen to the voices of reason and wisdom. It is not too late. We are merely at the brink. We have not yet slipped over. We are close to being engulfed in the cauldron of irreversible war. We can halt this push by those who do not mean well for our country, but the President must lead. He must be the example that others will have no choice but to follow. There is no benefit, advantage or profit in fighting wars of egotism, nepotism and jingoism.  There are plenty of gains and increases in unity, peace and stability. And this is no rocket science to achieve.

How can this be done? The President should make that conscious effort to see every single Nigerian citizen as his own kinsman. He should stop the seeming discrimination against certain parts of the country. He should stop the preferential treatment of some people above the others. He should not only say that he ‘belongs to no one but belongs to everyone’, he should show that he not only believes in it but that he acts and demonstrates it in everything that he does. This will go a long way to healing the wounds and divisions that presently ravages the land. Indeed, this is the crux of the matter. Too many Nigerians today feel extremely frustrated. They feel, misused, disused and abused. Apart from mass unemployment, they feel like slaves in their own country. They feel unwanted. They feel unloved. And they are undoubtedly unprotected. President Buhari must show them that Nigerians and the nation are safe and secure under his charge, that the warmongers and warlords will never have their way and that he is in charge and not just a mere ceremonial figurehead with bark but no teeth.

Furthermore, President Buhari must restore a sense of pride and belonging to every Nigerian. The narrative and discourse that we are all a bunch of useless, lazy, fraudulent, frivolous and inept people must now stop. Continued persistent use of such diatribe and tirade can only belittle and impugn the Buhari administration itself. Any government that has been in power for four years must have gone to great lengths to fix this perception of its citizens, by both nationals and foreigners alike. That is not the case in Nigeria of today and it is one of the reasons that there seems to be a gulf between our diverse peoples.

It is just unfortunate that we have to find ourselves at this unnecessary juncture. Nigeria has seriously retrogressed in every sense and indices since this government came to power. Before the coming of this government, Nigeria prided itself as the number one and the fastest growing economy in Africa. That is no longer the case today. There were pockets of terrorist attacks by Boko Haram restricted to the North East of Nigeria. There were militant attacks in the Niger Delta but these were being contained by various programmes aimed at quelling the restiveness that had given rise to such militancy. At first, it seems these became degraded when Buhari came to power, but no one can say with any degree of confidence that the war against insurgency or militancy has been won. As a matter of fact, the terrorists have continued to launch ferocious attacks. The militants that appear to have gone underground are beginning to resurface with a vengeance. More worrisome is the new trend of separationist movements who appear to get more emboldened by the day as a result of the rapidly unravelling denouement that is playing out before our very eyes.

However, what is worse is another dimension to the imbroglio added by some bandits and brigands labelled Fulani herdsman from God knows where. They are now the bane of our collective existence and unity as a nation. This group crept upon us like thieves in the night. At first their existence was like a silent whisper that children would mouth in the recesses of the dark for fear of being discovered. Soon the rumours took upon a life of their own and now their existence is no longer a rumour but cold fact. Indeed, a legend is building around the destruction that they are leaving in their wake. Nigerians have suddenly woken from their slumber to discover that marauders are taking over their land in the name of grazing cattle and the palpable fear is lending voice and fillip to irridentists and divisionists. It is true that politicians want to take advantage of this sorry state of affairs, but this is only because President Buhari’s preferred solution of molly-cuddling the bad eggs is untenable and cannot work. It can only encourage those who have nothing to do but play politics with serious issues to continue at a game at which they are past masters.  If one could not blame Buhari directly for Boko Haram, it is tempting to throw heaps of blame at him for his tacit support and pampering of the herdsmen who are undoubtedly members of his clan.

No one should blame us for this allegation. It is all too obvious that had Buhari treated these miscreants the way he descended heavily on Nnamdi Kanu and others accused of treasonable offences, this herdsman nuisance would have been curbed in its infancy. Sadly, till this day, it has been treated with kid’s gloves. If the government is sincere in its classification of the rampaging herdsmen as rogue elements, then it should do the natural thing and crush them. We have had cattle rearers criss-crossing the length and breadth of this nation literally from time immemorial without any issue or hassle. Those who want to give the innocent cattle breeders a bad name should be promptly identified and dealt with in summary fashion. No amount of pandering to the wishes and demands of devilish and deadly evildoers will ever assuage their bloodthirstiness. Rather it will merely make them more demanding and fearsome.

The interest and unity of our nation is not negotiable and is certainly not subject to the whims and caprices of a small group of hoodlums masquerading in whatever guise. The Government needs to act decisively now, instead of pussy-footing around them. They are a cankerworm, a cancer, that must be excised with military precision and alacrity. President Buhari has no choice in this matter. History will be very unkind to him if he chooses clan over nation. It is not a hard choice to make, but the choice is his and his alone.

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