By Omoniyi Salaudeen
The capacity of President Muhammadu Buhari to effectively deal with the rising wave of insecurity, as well as myriads of other problems currently facing Nigeria is now being impressively put on trial.
Indeed, the grim reality is that the government is confronting too many battles at the same time – insurgency, banditry, communal clashes, alarming rate of paternal and child mortality, decaying healthcare delivery, poverty and the challenge of COVID-19 pandemic – among others.The result is that the resources and logistical materials required to frontally nip them in the bud are too thin to make any appreciable impact.
Although the president has been talking tough on the resolve of his administration to decisively deal with the criminal elements profiting from banditry, killings and kidnapping, the action of his Security Chiefs still leaves much to be desired.
On the contrary, insurgent groups have continued to have a free rein, while banditry has also gone a notch higher by way of mass abduction of innocent school children for ransom. The latest being the recent attack on Government Girls’ Secondary School, Jangebe, in Talata Mafara Local Government Area of Zamfara State, where 279 girls were abducted by armed men. This followed a similar incident in Niger State involving 27 students of Government Science Secondary School, Kagara district. In the ensuing struggle, one of the boys was killed.
Beyond all of this is the widening traditional fault line between the North and South, which many stakeholders are quick to blame on the seeming lackluster attitude of the president to the incessant farmers-herders conflicts resulting in general distrust for government. This worrisome trend, according to analysts, stems from the inability of President Buhari to summon enough political will to deal with the root of the problems. Shasha market fracas in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, between Hausa traders and the Yoruba is a present and clear danger of the growing animosity among different ethnic groups in the country.
Already, due to lack of effective follow up action on the part of the Federal Government, the situation has degenerated to blockade of food supply to the South by the aggrieved traders and counter-threat of trade boycott by their counterparts in the Southwest. These are parts of the ominous signs some statesmen like former President Olusegun Obasanjo had observed when he raised the alarm, accusing Buhari of a Fulanisation agenda owing to what he described as conspiracy of silence over the incessant clashes between farmers and Fulani herdsmen.
The continued loud drumbeat of war, concerned stakeholders warned, could undermine corporate existence of the country. Senator Rufai Hanga, a prominent leader of thought in Kano, told Sunday Sun that intensive efforts were ongoing by concerned elders to forestall the possibility of reprisal attack. He said: “The situation we are in today in Nigeria is very unfortunate. We have never had it this bad. I read it in the news that several northern people were killed, houses burnt, commodities looted and burnt in the recent Ibadan crisis. The problem is with the government. The government should have come out to pacify the people that suffered the attack. But up till now, no government official or governor has come out to appeal to the affected traders. As a result, traders are saying they are not taking their commodities to the South. I also saw it in the social media where people were saying, “block your food, we are going to buy it from Niger.” This should not happen. It portends a serious looming danger for the country. We can’t afford not to live together in Nigeria. We have been together as brothers and sisters; we have been beneficial to one another. Whosoever is encouraging blockade of food to the South is not being sincere. It is a whole nonsense. I am against it; I don’t want it to happen. I want the federal and state governments to delve in and pacify these people.
“The leaders in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, should also speak up and recall the affected traders to come and continue their businesses with an assurance not to allow the incident to happen again. Once they do that, in no time, the issue will fizzle out. Most of the people affected by the crisis can’t even speak their language because they were born and grew up there. So, the problem is not really the people, it is the government and the elders. They should come out and say something that will pacify everybody.
“You need to see how elders are working hard in the North to forestall reprisal attack. We are working hard to ensure that there is no escalation of the crisis because the moment it happens, no one can control it. That will be the end of the country.
“By law, the governors are the Chief Security Officers of the states. That is why I charged the governors to speak up on the issue and reconcile the parties involved since the Federal Government has not made any categorical statement on the incident. And you should not be surprised because this government is nearly six years in office. We know their incompetence; we know they don’t know what to do. We have suffered for six years. That is why I am saying that the governors and the elders should rise up to do the necessary reconciliation. If you rely on the Federal Government, nothing will happen. They are incompetent. Why should we insist that somebody who has never done anything right should do it now? We can only endure the situation and pray for better things to come after the two years left for them to spend.
“Let me confirm to you, tomorrow, we are going to hold discussion with two communities on this issue. We divided ourselves into groups to go round and meet market leaders and appeal to them. Nobody assigned us, but we are doing it in the interest of the country because we believe, if we allow this thing to continue, there is going to be a problem.
“But unfortunately, some of our colleagues in the South are not helping matters. They don’t want to admit that a wrong has been done. They want to be applauded as hero by their people. There is conspiracy of silence. We have to wake up to our responsibility. We don’t have to be told to douse the tension.
Similarly, an elder statesman and former governor of the old Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, expressing the same concern, alluded to the apparent inaction of the Federal Government, declaring that everybody in the government was on vacation.
His words: “The Federal Government is vacant. The Federal Government does not appear to be concerned with the welfare of Nigerians. Federal Government seems to be on strike. Anywhere you are going in the country, you will find that the road is bad, as if there is nobody to take care of it. It is the same way with the welfare of the people. The impression I get is that government is on strike. The farmers produce our food, the herdsmen produce our meat. The two are tied to each other. But the government is doing nothing to promote peace between them. Nobody has prosecuted the Fulani herdsmen for carrying AK47 in the villages. I think government is vacant.
“There is insecurity, hunger and decayed infrastructure. Everything is in the negative. They are not fighting insecurity; people are only making money from insecurity. We are in a situation where there is nothing working.”
On the issue of blockade of food supply to the South, he dismissed the threat and declared: “This is not a matter of liking a person; it is a matter of economic necessity. They have to come here to sell because the market is here and we have to buy from them because we have the purchasing power to buy.”
According to him, only dialogue can resolve the matter. “Dialogue is going on non-stop. Some three or four couples of days ago, we had Southern and Middle Belt conference only that some people are trying to exclude themselves from Nigeria. They are doing things that will make them unhappy. No part of Nigeria can go out of Nigeria and enjoy welfare. It is only that the Federal Government is pushing IPOB too hard to leave Nigeria. But old people like me are saying, no, we are not going. However, if people decide to vote in a referendum on Biafra or no Biafra, you may have 80 per cent voting Biafra,” he posited.
The Spokesperson for the Afenifere, the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Yinka Odumakin, didn’t mince words either, noting that President Buhari is not interested in the unity of Nigeria.
“He is only interested in the Fulani and their interest. He doesn’t care anymore about Nigeria. Only God can save the country,” he declared.
Speaking further on the current threat to national stability, he added: “We are headed to the precipice. We are at the edge of precipice. If we arrive at final destination point, it will be unfortunate for the country and the whole of Africa.
“Buhari is a general. A general should know that you don’t fight too many battles at a time. It is a recipe for disaster and that is why Nigeria is in a disastrous situation. We have called on the international community to wade into what is going on in Nigeria because what is happening in Nigeria has implication for them.
“We are also talking among ourselves as stakeholders to sustain national peace. I recall an effort Obasanjo made not too long ago to call together all the leaders of the six geo-political zones, but they ended up abusing him. We are still going to meet again to find solution to some of these problems. But it seems this president has come for a different purpose. We need divine intervention to get the country out of this quagmire.”
From all indications, it appears there is a general consensus on the need for genuine reconciliation. What seems to be lacking is the absence of able leadership who can stand as a rallying point for the various interest groups.