In the prevailing miasma of our present national security challenges, very few states outside of Lagos and Enugu offer visible hope that the much-talked-about unity envisaged by our forebears may, after all, not have been all in vain. Their earlier dreams that “though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we could stand” is nowhere better lived out than can be felt in these two states. They have held aloft the hope that, beyond the ruins of our national solidarity, there could still be found some traces of architecture in our collective existence.
Enugu particularly, under Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, presents this suiting relief, and not even the present evidently contrived baptism of banditry can take this fact away. As the famed capital of the South East, the state has lived out a profile as a home for all, whether you are Igbo, Hausa/Fulani or Yoruba. In the governor’s peaceful and humble mien, it is reasonable to draw the conclusion that the character of the man at the helm of affairs could indeed influence every other thing about the territory he governs. Of all the states in the South East, for instance, Enugu is the only one you could find “non-indigenes” occupying sensitive positions in the state’s Executive Council. The civil service structure in the state is a melting pot, composed of bureaucrats from all the states in the South East, while the state’s pensions burden will continue to remain a challenge essentially because over 70 per cent of these former civil servants are composed of persons from South East states other than Enugu! During the last governorship election in the state, that lofty dream of Nigerian unity was lived out by the participation of all, irrespective of ethnic colourations. There were as many Yoruba groups as there were Tiv and Efik, and there were as many Hausa/Fulani groups as there were Ijaw and Ibibio. In this myriad of compositions, the political campaigns in the state were indeed a national carnival.
In the past few weeks, however, especially since after the elections, this peaceful atmosphere has been constantly under intense challenge, both from facts, but even more so from propaganda. There seems to be some concerted efforts from some quarters to tarnish the peaceful profile of the state, hiding under the bogey of Fulani herdsmen’s banditry. Sometimes, one begins to wonder as to what might have changed so drastically between the election season some months ago and now. Beyond the elections, could there be any new project in sight that has swayed the state from its national rating as the safest state in the country to one hobbled by security threats?
First, it was a circulation of a supposed video of some Fulani herdsmen being forcefully chaperoned out of a supposed community in Aninri Local Government Area. Till date, and notwithstanding the fact of some clarifications by the traditional rulers and leaders of the respective communities, not a few people still believe that the video in issue was as old as over four years! This is because it is convenient for some desperate politicians to portray the state as being at war with some ethnic nationalities resident in the state, including the Fulani.
Moving from this video propaganda, the state in the last few weeks has witnessed an unusual upsurge in banditry, which has not only unsettled the trademark tranquil ambience of the state, it has as well claimed some very valuable lives, including some priests of the Catholic faith. It is important to note that all these are happening in the same axis of the state, which has held certain erroneous assumptions about the gubernatorial politics of the state come 2023. With the benefit of my deep knowledge of the peculiar nuances of the politics of Enugu State, I dare say that these developments are not mere coincidences: they are a deliberate implementation of some evil plans aimed at making the state ungovernable and possibly blackmailing the state governor to consider a reversal of his convictions ahead of 2023.
During the last gubernatorial campaigns, the governor, in an unusual display of altruistic candour, and against seemingly unremitting pressure from some quarters, categorically stated that, at the end of his tenure in 2023, the mantle of leadership would, in consonance with the rotational template that has guided the state’s politics for several decades now, pass on to a candidate from the East senatorial zone. Recall that there has been a seething campaign by some political jobbers to create what could be considered a fourth senatorial zone in the state by their clamour for a governor from the “Greater Awgu” district. The so-called Greater Awgu people do not see themselves as being represented enough by anyone other than from their zone. Thus, Sullivan Chime could well have been a governor for eight wholesome years, but he does not represent the aspirations of the Greater Awgu axis. They, therefore, believe that, by making such categorical pronouncement about 2023, Ugwuanyi might have robbed them of their supposed turn to govern the state.
Secondly, Ugwuanyi, more than any other person that had governed the state in the past, enjoys an unusual friendship with the body of Christ as represented by the Church, especially the Catholic faith, where he belongs. Never in the history of the state has there been this deep dalliance between the Church and the state such that during the last gubernatorial contest most leaders of the Church in the state could hardly delineate their roles as the shepherd of both the Pharisees and Sadducees in the politics of the state, as they carelessly pitched their tent with the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). They preached his candidacy and openly adopted him as their preferred candidate such that the gubernatorial contest was in the end reduced to a mere formality. The Catholic Church constitutes a significant percentage of practicing Christians in the state and these harbingers of evil believe it is important to break this solidarity. That, perhaps, explains why the priests of that faith have suddenly become the targets of this banditry. It is ostensibly all aimed at creating a crack in the relationship between the government and the Church!
Thirdly, Ugwuanyi has not been able to explain fully to some political actors in the state the reason behind his sudden resurrection of a manifest controversial figure in the politics of the state, in the person of Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani, a former governor. Nnamani’s sudden reappearance on the scene from the labyrinths of political destitution has enthroned various issues in political calculations in the state. Like or hate him, his emergence from political oblivion has tilted some balances and compels a new strategising ahead of the 2023 gubernatorial contest in the state. The governor must, therefore, pay a price for resurrecting such a person. Thus the security rumblings in the state in recent times may indeed bear much in relation to the politics of the state than a supposed reckless predilection of the so-called Fulani stock in its alleged quest to destabilise the country. It is possibly a manifestation of the conspiracy of the godfathers!
Analysing the actions of the governor since all these eruptions, one is tempted to certify his cool headedness and maturity even in the face of evident blackmail. He has lived out his profile as a man of peace who has refused to be overwhelmed by the violence in the political turf. Although there have been as many ridiculous suggestions as there have been commentators, he has exercised caution and remained guided by wisdom.
For instance, there are those who have called on him to “sack all the Fulani living in the state”! But in the nature of his civility and even more so, in adherence to the provisions of the Constitution of Nigeria, which he swore to uphold, he has ignored this vile prodding. Such suggestions are not only illiterate in conception, they are above all daft in imagination. How does a governor who controls no arm of the security agencies implement a forceful eviction of a certain group of people, assuming this was a right thing to do? What happens to our own brothers who are everywhere in the country living in other people’s places?
I suspect that the governor is constantly being baited to introduce the anti-open grazing law in the state and my candid advice is that he must resist it vehemently. Nigeria is an unusual federation and such laws cannot work. There is a difference between courage and bravado. Whereas courage is a determined, intelligent, smart effort at confronting a threatening situation, bravado, on the other hand, is a venal exhibition of showmanship. Where, for instance, lies the anti-open grazing laws passed by some states in the past few years? Ugwuanyi is not given to showmanship and does not fancy the razzmatazz of effervescent limelight that such dramatisation of emotion could fetch. I believe that he has approached this challenge with consummate wisdom.
Apart from the existence of vigilance groups in all the political wards in the state, which are well funded, he has also gone ahead to order immediate employment of 1,700 forest guards across the 17 local government councils in the state to beef up the activities of the vigilance groups. These, to me, are veritable and functional measures expected in desperate situations of this nature.
Beyond this, the security agencies in the state should be charged to up their games and live up to their responsibilities as the guardians of our collective security. It is disheartening to hear such tales that victims who rush to nearby army and police posts from the scenes of the banditry are cynically dismissed by these security personnel, sometimes on such flimsy excuse as lack of functional vehicles. It is no hidden secret that, notwithstanding the statutory provisions by the federal government, the state government has not left anyone in doubt of its determination to support the agencies in the state by constant donation of vehicles and other equipment. Their presence on the roads should, therefore, not only be symbolic, they are above all expected to sustain the confidence of the citizenry that the Nigerian state has not outlived its usefulness.
The governor should also, as a matter of urgency, reconstitute the structure of governance in the state. It is no secret that there are so many who live lives of easy virtue and can hardly survive outside the remunerations that come from political activities. In a season of some months of ‘dryness,’ such people become easy instruments in the hands of some political manipulators. This may well offer some valid explanations.
•Dr. Nwachukwu teaches at the University Benin