President Muhammadu Buhari’s body language and promises to respond forcefully to widespread abductions and murder of citizens by herdsmen have been less than convincing. In public and private domains, he has acted like a man lost for direction at a major road intersection. It is either he is overwhelmed by national security challenges or he is pretending to be unaware of the destruction that herdsmen have caused across the country. Whichever might be the case, Buhari needs national and international assistance and he needs it urgently.
Prior to Buhari’s emergence as President, the herdsmen did not constitute a major national security threat. Many people have suggested that the callous and audacious activities of herdsman were informed by the herdsmen’s awareness that they were protected by their kinsmen in the Presidency, who would never take action to check their provocative acts of lawlessness. That’s not surprising. When you have relatives in high places, you treat the law as an ass. Suddenly, the private business interests of cattle breeders from a geographic region of the country have become government’s priority concern. All of a sudden, cattle breeders have become a strong force in national politics.
The contradictions that govern our national life can never be under-estimated. While other countries are investing in science and technology to boost national development and to improve the socioeconomic conditions of their citizens, our government is looking for ways to set up cattle colonies to enhance the welfare of cattle breeders from the North. Is that progressive thinking or a backward way of holding a country down? When do private business interests become government business?
In 2015, Buhari pledged that he would govern in the interest of all Nigerians. However, over the past four years and more, we have seen him enact policies and take decisions that demonstrate he is far more interested in promoting the wellbeing of people in his region of the country. It is this skewed policy of governance that explains why the President has been apathetic to violence and killings that take place in the South-East, South-West, Middle Belt, and South-South regions of the country. If Buhari claims he is well and truly on top of national security challenges, the situation on the ground does not support that claim.
How did Nigeria, a country that used to serve as a reference point in the world, suddenly lose its appeal? How did we plunge so rapidly into the bottom of the ravine so much so that even small and impoverished countries that used to rely on our financial assistance now take pride in poking their fingers into our eyes? We can only reminisce about that glorious past because our present image has been shredded.
It is not that we do not know that Nigeria is descending into a deep hole. The trouble is the government doesn’t know how to stop the rapid descent into the bottom of the valley. It is perhaps for this reason, the lack of effective leadership, the widespread corruption, growing insecurity and the ongoing slide toward anarchy that the former Speaker of the House of Representatives and current governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, suggested on Tuesday, July 2, 2013, that Nigeria was due for a revolution.
At a lecture he delivered as a guest of the Nigerian Institute of Management, Tambuwal said: “The most compelling reasons for revolution throughout the ages were injustice, crushing poverty, marginalisation, rampant corruption, lawlessness, joblessness, and general disaffection with the ruling elite.”
All these, you would agree, are now prevalent in Nigeria.
The call for a revolution suggests to me that Nigeria has reached a blind alley through which the country can make no further progress. But it is important to point out there is something foggy, perilous, and unpredictable about a revolution. Revolutions do not usually end the way they were planned by organisers. Things can get out of hand. A revolution that strays off track can spawn political and social instability. It can produce more chaos than social order. It can weaken rather than produce the energy required to advance the nation. If you are in doubt, ask Egyptians about their experiences since the 2011 Arab uprisings.
If you believe that things have to get worse in Nigeria before they get better, perhaps a revolution might serve that purpose. Hopefully, when the flames from the revolution have eased, a new Nigeria will emerge from the ashes. It will be a Nigeria in which political leaders will be more accountable to the people. It will be a new Nigeria in which citizens will be freer to scrutinise political leaders. It will be a new Nigeria in which the institutions of society will operate effectively and productively.
Let us get this point clear. Rampaging herdsmen are sowing the seeds of revolution and instability in Nigeria. Unfortunately, this is happening in full view of a government that has remained silent. Effective governance is not about protecting and advancing the interests of people in one part of the country. Governance is not about promoting the happiness of political leaders’ kith and kin. Governance is not about overlooking people whose religious principles or doctrines you do not share or believe in. Governance is not about marginalising members of other ethnic groups. Indeed, governance is not about giving high fives to members of your clan. To do so is to promote a narrow-minded and prejudiced policy of maladministration.
Nigeria is facing the possibility of a Yugoslavia-type breakup and bloody revolution. That is the greatest challenge that confronts all of us, particularly if the government continues to play the three monkeys that choose to see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil. It is a dreadful but probable scenario.
It is not only the government that must be held accountable for the imminent collapse of the country. Members of the National Assembly are equally blameworthy. They have been untroubled by the senseless murders that are occurring in various parts of the country. They must have been infected by the same virus of nonchalance that has gripped the Presidency. Everywhere you go, you will observe an upsurge in the body count of victims of herdsmen’s cold-hearted killings. It is a shame that we have a nonchalant National Assembly whose members are preoccupied with the pursuit of their selfish interests rather than the pursuit of the interests of citizens.
The situation in the country is dire. Human life has no value anymore. You go out in the morning and you are not sure whether you will return home alive or kidnapped by herdsmen. In various communities, people are gripped by fear of herdsmen. Citizens retire at night but are unsure whether they would be butchered while at sleep. In many neighbourhoods, men and women have turned to vigilantism. They cannot trust the police to protect them and their property.
What the nation needs is an immediate end to the pogrom in the Middle Belt, and an end to the senseless destruction of lives in the South-East, South-South, and South-West regions by herdsmen. A radical approach by government is required to reassure everyone that the Presidency does not condone murderers in any way.
All this is wishful thinking. I don’t expect Buhari to act now or in the future to end violence by herdsmen. Apathy, we must remember, is his trademark.