By Christy Anyanwu
Rev. Ladi Thompson is Special Adviser, Conflict Resolution and Matters Related to Terrorism at Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). Also, he is the founder/senior pastor of Living Waters Unlimited Church, Lagos.
Thompson, very vocal and always talking hard as regards the state of the nation, in this interview with Sunday Sun, opened up on issues affecting the country. Excerpt:
What is your view on the measures put in place in Zamfara State targeted at bandits, including the decision to shut down telecom services?
Zamfara State has been a very interesting case study because of the twists and turns in the terror narrative there. The governor has in desperation resorted to extreme measures and there will seem to be a bit of progress for a season, but Nigeria will soon find out that it is dealing with a very sophisticated enemy. The disruption of all forms of socio-economic life in its target territories was always one of the objectives of the hydra. While I sympathize with the governor’s panic measures, including the shutting down of telecom services in the state we will later discover that our telecoms were meant to be a major advantage in the terror war if that industry had not been infiltrated. We cannot fight a successful war against terrorism in bits and pieces. A nation divided against itself shall fall and the hydra collapses nations from within when permeated. It is not a Zamfara problem, but a Nigerian problem and I daresay that this turn in the story will ultimately lead to a total loss of Zamfara territories into the hand of the hydra unless a change of strategy is effected soon. The architecture of thought required to disable the terror hydra has not yet been achieved in Zamfara. The global rule of the thumb in terror zones is that disruptions ultimately favour the terror agenda while normalcy hinders its spread of fear. This is why most nations do not neglect the war of narratives that Nigeria (Zamfara) has not reckoned into its strategies. It’s just a shame that many more will pay the ultimate price because of leaders who could not care less about the lives of citizens.
Governors in the South are gradually making real their threats to ban open grazing in the zone. Do you see this as the right approach to ending farmers/herders clashes in the zone?
It should be no surprise that most of the governors in the South have not been very impressive. Their stance on open grazing is not the most intelligent solution to this problem, but it is understandable that politicians are more interested in the next election than the lives of their citizens. For the Southwest governors in particular, Obafemi Awolowo would be turning in his grave, if he could. As far back as 50 years ago, there was a clarity of thought evident in the Western region that is nowhere to be found now. On the 8th of October 1968 Awo posited that “the welfare and happiness of the people of Nigeria are indivisible. So are their misfortunes and adversities.” Keeping this in mind I daresay he would never have allowed the herders/farmers clash theory to fly. Even in his day, smart agriculture had already been deployed in the irrigation schemes not to mention these days of advanced digital engineered agriculture. Modern desert nations are today exporting flowers and farm produce and the herder/farmer clash narrative was a spin invented by the global terror intelligentsia for unintelligent nations. Besides that the open grazing issue was settled way back in a judgment by Justice Adewale Thompson on the 17th of April, 1989. Perhaps the governors from the Southwest have forgotten the Fashola Stock Farm established in 1947, they need to dust the files of Chief Gabriel Akindeko and the Western Nigeria Livestock Company, 1956. Apart from the headquarters and Stock Breeding Centre at Fashola Farm Settlement, Ilora, Oyo State, we had ranches at Odęda, Imęko, Iperu/Işara(Ogun State), Samonda – Ibadan, Onişę – Ire, Shaki (Oyo State), Oloba – Iwo (Osun State), Agege, Ikorodu (Lagos State), Akunu Akoko (Ondo), and Ikun Ekiti (Ekiti State). Cattle breeding could not have been a Fulani birthright because the N’Dama cow we bred on the hoof was 500kg compared to the Fulani 200kg cow. Armed terrorists with logistics support are raiding our farms and the governors are talking about herders-farmers clash. We might as well arm palm wine tappers with AK-48 and organize a nationwide guerilla warfare using the Palm Wine Drinkards Club as its base.
What do you make of the agitation of youths calling for emergence of new nations in Nigeria?
My heart bleeds for the Nigerian youth and more especially for the ones born in the zones that produce almajirai. This is a nation that devours its young and we pretend as if we don’t know that many Nigerian youths are braving hazardous desert treks, while others are crossing oceans in bath tubs to escape the nightmare that life has become for them. Frustrated young girls are volunteering for a life of prostitution abroad and the boys are ready to do anything to get away. Many of those stuck behind are seeking for a future in the past because Nigeria does not even hide her disdain for their lives. The calls for separatism or secessions on a tribal basis are a result of the lack of any national vision. It has become a lame excuse that we inherited a nation where the tribal enculturation that produces Igbo, Hausa, Fulani or Yoruba indigenes was designed to be stronger than the Nigerian enculturation programme that produces citizens. Are we saying we don’t have leaders that can crack the code of the divide-and-rule legacy of almost 100 years ago without looking to the ancient culture for rescue? The Dubai example of the UAE should have taught us that the best future of any nation is not in its past, but an ingenious use of creative innovations laced…
The problem of insecurity is insurmountable, what is your take on this?
Yes, things may not be looking good for Nigeria right now, but the good news is that great progress and profit are made when a crisis is properly handled. We need to reformat our mindset in Nigeria to accept that darkness is never a problem so long the light is available to shine. Some of our challenges are the harvest of ancient issues we never dealt with while some are fresh problems. We just need to sort them out and attend to each appropriately and Nigeria will make that quantum leap to the forefront of global progress. The one major obstacle we may have is this penchant for analogue ideas where digital innovations are needed. We also need to stop building castles in the air because it’s not rocket science that we never had founding fathers, but liberation fathers who were tribal leaders. Some of the people running around with inordinate ambitions for presidency today are men who qualify to become the founding fathers of our new nation. If they were thinking deeply they would realize that Naija needs to emerge out of Nigeria. Nigeria was a British idea, but Naija will be an African idea if we get it right. You need to trust me when I tell you that we have all it takes to produce a peaceful, prosperous and progressive nation once we get the dinosaurs out of the way.
You clocked 60 recently, is this the Nigeria of your dream growing up?
Please don’t remind me that I am now 60 plus because it still seems like yesterday when I was listening to great personalities like Yakubu Gowon and Olusegun Obasanjo and Mohammadu Buhari assuring us in school that we were the leaders of tomorrow. I will only be able to answer that question when tomorrow finally comes.
The country is in bad shape as regards the economy, the country is hard on debt, the cost of living is high, how do we get out of this negativity?
As regards the economy, the country only seems to be in bad shape! In reality Nigeria is very much ahead and every citizen is potentially wealthy, but we have not yet understood the sophistication of the “one chance” global economy that was constructed to make us the village idiots of the international community. The COVID-19 disruptions was a perfect opportunity for Nigeria to rise to its stature as the giant of Africa. From the moment we discovered that the COVID-19 virus was not wreaking the expected havoc in Africa we should have used the global lockdown period to rearrange many things. If Nigeria had made a surprise move by introducing an emergency crypto-currency that is tenable only in West Africa we would not be saying what we are saying today. I am hoping that our universities are running such scenarios as subjects of study just in case that kind of opportunity ever returns. It is so difficult to imagine that we have been unable to initiate a proper credit system, when in fact we should have the advantage because our ancient economies were more value based than monetized. By now we should have developed value based credit instruments on a digital platform that would work side by side with units of trust (money).
Before the emergence of Buhari as president you said in an interview that if he fails, he may be the last president, do you still stand on this premise?
As of today the destiny of Nigeria is still swinging in the balance. Poverty has reduced us into a people who have no memory, but we must not succumb to cow logic. President Goodluck Jonathan blew a great chance for us to reset Nigeria because he was a graduate and Ph.D holder, but his tenure amplified the apartheid picture of Africans as dance, drink and “igbadun” addicts incapable of critical thought. When he was replaced by Muhammadu Buhari I did mention then in an interview that our military grade former Head of State returned as president could be the last one in Nigerian history if he failed. We still have a little window left, but Nigeria is now close to that brink. I would have loved to give an excuse that GMB suffered a lot of ill health, but this is not the time for stories as the enemies are breathing down our necks. It is glaring to all that anything short of exceptional leadership skills will not work for Nigeria. In the dying hours of his governance stint, Goodluck Jonathan squealed that his cabinet had been infiltrated by the forces of the terror hydra tearing Nigeria down from the inside. History will put it on record that he had the candor to speak out because it does not seem that GMB is prepared to accept that obvious reality. Some say he is in a dotage denial mode while others quip that he lacks the courage to sweep the stables clean. My position is that no sensible patriot would want to see Buhari fail because of what lies ahead. If I was a presidential adviser I think I would urge the president to forge a bond between the destiny of the United States of America and that of Nigeria right now. This is not just about beating terrorism, but a negotiated export of the American dream. Imagine what could happen if this government sent the Vice President to the USA to rouse all Nigerian patriots. The American Dream as penned in 1776 is premised on the equality of all mankind by creation (not birth). They achieved their dream by balancing three institutes of governance on that foundation. I think Naija can improve on the US record by balancing five institutions on the same foundation. Afghanistan has taught us that the wall of division between state and faith is the Achilles heel of the USA democratic model. By adding the two extra institutes of religion and traditional stools in a well-defined balance we could import the American Dream and improve on it with one stroke. Even a donkey in Kano market knows that Nigeria’s problems will not survive another election if we stay on this track. The problem now is whether or not that exceptional leadership is available in Aso Rock now. I think it’s available.
What is your take on the state of the nation?
Yes, things may not be looking good for Nigeria right now, but the good news is that great progress and profit is made when a crisis is properly handled. We need to reformat our mindset in Nigeria to accept that darkness is never a problem so long the light is available to shine. Some of our challenges are the harvest of ancient issues we never dealt with while some are fresh problems. We just need to sort them out and attend to each appropriately and Nigeria will make that quantum leap to the forefront of global progress. The one major obstacle we may have is this penchant for analogue ideas where digital innovations are needed. We also need to stop building castles in the air because it’s not rocket science that we never had founding fathers, but liberation fathers who were tribal leaders. Some of the people running around with inordinate ambitions for presidency today are men who qualify to become the founding fathers of our new nation. If they were thinking deeply they would realize that Naija needs to emerge out of Nigeria. Nigeria was a British idea, but Naija will be an African idea if we get it right. You need to trust me when I tell you that we have all it takes to produce a peaceful, prosperous and progressive nation once we get the dinosaurs out of the way.