I just had, most humbly, the misfortune of reading the 27 paragraph national broadcast by President Muhammadu Buhari. I had guffawed when many Nigerians awaited the speech with great expectations and bated animation, believing erroneously that, like I had humbly advised President Buhari, he would roll out the drums of empathy for our slain innocent youths and their grieving families. I told them not to expect any calming or balming speech of reconciliation and empathy. Buhari did not disappoint me. His national address was devoid of sympathy, empathy, fatherly feelings, or even the mere milk of human kindness for a nation on a dangerous precipice. His speech was, unfortunately, insensate and insensitive.
It epitomised a sorry and pathetic disconnect between the government and the people Mr. President governs, or pretends to govern. The speech was more of a military dictum, a ferocious barracks riot act read to some unruly, riotous mutineers and insurrectionists to bring them to book. He simply talked down on Nigerians, not with Nigerians. I felt quite depressed and saddened. He lost a rare golden, momentous and historic opportunity to unify a profusely hemorrhaging and badly fractured nation.
He spoke more like an Emperor addressing cringing servants, nay, slaves in bondage. Buhari reeled out what he considered to be his government’s presumed economic innovations to tackle the travails of a decaying nation. He found time to “pay tribute to officers of the Nigeria Police Force who have tragically lost their lives in the line of duty,” but found no single word, phrase or sentence to console or condole with the mourning families of the youths that were mauled down in cold blood by the same trigger-happy officers. He never found a word of empathy, or even sympathy, for the innocent Nigerian flag-waving peaceful protesters who were hacked down in their hundreds across the nation. Who did this to us as a country?
He threatened that “under no circumstances” will anything that “amounts to undermining national security and the law and order situation…be tolerated.”
Mr. President was not yet done. He blamed the “spreading of deliberate falsehood and misinformation through the social media in particular” as amounting to a “ploy to mislead the unwary within and outside Nigeria into unfair judgement and disruptive behaviour.” Mr President, sir, we all live in Nigeria here, a big prison yard. We do not need social media to educate us about our grinding poverty, mass unemployment, lack of basic social amenities and non-availability of electricity, educational, medical, water and security environment. Nigerians do not require the social media to tell them about police brutality, extrajudicial killings, increased corruption, a parlous economy, an inequitable social justice system, non-observance of the rule of law, human rights, obedience to court orders and the general environment of despondency, haplessness and hopelessness.
Mr President agonised over disruption of travel plans, destruction of public and private properties and invasion of the international airport. Yes, sir, I agree that these acts are condemnable and I hereby also firmly condemn them in their entirety. But, Mr. President, sir, was it so difficult, like rocket science, to, at least, acknowledge the lost lives of harmless youths who were unarmed but brutally cut down in their prime? Just a word sir? Was it necessary that the very second paragraph of a presidential speech to a nation under tumult, rather than bandaging raw wounds, was threatening fire and brimstone, such as to “warn those who have hijacked and misdirected the initial, genuine and well-intended protest of some of our youths in parts of the country”?
Who did the hijacking sir? Who were the shadowy persons who prompted fully armed security personnel to open hot lead on flag- waving and unarmed Nigerian youths at the Lekki tollgate? Mr. President, as the Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, didn’t wonder, like the international community has been doing, how and why fully armed military operatives were involved in a non-violent civilian protest. Who deployed them? I didn’t read anywhere Mr. President indicated that such errant officers would be brought to book, or tried in appropriate military quarters, or before courts of law, so that the ends of justice shall be served.
I searched in vain to see any mention about those hoodlums that unleashed mayhem on innocent and peacefully protesting Nigerian youths, or how the entire security apparachick of Nigeria will be accorded a total overhaul and rejuvenation. No. I never read anywhere Mr. President talked about compensation, restitution for, or apology, to the families of youths plucked down in their prime, in cold blood, and those still battling for survival in various hospitals across Nigeria. Not only did the entire speech fail to inspire Nigerians, or rekindle whatever remains of their dwindling hopes and disappearing faith in Nigeria as a nation, it was rather imperious, provocative and condescending. Nothing new was said about how to pacify the righteously angry Nigerian youths (whom he once described as “lazy youths”), with fresh educational, job and capacity-building opportunities. Was it too much for Mr. President, for once, to climb down from his high galloping horse, to cuddle (even if pretentiously) the Nigerian youths, with a warm fatherly embrace? Haba!!!
Brouhaha over Acting President Osinbajo’s appointments: The very reason for urgent restructuring
As an historian and writer, I like to recall the past. The reason is that the past gives birth to the present. The present foretells the future. Today is the tomorrow we discussed yesterday. On the 14th of June, 2017 (about three and half years ago), I wrote the following article in my ‘HARD FACTS’ weekly column in The Sun newspaper. Recent events have brought forth its relevance and currency. I have, therefore, decided to reproduce it here today, lock, stock and barrel. Has anything really changed? It is left for you to decide.
The genesis of the brouhaha caused by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo’s recent appointments erupted when some “Northern leaders” led by Dr. Ismaila Farouk, Abubakar Tsav (former Lagos CP), Balarabe Musa (former Kaduna State Governor), Dr. Junaid Mohammed and Arewa youth leader, Shettima Yerima, lampooned Osinbajo for practising nepotism, clannishness and cronyism as reflected in the “narrow and sectional interests, in his appointments”.
Specifically, Osinbajo was accused, after the accusers’ avowed “forensic analysis,” of systematically favouring “members of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) and his Yoruba tribe.” Accusing Osinbajo of allowing only “Ogun dialect” to be spoken in his office, the accusers pointed to Dr. Okey Enelamah (Minister of Trade and Investments), who was deputy and, later, successor of Osinbajo at the RCCG, Banana Island, Lagos. They hold that Dr. Alex Okoh, DG, BPE, is Osinbajo’s “RCCG brother,” while his Special Adviser as Lagos State AG, Ogun State-born Ade Ipaye (Osinbajo’s defence team prefer to call him Abdulrahman Ipaye, to show the Muslim connection), is his Chief of Staff. Wait! Laolu Akande, of Ogun State, had to be ferried down from his New York base, to be Osinbajo’s media adviser, they lamented.
For Osinbajo’s chief economic adviser, one Ambassador Dipeolu (Yoruba) clinched it. Tsav specifically says 80 per cent of Osinbajo’s personal staff are from the South-West, while Farouk says nine out of 10 of his principal officers are of his Yoruba ethnic group.
Not quite so, Osinbajo’s SSA on Legal Matters, Dr. Bilikisu Saidu, posited. She argued that two, out of Osibanjo’s three special advisers, are Muslims: Senator Babafemi Ojodu (another Yoruba, of course) and Mariam Uwais (Kano State). She says director of protocol is Ambassador Gwary (Yobe State); while “those in charge of welfare and health in the office of the VP, are mostly Muslims”. Bilikisu says with éclat and flourish that, “those who serve the VP’s meals are mostly Muslims”; while “75 per cent of security operatives… and all cooks and stewards attached to Osinbajo are Muslims and Northerners”. Equation balanced, she enthused. Really?
Where are the so-called minorities?
The irony of these figures bandied by both sides of the divide is that only three of Nigeria’s 374 ethnic groups (Sociologist Onigu Otite); or 470 (Bangura); or 394 (Hoffman); or between 550 and 619 (Wente-Lukas) ethnic groups, that speak about 521 languages (nine of them now extinct) are being discussed. Just because they are the major ethnic groups! Where are the other ignored ethnic nationalities? Oh, I remember. They are clappers, observers, spectators, hewers of wood and drawers of water in the Nigerian project. Nigeria, we hail thee!
I have serially criticized PMB for his nepotistic and lopsided appointments (well over 80 per cent of his appointees are Northerners!). And can the Acting President really afford to fall into this same ignoble booby trap like his boss? Et tu Osinbajo? I cannot excuse the erudite professor of law at all, taking cognizance of the strong case made by his accusers, and the unconvincing, desultory and perfunctory defence by his SSA.
This country belongs to all of us, for crying out loud. I did not hear any so-called “minority” name like Ette, Umukoro, Osigbemeh, Iornem, Attah, Edokpolo, Tienabesoba, Idoko, Yang, Bitrus, Yakowa, etc. I strained my neck and cracked my brain, but never saw names of Binis, Igbos, Annangs, Ejaghams, Ikweres, Andonis, Angas, Bachamas, Ogonis, Bambukos, Bassas, Biroms, Bomboros, Bunus, Powatiyes, Chambas. Fault me, if I am wrong. I giraffed my neck, but could not find names of Dakas, Dandawas, Ebus, Etsakos, Akoko Edos, Gbeddes, Esans, Ogonis, Gures, Isokos, Gbagyis, Unemes, Gwozas, Urhobos, Igalas, Weppa-Wannos, Ijumus, Ijaws, Kagoros, Itsekiris, Tivs, Idomas, Katafs, Ebiras, Komas, Orons, Nupes, Taroks, Shuas and the Zurus. Where are they in the equation of this amorphous amoebic country?
We cannot go on like this. What is it in that Aso Villa that corrupts, that taints, that makes commonsense and reason vacate their lofty seats? What is in that enclave that taunts and courts unnecessary tension and national implosion? I do not know. Do you?
This is why we talk about true federalism and restructuring. When I crusade for restructuring, some who are ignorant of the term get jittery. They think, erroneously, that it means break-up or balkanization. No. It is simply a holistic re-arrangement of our warped federal system, which is actually unitarism. It is about shedding of weight and devolution of powers from an over-pampered behemoth, elephantine centre to the poor beggarly federating units (states and LGAs). It is about enthroning social justice, equity, egalitarianism, mutual respect, ethno-religious tolerance and acceptance of Nigeria’s linguistic, religious, gender and tribal plurality. It is an affirmation of our Dolly Patton’s glittering “Coat of many colours” that constitutes the beauty of our country.
If we were operating true federalism, the recent appointments made by the Acting President, which like those of his “Oga”, President Buhari, before him, were heavily skewed in favour of his Yoruba ethnic and religious groups, would not have generated the volcanic hoopla and ruckus they engendered. If true federalism existed in Nigeria, the Arewa youths with the covert backing of their shadowing elders and elite would not be issuing quit notice to the Igbos. The Igbos, Middle Belters, Afenifere, Niger Deltans, will not have responded with equal, even more force and venom. Reconsider restructuring now so as to urgently put an end to various agitations currently going on in the country. The clock is ticking. God save Nigeria.