For close to three years of Boko Haram insurgency, it has been a daily harvest of deaths. In churches, mosques, markets, motor parks, police stations, prisons and even inside fortified military barracks, it is the same terrible tales of mindless killings. This has continued unabated even with the President’s belated declaration of a state emergency in the troubled areas some three weeks back. Last weekend in Zabarmari ward of Maiduguri metropolis, the Joint Task Force (JTF) on Boko Haram claimed 50 members of the dreaded group were killed during a clash. A week earlier, we were told about 40 were killed in a similar encounter. The flow of refugees within and outside the country has continued unabated. The battle rages on even with deployment of fighter jets and attack helicopters. We have no evidence that the insurgency has been weakened, neither have they renounced their demand for the Islamisation of the country. What is no more in dispute after three weeks of hostility is that we are engaged in a civil war.
And what this called for is that all hands must be on the deck. Of course the opposition must keep the ruling party on its toes. It must do everything short of undermining our sovereignty to discredit the ruling party so that they can take over power. In America, the self-proclaiming guardian of democracy, the Republican Party that piled up 16 trillion debts, took their country to two senseless wars are doing everything to discredit the Obama administration. But at the outset of the senseless external war, Americans along with various institutions including the media and even religious groups presented a common front.
That is what our nation needs today. But tragically, the opposition, in the last four weeks, has been behaving as if the battle to dislodge PDP is not about Nigeria and Nigerians. I think the president who after two years of praying for miracle has now decided to confront those who declared war against the nation deserves a break. He had been accused even by leading members of his party of incompetence for failing to deal decisively with Boko Haram. Even the northern leaders who sent their children to the best schools in the world with state funds while institutionalizing a culture of almajiri at home blamed President Jonathan for the social dislocation of their society.
The president was asked to embrace dialogue, but dialogue failed to move the religious fundamentalists. He was pressurized to grant amnesty along the lines of what obtained in Niger Delta, but this only led to the intensification of war against innocent Nigerians. Those who institutionalized poverty by misapplication of their state resources while only 27% of children of school age Borno are in school, suggested poverty alleviation and building of mobile schools for the itinerant almajiris. But Boko Haram became more emboldened as they chased pupils and teachers out before setting the schools ablaze.
While all this was going on, there was a culture of criminal silence among northern leaders. Those who managed to speak spoke from both sides of the mouth, blaming President Jonathan for their four decades of betrayal of the people of the north. Jonathan’s sin was upstaging the northern parasites in their game of political subterfuge.
And finally when Buhari, often a victim of selective perception spoke, he made an odious comparison. Like a leader who only listens to himself, he declared “You see in the case of the Niger Delta militants, the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua sent an airplane to bring them, he sat down with them and discussed with them, they were cajoled, and they were given money and granted amnesty.” They were trained in some skills and were given employment, but the ones in the north are being killed and their houses demolished. They are different issues, what brought this? It is injustice”.
I sympathize with General Buhari, the author of ‘Nigerians have no other country but Nigeria’. He has always been passionate about Nigeria. But his greatest undoing has been the fact that he was ill-trained, ill-equipped and ill-tempered to manage society. It is most unlikely that Buhari’s last three attempts at the presidency, his lamentation about travails of a well -endowed nation repeatedly raped by its incompetent and unambitious leaders, his public shedding of tears over the nation’s woes could have just been informed by a desire to protect the interest of his highly visible and powerful Fulani minority ethnic group or the current crop of Jihadists who operate only on the basis of their narrow interpretation and understanding of the Holy Koran.
My suspicion is that, besides being ill-equipped, Buhari like most new converts of new religion, merely mouths democracy without comprehending what it entails. For instance, for him, multi-partysm and free election equal democracy. He is not bothered about the subject matter of democracy such as fundamental human rights, equality, liberty and justice and freedom from government which favour rulers and their friends just as it was during his short reign in 1995 and just as it has been under successive PDP presidents in the last 14 years. It will be ironic for a man who is so passionate about his country, if in the words of Orisetjiofor, CAN president could ‘oppose a state of emergency when some parts of Borno and Yobe states had been occupied and the Nigerian flag replaced with theirs, burnt churches, schools, government institutions, killed innocent Christians, attacked traditional rulers and others not sympathetic to their cause’.
Nigeria is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and multi-religious society. Any political party that intends to rule Nigeria cannot afford to ignore any interest group. Democracy after all is a game of number and to ensure a sense of belonging, our founding fathers designed for us a federal arrangement that guarantees a place for individual and groups. Buhari may have his own personal failings, but I think he will remain a great asset to his new party as role model for multitude of miracle seekers all over the country who like him are not democrats but passionate believers in the potentials of our nation.
Buhari, imprisoned with his narrow Fulani ethnic culture and religious world, left unaided cannot see anything outside this prism. But he has always excelled in nearly all assignments delegated to him. He was installed as head of state by professional coupists, Babangida and Abacha with little knowledge of their agenda. As minister for petroleum for four years, we exported refined fuel along with crude oil. As Head of State for eight months, we did not import grains. In fact storage facility for excess grains became our problem. Similarly, as chairman of Abacha’s Petroleum Trust Fund, Buhari performed creditably well. As a Nigerian military commander, he drove insurgents that attacked Nigeria from northern Cameroon during Shagari era far into Cameroon territory.
Even by his own admission, his joining partisan politics was not of his own initiative but that of others. According to him “his close associates and those who knew him very well convinced him to join partisan politics”. And as man not versed in the acts of compromise, the hallmark of democratic process, but passionate about our country and its potentials, he moved from APP to ANPP, CPC and soon to APC. In his new party, Buhari must allow for a generational change as those who manage the world today are in their 30s and 40s while he provides leadership and moral support just as Asiwaju Tinubu now does for his highly competent and well equipped ACN governors.