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The president’s combative spokesmen



With looming anarchy as terrorists, bandits, kidnappers and criminal herdsmen take the country hostage, with police stations and military barracks coming under frequent attack resulting in harvest of deaths, the nation drifts. In ex-President Obasanjo’s words, Nigeria “is on the precipice and dangerously reaching a tipping point where it may no longer be possible to hold” as a result of what Wole Soyinka has also described as “acts of mis-governance, unforced errors and acts that are considered being stupid; such as failure to secure lives and languages of self-excusing”.


Because the buck stops at President Buhari’s desk, history as the record of our past heroes and the summation of the dominant class’ quest to render selfless service to society will remember him for his management or mismanagement of our current crisis of nation-building. But history will also not forget, even if as footnote, the role of his combative spokesmen including, Lai Mohammed, his information minister who has chosen to play the ostrich while the nation burns, and, Shehu Garba, his senior media adviser, who has chosen to serve other tendencies rather than the nation or Buhari, who was voted into power in 2015 by millions of Nigerians in spite of his baleful legacies as a military dictator back in 1984, on account of his pan-Nigeria vision which Garba Shehu continues to undermine.


With the duo cutting a picture of men at war with their consciences during their different outings last week, Nigerians are now more convinced that with Buhari’s loyal gatekeepers in control of everything from recruitment to reading the president’s mind, Buhari needs no enemies. With their declaration of war against Nigerians that come under daily assault, they have succeeded in alienating him from millions of Nigerians that once swore by his name.


Pa Ayo Adebanjo, who prides himself for fighting for Nigerian unity long before many of the current politicians threatening the unity of the country were born, told Buhari the truth to the effect that all the security agencies are in the hands of the north and that we have been surrounded with AK-47-wielding herdsmen all over the country. He added – that there is no where they don’t exist armed with AK 47, asking President Buhari and his defence minister, Bello Danbazzau if AK-47 was part of the tools to rear cattle or whether that was the practice before Buhari came into power?


Because truth hurts, for Lai Mohammed and Garba Shehu, that was a hate speech.


When Bishop Mathew Kukah in his Christmas homilies a little over a year ago condemned what he saw as Buhari’s institutionalisation of nepotism by efforts at entrenching a northern leadership hegemony through skewed appointments observing if any other Nigerian but a northerner like Buhari had done some of the things Buhari did while ignoring public opinion, such a person would have been removed through a coup. And because the truth hurts, for the duo, that amounted to hate speech and an attempt to topple Buhari’s government for which a bill was quickly packaged for the National Assembly.


With Pantami’s admission and apology for his past sympathy with terrorist groups, there was too much at stake for government whose legitimacy is being fiercely challenged from all sides by terrorists. The least damaging approach from a media adviser that understands what was at stake was distancing the president from Pantami and his past.


But behaving as if he owns the presidency, Shehu Garba who is never afraid to walk where angels trod came out forcefully in support of the minister. Celebrating Pantami’s achievements which according to him include “leading the charge against illegal data deductions and pricing; establishing ICT start-up centres to boost youth entrepreneurship and create jobs and blocking “ some 9.2 million SIMs – to end the ability for criminals and terrorists to flagrantly use mobile networks undetected”, he said the government not only “stands behind Minister Pantami”, it is set to investigate “the veracity behind the claims of attempted inducement of the minister by some business men”.


Garba does not see any merit in the argument of those who believe a government at war with terrorists should not been seen as harbouring terrorist sympathisers. The reversal of fortunes of our soldiers chased out of ‘liberated Sambisa forest’ who went on to suffer other humiliating crushing defeats due to what they attributed to sabotage by insiders and the renewed kidnapping of students leading to shutting down of over 600 schools by northern governors, all happening at a period Pantami was recruited to creatively fight terrorism, count for little.


But rather than investigate if many of those recruited by Pantami into the institutions he has headed since 2015, constitute a danger to the nation, Garba would rather probe alleged attempt to bribe Pantami by some faceless businessmen.


President Buhari, has continued to insist Nigerian unity is not negotiable. He was to declare during his 2018 new year address that: “When all the aggregates of nationwide opinions are considered, my firm view is that our problems have more to do with process than structure”. He insists he does not understand the meaning of restructuring despite mouthing it during his 2011 failed presidential bid, had it as part of APC manifesto that brought him to power in 2015 and also received the El Rufai APC committee report on restructuring.


But rather than advise the president as a lawyer that what ethnic nationalities in Nigeria are against is a situation where they are being told to accept the current document rigged against the rest of the country by a section of the federation, Lai Mohammed would rather play the ostrich.


He was on a Radio Nigeria interview programme on June 9, 2017, where he stated that restructuring was not President Buhari’s priority. In August 2017, two months later, he was to say: “For the federal government, restructuring means devolution of power, a system whereby government’s policies and programmes can reach everybody at the grassroots”. He said they have started with community policing.


Not long after, Lai Mohammed, still playing the ostrich decided to blame the constitution claiming: “You cannot today as a government do anything that is contrary to that constitution because that is the supreme law of the country”. He forgot to add that those that forged the self-serving document have no incentive to change it.


Finally, last week, Lai Mohammed warned those threatening separation over our derailed federal arrangement of the apocalypse that awaits “many of the professors calling for the dismemberment of the country who may end up as bread-baking journeymen in Togo if the situation takes a dire and nasty turn” should Nigeria unravel.


It will be recorded against Lai Mohammed that he opted to play the ostrich when he had the opportunity to remind those who are today making our country ungovernable of some historical facts about Ahmadu Bello, their grandfather, who rather than allow the north to remain part Nnamdi Azikiwe’s NCNC preferred unitary Nigeria, was already negotiating how water can be channeled from Congo River to independent north until he bought into Awolowo’s thesis on the value of the federal arrangement after the 1953 constitutional crisis.

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