By Donu Kogbara
LAST week on this page, I published an article written by Dr. Uche Igwe, a Senior Analyst and Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics’ Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa.
Dr. Igwe didn’t mince words and meticulously listed the many ways in which the Buhari Administration has spectacularly failed to protect lives, private property and government assets since it arrived in office in 2015, aggressively accusing ex-President Jonathan of being incapable of tackling insecurity and promising to do much better.
I, meanwhile, made the following observation: You would think that security crises would be minimised in a country whose head of state has a military background. And yet, Nigeria is now so awash with bandits, terrorists and kidnappers that it wouldn’t be unfair to describe it as one of the unsafest places on the planet.
Anger and concern
Dr. Igwe and I are not the only writers who have complained about the fact that dread stalks the land. Many Nigerians and foreigners have expressed anger and concern about the status quo, so we certainly can’t take any special credit for Mr. President’s decision to finally remove oft-condemned service chiefs this week.
But we are glad that we added our voices to the chorus of disapproval that came from those whose courageous public complaints about the powerful head honchos in the defence establishment – potentially lethal enemies to acquire! – finally paid off.
According to his spokesman, Femi Adesina, Mr. President thanked them for their “overwhelming achievements in our efforts at bringing enduring peace to our dear country” and wished them well.
I assume that Mr. President was being polite rather than genuinely grateful when he made this statement because it is very difficult to see what these army, navy and air force ogas-at-the-top achieved beyond allowing innocent citizens to drown in tears, fears and blood.
These are men who came across as incompetent and/or just too damned selfish to care about the rest of us, including the subordinates they commanded.
These are men who were highly despised and frequently criticised by their subordinates. These are senior officers who did not attract the solemn respect that we expect junior combatants to display towards their superiors.
There are videos circulating on the internet showing elated younger soldiers, airmen and navy boys celebrating the departure these men.
As General Abayomi Olonisakin, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai, Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas and Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar leave their exalted offices, I hope they feel some pangs of regret for letting us down so badly.
I imagine that the escalating standoff in the South West between rogue herdsmen and enraged and traumatised indigenes was one of the reasons why the Presidency decided it was time for a change.
I DON’T want to say much about the herdsmen crisis at the moment because I don’t know enough about it. I need to do some research.
Suffice it to say that most of the Southerners I know are enraged by what they see as sinister encroachments by Fulani herdsmen.
Suffice it to say that most of the Southerners and Northern Christians I know view all Fulanis with intense suspicion and are convinced that herdsmen use cattle-tending as a front for criminal activity and pursuing a political and economic domination agenda.
Fulani herdsmen are widely regarded as marauding killers, rapists, land-stealers who receive tacit support from a ruling Fulani elite that allegedly wants to ensure that they totally control Nigeria.
I feel so sad when I hear these stories because they don’t bode well for the Nigerian unity ideal that I have learned to embrace.
I am the daughter of an Igbo mother and a Niger Deltan father who was Odimegwu Ojukwu’s Biafran ambassador to London.
My parents passionately threw themselves into the Biafran camp because they decided, in the 1960s, that their people could never productively and peacefully co-exist with Northerners.
To my parents, Northern Muslims were the main “problem”, while Northern Christians – whom they regarded as “better-educated but oppressed” – were psychologically in thrall to their “Muslim masters”.
When Biafra lost the war in 1970, my exhausted parents decided to accept defeat and teach their children to become good Nigerians.
I was 10 years old in 1970 and have tried to be a good Nigerian ever since. I am now 61 years old and have quite a few Northern Muslim friends…some of whom have been far kinder to me than my own Niger Deltan and Igbo kinsfolk have been.
There is the super-sweet young Northern Muslim girl who works at the Nigerian Governors’ Forum who impulsively gave me the pretty earrings she was wearing because I said that the earrings were nice.
There is my dear, dear friend and brother, MM Ibrahim, a brilliant Kano-based doctor, lawyer and engineer, who showed up at my house with N2 million in cash when I was broke…thereby bailing me out of a financial crisis.
I was shocked because I had not asked him for a dime and did not expect any help from him because MM is an intellectual who isn’t mercantile by nature and has never been skilled at extracting big bucks from the Nigerian System.
MM was far from rich at the time. But someone had just paid him N5 million for some consultancy work that he had done; and he saw no reason why he shouldn’t share nearly half of his fee with me.
MM and the NGF girl are only two examples. I can name many others.
I once said in this column that friendship corrupts because if you have a corrupt friend, you are likely to turn a blind eye to the friend’s dodginess…and might even shield the friend from punishment, if the opportunity to shield him or her arises.
But friendship also tenderises the heart; and though I can never totally eliminate my Biafran and Niger Deltan activist streaks (I often get annoyed about the fact that folks who are not from oil-producing areas collect so many petrodollars), I am reluctant to develop a knee-jerk hostile attitude towards Fulanis en masse when so many jolly decent Fulanis have been such good friends to me.