It’s an opportunity to subordinate real politik to politics of moral consequence
Political mismanagement biggest threat to Nigeria’s unity
Nigeria more divided now than ever
By Clifford Ndujihe, Politics Editor
MR Akin Osuntokun, political strategist, and former political adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, in this interview, wonders why the government is finding it difficult to address the herdsmen crisis. He sees the emergence of Sunday Igboho as a self-defense by people condemned to unjustified death by criminal elements in a lawless society. He also speaks on why the South-East should produce the president in 2023 and the necessity of restructuring the country before the 2023 general polls among others.
What is your take on the state of the nation six years into President Muhammadu’s administration?
From whichever perspective you look at it the state of the nation is quite perilous. The combination of near economic collapse, political implosion and social misanthrope has potentially created a perfect storm towards which Nigeria is headed with the compliment of a seemingly blind pilot at the cockpit.
Of all the factors threatening Nigeria, political mismanagement is the most consequential. It is what got us to the mess we are languishing in and it is what promises to be the undoing of what remains of Nigeria.
In life, challenges and crisis are given. Those inevitable headwinds do not matter as much as your ability to grapple with them. When you are piloting a plane, the turbulence you are going to encounter matters little relative to the ability of the pilot to navigate through and around the challenge. The prognosis of this flying metaphor indicates that Nigeria is flying blind, and the consequences of flying blind are obvious.
Given the quality of the governance, Nigeria has suffered and endured in the past few years, there is no extrapolation that can be made other than being short-changed by the poverty of leadership.
I was recently struck by the disposition of an American parent on the dilemma posed by the COVID-19 pandemic in regard of the choice between opening the schools and the risk of exposure to the virus. It has become something of the Hobson’s choice, between the devil and the deep blue sea. Frustrated by the seven prolonged closure of the schools, a parent shouted at the representatives of government at a town hall meeting that the government needed to raise the bar of its thinking faculty and come up with a solution nonetheless.
Here in Nigeria, the problems are so mundane that one has to presume that the inability to grapple with those problems must owe to some kind of arrested mental development.
What does it take to meaningfully respond to the so-called herdsmen crisis? The trademark of this government is to wittingly or inadvertently foment a crisis where there is none or aggravate a crisis that should have been nipped in the bud.
There is also the element of losing touch with reality and being clever by half. Recall that the response of this government to the correct assessment of the Transparency International, TI, on the prevalence of corruption in Nigeria is to claim that the assessment was in reference to the Nigerian public not the Nigerian government-despite the incriminatory evidence of the clearly enumerated criteria for the assessment.
At about the same time this outrageous excuse was being made, the president was playing the victim, blaming the Nigerian elite for lack of appreciation of the herculean effort his government has made in the face of impossible odds on account of the yawning governance deficit it inherited from his predecessors.
The reality of course tells a completely different story inclusive of elevating Nigeria to the status of the poverty capital of the universe; condemning Nigeria to the debt profile of billions of dollars (and still counting) in contrast to the singular accomplishment of paying off decades of Nigeria’s cumulative debt (to the tune of $18 billion dollars) by one of the predecessors he routinely slanders.
And predictably, Nigeria has sunk deeper in the pit of corruption according to the objective and authoritative ratings of Transparency International. And if you are looking for further evidence of this government’s incapacity for truthfulness you need look no further than the oft repeated conspicuous lie that since the inception of the Fourth Republic in 1999 to 2015, oil sold at an average of $100 per oil barrel. And nearly all the president claimed by way of infrastructural development was projects he inherited at advanced stage of completion from his maligned predecessors. Just look at the eyesore of the almajiri dehumanization in which the president actually halted and abandoned the progress his predecessor recorded in grappling with the sadistic degradation of fellow citizens.
On calls for restructuring before 2023 polls
On present course and strength of available evidence, it is difficult to decipher a fate better than acceleration towards implosion for Nigeria in the near term. This is indicated in the deadly mix of a gargantuan security breakdown exemplified in the low intensity civil war pervading the North; runaway corruption, drastic revenue shortfall, imminent collapse of the oil economy and food security crisis; topped by the winner takes all nepotism of the Buhari administration. Barring a massive positive intervention, contrived or providential, this is the perfect storm that constitutes the backdrop to the 2023 elections. Take note that Nigerian elections, in and of itself, constitutes a fraught security challenge. Nigeria can, of course, choose to become a creative master of its destiny by deliberately contriving a positive intervening variable that aborts the present troubled pregnancy before it delivers on the promise of a death knell. If the reading is correct that restructuring has attained the status of a national consensus movement, then Nigeria has found the needed shock therapy to refocus attention away from gloom and despair to that of hopeful anticipation. Restructuring can thereby serve a dual elixir for Nigeria. The hope of its realisation can dilute the present gloom overcast and prompt Nigerians to contemplate the future with measured optimism while the realisation of the policy agenda itself will potentially guarantee the stability and development of Nigeria in the mid to long term.
On power shift to the South, where should it go, South-East or South-West and why
Is there a better option than the purposive gesture of healing the festering civil war wound and the attendant political marginalisation of the Igbo by the contrivance of an Igbo acceding to the Nigerian presidency in 2023? In my reckoning, any option to the contrary amounts to the elevation of abusive power politics over the ideal of national unity and integration. 2023 presents an opportunity for Nigeria to subordinate real politik to the politics of ‘moral consequence’ without which, no nation can long endure.
On rumoured plans to get APC field Dr Goodluck Jonathan as its presidential candidate in 2023
Drafting former President Jonathan to contest the 2023 presidential election would have been a great idea but for the catch that he is only legible to serve for one term. This raises the question of what becomes of the North/South rotational principle.
The polity is cloudy over the herdsmen menace. What is your take on Akeredolu’s order to herdsmen who refused to register with the state govt to leave Ondo forest reserves?
The so-called herdsmen crisis is the poster boy of the peculiar proclivity of this government to invent and aggravate crisis often where none exists. Were animal husbandry not a universal culture, you would think that cattle-rearing is rocket science given how intractable it has become under the mismanagement of this government unless of course the mismanagement is a deliberate strategy intended to serve a purpose and agenda to which the Nigerian public is not privy.
When the government was finally roused to provide a policy response, it typically proceeded to pour gasoline on a simmering fire with the proposal of creating cattle colonies all over the country and impounding the waterways.
Even though the policy was roundly rejected yet there were still a number of states that embraced the idea. So why not direct a restriction of the nomadic herdsmen to those states? Which begs the question of what has become of the policy? And if it is the case that the policy has been abandoned, what other measures are in place to contain the escalating crisis? Is it the case that the government has not come up with any other policy response to contain the crisis, which continues to escalate with predictable consequences?
It is this policy vacuum and the attendant escalation of the crisis that has made localised containment measures an urgent imperative for governors like Rotimi Akeredolu. Unchecked, the crisis has metastatised into pervasive banditry criminal insurgency and existential threat to the social integrity of the local communities.
A few months ago, a first class traditional ruler, the Olufon of Ifon, was kidnapped and murdered on his way from a visit to Governor Akeredolu. Similar incidents had persistently been the lot of Ondo State- from the kidnap of Chief Olu Falae, the murder of Funke Fasoranti and countless unreported incidents.
My friend, the late Onukaba Adinoyi Ojo, was fleeing these kidnappers only to fatally cross the path of another fleeing vehicle.
In his capacity as governor and chief security officer of Ondo State, Akeredolu is in a position to know the scale and magnitude of this murderous affliction and the wherewithal of those committing the crime. He did not just wake up one day to take the difficult step of directing the herdsmen employing Ondo state forest reserves as criminal sanctuary to desist and vacate the hideout.
Whether you are a university professor or herdsman, it is illegal for anyone to appropriate the property of Ondo State without the consent of the owners. It is worse still to now convert the misappropriated property into a criminal den. It is counter intuitive to believe that a governor elected on the platform of the Buhari personified APC and a godson of sorts to the president would pick on the Fulani as fair game for persecution. Neither is his action attributable as a populist gambit for seeking re-election.
What is your take on the emergence of Sunday Igboho and actions on the herdsmen issue?
The Sunday Igboho revolt is attributable as an instance of legitimate self-defense against criminal aggression in a situation of the anarchical breakdown of law and order. The Igboho phenomenon transcends legality and borders on fundamental human rights to exist without derogation to the entitlement of livelihood. Igboho is a personification of the rejection of the humiliation, death and destruction to which the Yoruba (and others) have been collectively consigned and subjected to in the past few months mostly at the hands of criminal Fulani elements.
Being kidnapped for ransom is bad enough. Worse is the dehumanization of rape, sodomy and savage death that are routinely visited on Yoruba rural communities and travellers on the highways.
Those who hypocritically argue that people should not take the laws into their hands should provide a solution to the dilemma of the institutional bias (coerced or voluntary) of the security forces in overt and covert support of the criminals.
The regular report is the reluctance and unwillingness of security officers to follow through on reports of criminal violations where a particular caste is concerned. It echoes the open secret first vented by General Theophilus Danjuma the other day in Jalingo, Taraba State that the security forces have been compromised and cannot be relied upon to fulfil their responsibilities with professional detachment and neutrality.
The tragedy is that this fraught and poisonous atmosphere has been fostered and deepened, in large measure, by provocative parochialism and repressive divisiveness of the Buhari presidency.
No Nigerian leader has fared better in rousing the demon of distrust and paranoia of Nigerians more than this president. It is under his stewardship that the leadership of the three organs of government, the executive, legislature and judiciary was rendered captive to the Fulani prioritised northern Muslim constituency.
A similar deployment has been visited on the security architecture of the country where you have the Defence Minister, Chief of Army Staff, National Security Adviser, the Inspector General of Police, the Director-General of the Department of State Service, DSS, becoming the exclusive preserve of the same constituency.
It is a sad commentary when apologists make the mindless rationalisation that a Nigerian president should be granted the waiver of precluding other Nigerians from national security on account of his inability to trust any Nigerian who does not share his ethnoreligious origins. And he has dutifully stayed true to this we versus them cocoon mentality thereby forfeiting the trust and confidence of Nigerians.
It is within this context that mutual hatred and hostility have become the default definition of inter-ethnic relationship in contemporary Nigeria with particular reference to his Fulani nationality.
So, it is the substance and style of the Buhari government that have matured to become the major threat to the notion of Nigerian nationhood. Focusing attention on those at the receiving end of this pernicious rulership is entirely misplaced and amounts to blaming the victims.
Was it not said that even an animal would react in the face of being driven to the limits of cowering. To paraphrase American slang, Nigerians have been handed a potential multi-national state but it is left for us to keep it.
Unfortunately, the Buhari dispensation has fatally derogated from our ability to keep and secure this legacy. As my all-time favourite musician, Bob Marley, once sang, Nigeria has become a maelstrom of ‘war up North, war down South, war in the East and war in the West’. And there is the tragic irony that the fate of the North has never been this bleak- under a President that has taken sub national nepotism and parochialism to unfathomable heights.
What your take on the extension of IGP Mohammed Adamu’s tenure by three months after clocking 35 years in service?
I think it is futile trying to make sense of the public appointments and policies of this government. The only sense one can make is the predictability of parochial bias. You can speculate with precision on the regional appropriation of any consequential appointment and patronage. And that was potentially the case with the speculation of the constituency from which the putative successor to the outgoing IGP will emerge. The other inference that can be made is that such appointments are less about service and more about the opportunity to make hay in what is given and accepted as “juicy and lucrative” appointments. And so within moments of speculating on the identity of the successor, champagne parties had broken out among families and friends of the new pampered kid on the block
On Buhari’s appointment of immediate service chiefs as non-career ambassadors
The too little too late retirement of the topmost echelon of the armed forces is a case in point. Given their sub-par performance if not outright failure, these were officers who should have been replaced long before now. Replacing non-performing officers is not a punishment; it is simply recognition of their obvious failure in the highly consequential nature of their assignment to the corporate integrity of Nigeria.
President Buhari not only took his time, fiddling and picking his teeth while Nigeria burns, he went ahead to reward them with a completely undeserved ambassadorial appointment. This behaviour further confirms the inherently dysfunctional nature of the Buhari administration where standards are observed in the breach and meritorious criteria thrown to the dogs. It is consistent with the delusory self-regard of this government- the tendency to distort the reality of failure as success. It is specifically consistent with the false and ridiculous claim of a ‘technically defeat’ of Boko Haram in the face of the contrary evidence of one step forward and several steps backward.
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