Nigeria, the giant of Africa is fatally wounded and lies bleeding. He is bleeding from several bullet wounds, arrow wounds, and open wounds from cudgels. The tethered giant is huffing and puffing blood. The relentless assailants, on smelling blood, have become even more vicious and ferocious, as they see the poor, sick, and blind giant, tottering, and about to roll over and collapse. Dead.
Recent events in Nigeria have brought skeptics, and incurable optimists like myself, to gasp in horror that the unthinkable fate of totally failed states of the world, has become our fate. Unbelievable! But in truth, we are there in the failed nations index alongside Somalia, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and others. Governance has collapsed.
Non-state actors have assumed full control of our national life. They now even have the monopoly of the means of coercion, using military-grade weapons to enforce compliance on the terror-stricken citizenry. It is no longer the case of a festering religious war in the North-Eastern corner. It is not just isolated cases of herders and farmer’s altercations. Open wars are raging in Nigeria. Secessionists have mounted podia and are shrilly bifurcating. Tribes have congealed in mutual hatreds and slicing each other’s throats. Tribal warlords mount wars, kill with impunity and are not arrested nor confronted. This is the portrait of a failing, failed, comatose, and dying nation… Nigeria is at war with itself!
Nothing in the whole macabre scenario has been more shocking than the realization that one of the tribal groups, is the main interlocutor in the theatre of Nigeria’s wars. The Fulani ethnic group has declared war on Nigeria. Their war commanders are fearless. They are daring. They are unbelievably brutal, and relentless. Visiting the nation with unsurpassed impunity, and proving again and again that they cannot be arrested perhaps because; they hold the unqualified approval of the Nigerian President. Their recent claim of responsibility for the attempted assassination of the Governor of Benue State is simply beyond the pale. Nigeria has passed the rubicon as the Fulani group, Fulani Nationality Movement, (FUNAM) issued the following threats:
That they have passed a death sentence on Governor Ortom, ( whom they describe as the infidel, and proving what we didn’t know before that the Fulani and Boko Haram are fighting an Islamic Jihad against unbelievers, together ) They have passed a death sentence on him for being against “Fulani long term interests, and values” to expropriate other people’s lands in Nigeria. They regretted they could not kill him at the time due to a communication error but determined to do so quickly in the not distant future!!!
That this death sentence was in the same vein passed on everyone who dares to oppose any of their political and bureaucratic attempts as being teleguided by the Federal Government like RUGA even if such opposition is merely on the internet.
That they have the means to do so because their security network is ubiquitous and overwhelming and that there was nothing to stop them coming after anybody anywhere and killing them for any attempt to disagree with their wishes.
How did we get here when those issuing these types of threats are yet to be arrested? Many times in the past had the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, called on the Federal government to arrest these Fulani groups that routinely claimed responsibility for horrendous killings in Benue State and other locations in the country. His letters, petitions, and appeals fall on the deaf ears of the Federal Government and at other times, officers of the Federal Government, and politicos of the ruling APC, gloat and harangue the embattled governor accusing him of crying wolf.
Ortom’s current ordeal is received by the Federal Government with a tongue in the cheek, as none of the FUNAM officials who claimed responsibility for the attempted assassination of the governor has been arrested. Other Governors have also been attacked by bandits, and many Nigerian commuters have lost their lives on Nigerian roads because the herders, kidnappers, and bandits hold sway on these roads. They are the law. This is ominous. For passing a death sentence on Ortom, an elected servant of the people doing his people’s will, is passing a death sentence on the whole of Benue people, including those who voted for Buhari. It is by extension, passing a death sentence on all Nigerians. This is the final declaration of an open Jihad against Nigeria.
Nobody among Nigeria’s founding fathers had envisaged this dark period in our national life when the country would be riddled with debilitating challenges requiring nation builders and these would be in such a short supply. The number one nation builder has allowed himself to be defined as a callous enigma, who is averse to national cohesion, and who has become avowedly the patron saint of his tribe, the Fulani, who in his eyes can never do wrong. President Buhari is perceived as having handed off governance to his minions And doesn’t want to bother himself with the nitty grittier nuances of nation-building. He is perceived as lacking empathy, except when the Fulani or their interests are hurting.
It is however patently unfair to attribute all of Nigeria’s collapse to President Muhammadu Buhari. Nigeria’s rapacious politicians from the inception of the return to civil rule ( if you can call retired generals-presidents, as civilians) have brought this fate on us with the wrong choices they made. President Obasanjo jump-started the vicious engine of his embracing the liberal economic model which creates more billionaires than eradicates poverty. This economic model removed its human face and gobbled our patrimony. It created billionaires and unfurled the cloak of poverty on the nation through devaluations of the naira, increased the pump price of fuel, and an opaque privatization exercise.
Obasanjo, looked the other way when Nigeria ceased from being a secular state under his watch with the introduction of the Sharia States. President Yar Adua did not live long enough to watch his amnesty program embolden and create more insurgency and spawned especially the Boko Haram, which festered into a conflagration under President Jonathan. And just when the embattled Jonathan found the answers; he was pushed out by the Buhari fever.
While other presidents were in power, Buhari stood on the sidelines, watching criticizing, goading dissent, and strategizing. Nigeria was enamored by his anti-corruption, and end Boko Haram’s stance, to the extent that nothing else mattered to the voters. He wears the Donald Trump persona!! Nothing bad he does matters to his base! But more than Trump, he continued to win a first and second term easily, because Nigerians hoped that things could get better. But now, the scorecard of President Buhari is very low. His tantalizing potentials have fallen tragically short of expectations.
Even prominent Fulani leaders accuse President Buhari of grave incompetence and of stoking anti-Fulani hatred across the land. They accuse him of doing nothing to improve the poverty gap filled by Northern youth and that he has left the Fulani in the forests and wilderness to transform themselves into hideous and horrendous kidnappers, killers, rapists, and bandits. Poor President Buhari is in a bind- to be or not to be, is his existential question! Peace-loving Fulanis who have lived with other Nigerians, are now being profiled, and hated for things they have no control over, and, cannot change- their Fulaniness. All thanks to President Buhari.
Corruption has not been eradicated. It has strategized into fewer hands with more ferocious enormity. It has been under Buhari’s watch that Tribalism has become state policy. Instead of listening to Nigeria’s problems and speaking to them in the language they understand, the president seems to be listening only to Fulani’s problems and whispering to them to trust him to do good for them to acquire their infuriating pleasures.
If only Buhari knew that tribalism is the chief enforcer of corruption and corruption is the chief enabler of tribalism, he could have done better. Indeed it is this inability to see this intersection that made him exacerbate both corruption and tribalism in Nigeria.
The French philosopher Albert Camus is famously quoted: “The evil that is in the world always comes of ignorance, and good intentions do much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding.” This is my summation of the Nigerian problem, instead of accusing President Buhari and his predecessors of malevolence I would rather say all their actions that have led to our gaping bleeding wounds have not been well thought over. They lacked an understanding of how the modern world operates.
If only Nigerian politicians and leaders knew that globalization, technology, and climate change are accelerating. If only they knew that the rate and acceleration of change are increasing in a horrendous manner, then they would have put away party platforms, ambitions and their greed and differences and come together to confront these change dynamics, instead of blindly and foolishly entering the dark days ahead.
Nigeria’s metastasis and drift to fatality and anarchy is a combination of pathological and inextricable fault-lines in; culture, politics, geography, history, and economics. The future is bleak, except we come together devoid of partisanship to confront the demons of crime, population pressure, environmental degradation, disease, and culture conflicts.
Nigeria’s, overpopulation is bleak and without industrial growth to back it. The incomes are pathetic for most Nigerians and despite the Central Bank’s desperate effort to enkindle the economy by throwing large amounts of money to the public, ( which bureaucrats and politicians corner for themselves and their cronies). The injustices of our democracy; the winner takes all mentality, and the choice of winning elections at all costs, without investing in goodwill, has made the citizens switch off expectations.
The citizens, no more expect much from the President and the Governors, who aware of this switch off, have also tuned off their attention from any public good and instead focus on their own very personal goals. Only the informal sector is working where the people are able to farm and travel and buy and sell. Sadly, this informal sector has now come to an end with the herdsmen as big players in the lucrative self-help, kidnapping for ransom, robberies, bandits, and arsonists.
As we sit precipitously on the edge of disaster, we need to know that the Post- Buhari era in Nigeria will be messy. The young people born during the military regimes, and the post-military, but corruption-laden militarized Nigeria, have no other paradigms. They are the poor, the precariat, the jobless unemployed, and the unemployable because they lack the type of education and skills needed today to build a technological economy. They live and function in moral wastelands where corruption and tribalism seem to be the viable alternative to good character and a good and sound education.
And we must face it. There can be no quick fix to our security challenges. It will take years to repair the damaged psyche of our youth. Social engineering takes a long time in nation-building, while confusion, chaos, the decline of public authority, and civil disorder are readily achievable.
The Post-Buhari Nigeria will be messy because the youth upon whose shoulders the future hangs have lost hope, and developed a deep distrust for the leadership. How can the new government address the lopsidedness which President Buhari engendered without stiff resistance from the beneficiaries of his lopsidedness? How can we build a new Nigeria with the new spirit of nationalism when tribal consciousness has been awoken in the wake of herdsmen militancy and the government’s apparent acquiescence? How can the Post-Buhari government command the respect and trust of the citizens since the level of distrust for politicians and the government is so thick? Where will the next government get the money to administer a debt-laden country?
All the above questions point to the fact that we are at the tipping point, and the collapse that looms will affect all of us in several calamitous degrees. But I know that the situation is not irreversible. We were at that similar destination during the peak of the June 12 crisis. We again went there, when President Yar Adua died. In both cases, the nation’s leadership did what was necessary and appropriate.
This is why I wish to suggest the following emergency remedial action to salvage the polity and rescue the country from the road to perdition on which it is plying blindly, with accelerated speed:
President Buhari should be persuaded by those close to him to be the Nigerian president millions of Nigerians voted for. He should be persuaded to rise above his ethnic identity and arise to the yearning of the millions who clamored for his return to power as president with messianic passion. He should be persuaded to peek outside the window of Aso Rock, to see his ardent cheerleaders sinking in hopelessness, oblivion, and trauma. If he is able to visualize himself once again in the noble role of the Nigerian President rather than a tribal leader, then his conscience will direct him on what is the best option for him right now. May Allah guide his choice.
2. President Buhari should request for peacekeepers from the United Nations to help us, since our legendary Nigerian Armed forces have displayed unbelievable incompetence in dealing with internal insurgency and banditry, perhaps because of the tribal and religious biases of their commanders and or foot-soldiers.
3. The Government must undertake an immediate restructuring of Nigeria, based on the recommendations of the various National Conferences, whose reports have been submitted to the government and are yet to be implemented. There is certainly an elite consensus on restructuring. Whoever denies it’s going into effect risks a major political backlash.
4. The Government needs to convoke a conference to address the Fulani question. New threats by Fulani groups who seem to be waging an Islamic Jihad in the 21st century, in a sovereign republic Nigeria, need be addressed at this conference. The deafening silence by some Fulani elite, from condemning Fulani irascibility, and violence, is appalling and ominous. It would appear that the Fulani elite by maintaining silence in the presence of these evil concatenations is tacitly and avidly supporting the ongoing Jihad by FUNAM. A National Conference on the Fulani question needs to be held so that instead of resolving the Fulani herdsmen’s criminality and demands, with a call to arms, a dialogue with stakeholders would be appropriate and preferred.
The Fulani question must be approached with considerable understanding. They need to settle down, rebrand, and retool, not in the forests where they have rebranded themselves as kidnappers and killers, but to get a good education like their town counterparts, for whom they have slaved for centuries. It is a fact that where enlightenment has not taken place and there has always been mass poverty, war and insurgency is part of being human. This is what is happening in many parts of the north where there is a low literacy level, Benue East district of Sankera is inclusive. The north is leaping the whirlwind where they neglected child education. And as long as the north does not sleep Nigeria cannot wink. The Fulani question is not a Buhari issue nor a Fulani issue. It is a Nigeria issue.
Nomadic existence and lack of education and lack of religious faith is the Fulani herdsmen’s condition. Whoever invited them, or whatever circumstances shoved them to our borders and ordered them to conquer the infidels, did a great disservice to the country. We should not dance and applaud them because they don’t forgive. Neither should we nod at their audacity to declare that all lands belong to them. This is not civilization. In the modern world, whoever desires a thing must learn to negotiate with those who are in a position to give. The Fulani must be persuaded to learn to become Nigerians rather than to conquer Nigeria. This is barbaric and can only lead to heightened animosity against the Fulani.
The stakeholders of the Nigerian State must wake up to the responsibility of nation-building. It is not okay to be silent anymore. Nor is it decent to look the other way as if things are okay. Because they are not. Things are desperately wrong. We should not look towards a people’s revolution to redress all that has gone wrong. Revolutions produce greater anarchy if not controlled. And we don’t need another coup de tat. We are still reeling from the horrendous effects of the last ones that infected our land. We are in an emergency situation. We must arise now, and confront this mammoth challenge of Nigeria’s massive state collapse. We must stop this bleeding with surgical precision, instead of ineffectual band-aids.
Prof. Iyorwuese Hagher
President, African leadership Institute USA.