by Enemi Alabo George
I love this poem a lot. It is deep, it is full of meanings, and most importantly, at this point of our national history, we probably need to chant it daily like a psalm:
“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer…
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”
When William B. Yeats wrote this piece in 1919, after the First World War, he probably thought he would be in Nigeria at a time like this to recite or read it to us. Things are truly falling apart and it looks like the centre cannot hold anymore, but the question is, in all of these, does the President really care?
I am one person who is often unwilling to puke invectives on anyone, especially those who hold public offices. I try always also not to insult or talk down on anyone who occupies the exalted and revered office of the President, because indeed when you denigrate that office, you denigrate our country. However, I am quick to blow the whistle when I think things are not going right. This is one of such times.
Nigeria today is submerged in a multiplicity of problems, there are truly problems everywhere, there is muddle, jumble and tangle, turpitude ravages our landscape, but the problems do not worry me as much as the President’s apparent silence in the face of this much “wahalla”. It was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who said “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” Going by Bonhoeffer’s assertion, would it be so wrong to say the President’s refusal to take a strong position on a number of national issues renders him not so guiltless? Can he be said to be guilty of complacency? This would be left to you to decide.
An array of issues today are severely solicitous of attention, a lot of questions are begging for answers, but none of them seems to have been justly attended to, no one seems to care, the President doesn’t seem to care. The President seems to be preoccupied with bigger issues like his WAR AGAINST CORRUPTION, and the long list of people he wishes to jail, while the country roasts away. These issues range from the malevolent Boko Haram, to the waning economy and our puny economic policies, to the vile and villainous Fulani Herdsmen, to Chibok girls, to impunity from certain quarters, to INEC and its new love for inconclusive elections, etc. I will briefly dwell on these issues one after the other.
Boko Haram has ravaged the North East and beyond like a plague, sweeping through with so much ease and audacity; such that makes me wonder where their strength comes from. Thousands of lives have been taken by Boko Haram, properties worth hundreds of billions have been destroyed, and these of course have placed Boko Haram as one of Nigeria’s toughest challenges. The group was recently ranked as the world’s deadliest terrorist group and was in fact ranked ahead of ISIS. This should worry any well-meaning Nigerian; this should give us sleepless nights.
During the campaigns which preceded the 2015 Presidential elections, General Buhari placed the Boko Haram menace as one of the core focal points of his campaigns. He in fact promised to wipe out Boko Haram in 3 months. Well, these have become three elastic months.
Bisi Akande, the founding interim chairman of APC was quoted in 2014 to have said in a newspaper interview that “the APC had a solution to Boko Haram but would keep it until they got to power” As wicked, backstreet and unpatriotic as this sounded, Nigerians hoped that maybe there was a certain magic wand somewhere, which APC and Buhari will wave and flush Boko Haram out of the air. This has not happened yet.
On the day President Buhari was sworn in, I was very encouraged and hopeful when he declared that the military command be immediately relocated to Borno. As administratively insensitive and indifferent as that move was, I saw it as a very strong message and a potent signal, which will tell the world that this man meant business. I said to myself that this would motivate the soldiers in the field and bolster their morale. It seems that was just a feeling anyway. To date, that still remains the loudest and strongest signal the President has sent as it concerns Boko Haram. In fact, if I had any hopes at all, it was dashed when the President referred to Boko Haram as his misguided brothers in his 2015 Ramadan message. It read thus in part – “…Let me use this auspicious occasion to appeal to our MISGUIDED BROTHERS to drop their arms, embrace peace and seek a better understanding of Islam during this holy period and beyond…”
Oboy! This seemed to me more like a pat on the back for a job well done, and a passionate appeal for them to rest for a while. How on earth can you address those direct descendants of the devil, who have visited such carnage, such evil, such pain upon our lands as our misguided brothers? People who have killed thousands, raped numerous, truncated destinies, burnt houses and hopes?
The president acts as though he has some strong sympathy towards these guys. He has not made any strong emphatic statement about Boko Haram. He does not come across as one who sees this as an emergency and who is willing to go all out to crush them. The President has not spoken to the Boko Haram situation, and until he does, we will not achieve much success. With all respect due the President, he does not seem ready.
This has been another very strong burden for me. How Herdsmen get so daring, to a point where they wield guns and machetes and choose where to ruminate and graze their cattle is something very difficult to understand. They seem to have been underestimated and they carry on like men on a mission, but what is the mission? How come no one can control them? How come no one is talking? How come the President is not talking? I personally think that when it comes to fears concerning secession, Nnamdi Kanu should not be the President’s biggest worry, the Herdsmen should be. I say so because the situation may gravitate to a point where certain vulnerable groups will resort to self-protection, and when that happens, the consequences can only be imagined.
In Agatu, and neighbouring LGAs in Benue State, over 500 persons have been reported killed by these Fulani Herdsmen, who invade the communities one after another. Over 3,000 people are said to have been rendered homeless, while more than 10,000 people have had to flee their ancestral homes. While of these happen, the herdsmen move into the communities and settle with their cattle, while their cattle graze away on the farms of the displaced farmers. Agatu, Logo, Makurdi, Buruku, Gwer West have all been victims of this new madness. What is even more terrifying is how security agencies sit by and watch as all of these happen. It is truly terrifying.
In an interview with Vanguard Newspaper on March 19th 2016, Alhaji Sule Audu, who represents Agatu constituency in the Benue State House of Assembly said “We expected that the military and Police who were posted there were expected to chase these people away from our communities and farmland so that our people can return home but they are not doing it. We are saddened that the federal government has not directed the security personnel to send them out or evacuate these people from our ancestral homes. As I speak with you today over 100,000 cattle have taken over Agatu land and they are grazing freely on our farmland, while the well-armed herdsmen lay in wait for anyone to come close. If the federal government and indeed the state government desire that this crisis be brought to an end, they should order an evacuation of all the cows and herdsmen who have taken over Agatu.
“As I speak with you the soldiers and Police are there in Agatu, the number of the herdsmen and their cattle are increasing by the day and they are not being chased away by the security personnel who just sit there and watch while the invaders continue to increase in number in order to take over Agatu for good. I am disappointed in the actions of federal and state government because Agatu is still being occupied and despite all the talks nothing concrete has been done to move them away, because if that is not done, the displaced persons cannot return to their homes.”
The story does not end in Agatu. Imo, Abia, Zamfara, Edo and some other states have had their fair share of this rampage. Just a few days ago in Enugu, the Herdsmen have invaded Nimbo in Uzo- Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State, killing about 40 people and razing two churches. This is simply fiendish and abtruse. This gory tale seems to know no end.
Vanguard newspaper reports that “the incident took place barely 24 hours after stories filtered out that no fewer than 500 heavily-armed Fulani herdsmen sneaked into the community preparatory to launch an attack. About seven villages in Nimbo (Nimbo Ngwoko, Ugwuijoro, Ekwuru, Ebor, Enugu Nimbo, Umuome and Ugwuachara) were among the areas attacked. Ten residential houses and a church, Christ Holy Church International, aka Odozi Obodo, were also said to have been burnt by the herdsmen just as vehicles and motorcycles were destroyed and domestic animals killed. A young man, whose name was yet to be ascertained, was burnt inside a commuter bus belonging to one Ejima, son of a prominent man popularly called ‘Are you there’ near the Christ Holy Church, Nimbo.”
In all of these, in all of the gruesome activities of the Herdsmen, in all of these killings, in all of this impunity, what has the President said? Rather, there seems to be plans to compensate them with a certain grazing bill. Another pat on the back. I have been keenly observing the President’s body language on this matter, and I have safely concluded that so far he does not seem to care. These men tend to enjoy some kind of unseen indemnity. In what was closest to a statement from the President, Premium Times of April 14th, 2016 writes thus “On conflicts between farmers and herdsmen, President Buhari said that a plan to map out grazing areas will soon be presented to the Nigerian Governors Forum as a temporary solution to the frequent conflicts until cattle owners are persuaded to adopt other means of rearing their cattle.” The key word here is PERSUASION. They will be PERSUADED to adopt other means. It doesn’t seem to matter how many they have killed, or how many they will still kill. The President has not made any emphatic statement on this matter. The President has not called these our other “misguided brothers” to order. He has not strongly condemned their activities, he has not warned them. They do not seem to be a problem to him. He has bigger problems. Just recently, Mr. President has ordered security chiefs to “go after” the herdsmen. Impressive! Well done Mr. President, but words are not enough mere orders cannot bring order.
I do not know if the Nigerian economy has ever witnessed worst times than these. At a time like this when our economy is in turmoil, when the Naira is losing its value in an unprecedented manner, when the country is witnessing what can be best described as hardship, when nothing seems to be working right, what is the President saying? Unemployment has hit an all-time high, companies are shedding staff, those who have not are cutting salaries, downsizing, rightsizing, and adjustments are now the most used words in corporate circles. Those who have not been hit by the wave of sacks live in fear, waiting for the hammer to land on them. Banks, Oil and Gas companies, construction companies, and a lot more are being very badly hit.
Never have we witnessed fuel scarcity so biting. Never have Nigerians witnessed this much serpentine queues at filling stations, never. But what is the President saying? Does the President really care? Of course, the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachukwu may have answered this question when he said he and of course the President cannot perform miracles. Although he later apologised to Nigerians, this struck a negative chord in my head.
In just one year of President Buhari’s administration, Nigeria has lost the single digits inflation status we have maintained over the years. Even our dear aunt Oby Ezekwesili agrees that the President has not done well in managing the Nigerian economy. Aunty Oby described the President’s economic policies as “archaic” and “opaque”. She said this at a recent public forum in Abuja. According to Premium Times :
“President Muhammadu Buhari’s current economic policies are similar to those he promulgated during the military regime he led in the 1980s, a former Minister of Education and social critic, Oby Ezekwesili, has said.
Mrs. Ezekwesili said Mr. Buhari’s “archaic” and “opaque” economic principles are not only encouraging massive corruption and abuse of power, but also hurting the poor they were intended to help. Mrs. Ezekwesili said this at The Platform, a public policy forum that is currently underway in Abuja.
“During the first coming of this our new president, a command and control economic system was adopted.
“During that era, inflation spiralled. During that era, jobs were lost. During that era, the economic growth level dipped,” Mrs. Ezekwesili said. “That era wasn’t the best of eras in economic progress.”
“What did not work in 1984 cannot possibly be a solution in a global economy that’s much more integrated.”
Mrs. Ezekwesili said Mr. Buhari was rehashing the same “command and control” approach towards economic issues which has left the country’s economic indices worse off since he assumed office almost year ago.” What more can I say? Bring back our Economy?
In a very heart-breaking revelation made recently by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) World Economic Outlook April 2016 review, Nigeria was seen to have dropped out of the top 15 economies in Africa. Recall that in 2015, Nigeria was ranked as the third fastest growing economy in Africa. Also recall that CNN Money ranked Nigeria, China and Qatar among the world’s fastest growing economies in 2014 and early 2015. This is scary and indeed worrisome.
Now, I am not blaming Mr. President for all on Nigeria’s economic woes, there are certain obvious factors and trends that have also contributed to this situation we find ourselves. My worry however is, what is the President doing about this? Does he really see there is a problem? Is he desperate to fix these problems? His body language has not shown clearly enough that he is.
Confronted with thoughts of these and much more, I am compelled to ask, who advises the President on the economy? Does the President have an Economic Advisory Team? Who is in this team? These questions are probably first steps to solving the problems.
If we cannot find another Okonjo Iweala or another Femi Adesina, we can at least find someone or some people with a close resume. Oby Ezekwesili is not my best of friends, but seeing the dearth of intellect around this new crop, she can fill some space. Chukwuma Soludo and a few others like Pat Utomi are not so far away from the President too. They probably can help, that is if the President feels there is such a need anyway.
The intention really is not to cast aspersions on the President or the Presidency. It is also not to abuse or denigrate the Presidency, but to throw up certain sensitive issues and areas where I feel Mr. President should come forth stronger. Silence or soft speaking in the face of some of these issues comes across as endorsement or little worry about them.
A state of emergency should be declared on some of these burning issues and they should be approached with desperation and doggedness with a very vivid intent to solve the problems.
Part 2 of this piece will focus on a couple of other issues, such as INEC’s Inconclusive elections, the President’s anti-corruption war and much more.
Enemi Alabo George is a politician from Rivers State. Connect with him on Facebook.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.