Last week, the former Chief Security Officer to late Head of State, Sani Abacha: Al-Mustapha, leader of the Niger Delta Volunteer Force (NDVF): Asari Dokubo, founder of the Odua People’s Congress (OPC): Fredrick Fasheun and leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB): Ralph Uwazuruike met in Owerri to consider ways forward for the country from the perspective of youths. Their host Uwazuruike, we gather welcomed them with a 21-gun salute at Onu-Imo.
You may wonder why. Recall that erstwhile President Obasanjo had on his own, met with rebel governors, former heads-of-state, religious leaders and even the opposition apparently to ‘save’ Nigeria. In these two scenarios, see something: the old order is under scrutiny. In talking about them, we strive to avoid generalizations. Some of them understand the new but because someone called them together, they have to answer. Let’s take a look: General Gowon, an amiable man forced by providence to do hard things, was the head-of-state during and after the civil war. Despite his immense contribution to winning the war for Nigeria and making reconciliation the preferred option at least on paper, he was booted out by Murtala and Obasanjo.
Ever since, he’s been one former leader who has kept himself off meddling in governance. Obasanjo handed over to Shagari, a good man who meant well for his country but was sacked by Buhari. Ever since, he has kept his distance from governance, proffering advise where necessary but letting people in power justify their calling. Buhari through violence presented himself as a ‘saviour’ lacing yoke on the citizenry as discipline and till date, his religious motives cause anxiety and disquiet. Babangida checked him out by violence to a public applause. He (Babangida) kept us busy with a debate on structural adjustment (SAP) making our professors sweat for solution only for him to go ahead with his borrowing while we still talked.
That was the beginning of Naira’s freefall. He tried a two-party-structure of democracy without the commensurate honesty of purpose. It was scuttled. Amid the confusion, Abacha entered, did his havoc and died. Abdulsalami came on stage for today’s democracy, Abiola died and to condole the southwest, Obasanjo came again. His style as President for 8 years showcased ‘militocracy’ in lieu of democracy. His sweet-candy-role now is that of an oracle for continuous consultation by the volatile; sometimes too, he unleashes ‘savior-attacks’ devoid of the knowledge of the questions following him. From the foregoing, the old order took us to slippery places betraying one another at will. Perhaps, these open letters target a replay. With letting us know they fought the war, they’re quick; but with letting us know they have eaten all their thank-you, they’re slow.
Because they can’t be trusted or followed, the new order, mainly advanced youths of a sort, have begun tasking themselves to alternatives. Yes it’s true they are radical but their radicalism is an offshoot of the various injustices they or their groups have suffered. Fasheun came when Abacha attempted to trample the southwest; Asari came when successive Nigerian governments, mainly of the old order, used Niger Delta oil-money for glee, self-power and cosmetic development but left the people oil-water to drink; Al-Mustapha stayed 15 years in jail under what some call political incarceration; Uwazuruike wants his people out of the Nigeria the old order built and sustains to exclude them. These represent the fringe Nigeria has been moving on without. Can it?
This is part-task of the National Dialogue which some in the old order want to scuttle. If they do, what’s the alternative? Given the pedigree of the potential new order, that alternative is violence of untellable proportions. The battle-line is about to be drawn but is it necessary? Their gathering isn’t about 2015 as some may postulate; it’s more of a challenge to the existing order which excludes some, which is arbitrary, getting up one morning to make kings but retiring to dismantle them the next at slightest sign of independent thinking, which can use the ethnics against one another and return to advise them to seek peace; which encourage impunity against reason, which do mischief but point fingers.
If we allow the new order to go ahead, they may be carried away and repeat the very mistakes they’re standing against. The middle-road therefore, is one that reminds the old order that there are people on the other side, that it is their duty to call the manipulators, liars, hypocrites among them- to use Iyabo’s terms- to order, and tell the potential new-order that there is no quick-fix.
Precisely, both extremes must be rejected which is exactly what that dialogue is designed to do: discover and launch the people’s order.
By: Onyebuchi Onyegbule