Don’t elevate injustice to statecraft, Nigerians tell Buhari
Many Nigerians are increasingly getting disturbed about the style of governance of the Muhammadu Buhari administration. The administration appears to have two definitions of citizenship and who a citizen actually is.
The President thus deals with individuals, groups, zones, and states depending on his own definition of who a citizen is. This, many believe, has been the major trouble with Nigeria.
Nigeria is often in the news for the wrong reasons. From being rated among the most corrupt countries, the most populous African nation is also sitting well among the world’s poorest countries, amid growing crime rate and high level of insecurity.
In recent times, the level of injustice in the country is said to have become unprecedented.
Today, Nigerians point to obvious cases of ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’. The concern for many people is that the alleged injustice is being elevated to a statecraft.
The general belief in the country today is that the President, unlike his “I belong to nobody” claim, really “belongs to some people.”
Recall that during his inaugural speech in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari had promised that his administration would uphold the rule of law, take the interest of all sections of the country into consideration in decision making.
Buhari had emerged victorious, became the first opposition candidate to defeat a sitting president in a landmark election earlier that year, he had equally vowed to lead an administration committed to the needs of over 200 million Nigerians.
“Having just a few minutes ago sworn on the Holy Book, I intend to keep my oath and serve as President to all Nigerians.
“I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody. A few people have privately voiced fears that on coming back to office I shall go after them. These fears are groundless. There will be no paying off old scores. The past is prologue,” Buhari had said.
However, six years down the line the reverse appears to be the case. Observers say Nigeria is on the verge of collapse, if urgent steps are not taken to correct the glaring division arising from the non-inclusive style of the Buhari administration.
Concerns have continued to grow in Nigeria in recent years over the leadership style of President Buhari.
Attention of the Presidency and the President has constantly been drawn to obvious government’s double standard on issues affecting Nigerians, but they have always explained things away.
Presently, there is general belief that the country is divided as never before, while the policies, conduct, programmes of President Buhari have fueled hatred among the different ethnic groups.
Buhari’s perceived loyalty to a section of the country is never in doubt; this is amid the spate of insecurity and rising impunity across Nigeria.
One such instance is the insistence by the President to give approval to the return of open grazing practised during the First Republic where herdsmen used designated grazing routes to move cattle to several parts of the country.
Speaking in an interview recently, the President said he had asked the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami to begin the process of recovering land from persons who have converted cattle grazing routes for their personal use.
His comment came despite the daily criminal and violent crimes committed by herdsmen across the country and had generated outcry among Nigerians.
Unfortunately, the President does not consider the huge disruption such an exercise would cause in society, just to please a group of people.
Ikedy Isiguzo, a public affairs commentator, said: “Buhari is not thinking of conflicts that would result from demolishing new communities that have sprouted since the abandonment of the grazing routes.
“Has anyone wondered what would happen in routes government property obstructs? New routes would be found at the expense of ordinary Nigerians. The consistent reference to government property suggests that places like Abuja would pave ways for the routes, possibly through the city centre.”
Isiguzo wondered: “What can Buhari not do for cattle? Without clarity about the contributions of cattle to the economy, Buhari uses public funds to promote cattle rearing, a private business. The mute National Assembly is impressed.
“Buhari’s cattle policies are escalating insecurity in Nigeria. His brazen partiality for Fulani herdsmen creates more enemies for the otherwise peaceful herdsmen now emboldened by the knowledge that Buhari knows and approves their lawlessness.”
Similarly, in 2017, there was a revelation by the President of the World Bank, Jim Kim, that President Buhari directed the financial institution to focus development in the Northern part of the country.
Although the Presidency had denied Kim’s revelation, many Nigerians believed every word about it going by Buhari’s style.
The administration makes no pretences about its dalliance with certain groups and has constantly shown that it was out to promote the interest of such groups above that of the country.
On numerous occasions, there has been criticism from ethnic nationalities and political leaders; they say that the fury over Buhari’s handling of the nation’s diversity has increased secessionist agitations in the country, while describing him as a sectional leader.
“His action actually makes people begin to think that there is no basis for staying together. How many years will he stay as a President? He has only two years to go. I would suggest that we allow him to just stay and leave rather than divide the country when we can fix it,” Monday Ubani, former vice president of the NBA, said.
According to Ubani, “His actions have called for more agitation. The point is that if we need a country that would function for all of us, we need to restructure Nigeria. If we are united and manage this country well, Nigeria is one of the best countries in the world.”
He further stated that the only solution to the country’s problems and injustice in the Buhari’s administration is for Nigeria to practise true federalism.
According to him, “If we restore the country in such a manner that we operate a proper federal system of government, where the federating units would possess devolution of powers. The powers should be taken from the centre and given to federating units where everyone would move at its own speed.
“If we fail to restructure the agitations would continue and we would never have peace. Only true federalism can guarantee peace in the country.”
Kunle Okunade, a political analyst, said the only solution was for the government to change its leadership style by running inclusive government, adding that it was obvious that the administration had polarised the country and was responsible for the present agitations for divisions.
According to him, “The leadership of the Nigerian state in its governance attitude encourages state injustice and so, this breeds the various agitations we are experiencing in the southern part of the country. It is obvious that issues raised by these agitators both in the Southwest and the Southeast had colouration of social injustice which many believe can be avoided.
“The approaches deployed by the Federal government in addressing the challenges have made many analysts conclude that clamping down on southern agitators violently, using state apparatus and deployment of subtle approaches on bandits and terrorists in the North, further polarise or rather divide the Nigerian people.”
Okunade further noted that “The challenges facing the country can only be resolved if the central government displays a leadership act of cohesion rather than sectionalism. And this can only show through the policies and body-language of the President”.
As Umoh Edem, an Eket, Akwa Ibom indigene describes it, injustice is the cankerworm that has eaten honesty and hard-work in the Nigerian society.
The Petroleum Engineer graduate from the University of Port Harcourt regrets that he couldn’t get a job at Mobil in Eket, his home town, while those less-qualified than him and from far places are living large from the natural resources in his domain.
A few years ago, a female journalist from Calabari in Rivers State, got angry with her father, a high chief, who couldn’t get her job at the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) at Eleme.
The argument of the father had always been that Rivers State has exhausted its quota, but the female journalist, who is tired of her less-paying media job, would always retort, but there is no quota in stealing our oil and gas.
Today, she has relocated to Michigan in the United States of America as she couldn’t understand why those from far north are occupying positions in establishments in her hometown, while indigenes rot in joblessness.
Going to the root, Omololu Fadaka, a senior lecturer at a Lagos private university, decried that the quota system, which was included in the Constitution in 1979, killed merit and upheld injustice.
From education, employment, appointment, promotion, award of contracts, among others, quota system, according to Fadaka, flagged off the injustice that has grown out of hand in the country today.
“With merit at 45 percent, catchment area at 35 percent, and 20 percent to educationally-less developed states, which are mostly situated in the northern part of the country, injustice was enshrined in the Nigerian constitution long ago”, Fadaka said.
It would be recalled that at the conferment of the Nigerian National Order of Merit Award in 2016 on Omowunmi Sadiq and Tanure Ojaide, two professors, Yemi Osinbajo, vice president, said the nation had placed quota before merit which “we know does not work”.
In other words, injustice is reigning. It is also believed that the situation has become worse in the last six years.
The southern part of the country seems more unjustly treated by the government.
Observers have been crying foul over the injustice as well. Currently, agitators from the Southern part of the country are being prosecuted for daring to ask for better opportunities and equal treatment for their people.
There have been arguments on why Nnamdi Kanu is arrested, while the government beg to negotiate with bandits, why Sunday Igboho is molested for fighting off herders on his farmland, while killer herdsmen still roam the forests freely.
Moreover, the regular meetings of southern governors are becoming a concern for the government, while the meetings of northern governors, which have been on for ages have not given the government sleepless night.
As Abidemi Oniga, a Lagos-based economist rightly pointed out, resources in the southern part of the country are commonwealth of the nation and have been used to develop the entire country while the north reserve theirs.
“We all know the crisis in Zamfara is because of the gold being mined illegally there. The government knows and nothing is being done, but illegal refineries are being destroyed in Niger Delta. Are both not our natural resources, just because the oil is in the south?” he said.
He is angered over the slashing of the percent given to oil producing areas in the recently passed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) by the Senate.
“It is laughable that the eyes of the north have been on the small percentage given to oil producing areas whose environment has been destroyed by the exploration activities over the years. If the oil had been in the north, I don’t think it would be shared by all the country. It is injustice”, he lamented.
Oniga suggested that the solution is to go back to the root and to the drawing table once again to write a constitution that will protect the interest of all Nigerians.
“We need a better constitution that will serve and protect all interests; a constitution that will ensure that a killer dies no matter who kills, who is killed or where he comes from,” Oniga said.
Edem thinks that the government should force all oil companies to relocate their headquarters to Niger Delta, and offer jobs to the region’s indigenes on merit.
On his part, Fadaka thinks that the quota system should be abolished, while Southern governors should keep the pressure on government to balance the equation across all areas of injustice in the country.
The recent decisions by the Southern governors on a number of national issues, truly explain how frustrated the state chief executive officers have become under the current administration.
Although a number of them are in the same party with the President, they do not believe things are being done the right way in the country, at the moment.
It was the frustration that led to the meeting in Asaba, Delta State in May where a decision was taken to end the open grazing by herdsmen.
Again, it was the same frustration that resulted in the Lagos meeting last Monday, where they also frowned at other likely policies that lend themselves to injustice.
On the now passed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) Law, the governors commended the National Assembly for the progress so far made. The governors rejected outright the proposed 3percent and supported the 5percent share of the oil revenue to the host community as recommended by the House of Representatives;
They also rejected the proposed 30percent share of profit for the exploration of oil and gas in the basins, rejecting however, “the ownership structure of the proposed Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC).”
The Southern governors disagree that the company be vested in the Federal Ministry of Finance but should be held in trust by Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) since all tiers of Government have stakes in that vehicle.
Last week, following the re-arrest of Nnamdi Kanu, leader of IPOB, Governors Nyesom Wike and Samuel Ortom of Rivers and Benue States, respectively, upbraided Abuja, challenging the President to show same energy in arresting the killer Fulani herdsmen, Boko Haram and bandits terrorising Nigerians.
Although they did not support Kanu, insisting that the law must take its course, the governors noted that it was hypocritical on the part of the President to shield his people while going brutal against others that commit same offence.
Wike, for instance, said the Federal Government must demonstrate its resolve to address insecurity crisis facing the country, and must deploy the same dragnet with which government re-arrested Kanu to urgently clamp down on bandits and Miyetti Allah militias terrorising the country.
“We must not make hullabaloo about the prosecution of Nnamdi Kanu. I don’t agree with his principle. I have come out and said you (Kanu) cannot annex my state to be your own. But that does not mean that you’ll not allow the law to take its course,” he said.
“You cannot afford to discriminate at this point. You cannot say because Nnamdi Kanu is from a particular area, let us prosecute him. The same thing must apply to all other people, the bandits, Miyetti Allah,” Wike further said.
Abubakar Umar, a retired colonel and former Military Administrator of Kaduna State, a few days ago, blamed President Buhari and the Federal Government for separatist agitations threatening national unity.
Umar pointedly said that the current administration, has failed to unite the country.
He lambasted the government for what he described as undue attention to threats of separatist movements in contrast to the more daunting threats posed by bandits, kidnappers and insurgents in the North West, some parts of North Central and North East.
In a statement on Wednesday titled: ‘Nigeria; A Nation Challenged,’ the former MILAD said the best way to unite a diverse and fragile nation like Nigeria was through justice, fairness and equity.
He stated the current administration has so far exhibited poor skills management of national diversities despite availability of great examples by past administrations and statesmen.
Speaking on challenges he considers more daunting than the threats of separatists agitations, Umar said: “It is quite strange and disturbing the Federal Government is according undue attention to the threats of separatist movements in contrast to the more daunting ones posed by bandits, kidnappers and insurgents in the North West, some parts of North Central and North East.
“Activities of those criminals have resulted in the evacuation of over 20 percent of the villages in NW and NE. Hundreds are being murdered and maimed every week. Many more are kidnapped for ransom.
“Millions have been rendered internally displaced, facing disease and starvation. Over one thousand school children were abducted in the past 8 months with over 300 still in the hands of the bandits and kidnappers demanding humongous ransom payments.”
He further noted that “Rape of women and young girls has become a daily occurrence. Most economic activities, particularly farming, which is the mainstay of the people in these areas, are now all but impossible.
“Government’s earlier claim of having technically defeated the BH insurgency in the NE has turned out to be empty propaganda. Contrary to this claim, the enemy has morphed into a more determined and deadly force, threatening to overrun the whole of the NE.
“For the average Northerner living in these zones, who is barely aware of the activities of separatists, banditry, kidnappings and insurgency are of greater threat and concern to him. The arrest of Nnamdi Kanu is of no serious consequence, since it does nothing to ameliorate his harsh and brutal condition.”