Restructuring: Does Buhari really love Nigeria? -By Niran Adedokun

Filed under: Political Issues |

Niran Adedokun

I still do not know why President Muhammadu Buhari is in mortal fear of prospects that we need to discuss the restructuring of Nigeria. From his utterances each time he found the gumption to speak on the issue, the President sounds like giving Nigerians the opportunity to talk about these issues might lead to the breaking up of the country and make him the last leader of a united Nigeria. It seems he has agreed with himself to continue to suppress proponents of such an “offensive” thought rather than allow the death of the country he has “loved” and “fought” for all his life.

But there is an ironic tune to this obstinacy; like the biblical Job who saw the things he feared happening to him, Nigeria is dying on the very palms of the man who says his life’s mission is to save it and sadly, he does not even seem to realise it!

I concede to those who love the President with unrepentant love that, Buhari would not be the first Nigerian leader to show incurable aversion to discussions about restructuring since return to civil rule in 1999.

His senior and periodic mentor, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, would also not entertain talks about restructuring. At various junctures, Obasanjo has impugned the idea of such a pastime, sometimes insinuating that it came from the lazy mindset of some Nigerians whose mind was the only candidate for restructuring. Even out of office, the former two-time leader has not hidden his dissonance for the idea but as a helmsman, Obasanjo offered two opportunities for Nigerians to converse.

It is true that events later revealed that the Human Rights Violations Investigations Commission otherwise called Oputa Panel established by Obasanjo as a purgatory outlet for the oppressed and oppressor in 1999 and the 2005 National Political Reforms Conference were mere self-serving vehicles, but history recalls that the Ota farmer gave an opportunity for Nigerians to vent.

But for the untimely cessation of the Yar’Adua administration, the late leader came across as someone who might have been persuaded to see the need for a renegotiation of terms for national co-existence. Till date, President Umaru Yar’Adua remains the only leader to have owned up to the imperfection of the processes by which he attained power. Such a man, who promised to reform the electoral system, thereafter set up the process to achieve the same, would probably have embraced the idea of restructuring had life allowed him.

But President Goodluck Jonathan was loyal to his predecessor’s electoral reform agenda. He saw it to a logical conclusion such that the nation saw what could be described as its sanest election in 2015. Also, after tip-toeing around the idea of a conference of the tribes for the best of his five year tenure, Jonathan eventually called a national conference in 2014.

This assemblage of close to 500 men and women, produced 10,000 pages of 22 reports containing over 600 recommendations for the improvement of the political, economic and social structures governing Nigeria. But for reasons which observers associate with the lack of sincerity of the administration, efforts to actualise the suggestions made by the conference did not start until 48 hours to its exit from office.

In effect, even if the leaders before Buhari did little to give Nigeria a new lease of life by rejuvenating the faith of each part of the country in the entity, each of the three ahead of him provided a semblance of opportunity for conversations.

The same cannot be said of this President. Not only has Buhari not shown any inclination towards giving Nigerians such an indulgence, he has indeed refused to countenance the document handed over to him by Jonathan, his immediate predecessor, but, insisting that the document presented nothing of worth, even when he hasn’t read it!

Unfortunately, that disposition is a convenience that Buhari should not have indulged himself in. Long before his election, he had been labelled an ethnic jingoist whose main pre-occupation was furthering the interest of the Muslim North. Although he made a firm promise of change to Nigerians, pledging to be a father to every citizen as his office requires, things have appeared to be exactly the opposite since 2015.

Through many of his action and inaction, Buhari has gone on to help this narrative about his sectional proclivity as we have seen in appointments in sensitive positions in the country. Just last week, the President appointed Alhaji Ahmed Abubakar, as the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency. This last appointment, in spite of repeated agitations from other parts of the country, effectively places the security apparatus of the country in the hands of people of northern extraction and gives the President away as uncaring of what Nigerians feel.

That is not to speak about the failure to see the need for Nigerians to talk. Within the past two week, hundreds of Nigerians have lost their lives in ethnic or political conflagration in Benue, Taraba, Kaduna, Kwara, Rivers and Bayelsa States. Yet, President Buhari does not see any sense of urgency in the need for Nigerians to take another look at the contract that binds them.

When he met with leaders from Benue State, whom he summoned to Aso Rock, by the way, on Monday, (let us excuse the aberration that the bereaved who should have been visited became the hapless sojourners to the almighty capital and the resident overlord), the most tangible take-away from that meeting was the appeal to Governor Samuel Ortom and his people to “accommodate your countrymen” in reference to cattle herders who were believed to have snuffed life out of more than 70 people in the state recently. Now, how much such solicitation without responsible leadership, which brings parties to the table, can achieve, remains to be seen.

The same randomness was displayed in the administration’s reaction to the agitations of members of the Indigenous People of Biafra when troops marched on the Abia State home of leader of the group, Nnamdi Kanu, last September. Till date, no one is able to tell the whereabouts of Kanu and his aged father while the government seems content that it has terminated the idea of a Biafra state by that deliberate act of state violence. Such forceful crushing of dissent has been visited on carious other groups in the country at one time or the other, except, of course, for this seemly invisible and invincible group of Fulani herdsmen.

But I do not think there could be any more potent fallacy than the hope that the quest for improvement in the lot a country offers its people can be marched down. As it is with every idea that fights injustice (whether perceived or real), which remains unaddressed, agitations by the people who feel displeased with the state of affairs in the South-East and other parts of the country will continue until every single part of Nigeria is able to ventilate their grievances and get what they consider to be their right off the common wealth. To think of wearying out these agitations is like living in the clouds.

One gets it that like most soldiers who fought in the Nigerian Civil War, President Buhari is fixated on the ideal of an eternally united Nigeria, but that is an idea that cannot be imposed on anyone in the way and manner he goes about it.

There must be a consensus about living together and the terms of such a union. Not just that, from time to time, nature demands a review of these conditions and every attempt to resist such consequential requirement is an unwitting invitation to the breakdown of such relationships.

President Buhari, given his age and experience, stands in a good position to galvanise hope in Nigeria; but if he continues to imagine that Nigeria will survive just because of the tightness of his fists, he must be told that he is digging the grave for that country that he thinks he loves. A country to which justice and fairness are alien, built on very faulty foundations and it is only a matter of time before a crash comes. May Buhari find the courage and wisdom to save a Nigeria he claims to love.

Twitter @niranadedokun