By Ayo Oyoze Baje
Quote: “Mr. President, please wake up and smell the coffee. This country is falling apart. It is in serious danger. And it’s happening under your watch.”
-Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed (Northern Elders Forum).
The fratricidal factors fuelling ethno-religious crisis and capable of tearing the very fabric of the Nigerian state into shreds are becoming patently obvious, virtually on daily basis. These include the blatant refusal of the political leaders to sacrifice their whims and caprices for the good of the nation; clearly nepotistic appointments skewed in favour of the northern geo-political axis that insult the collective intelligence of other ethnic groups. That such nauseating policy runs in tandem with the superiority complex of the ‘’born-to-rule’’ mentality of certain ethnic groups, riding roughshod above the others widens the social cracks.
Another critical issue is the deployment of state apparatus by the executive arm of government to cage others such as the legislature, the Fourth Estate of the realm and of course, the judiciary, considered as the last hope of the common man. That such has evolved under a pseudo-democratic setting gives the patriots cause for serious concern. Then there is the smoky and sleazy scenario of corruption in high places, with the so-called fight against it mired in high-octane impunity.
Yet, worsening the entire political spectrum is the scarce regard the same set of leaders have for the sanctity of human life. What with the country currently turned into the killing fields of the African continent! The vampire perpetrators are tireless terrorists, brazen bandits and fully armed Fulani herdsmen carrying out a filthy agenda, known only to them and their heartless sponsors. More has been said than done in reining in their blood-letting atrocities by the powers that be. So sad!
Incidentally, their recent alleged attack on Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, who has been openly against the open grazing of cattle has taken insecurity a notch higher. That incident draws to mind the statement credited to Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje, the former National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). He stated that the Fulani herdsmen accused of wreaking havoc across the country are not Nigerians. He made this statement in an interview he granted during his 70th birthday celebrations in Ilorin, Kwara State.
Said he: “The Fulanis involved in criminal activities are not Nigerians. The Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria do not carry guns. They only have machetes used to clear the bush as they progress with their cows and a stick to direct the animals…To disguise their intention, they first began with cattle rustling in the North-West to acquire cows and assume the status of herdsmen. This went on for some time in the North. It is now that they spread their nefarious activities to the South that the awareness and condemnation became very prominent and loud”.
If, as insinuated that these foreigners were brought in, surreptitiously to destabilise the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan and ensure that he did not get the Second Term ambition fulfilled, the pertinent question is what are they still doing in the country, some six years after? Why not send them back to where they came from, beyond the fact that the act itself is most unpatriotic, self-serving and criminal? But that is impunity for you. Yet, we cannot afford to go on this way.
It is the gross leadership failure on the part of the government to protect the lives of the citizens that has triggered the paradigm shift with the resort to self-help. Truth be told, Sunday Igboho’s emergence on the security sphere would have been avoided if the police had risen to the occasion of preventing the killings, maiming and raping of Yoruba women by Fulani herdsmen in areas identified as Ibarapa East, Ibarapa North, Igangan and the whole of the Oke Ogun area in Oyo state.
As nature abhors vacuum, government’s absence to act as the protective father is what has escalated the separatist agitations and activities of the Nnamidi Kanu-led IPOB, Sunday Igboho as well as the Asari Dokubo’s attempt to carve out Biafra out of some southern states of Nigeria. Though the Nigerian Army has vowed to move against them, as the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. -Gen. Ibrahim recently stated, methinks that we should be looking at the root causes of these recurring agitations, instead of attacking the branches and leaves.
That is where the opinions of prominent Nigerian leaders who have faulted the 1999 Constitution, describing it as being skewed in favour of the northern region comes in. Their communiqué issued after a virtual meeting recently held in Lagos, stated that unless the Constitution was changed, Nigeria may not come out of its present challenges. The eminent leaders include former Chief of General Staff, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe (rtd), former Governor of Plateau State, Jonah Jang, Second Republic Senator, Prof. Banji Akintoye, erstwhile President-General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, former Vice-Chairman of Arik Air, Senator Anietie Okon, leader of Middle Belt Forum, Dr. Bitrus Pogu and professor of religion, Prof. Yusuf Turaki.
Such a patriotic call deserves to be critically looked into in the next 90 days by the powers that be to save Nigeria from an imminent collapse. In fact, in the bold bid to drive the message home their arguments, the eminent leaders numbering 127, under the aegis of the Nigerian Indigenous Nationalities Alliance for Self-Determination also petitioned the United Nations Security Council, African Union (AU), European Union (EU), United States of America and the British Government.
Good enough, that they highlighted the crying need for Nigeria to urgently convoke a Sovereign National Conference to discuss Nigeria’s constitutionality and the 1914 Amalgamation of the Southern and Northern Nigeria. This, they insisted, is the only means “to save the people from oppression, stagnation and squalor”.
The group also recalled the manipulations that went into the flawed foundations laid in the 1914 Amalgamation of the Protectorates of Southern Nigeria with the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria. It is obvious that it has created a lopsided union, locking the diverse peoples of Nigeria into one political union with two mortally opposed civilizations.
It also noted, and rightly too, that “the prevailing 1999 Constitution, which was a wholesale adoption of the 1979 edition via Decree No. 24 of 1999, revalidated and reinforced the aforementioned hijack and confiscation of the sovereignties, powers and assets of the four erstwhile federating regions by the aforementioned illicit Federal Government.”
Stating it point blank, Nigeria’s former Defence Minister, Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (rtd), had also urged “the Indigenous Peoples of Nigeria facing ethnic cleansing onslaught of the murderous invaders to defend themselves and their lands in the face of obvious collusion of the Federal Government and its Armed Forces with the Fulani invaders”.
It would be recalled that sequel to the October 2020 #EndSARS protests, many concerned Nigerians, including the Nigerian Christian Elders Forum (NCEF), have come to insist that Nigeria needs to be renegotiated.
Considering the fact that by the admission of the 1999 Constitution by Section 14(2)(a), “Sovereignty belongs to the People, from whom, Government, through this Constitution derives all its powers and authority” the current APC-led administration which promised the people restructuring but has reneged on it should read the bold hand-writing on the political wall.
It is high time we learnt lasting lessons from Rwanda, Sudan, DR Congo, Bengal, Burma, Catalonia. Czechoslovakia, East Pakistan and Gran Colombia. The bitter truth is that we as Nigerians are currently disunited and to avoid more bloodshed of innocent citizens, it is another time to ‘’jaw-jaw instead of war-war’’.
The storm is gathering!
The gathering storm!
By Ayo Oyoze Baje