The President is the Problem by Shaka Momodu

Just recently, Professor Wole Soyinka in an interview on the BBC called on President Muhammadu Buhari to address the nation and unequivocally condemn the atrocities being perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen all over the country. Our eminent Nobel laureate wanted Buhari to give security operatives specific orders to go after those engaged in all manner of criminalities such as kidnapping, killing, rape and the plunder of communities. Soyinka noted that he would consider the president complicit in these atrocities by herdsmen if he failed to issue a strong public rebuke of the perpetrators and order their arrest and prosecution.

Well, I have got news for Soyinka and all who still for some mysterious reason believe Buhari would do what is right as a leader by ordering the arrest of herdsmen that engage in kidnapping, rape, murder, etc. For the avoidance of doubt, Soyinka won’t get his wish from the president. His call is a sheer waste of time. It shows some people think there is still a chance of redemption by Buhari. Well, there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of that happening. This wish from the man Soyinka threw his massive weight to support in 2015, and clandestinely supported in 2019 is extremely naive. If he thinks anything good can still come from Buhari’s presidency, he may have to wait forever.

The president is already complicit in the atrocities committed by herdsmen – his silence and failure to take decisive action against the reign of terror unleashed on the country by herdsmen, local or foreign, tells us loud and clear where his loyalty lies. So there is no need to ask him to condemn them because he will not condemn his murderous herdsmen.

I dare say Soyinka on his own part is complicit in the situation Nigeria now finds itself. He was one of those who aided Buhari’s rise to power. He was one of those who constantly celebrated Buhari even when he had started to manifest his ethno-religious disposition in his first few weeks in office. His so-called fight against corruption became the endearing excuse to overlook those red flags. Anyway, what was Soyinka thinking when he backed Buhari, someone he once described as a man the nation cannot call to order? Did he really believe a leopard could magically change its spots? A man who had always been spot-on in his analysis of the Nigerian condition and hegemony that holds it in bondage, suddenly aligned with a more hawkish extremist of that bloc. It remains one of the greatest seismic shifts I have ever seen. That decision he encouraged Nigerians to make in 2015 continues to haunt us today.

Soyinka had this to say in his endorsement of Buhari in 2015: “It is however just as purblind to insist that he has not demonstrably striven to become what he most glaringly was not, to insist that he has not been chastened by intervening experience and – most critically – by a vastly transformed environment – both the localised and the global.” Well, it is clear now to all that Buhari was never “chastened by intervening experience” or “by a vastly transformed environment – both localised and the global” when Soyinka sold that lie to the Nigerian people. He just used words to pull the wool over the people’s eyes. It was one of those moments as a student of Soyinka’s school of thought when I could have told him: “Teacher, don’t teach me nonsense.”

Our respected laureate went to great lengths to assure the country the man had changed, telling Nigerians how he came to the decision that will eternally live in infamy: “I have studied him from a distance, questioned those who have closely interacted with him, including his former running-mate, Pastor Tunde Bakare, and dissected his key utterances past and current. And my findings? A plausible transformation that comes close to that of another ex-military dictator, Mathew Kerekou of the Benin Republic. Despite such encouraging precedents, however, I continue to insist that the bridge into any future expectation remains a sheer leap of faith. Such a leap I find impossible to concede to his close rival, since we are living in President Jonathan’s present, in an environment that his six years in office have created and now seek to consolidate.”

In the land of my fathers, there is a saying that anyone who tells you he caught a toad by the tail is a liar. Because nothing in Buhari’s public utterances before 2015 came close to moving the needle to earn such a powerful endorsement. I agonise each time I read those lines. Because for reasons other than objective evaluation of historical record of facts, Nigeria’s shining star in the firmament joined the mob to bring a medieval and tribal provincial lord who had retired to his ethnic cocoon, back to a new age.

Ironically, in laying out his case for change of leadership in 2015 before finally throwing his weight in Buhari’s corner, Soyinka had sounded a note of warning of choosing between the then incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan who was seeking re-election and Buhari his main challenger: “The nation finds herself at a critical turn, where the wrong choice places it beyond all hope of remaining intact – and by ‘intact’ I do not refer to breast-beating mantras such as the ‘non-negotiability of Nigerian sovereignty’. I am speaking here of the viability of whatever calls itself the Nigerian nation, its functional proof, the ability to generate its very existence and cater for the future.”

Well, it does now appear to even our laureate that Nigeria made that wrong choice in 2015 and again in 2019. Without a doubt, Soyinka is complicit. Instructively, it seems his expressed fear about a wrong choice – “the viability of whatever calls itself the Nigerian nation, its functional proof, the ability to generate its very existence and cater for the future” – has become a reality. Nigeria is unraveling right before our very eyes and the man elected to lead it to a better country is leading it to its ultimate destruction.

Soyinka’s leap of faith has proved to be a tragedy of monumental proportions for our country. I have been baffled and perplexed beyond description how like zombies racing towards danger, many Nigerians jumped on the ill-fated Muhammadu Buhari train in 2015. Truth be told, Buhari did not just become the caricature portrait that he is now. It took years forged in fire of all that is wrong with our country to achieve this monstrous danger that we all now bear witness to.

His fabled myth of competence and invincibility were sustained by a mixture of lies and half-truths. Even in the face of clear incompetence, his pursuit of a parochial, ethnic agenda in appointments, tribal governance model and his irredeemable nepotism, many still found a way to rationalise his appalling and divisive leadership style, as “he means well for the country”. They hailed and celebrated him with pompous arrogance, and called him a messiah – some even deified him. It was as if more than half of the people happily decided to be deliberately insane. What has now happened to that “he means well”? Does he no longer mean well?

Those who explained away early red flags of Buhari’s dangerous Fulanisation agenda, now sigh in pitiful regret. Well, fortunate for those who still have the luxury of time to regret. Many have not been so lucky because they have suffered gruesome ends in the hands of terrorist Fulani herdsmen and terrorist bandits let loose on the country to kidnap, kill, maim, rape, and generally wreak havoc on our lives without consequences. It’s a daily stream of bad news of the atrocities being perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen from North to South, East to West. Yet no one in the upper echelon of government says anything that makes sense as to why the government refuses to take decisive action to stop the wanton criminality that has become the trademark of herdsmen’s presence against their host communities everywhere they go around the country.

No one in government condemns these herdsmen’s criminality because the body language of the president encourages their criminal behaviour. Even when some attempt to do so, it just turns out embarrassingly illogical. Their comments are feeble and middle-of the-fence type, and you get the sense that they are treading carefully in order not to offend their boss. This reeks of complicity or total abdication of responsibility to protect and defend innocent lives right at the very topmost level of leadership.

Buhari’s government is deaf to all pleas to do something to stop the carnage by his herdsmen/bandits/kinsmen whether they are from within or from faraway Mali or Senegal as he had tried to make us believe when this whole carnage started early in the life of his government. The president only wakes up to his responsibility when victims of the murderous herdsmen start to fight back by resorting to self-help in defence of themselves and their properties.

Buhari has never condemned these nomadic killer herdsmen, never! Instead, he tells victims of their horrific crimes to “learn to live with their neigbhours”. What further evidence of complicity does anyone want? Even if Buhari was to address Nigerians as Soyinka has advised, what difference will it make? It will be a feeble, half-hearted address that neither addresses the problem nor proffers solution and punishment for the perpetrators of the heinous crimes against humanity. You cannot tell a man who is the cause of a problem to find a solution to what he is the architect of. After all, herdsmen’s behaviour took this dangerously violent turn with Buhari’s ascendancy. Why? Because they know that the president has their back.

Here is a man who has tried to seize ancestral lands from communities around the country under all manner of guises for his kinsmen herdsmen, viz. a grazing bill, cattle colony, RUGA and the National Livestock Transformation Plan, NLTP. Not getting the desired results, the herdsmen have taken up arms against communities and unleashed terror on them. His Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, once warned Nigerians who are against this administration’s ranching and cattle colony programmes for herdsmen, to have a rethink, saying: “Ancestral attachment? You can only have ancestral attachment when you are alive. If you are talking about ancestral attachment, if you are dead, how does the attachment matter?” So the government is holding a gun to our heads to give up our farmlands or die trying to protect them.

Lest we forget Buhari is the life patron of Miyetti Allah, Cattle Breeders Association, the umbrella organization of Fulani herdsmen within the country. He has compromised his oath of office to defend the constitution of the federal republic, instead he has put his tribal interest over and above the interest of the country. He looks the other way as herdsmen spread death and destruction all over the country. What kind of leader is this? Unfortunately the signs were all there from the beginning – that this man was not suitable as leader of a multi-ethnic society.

Ever since, there has been no let-up in the killings. What has the government done? Just watched, with arms akimbo, in the most astonishing failure of leadership this country has ever seen. Even as farmlands are being destroyed, their owners are tortured or killed and women are raped, all by herdsmen/bandits who even have the audacity to record their criminality on videos which they later release to the world. How did our country get here? To Soyinka, I say, Nigeria took the wrong turn in 2015.

The Sultan of Sokoto who himself had once tried to minimize the heinous atrocities of Boko Haram under the last government, had cause recently to raise the alarm that bandits now walk freely about in the North, bearing AK-47 rifles unchallenged. He stated that the killings in the North were underreported by the media and government. Under Buhari, human life is worth far less than that of a cow. Nowhere is safe in the country, herdsmen/bandits are on the rampage, gleefully killing, raping and kidnapping for ransom. And yet, all we get from the president and his security chiefs is cold silence.

In 2018, a former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General TY Danjuma (rtd), in an extraordinary outburst, made an astonishing claim of how complicit the military had become in aiding and abetting herdsmen bandits to terrorise communities. These were his exact words: “The armed forces are not neutral,” adding, “they collude with the armed bandits that kill people, kill Nigerians. They facilitate their movement. They cover them. If you are depending on the armed forces to stop the killings, you will die one by one.”

That was pretty remarkable coming from an ex-army chief. But as usual, many dismissed the warning as a product of malice in the build-up to the 2019 election. Since he made the damning indictment, the situation has grown from bad to worse and there is no realistic prospect of an end anytime soon.

Just recently in Ogun State at Ubeku village in Yewa North Local Government Area, it was reported that soldiers escorted herdsmen to villages and flogged residents for rejecting them. The images were alarming and further damaged the military’s already battered image. Even more damning was that it reinforced and buttressed Danjuma’s claim about the armed forces were being used to further an ethnic agenda. As this article is being written, the army has not issued any statement on what its men were doing in that Ogun community.

It is really frightening how Nigeria has become so brutish since 2015 when Buhari ascended power. Blood has been flowing ceaselessly, as Fulani herdsmen/bandits unleash terror on the country daily, killing, raping, kidnapping, taking over forests and threatening war on anyone who fails to concede land to them, while Buhari looks on in cold, unbelievable indifference. Travelling by road is now a dangerous undertaking, as kidnappers have seized the highways, leaving travellers who dare to travel at their mercy. Yet, Buhari doesn’t seem perturbed even as ethnic tension envelops the nation.

His policy of alienating some parts of the country has given rise to the spate of agitations for separate homelands by different individuals and groups. Indeed, who would have thought that the nation’s quest for change would land it in this dangerous predicament? It’s worthy of note, however, that Soyinka has since abandoned Buhari, judging by his recent public statements. His romance with danger was sure to end this way because there was nothing noble in that endeavour.

The laureate stated recently that he had forgiven Americans for electing Donald Trump in the first place, after he was voted out last November. My advice to him is charity begins at home. He supported Buhari to power in 2015, even though he did not openly endorse him in 2019, it was clear to the discerning where his heart was.

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