Nigeria’s long predicted evil day appears nigh. Over the course of last week, violence reigned in the streets of Lagos, Jos, Enugu, Oyo, Osun Onitsha, Abuja, Kano and elsewhere. Shops went up in flames, supermarkets were looted and burnt. But more tragic is the human cost of what has become anarchy on the loose.
By the end of the week, more than 50 souls had perished. In all, the country’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, whose government many say, has exacerbated its fault lines appeared out of touch. On Thursday, he gave an uninspiring address to the nation after keeping mute for days amid growing protests. His speech stoked even more frustration.
What started as peaceful demonstrations against the unhindered abuse, harassment, extortion and even killings of mostly the youth population by a now disbanded notorious police unit, the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS), had morphed into full scale crisis, triggered by shooting of protesters at the Lekki Tollgate in Lagos on Tuesday night by soldiers. Touts and sundry hoodlums took over the streets, leaving a trail of destruction and death. At the time of writing, tension remained high.
Yet more worrying, many have said, is the ethnic and religious colouration the crisis are assuming. Nigeria has historically been a volatile nation, made up of two dominant religions – Christianity and Islam – and about 250 ethnic groups, three of which – Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba – are prominent.
Governments in the past have delicately managed the contradictions by finding accommodation for everyone, but the Buhari government, many say, has been notoriously sectional, and the balance so distorted is breeding increasing animosity. Part of this, they say, explains the unfolding events.
“If you look at it, what is happening now is beyond the push to end SARS,” said Abuja based lawyer, Chidi Ezeugo. “People are angry; angry about the way Buhari is ruling Nigeria, his nepotism and the growing hunger and poverty in the land.”
On Saturday, tens of youths in Osun State gathered at the gate of the Oni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, demanding an end to Nigeria, an end to Buhari and the birth of Oduduwa nation. The demand for an end to SARS has thus graduated to a demand for an end to Nigeria altogether.
And the chanting youths in Osun are only a minute proportion of the growing number of people in the Southwest geopolitical zone now demanding a country of their own. In the Southeast, the agitation for Biafra continues to gain traction, no thanks to the perceived neglect of the zone by the Buhari administration.
But even worse, the incessant killings, sometimes of genocidal proportions in mostly the Middle Belt and Southern Kaduna, by those identified as Fulani herders, have nurtured a general believe that the administration is pursuing conquest agenda. This belief is further strengthened by the various pro-Fuiani policies the government has continued to push.
Amid the rampage by the herdsmen in places like Benue and Plateau states last year for instance, the government announced that it had gazetted lands in all 36 states for what it called Ruga, a settlement for Fuiani herders. It was an audacious land grab move that almost set the nation aflame.
Yet, it had come roughly a year after a bill seeking to create grazing reserves for the same herders in all the states of the country triggered outrage, causing it to be dropped by the Senate then led by Bukola Saraki.
Similar audacious bill, the Water Resources Bill introduced by Buhari led executive seeking to cede control of the nation’s water bodies and up to 6 kilometers of adjoining lands to the federal government was also thrown out by the Saraki led senate after many alleged it was a ploy to seize lands for the purpose of resettling Fulani herders from across West Africa.
Strangely, few months ago, the bill was reintroduced by the executive. The idea being, perhaps, that with a legislative arm led by more loyal party men in the current Senate President, Ahmad Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, the bill would be passed.
Lawan, a fellow Muslim core Northerner is particularly loyal to the president, and had irked many when he remarked sometime in the past that any bill introduced by the president would be passed because, according to him, such bill would be for the good of the nation. The Senate he leads is widely seen as rubber stamp.
And indeed, only a few months ago, it passed an equally controversial Companies and Allied Matters Act 2020, which was subsequently assented to by Buhari. Despite the many positive sides of the act, it has continued to draw the ire of the church which insists it is satanic and targeted at it.
Of particular interest to religious bodies and NGOs is section 839 (1)&(2) of the act which empowers the Corporate Affairs Commission to suspend trustees of a not-for-profit organisation (in this case, the church) and appoint the interim managers to manage the affairs of the association for some given reasons bordering on mismanagement.
This, many church leaders have rejected as declaration of war on them. In a statement by its president, Rev. Samson Ayokunle, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN0) said, “The law, to say the least, is unacceptable, ungodly, reprehensible and an ill-wind that blows no one any good. It is a time bomb waiting to explode.”
Ayokunle regretted that the Senate passed the law despite its rejection at public hearing.
Perhaps encouraged by the ease with which CAMA scaled through, Buhari has reintroduced the Water Resources Bill. And indeed, it was hastily passed by the House of Reps. But the outrage that followed caused the House to withdraw the passage and request that it be reintroduced. It remains a source of apprehension and anger, even as calls for it to be thrown out grows ever louder.
“The Bill is nauseating,” fumed Chief Tola Adeniyi, veteran columnist and administrator. “A tiny section of the country is riding roughshod because they are united. There is no longer any talk of hidden agenda, the agenda is not hidden. It is open and they want to take all the resources of the country for just Fulani people to be able to graze their cattle. They want to say that every river in your village belongs to the federal government. There is no hidden agenda there, the agenda is open.
“Buhari wants to submit every river in your village to the Fulani, that’s all. And it’s not just Fulani in Nigeria; it is Fulani from all over Africa, since the same Fulani can enter Nigeria without visa and without passports. So, why should anybody talk about hidden agenda? There is no hidden agenda, they are just bringing Ruga back through the back door, that’s it, there is nothing hidden about the agenda.”
Many individuals and groups, including Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Afenifere, PANDEF, Middle Belt Forum, Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, continue to speak out against the bill. Last week, Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom addressed a press conference in Makurdi, promising to lead protest against the “evil water resources bill,” even as he asked the National Assembly to throw it out in the interest of the country.
“Just like it failed the first time and the second time, the bill will still fail the third time. That is an evil bill,” the governor said. “Why must you impose a law people are saying no to it in a democratic setup, what is their interest? That is the suspicion and this is what we are saying. And if care is not taken, I will also lead a march, tagged #EndWater Bill.
“What is the point of foisting your desire on the people? And like I said before, because we have seen a lot of insincerity in the handling of the herdsmen matter, so our suspicion is that this Water Bill thing is another Ruga in disguise, it is open grazing in another form. It is also another cattle colony to give them control.”
The Water Bill is one of many policies of the Buhari government that have stoked anger. A few weeks ago, the president unveiled the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative (PAGMDI), an initiative that grants mostly northern states with gold deposits right to refine the gold and pay royalties to the federal government; the same privileges that have been denied the oil producing Niger Delta.
The initiative has since frayed nerves in the oil rich region. Amid the protests last week, agitators in the region demanded resource control, and are bracing to unleash attacks on oil facilities.
The many contradictions of an overly divisive government, many say, have crystallized into a monster daring to consume the country. Many observers agree that at no point since the country’s 30 months civil war, has it been as divided. The president’s policies, coupled with growing mass of unemployed, hungry youths, they say, portend an already manifesting danger.
“The chicken have now come home to roost,” noted political scientist, Professor Anjorin Adesida. ”Buhari’s idea of change is in line with the Fulani caliphate, it has nothing in common with western liberal democracy that his southern backers had in mind.”
In a timely warning few months ago, former military governor of Kaduna State, Col. Abubakar Daginwa Umar, cautioned the president that, “I regret that there are no kind or gentle words to tell you that your skewed appointments into the office of the Federal Government, favouring some and frustrating others, shall bring ruin and destruction to the nation.”
Like that of everyone else, Umar’s warning was ignored. And it would appear, indeed that the chickens have come home to roost. Few days ago, the president’s decision to forward Aisha Umar’s name for confirmation as substantive Director-General of the National Pension Commission (PENCOM) caused uproar in the Senate.
Umar was appointed by the president after unceremoniously dismissing Chinelo Anohu-Amazu, a south easterner from the job. Though the extant laws provides for rotational headship of the commission, while requiring that when an occupant from a zone is removed, another person from the same zone must be appointed as replacement, Buhari went ahead to leave out the Southeast and named Umar from the Northwest as Amazu’s replacement.
In the event, she became another victim of what many have described as unbridled nepotism by the Buhari government. She is not alone, however. The Southwest which played key role in the making of the Buhari president feel left out.
The zone’s son and vice president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo is widely believed to be isolated in Aso Rock. The decision of Buhari to shut down the ever busy borders with Benin Republic and Togo has led to food crisis. Prices of staple foods like rice have skyrocketed to nearly N40,000 per 50kg bag, up from about N10, 000 in 2015.
But while the decision to shut these borders in the Southwest is causing anguish, the president few weeks ago, signed off on a $1.9 billion Kano to Niger Republic rail line, a rail line seeking to connect the North’s economic hub with neighbouring Niger Republic.
But worse, the Southwest has also seen its sons dumped from the few strategic positions they held in the president’s first term. The spontaneous protests in the region and the growing agitation for Oduduwa Republic are manifestations of growing anger.
Last week, protesters particularly targeted properties owned by former Lagos governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who was instrumental to the emergence of Buhari as president. He hurriedly escaped to France on Wednesday night. Though many hold him responsible for the shooting of protesters in Lekki, the extent of the attack on him suggest simmering anger towards him in a region he once had under firm control.
In bid to forestall a situation such as the present, framers of Nigeria’s 1999 constitution imputed the principle of Federal Character as enshrined in Section 14 (3) of the constitution to the effect that, “The composition of the government of the federation or any of its agencies, and the conduct of its affairs shall be in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and to command national loyalty by ensuring that there is no predominance of persons from one sectional group.”
But Buhari has continued as observable in various appointments breach this constitutional provision to the mortification of many.
The policy of appointing people from his Muslim North constituency into most strategic positions in government, which began as soon as he took power in 2015, has continued unabated despite the continued verbal protests by the South and Middle Belt. Recent events suggest the protests have entered the streets, and could yet get out of hand.
“Buhari is a person who doesn’t care about other ethnic nationalities in the country,” said Afenifere chieftain, Chief Supo Sonibare. “He cares for his own alone. He is not even fair to some parts of the North but few people in the region.”
Three weeks ago, reports emerged that Director General of State Security Service (SSS) Magaji Bichi secretly recruited 535 people from Northeast and Northwest into the service, while only 93 were taken from the three southern zones and the from the Middle Belt. It is a pattern that has continued since the president came to power in 2015, even as virtually all armed agencies are headed by people from his own region and religion.
In April last year, similar lopsided recruitment into the security service caused national outrage. It had emerged that of the total 474 intakes at the time, 167 came from the Northwest, the president’s zone; 100 from Northeast; 66 from North Central; 57 from Southwest; 44 from South south and 42 from Southeast. This meant that Northwest alone with seven states had more intake than the entire south with 17 states.
Recent recruitment in the police force, in which local governments as opposed to states were used as criteria, achieved similar results, with the North having a lion share of local governments created while it held sway in military regimes. For example, Kano alone has 44 local governments, while Lagos with evidently more people has 20.
Yet, apart from dominating the country’s security architecture, the region also bosses all strategic economic and administrative agencies of government, even as it now heads all three arms of government, first time in the country’s history.
“We reiterate that in the last five years, the current administration of Muhammadu Buhari has planted animosity between different ethnic nationalities than even the civil war created and that it will take the Grace of God and the will to overpower our differences for Nigeria to rebuild the bridge of unity that the selective administrative style of President Muhammadu Buhari has destroyed in the last five years,” a statement by The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) said fortnight ago.
The statement signed by HURIWA’s National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko and National Media Affairs, Miss Zainab Yusuf, continued, “We shall continue to express our apprehension over deep seated Northern domination of all strategic federal government’s recruitments and appointments under President Muhammadu Buhari, and that the next government may need to convoke a year-long National Constitutional Conference to try to mend the deeply broken fences.”
All key appointments made in recent months have predictably gone to the Muslim North. Ibrahim Gambari, a Fulani from Kwara, was appointed to replace the late Abba Kyari as Chief of Staff. Days before, he named Alwan Hassan from Kano State as acting Managing Director of the Bank of Agriculture (BOA), having sacked the bank’s interim management team.
Within the period the President Muhammadu appointed Muheeda Dankaka as the Chairperson of the Federal Character Commission, the same commission whose essence, many opine, has been defeated by the president.
On March 10, Alhaji Bashir Jamoh resumed duty as the Director General of NIMASA, having been appointed earlier by the president to replace Mr. Dakuku Peterside whose first tenure as head of the agency was expired the same day.
Although the Rivers State born Peterside was eligible for reappointment, and in line with the administration’s broad policy of re-appointing heads of parastatal and agencies, industry watchers had reasoned that given his track record, he would be given a second term, that was not to be as Buhari chose, Alhaji Jamoh, father-in-law of Sabiu ‘Tunde’ Yusuf who doubles as his Personal Assistant and Private Secretary in his stead.
Never, statistically, in the history of the country’s democracy – even in the military era – has any president achieved such dominance of every sphere of governance by one ethno-religious group.
“Federal character provides for equitable distribution of appointments, but that has been disregarded by the current government,” noted Aare Oladotun, Yoruba youths leader.
“Basically, Nigerians are overfed with these northern hegemonic appointments. It has really gone out of hand and has become a permanent malaise. But it will lay a very wrong precedent. If another zone gets into power, they may be tempted to do the same. And it’s not a good thing. It is dangerous.”
In December last year, the president appointed Muhammad Nami, another northerner from Niger State to replace Babatunde Fowler, from the Southwest as Chairman of Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), and Edward Adamu to replace Muiz Banire as chairman of Assets Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON).
Until Fowler’s replacement, he had been the one single South westerner, a zone that played key role in Buhari’s emergence as president in 2015 and 2019 to head a parastatal of note in the government. In the event, he was replaced upon the expiration of his first tenure, and not with someone from his zone.
“If you look at the appointments he has made so far, all the key appointments have been given to Hausa/Fulani Muslims. Majority of the service chiefs are from his own part of the country. So, what do you want us to say?” wondered Chief Abia Onyike, spokesperson for Alaigbo Development Foundation.
Fowler’s and Peterside’s replacements meant that with the exception of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), all other key regulatory, revenue generating and security agencies are now headed by the northerners.
The list includes Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) headed by Ms Bala Usman; Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) head by Mele Kyari (whose board is also exclusively northern); PenCom headed by Hajia Dahir-Umar; Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) headed by Mohammed Nami; Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) headed by Hameed Ali; Assets Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON), headed by Ahmed Kuru; Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), headed by Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta; Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), headed by Umaru Ibrahim, among others.
For Barrister Nisi Ade Ademuwagun, former Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Ikeja branch, it has become glaring that the present government of Buhari doesn’t care about the rest of the county but for only his own ethnic and religious group.
“That is why,” he said, “there is massive movement and agitation for restructuring. Buhari has been unfair to other sections of the country which is dangerous for the unity and coexistence of the entire peoples of Nigeria. He has made us to see that Nigeria is not one”
Buhari’s top 50 appointments by geopolitical zones
1. Attorney General, Minister of Justice: Abubakar Malami
2. Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA): Hadiza Bala Usman Abdulahi
3. Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission: Umaru Dambatta.
4. Executive Secretary, Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF): Dr Bello Aliyu Gusau
5. Managing Director, Asset Management Company of Nigeria, (AMCON): Ahmed Lawan Kuru.
6. Controller General of Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS): Ahmed Ja’afaru.
7. Commissioner for Insurance and Chief Executive of the National Insurance Commission: Mohammed Kari
8. Petroleum Minister: Muhammadu Buhari
9. Minister of Police Affairs: Maigari Dingyadi
10. Controller-General, Nigerian Immigration Service: Mohammed Babandede.
11. Defence Minister: Bashir Salihi Magashi
12. Director General, PENCOM: Aisha Dahiru-Umar
13. State Chief of Protocol/Special Assistant: Lawal Abdullahi Kazaure
14. Perm Sec. Ministry of Finance: Dr. Mahmoud Isa-Dutse.
15. Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Mrs. Nuratu Jimoh Batagarawa
16. Aide de Camp to president: Lt. Col Abubakar Lawal.
17. Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity: Garba Shehu.
18. Accountant General of the Federation: Ahmed Idris
19. Managing Director of the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company: Mr Abbas Umar Masanawa.
20. Director General of DSS: Mr. Yusuf Magaji Bichi
21. Minister of Finance, Budget National Planning: Zainab Ahmed
22. DG, NIA, Ahmed Rufai Abubakar
23: Minister of Agriculture and Rural Devt: Sabo Nanono
24 Chairman FIRS: Muhammad Nami
25. DG, DPR: Sarki Auwalu
26. Director General, NIMASA: Alhaji Bashir Jamoh
27. Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Sadiya Umar-Farouq
28. DG, Securities and Exchange Commission, Lamido Yuguda
29. MD, Pipelines and Product Marketing Company (PPMC), Mr. Umar. I. Ajiya.
30. Acting EFCC Chairman, Mohammed Umar
1 National Security Adviser: Babagana Monguno.
2. Chief of Army Staff: Tukur Buaratai.
3. Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Ibrahim Tanko
4. Chief of Air Staff: Sadique Abubakar.
5. Group Managing Director (NNPC): Mele Kyari
6. Chairman, INEC: Mahmood Yakubu.
7. Secretary to Government of the Federation: Boss Mustapha.
8. Comptroller-General, Nigerian Customs Service: Hameed Ibrahim Ali.
9. Perm. Sec. Ministry of Works and Housing: Mohammed Bukar
10. DG, National Identity Management Commission: Engr. Aliyu A. Aziz
11. Minister of Power: Sale Mamman
1. Commandant General, (NSCDC): Abdullahi Muhammadu
2. Inspector General of Police (IGP): Mohammed Adamu
3. Chief of Defence Intelligence: Air Vice Marshal Mohammed Saliu
1. Head of Service: Dr. Mrs. Folashade Yemi-Esan
2. Minister of Works and Housing: Babatunde Fashola.
3. Chief of Defence Staff, Abayomi Olonishakin.
4. ICPC chairman, Bolaji Owasanoye
1. Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN): Godwin Emefiele.
2 Chief of Naval Staff: Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas.