By ADEBAYO OBAJEMU
In the build up to 2015 presidential elections, the All Progressives Congress, APC, an amalgam of different political tendencies, to many was the most potent symbol of change and radical break from what many Nigerians regarded as the corruption of power, megalomania and misrule of the then ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP, which had been in power since the return of democracy in 1999.
The party was seen as a symbol of renewed hope in the possibility of redemption for the country plundered by the ruinous PDP.
And when Muhammadu Buhari emerged the flag bearer of the party, many were happy that the “messiah” had finally arrived to save the country from self- destruct. Nothing buoyed up this hope more than the perception of General Buhari woven around His 20- month in office as a no-nonsense military head of state.
This the combination of a party with populist agenda and spartan, puritanical General as it’s avatar and flagbearer made millions to settle for the party.
For the Southwest of Nigeria long used to liberal democracy and it’s underpinnings of good governance, constitutionality, rule of law and respect for rights, APC was the party- and massively it won the hearts and minds of all the segments of the Southwest population, including its ever critical intelligentsia and the media.
As turned out , all that glitters may not be gold , as no sooner the party won the election than it began to unravel, leaving Nigerians deflated and disappointed.
Buhari in power was quite a different species from the Buhari of the myths and folklore.
He has come around as the most contentious, tribalistic controversial leader that ever has assumed mantle of leadership of Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa.
The feeling of exaltations and renewed expectations in the land that attended his ascension to power soon gave way to frustration .
The Southwest felt betrayed when Buhari’ s cabinet was unfolded in June 2015,and this sense of betrayal was heightened to a feverish pitch when he rolled out his cabinet when he won second term in 2019.
The appointments of new Service Chiefs and his key appointments upon coming to power have clearly come into the consciousness of Southwest people and by extension the South, that APC was a huge fraud, a Greek gift to the Southwest and an exemplification of hope betrayed.
No party in the chequered , convoluted history of the country has enjoyed as much support and goodwill of the majority of the country’s ethnic nationalities as the ruling party and President Buhari. Yet, they lost it in one fell swoop as it was won.
For Buhari, he has come to represent a tragic hero in the Nigerian history and fell by his gargantuan hubris- his unbridled tribalism and its emotional baggage.
In a tragic turn of irony, several months after his ascension to power, the goodwill, as many observers have posited, that the people invested in him may have been misplaced.
No sooner he ascended the exalted office of president than it began to dawn on many that the ‘change’ mantra under which the retired general climbed to power was an open sesame to different interpretations.
To millions of the electorates that massively voted for him, change meant good governance, equity, sense of justice, respect for the rule of law, constitutionality, federal character and a feeling of belonging of ethnic nationalities.
As many commentators have observed, it took less than a year for the new president and his party to observe and apply the above finer details of democracy in breach, sending signals of disappointment to the electorates who felt betrayed and deceived.
Professor Anjorin Adesida, a political scientist told this newspaper that” 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. The chicken have now come home to roost.”
The Signals: Skewed Appointments
It took the president about six months to make his appointments and constitute his cabinet. The constituted cabinet turned out to be disappointing, and government business and governance in general became dowdy, jejune and uninspiring marked by slow- slow approach.
For the Southwest, their unalloyed support for Buhari and APC was a big mistake since in the alliance forged by them and nurtured into power by their votes, the region had become a jilted bride, a junior partner, used and dumped, with only crumbs given to it when Buhari began to share position.
“It turned out , Buhari’s idea of change was to return power to the north and entrench Fulani domination, and for the Yoruba that helped the party to power, it was darkness at noon”, professor Adesola Ajakaye, who teaches political science at University of Minnesota, posited.
Further assessments by critics, observers and pundits toed Ajakaye’s line, all submitted that the Southwest lost it in ditching Jonathan for Buhari and his APC, because their son, Ahmed Tinubu, who nurtured the alliance and started elaborate whitewashing propaganda to make Buhari acceptable had not looked enough.
In his first as in his second terms, his key appointments in the security services, economy and other levers of power went to the north. This was further consolidated when he won re-election in 2019.
The lopsided nature of Buhari’s appointments, the growing insecurity, which is gradually turning the country to a Hobessian failed state where life is brutish and short, his refusal to listen to voices of reason from every part of the country, his perceived clannishness, insularity and intolerance of opposition have made the call for either a referendum and / or restructuring even louder.
To further worsen the disappointment of the Southwest, the Fulani herdsmen have invaded the region in an orgy of killings, kidnappings, raping and plundering of farmlands with impunity and with what some say is the tacit support of Buhari.
The security situation became so bad that Governor Akeredolu and Yoruba irredentist and ultra nationalist, Chief Sunday Adeyemo gave the Fulani in Ibarapa land in Oyo State seven days to vacate.
Authoritative sources told Business Hallmark that the Yoruba leaders, traditional rulers, intelligentsia and the streets support Adeyemo popularly called Sunday Igboho.
The loudest testament to the president’s inclination to primordial sentiment is much attested to in his appointments when he won a re-election.
The critical levers of power be it economy, security services and other important segments are from the north, shutting out the Southwest, which contributed significantly to his coming to power.
In the recent appointments of Service Chiefs, only the Chief of Air Staff is from Southwest in person of Oladapo Amao.
Senate President is from the North;
Chief of Staff is also from the region;
Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF is from the North.
The INEC Chairman is also from the north geopolitical zone,
Chief Justice of federation north;
It is no secret that the President of the Court of Appeal is from the region.
The EFCC Chairman is a northerner, so also is the
President Federal High Court north
National Security Adviser is north
Inspector General of Police
The icing on the cake, Chief of Army Staff is from the north.
Other northerners appointed include,
Controller, Customs Service,
Managing Director, Nigeria Port Authority;
Managing Director, Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation,
Controller Prison Services,
Controller of Immigration,
Director, Department of State Security; DSS,
Chief of Army Staff
Director General NIA
Controller of Fire Service and Director General of
Director General NIMASA
Director Shipper Council
Registrar General Corporate Affairs Commission
Managing Director, TCN
Director General Pencom
Director General NCAA
Managing Director FAAN
More intriguing under Buhari’s watch, merit was thrown overboard in favour of cronyism, favouritism and clannish consideration, features generally frowned at by the Southwest.
This was brought much to the fore in the appointment of Justice Ishaq Bello, by President Buhari to represent Nigeria at the International Criminal Court, Hague Holland.
Justice Fatououda is a Gambian woman who went to Nigerian University to read law. After obtaining her LLB, she attended Nigerian Law School to qualify as a barrister before returning home to Gambia to work. Today she is the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.
Now Justice Ishaq Bello, who was nominated by Buhari to The Hague, was described by the ICC as lacking knowledge of the workings of the court and the Rome statutes.
The committee noted that the candidate does not have direct experience in international criminal law and procedure based on his answers to questions regarding the functions and powers of pre-trial and trial chambers and the admissibility of evidence collected in violation of legal provisions, and did not have in-depth knowledge of the Rome Statute or the jurisprudence of the International Criminal Court.
How can somebody come from a country lacking academic institutions to study in Nigeria and be better qualified than a Nigerian? That exactly is the riddle.
Nigerians from all walks of life have called on Buhari to re-jig his governance style to be more responsive to the current realities in the country with a view to saving it from collapse. But, often this has been met with criticism and abuse from the government attack dogs represented by Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu, presidential spokespersons.
Eminent Nigerians like Theophilus Danjuma, Olusegun Obasanjo, Edwin Clark among others, who have voiced concerns at the trajectory of the ship of the state, especially the growing insecurity and tribalism have been targeted for verbal mauling.
The Rise of Liberation Theology
The quiet garden in the vineyard of God has suddenly become cacophonous as the otherwise conservative Christian leaders felt they could no longer sit idle while the ship of the state was tilting to wreck.
Only recently the General Overseer, the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye , added his voice to those of other prominent Nigerians to call on the Federal Government to urgently restructure the country to save it from breakup.
The revered cleric, who spoke at a symposium where the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi; former Governor of Cross River State and former presidential aspirant, Donald Duke and a former Minister of Education, Mrs Oby Ezekwesili, also spoke, apocalyptically warned that it was either the country restructured as soon as possible or it broke up.
“You don’t have to be a prophet to know that one,” he added.
Prior to Adeboye’s statement prominent church leaders had expressed concerns. Earlier, Cardinals Olubumi Okogie, Onaiyekan and others such as Anthony Oko, including current Christians Association president, Reverend Samson Ayokunle have warned on the need to restructure the country.
Rather than heed the advice, presidency became combative and derisive in response.
Reacting through his attack dogs, President Muhammadu Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said the administration would not succumb to threats and intimidation to make hurried decision over the matter that has continued to generate controversies.
“The presidency responds to the recurring threats to the corporate existence of the country with factions giving specific timelines for the president to do one thing or another or else, in their language, “the nation will break up,” Shehu said in a statement.
“This is to warn that such unpatriotic outbursts are both unhelpful and unwarranted as this government will not succumb to threats and take any decision out of pressure at a time when the nation’s full attention is needed to deal with the security challenges facing it at a time of the Covid-19 health crisis.
“Repeat: this administration will not take any decision against the interests of 200 million Nigerians, who are the president’s first responsibility under the constitution, out of fear or threats especially in this hour of a health crisis.
“The president as an elected leader under this constitution will continue to work with patriotic Nigerians, through and in line with the parliamentary processes to finding solutions to structural and other impediments to the growth and wellbeing of the nation and its people,” he added.
“Because of Buhari’s nepotism and clannish actions, that’s why we are witnessing to-your-tent O’h Israel kind of agitations; it will grow worse, the only thing that can avert it is genuine restructuring”, Professor Hassan Saliu, eminent political scientist informed this medium.
Some militant groups in the South-west associated with Sunday Igboho had also threatened to secede from Nigeria over what they described as the gross marginalisation of their region and the attacks of the Fulani herdsmen.
The ruling All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government had prior to the general election in 2015 promised in the first part of its manifesto that it would restructure the country. This position really endeared the party to the Southwest.
It went ahead to set up a committee, led by the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, to work on the idea, but since the committee submitted its report, the government had maintained silence over the matter. Many believed the administration used the restructuring mantra as political gimmick to source for reelection votes.
Meanwhile, at the 60th Independence Day Celebration symposium co-organised by the Redeemed Christian Church of God and the Nehemiah Leadership Institute, with the theme, ‘Where will Nigeria be in 2060?’, Adeboye said Nigeria needed to adopt a system of government that was unique to it. He proposed a blend of American and British styles of government.
Adeboye, posited, “Why can’t we have a system of government that is 100 per cent Nigerian and is unique to us? For example, we started with the British system of government, somewhere along the line, we moved over to the American system of government.
“Can’t we have a combination of both and see whether it could help us solve our problems, because in Mathematics if you want to solve a problem, you try what we call Real Analysis, then if it doesn’t work, then you move on to Complex Analysis and see whether that will help you. If that fails, you move on to Vector Analysis and so on.
“I believe we might want to look at the problems of Nigeria in a slightly different manner. Some people feel that all our problems will be over if Nigeria should break up. I think that is trying to solve the problems of Nigeria as if it is a simple equation.
“The problems of Nigeria will require quite a bit of simultaneous equation and some of them are not going to be linear either – forgive me I am talking as a mathematician.
“Why can’t we have a system of government that will create what I will call the United States of Nigeria? Let me explain. We all know that we must restructure. It is either we restructure or we break-up, you don’t have to be a prophet to know that one. That is certain – restructure or we break up.
“Now, we don’t want to break up, God forbid. In restructuring, why don’t we have a Nigerian kind of democracy? At the federal level, why don’t we have a president and a prime minister?”
Adeboye explained that if there is a President and a Prime Minister, responsibilities could be shared between them such that one is not an appendage of the other. He said the president could control the Army while the prime minister controls the police, adding that if the president controls resources like oil and mining, the prime minister could control finance, internal revenue, taxes, customs etc.
He added, “At the state level, you have the governor and the premier and in the same way, you distribute responsibilities between them in such a manner that one cannot really go without the other. Maybe we might begin to tackle the problems.”
The cleric also noted that the place of traditional rulers must be recognised and restored in governance, noting that people respected and listened to their traditional rulers more than some politicians.
He added, “If we are going to adopt the model, then we need to urgently restore the House of Chiefs. I have a feeling that one of our major problems is that we have pushed the traditional rulers to the background and I believe that is a great error particularly for a great country like Nigeria.
“Go to any town in Nigeria, everybody in the town knows the paramount ruler in the town and they respect him (but) many of them don’t even know the name of the chairman of their local government. The traditional rulers are the actual landlords; they control the respect of their people.
“Without any doubt, we must restructure and do it as soon as possible. A United States of Nigeria is likely to survive than our present structure.”
Ooni of Ife also added his voice to calls for restructuring. He said every region must be allowed to develop at their respective pace, adding that Nigeria’s diversity is its strength. He pointed out that government must also work towards the diversification of the economy.
He stated, “Every region should develop at their respective pace. Let’s use our diversity as our greatest strength. The capacity of wealth is in your state of mind. Emphasis should be on developing and empowering our youths. I want to see a nation where people come out in their 20s to contest elections.
“2023 is around the corner, let’s be intentional about our nation’s growth. The emphasis should be on developing and empowering our youths. Everything in the nation, including the mainstay of the economy, needs diversification. It is very easy for all of us to talk, but to walk the talk is a very herculean task.”
He pointed out that Nigeria used to be one big, happy family, with respect and honour for the different territories as he noted that making the best out of the country should be the focus of every Nigerian.
The Ooni also emphasised that traditional rulers as the closest to the people had important roles to play in nation building but that they had been disregarded constitutionally.
Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, former Education Minister also added her voice to calls to restructure the country. She said recently that Nigeria needed fixing and that the electorate must be determined to bring an efficient political leadership to power.
Ezekwesili, a former Vice-President of the World Bank, Africa Division, said, “The dominant political culture is the monopolistic service that has retarded and stagnated the country. So, we want to produce a value-based political class that understands ethical policies, competence and how to build systems and procedures that enable the growth of the society.
“We cannot afford to be spectators. We all should therefore arise and fix our nation; we are the Nehemiahs. Politics undermines everything; individuals, family, community and governance. If we don’t fix politics we will be wasting a lot of time. There’s nothing about a bad situation that cannot change, but the people must be ready. Only the electorate has the capacity to fix politics.”
Also, Archbishop Emeritus and former Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Diocese, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, said though Adeboye was entitled to his own opinion, Nigerians were also calling for the same thing.
He added, “I still repeat what I said the last time that we need to restructure, whatever you mean by restructuring means that things cannot continue like before. We must find a way of improving the way Nigeria is run so that everybody may feel at home with it because there is a lot of frustration and I think I am not the only one saying it. I do hope the people in government also know this. The question probably is how do we go about it?
“The important thing for us is that we need to agree that we need to change things and if we all agree we need to change this, then we all sit down and find out how we need to change things and this is where the whole issue about coming together to talk in all sincerity is all about. Let us be sincere with ourselves and stop playing games.”
Not satisfied with the current arrangements, the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Ignatius Kaigama, said, “I want to see restructuring before a restructuring. And what do I mean? There has to be an attitudinal restructuring, otherwise even if we engage in political restructuring, it will only be a political mirage.
“After 60 years, we have matured and perfected the act of greed and corruption and all that the local government chairman or the state governor or the President or the National Assembly members are concerned with is to extract from what belongs to all their constituencies.”
On his part, the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria in Kaduna State and National Vice Chairman of CAN (19 Northern States and Abuja), Rev. Joseph Hayab, said the call for restructuring reflected the desire of many Nigerians, not only the Southwest.
He stated, “If you share this country into six groups, you will know over four and a half groups are yearning for restructuring. Even the one and a half that are acting as if they do not want it are only doing that for selfish reasons because they do not care about the progress of this country as they are worried about what they will get.
“We really need to come up with a system that will work for us. The system we have now has caused us more pain than progress. People are tired, frustrated and angry because the country is not moving forward.”
Retired Generals unhappy too
The former Adjunct General of the Nigerian Army and former military governor of Western States, Retired David Jemibewon; in a recent interview, said it was a big disappointment for Nigeria to be facing so many problems at 60, calling for a national dialogue to devise the means of fixing the problems.
“At no given time should we have problems as we have presently. Really, it is unfortunate. This country does not deserve what is happening to it now with the experience we had with the problems of Agbekoya, coups, and counter-coups, as well as the civil war. We thought that with the end of those incidents, we would have reached a period of stabilisation and progress.
“So to experience the problems of insecurity now is very disappointing; it draws us back from the development that we are working and hoping for. What is happening now is not good enough for us. The best thing is to look at what can be done to remedy the situation.”
He added further, “political management” was responsible for problems like insecurity, corruption, and strife, saying he believed Nigeria had reached the peak of its challenges.
“Political management has a multiplier effect on all other sects of any nation. If a nation is not well managed politically, it will experience what we are experiencing like insecurity, strife, corruption, and so on,” he said.
In his own assessments, General Idada Ikponmwen (rtd) said the division in the country was so visible that only drastic measures could keep everyone together. He called on Buhari to rise above primordial sentiment and save the country from collapse.
He said, “The problems are too many. The way things are going is not the way our founding fathers conceptualised the country. They wanted a country that would be united even though we are divergent in culture, tradition, religion, and background. They wanted to mould a union that would be in the best interest of the country.
“They wanted a nation where our diversity would be an asset, where the various components will appreciate, compliment and love one another, have their various governments and a central government that will be common to all to take care of federal issues.”
Ikponmwen said with the way things were, most citizens had lost confidence in government and the rulers, adding that only drastic measures could sustain the union.
Of recent, there has been a renewed separatist demand, as some militant Yoruba youths are calling for the Oduduwa Republic, in addition to such calls in the Eastern part of the country.
“Buhari cannot continue to pretend that all is well. Soon, the bubble will bust if restructuring chorus is ignored”, submitted Professor Adesida.
“As it is the Southwest has not had a fair share in appointments under Buhari and the APC as party has fraudulently deceived the people of the southwest to vote for it only to execute narrow Fulani agenda”, says Adesida.