I try to worry on behalf of Buhari
I wouldn’t know what exactly made my outing last week so special. I only woke up the morning before, as I am doing now, and started writing. But I must confess that things about the country kept me angry and the anger did not dissipate before I started writing and even kept rising as I galloped through.
Reactions to the article by way of SMS came in avalanche. Somehow, I decided to break my own rule and started taking calls to the number on my column. From all over the country, people called to thank me. Leaders, I mean very known regional leaders from all sides called to say; “thank you my boy.” Friends, colleagues and my principals in all ramifications also called to thank me. They all prayed for me. I felt really, really humbled.
But there was one call that registered on me differently. It came from a police sergeant in Apapa, Lagos. He identified himself quite well but his identity would not be useful here. For almost 10 minutes, he engaged me at his own expense. I usually pray twice a day; when I wake up in the morning and before I go to bed. But after the conversation with the police sergeant, I prayed to make it three times on that day.
I wasn’t praying my personal prayer as such. The country needs prayers and plenty of it. For a moment, I forgot my Catholic gentility and assumed an extreme pentecostal mode. Something about Matthew 11:12 inspired me. “…the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence and the violent taketh it by force.” I violently queried God why he had been absolutely silent on the Nigerian situation and came very close to ordering God to intervene immediately. He has not and I don’t know why. Herdsmen are still killing people in Benue and elsewhere.
Maybe I should even underscore this. The article under review didn’t come that easy. For the first time since I crossed 40 years more than 15 years ago, my blood pressure rose to an alarming 178/104 and my pulse rate stood at 111. As usual, the doctor asked a series of probing questions but he got even more confused after listening to me. I told him that I walk for 45 minutes every morning in addition to other aerobic exercises; could do 100 push-ups in two sets of 50 each; 150 sit-ups in three sets of 50 each and stay on the treadmill at speed 7 inclination 5 for 30 minutes. I only added that I had broken off from the routine for about two months for some complacent reasons.
Not convinced, he asked about family history. I told him my grandfather died as the Okparuku of Orogun Kingdom in 1977 at the age of 120 years and that my own father is now the oldest man in my village at close to 100 years. Then could I be thinking of big wealth? I told him it was late and even foolish to think that way. Although miracles do happen especially in Nigeria, but I had missed becoming a Dangote when I applied to become a reporter in The Guardian about 30 years ago instead of going into rice and sugar importation after my National Youth Service.
Over all, I confessed I was comfortable and that running into politics to steal big money and become ‘stinkingly’ rich was also not on the card. He managed to pin down the rise in my blood pressure to pressure of work. I did not agree with him. Work does not kill. What kills is bad government that cannot provide electricity, good healthcare delivery system (in fact, my experience at LUTH on account of the high BP is a story for another day), good education, motorable roads, security of lives and property and even common fuel to drive one’s car and power the generator since there is no public electricity.
I told the doctor that since President Muhammadu Buhari and the entire government structure do not seem bothered by this very bad situation in the country, some people have to bother on their behalf and that the high BP he was struggling to explain had no other cause than that. I left with some drugs but simply went back to my routine with greater faithfulness and the good news is that I have since stabilized and trying very hard not to bother about the country on behalf of President Buhari.
It is proving difficult to achieve in spite of my best efforts. For instance, just when I was beginning to sleep well again, the Benue killings happened to almost return me to Babylon. Seventy-three people were killed like Christmas chicken in one day by Fulani herdsmen and the best the President could do was to ask the Inspector-general of Police (IGP) Idris Mohammed to relocate to Benue. To go and do what now; resurrect the people that were killed? And the man went there to add salt to the injury; saying communities in Benue clashed and killed one another.
The Federal Government used to have a better strategy of engaging this kind of situation. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who on account of his cranium prowess, could at least say more sensible things on such missions was usually sent. What happened to that strategy? And then in the middle of the tragedy, and while Governor Samuel Ortom was battling for the right words to convince his people that they didn’t make mistake by supporting Buhari in 2015, some seven APC governors including next-door Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State and led by Governor Nasir El-Ruffai of Kaduna State went to Aso Rock Villa to tell President Buhari to seek re-election in 2019.
Something else came from the visit of the seven governors. It was revealed by Lalong that his Benue State counterpart is impervious and does not take to good counsel. “I warned him against the implementation of the anti-grazing bill… but he wouldn’t listen.” Lalong held back the concluding part of the statement which would have read: “It serves him right; next time he would learn to listen to wise counsel.”
There is usually this moment of intellectual disorientation when people talk before they think. Perhaps, the Plateau governor had encountered that moment after the meeting with Buhari. Since his statement, Lalong has been trying to rework the semantics to achieve a different meaning. It is not working and he may have to contract a linguistic expert to make a headway.
Meanwhile, here is the roll call of governors that went to Buhari with the re-election proposal. El-Ruffai of Kaduna State, team leader, Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State, Yahaya Bello of Kogi State and Simon Lalong of Plateau State. Others were Abubakar Bello of Niger State, Ibrahim Geidam of Yobe State and Jibrila Bindo of Adamawa State. Altogether, their mission is the kind of thing we call Afghanistanism in the media.
Maybe my superiors like Ray Ekpu would be able to tell the etymology of that word but what I can say here is that it is used to describe a situation similar to that in the bible where a man (and woman too) seeks to remove the tiny speck in a neighbour’s eye and leave unattended the huge log in his own eye. Imagine a Yahaya Bello, whose workers in Kogi State are committing suicide because of unpaid salaries assuming the podium to pontificate on who is best equipped to govern Nigeria? Since the advent of El-Rufai, Kaduna State has not known peace not to talk of good governance. Rochas Okorocha of Imo State missed the mission but back home in Owerri, he has successfully reduced governance to a string of comic events.
Maybe Governor Ortom himself could not enlist on the mission to the Villa because of the huge challenges at home and the emerging realities in the Middle Belt generally. He also had been previously quoted as ascribing the status of a messiah to Buhari. And so, what are we saying in effect? Ortom cannot be completely exonerated by merely playing victim and making self-affliction look like injustice. In the matter at hand and indeed in all matters, Ortom has been left alone to bear the full weight of the arising consequences.
For instance, while the army would readily enter the animal kingdom to create some simulation around the python and crocodile to deal decisively, or more appropriately, deliver death on peaceful and genuine agitators in the Southeast and South-south, the embarrassingly ill-equipped police have been left to contain the ravaging Fulani herdsmen, ranked as the fourth most dangerous terror group in the world. The Federal Government has not even come to terms with that ranking.
Among the Urhobo, it is said it is only when the race is mild that the old woman makes effort to protect the breast from flapping noisily. She let go when the race gets intensified. Ortom has not learnt a lesson or apprise himself of the ugly signs of the time. He is still burdened by the timidity and inferiority complex that is so manifest in the Middle Belt’s quest for respectable self-identity. I shall take up this fully in the weeks ahead.
Ortom’s attempt to be correct when he should be courageous is despicable, to say the least. Seventy-three of his people were killed in one night by marauders that the central government has done nothing to contain. He bought coffins and prepared them for mass burial. The whole world saw the solemn mood and sympathized and empathized with him.
But neither the President nor his deputy could visit Benue to say, even without any iota of sincerity, that “we are sorry and we stand with the people of Benue State in this their moment of great grief.”
Also, no ranking federal government official attended the burial. And then a day or so after the burial, Governor Ortom and other Benue leaders were summoned like school pupils to Aso Rock to receive lectures on how to co-exist peacefully with killer Fulani herdsmen and a proposal on grazing colonies that would allow herdsmen own colonies not only in Benue but all in states of the federation.
I am trying to know if the heavens would have fallen if Ortom and other Benue leaders had declined the invitation of the President. For me, these Benue leaders want to enjoy heaven without dying first. The making of omelet is a messy business that requires breaking of eggs. Ortom, like the old woman, is still protecting the breast from flapping even when the race has intensified beyond description. It is not the way to go. He should stop proclaiming his readiness to die for his people and just go ahead to manifest that readiness by discarding his timidity for leadership courage.
Soon and very soon, some of his own people will accuse him of shedding crocodile tears. The ready explanation is that he is afraid of declaration of state of emergency by the President in Benue State. Let me adapt William Shakespeare here. It seems to me most strange, that men, including Ortom should fear, knowing death, a necessary end, will come when it will come. What day will be good to die if a man is forbidden to die on weekends, working days and even public holidays?
In fact, I am tired of everything and if nothing changes before long, I shall stop worrying about Nigeria on behalf of President Buhari. I cannot be running high blood pressure for one old man who is feeling so cool in his cocoon. I want to follow the footsteps of my fathers and live to become the oldest man in my community.
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