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Political crisis in a nation that is at war


President Muhammadu Buhari. PHOTO: SUNDAY AGHAEZE

That this nation is at war has become obvious. As a matter of fact, this country has faced many war situations in its recent history. The classical war was the Nigeria-Biafra war in which there were two combatants and there was some territorial delineation. Both sides were armed, even if one side was better armed and received more international support. But recent wars in Nigeria have been largely assymetrical. You may never fully identify who the combatants are, what the war is all about and how to determine its end. The Boko Haram war though at one time seemed to have progressed into a typical warfare, when the Nigerian Army supported by the Airforce confronted it head on to recover the territories it had illegal taken, it has returned to where it started, a war against the innocent citizens of the country. It is daily attacking civilian targets, not military targets and seems to operate without boundaries. And because it has no boundaries and its targets not well defined, it has been difficult to defeat. Almost daily, its suicide bombers kill themselves and all people close by. And once in a while it springs surprise displaying exceptional military strength as it did in Dapchi in February this year or as it did in Maiduguri last week. Apparently from nowhere, a ‘defeated and degraded’ Boko Haram launched a massive military attack on Maiduguri Town. They were repelled by the Nigerian military leaving behind several dead and injured civilians. It is clear to many that the Boko Haram war is far from over and continues to consume a lot of national resources.

The current blazing war is that of the militant Fulani herdsmen that is ravaging Nigeria with the main theatre of the war in the North central Region and the epicentre in Benue State. There are several things that are unique about this particular war. Like the Boko Haram, this war is also assymetrical but it also has territorial ambition. The cattle herdsmen or their militants occupy conquered territories and farmlands as the ostensible reason for the war. But we have also noted where they have invaded villages or towns, killed people, burnt houses, destroyed sundry property and departed with no attempt to occupy. Perhaps these kind of attacks are undertaken by the ‘remnants of Muamar Ghadaffi’s army’ that have free access to our country. These may be also the same groups that troubled Southern Kaduna for some time until Governor Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna State paid them off. Who knows, they may return to Kaduna when they exhaust the ransom money.


Last week Tuesday, 24th April 2018, some suspected herdsmen or the remnants of Ghadaffi’s army arrived at a church – St Ignatius Catholic Church in Mbalom in Gwer East Local Government Area of Benue State in the early hours of the day and shot and killed two Roman Catholic priests, one catechist and 16 other worshipers and disappeared. Now what was this about? Farmland or church land? And since then, the battles rage on in Benue State and surrounding states. This past Friday, 27th April, the militants freely attacked another church- African Church premises in Mbamudo village, Ukemberagya in Logo Local Council in Benue State, killing seven persons who were internally displaced persons (IDPs) taking refuge in the church premises. This double attack on the church in one-week forced the National Assembly to summon the President to brief them on what has happened to Nigeria’s internal security. Indeed the legislators urged the President to declare a state of emergency in Benue State as a last resort. Will the President heed the summons or accede to the counsel? Part of the uniqueness of this war unlike the Boko Haram war, is that neither the Police nor the Army is confronting the aggressors. The aggressors have free rein, come when they like, kill as many as they like and leave with ease. Nobody is arrested and we all wait for the next attack and then governments begin to shed crocodile tears or issue dumb condemnations. I really feel sad for the People of Benue State as they have been fully abandoned by both the Federal and Benue State governments. The Federal Government only issues annoying statements that mock the people, promising to arrest the perpetrators which they never do and promising safety which they could not offer. Governor Ortom recently seemed to have thrown in the Towell and ran to China for safety asking his helpless citizens to defend themselves with stones and pebbles as David used against the Philistines in biblical days. His deputy was a pathetic sight to behold as he came out daily to reel out the casualty figures. He looked hopeless, helpless and incredulous.

What spineless leadership Benue State has!
The other theatres of the war in Plateau, Nasarawa, Taraba and Zamfara erupt from time to time stretching Nigeria’s armed forces to the limit. The Nigerian armed forces have never been as busy, at least not since the civil war of 1967-70. Since 2015, the military has launched up to 20 operations-Lafiya dole, Gama Aiki, operation safe corridor, Python dance 1&2, Crocodile smile 1& 2, Tsera Teku, Awatse, Daji, Harbin Kunama 1&2, operation safe haven, Delta safe and Ruwan Wuta 1&2. It launched operation Ayem a Kpatuma (operation cat race) early this year in Benue and matters got worse for the citizens. A few days ago it announced ‘operation last Hope’ that will run between May 1-July 18 and that will finally close the Boko Haram insurgency and rescue Leah Sharibu and the remaining Chibok girls. Last hope indeed!

If you ask me, this should be enough headache for any government. But it seems this government is not as troubled as many of the ordinary citizens are. President Muhammadu Buhari has kept his International travel schedule as if nothing serious was happening in the country. He was in the UK for over one week attending the Commonwealth of Nations Heads of States meeting and undertaking a state visit. While he was there, Senator Omo Agege led a group of militants into the hallowed chambers of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and snatched the Mace. This was seen by many as the equivalent of a coup de etat affecting the second tier of the government. Buhari returned home and treated the matter with contempt and soon left the country on the invitation of President Donald Trump, Nigeria’s new found friend and overlord.

Meanwhile, a political crisis had been instigated in Nigeria. A couple of months ago, actually on the 13th of December 2017, the governors of the states of Nigeria at the 83rd meeting of the National Economic Council took a unilateral decision to ‘donate ‘ one million dollars of Nigeria’s money to the Federal Government for security purposes especially to support the fight against Boko Haram insurgency. There was plenty of hullabaloo about this decision in the media. Many queried the competence of the governors’ forum to treat the money that belonged to the federation account as if it belonged to them alone. The local governments were not consulted nor the legislature- state and federal. Others wondered what the Federal Government would do with that kind of money, considering that they had already declared victory over Boko Haram and saw the herdsmen killings as mere communal conflict. Nevertheless it was presumed that before the money would be spent, the Executive arm of government would naturally seek the appropriation or approval by the National Assembly. But the entire nation was shocked last week to hear that the government had already spent about $469 million as payment for 12 super Tucano aircrafts to the United States of America (USA). This information was confirmed in a communication from the President to the National Assembly asking them to approve the expenditure which he had already executed.

Both houses of the National Assembly literally went up in arms, enraged by this flagrant act of impunity and abuse of the constitution. Already calls to proceed with the impeachment of the President have rented the air in both chambers and across the nation, causing ripples. Can Nigeria afford a constitutional crisis at this time? Is this incipient crisis inevitable or is it being contrived to deflect attention from the security crisis or indeed to compound it? Why did the President not seek the approval of the National Assembly before spending this money? The Senate president just asked this question, insisting that there was enough time between September last year when the deal started and February when it was sealed to have informed the National Assembly. Is the excuse by the executive and its agents that it was sudden tenable or the fact that it was for security issues justifiable? More so when it is realised that this” illegal” payment was made for aircrafts that would NOT be delivered today or this year but in 2020. How was this expenditure going to help stop the killings by Boko Haram insurgents or the Fulani cattle herdsmen or the remnants of the Ghadaffi’s army that are devastating the country. Or are we expecting these wars to continue to 2020? At the rate we are going, who will be left in 2020? That is if we survive the brooding political crisis and the 2019 elections. God please have mercy!

Mazi Ohuabunwa, OFR.

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