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Buhari presidency: Insecurity ‘dividend’ for everybody?

By Bisi Olawunmi
27 October 2021   |   3:20 am
Flash back to May 29, 2015 when General Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in as president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. A nation, anticipating a redemptive government, waited with baited breath for the inaugural speech of the former military dictator, now a rebranded, born-again democrat.

Parents of abducted schoolboys wait outside a camp to receive their children upon their release in Katsina, Nigeria, on December 18, 2020. (Photo by Kola Sulaimon / AFP)

Flash back to May 29, 2015 when General Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in as president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. A nation, anticipating a redemptive government, waited with baited breath for the inaugural speech of the former military dictator, now a rebranded, born-again democrat. And President Buhari spoke.

It was neither a flowery nor a fire-spitting speech but what rang out and got stamped in the consciousness of the people was his declaration that he belongs to everybody and belongs to nobody, implying that he is for everybody and will not be held hostage by anybody. The general interpretation then was that he was declaring his independence of the political sorcerer at Bourdillon Street, Ikoyi, Lagos who willed the genie of his presidency to life. He was going to be his own man. Malevolent haters had gleefully greeted Buhari’s declaration of his independence as putting the sorcerer ‘in his place, clipping his wings’.

However, six years down the road, we are all witnesses to the intendment of our president, General Buhari (apology to The Punch) as a born again democrat – with his equity dispensation of democratic ‘dividend’ of insecurity to everybody!! That is the paradox of his being for everybody. How wrong were those who had mocked the sorcerer. Before the dispensation of insecurity to all, people had stridently leveled all kinds of charges against our fair minded President – they accused him of being a religious bigot –an Islamic irredentist; an ethnic jingoist in the service of his Fulani supremacists, indulgent of the killing spree of Fulani herdsmen and a regional champion of The North.

It would seem that Mr. President, taking these charges with stoic forbearance, apparently lapsed into default mode, to allow the so-called largess he is dispensing to his region, the North, to spread nationwide. You see, southern and middle belt leaders pillory President Buhari for partisanship in favour of the North – in goodies of appointments and infrastructure – while conveniently ignoring the other side of the coin – the bloodletting ravaging the North, with extreme poverty and illiteracy as toppings! The North is accused of selfishly holding all the levers of power, including military power, to its advantage. But, really, what advantage? So the ‘ advantage ‘ of horrendous killings and kidnappings ravaging the North got spread to the south and the middle belt and leaders of these regions started screaming blue murder. In all of these, President Buhari assumed what amounts to a disposition of fatalistic equanimity, except for that plea for accommodation of the south bound terror harbingers by host communities as a measure of brotherhood!

On the dispensation of the ‘ largess ‘ southwards, you have to give it to President Buhari for adhering to the saying: charity begins at home. His home state of Katsina has become the new epicentre of murderous rage of bandits, kidnappers and cattle rustlers!!! The renegades even captured a District head in President Buhari’s native Daura emirate and the hapless man was only liberated in a sting operation in Kano after weeks in kidnappers’ captivity. Imagine if what is happening in Katsina State were to be in any of the southern states, the Wailers (apology to Femi Adesina) would have petitioned the United Nations, alleging a Fulani Genocide Agenda! I sympathise with Katsina State Governor, Aminu Masari. How can you have the President and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of Nigeria from your state and this frightening level of bloodletting goes on, unabated. And people still accuse Buhari of partisanship in favour of his people. Some favour, indeed.

At a point, overwhelmed by the level of insecurity in Katsina state, Governor Masari gambled with appeasement strategy and even hosted a gun-slinging bandit leader at Government House to beg for peace, only for the mayhem to intensify, thereafter! And that in the President’s home state. So, what confronts the nation is State Security Collapse (SSC). The response of Mr. President has been rather mechanistic – providing the armed forces with military hardware without demanding commensurate operational mission accomplishments – and laissez faire given his tentative, tepid response to the escalating security nightmares, and even that limited effort was forced by public opinion pressure.

Fortunately, President Buhari is waking up to the reality that his presidency is on the home run, and now seems anxious not to allow insecurity to define his legacy. State governors are also getting roused to action on insecurity with the rising brazen challenge to their authority by criminals and violent non state renegades as shown by inauguration of Amotekun security outfit in the southwest and Ebube Agu in the southeast. The mandarin governors in the north are also stirring awake. The National Assembly is raising hell about widespread insecurity.

There is, therefore, a window of opportunity for President Buhari to end his tenure in a blaze of glory, if he can muster the will to mobilize state governors and the National Assembly to reach an elite consensus on tackling insecurity.

The consensus should be that Criminality is Criminality, to be churned of ethnic, religious, political or geographical labels and tackled with the urgency it demands. Going forward, apart from the military option, there would be need for a Security Mass Mobilisation Council to incorporate the people as foot soldiers in the battle against insecurity. That security is everybody’s responsibility should no longer be an empty slogan. President Buhari inherited serious insecurity in the Northeast, manifested in the Boko haram insurgency and routed the insurgents, a triumph that is now regarded as an initial ‘ Gra-Gra ‘ or transient military bravura, as the insurgents are now in resurgence, while insecurity – particularly kidnapping and violent criminality – has spread nationwide under his watch, creating a situation where fear stalks the land.

So, if truly President Buhari desires that insecurity will not define his legacy, the time to act, and act decisively, is now. Surely, insecurity for everybody cannot be a laudable dividend of democracy or an edifying legacy.

Dr. Olawunmi, a mass communication scholar, is former Washington Correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria and Fellow, Nigerian Guild of Editors.