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SUNDAY NARRATIVE: Nigeria – Still In The Woods!





RESPITE came the way of the beleaguered polity last Tuesday, after majority of senators reasoned it was better to bond together, rather than plunge the Red Chamber, and by extension, the country into another round of political strife. Many hardliners, including the partisans and their cheer groups, did not bargain for the lifeline that was procured by the Senate leadership, as they had wrongly predicted chaos. The body language before then had betrayed lust for bellicosity. Some had been so sure that embattled Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, was to be ‘unhorsed’ last Tuesday.

But some of us out here, who crave non-alignment, canvassed the minority position of political engagement, with the advisory that both sides will do Nigeria no good by pulling down the roof over everyone. After all, the central issues that ignited the face-off in the legislature, and particularly the Senate, were local affairs of the party in government, which unity of purpose and calculated horse-trading could have nipped in the bud. With sincerity of purpose, we recommended that the best thing to do is to ensure substantial engagement to keep the government working, while other relevant institutions are allowed to pursue other matters, including fighting corruption to a logical end.

It was heartwarming to see President Muhammadu Buhari and the number- three-man in government, Saraki, engaging so warmly at the 55th Independence anniversary celebration. It could be some photo trick, but that could amount to good body language for a troubled polity. It might dispel stories of cold-shoulder and iron curtains that we had been gleefully fed. Whatever happens afterwards behind the camera is still politics; so far they do not continue to advertise their rhetoric of war, while governance is stymied.

It’s still too early for any side in the face-off to claim victory. For all you know, strategists would have returned to their bases to perfect their next line of action. Meaning that both the Senate leadership and all the parties involved are still not out of the woods yet. But what I think leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) should take away from last week’s images of rapprochement, and particularly from President Buhari’s Independence Day Anniversary speech is the urgent need to engender unity of purpose within its fold. That is the single most portent, but silent message in that broadcast. It speaks to why their party, formed in war, like one brilliant commentator put it recently, has not found peace after winning the war. The APC was birthed in strife, packaged to salvage a country in the throes of dramatic change, but became ensnared in the spoils of war. This is the sort of contradictions that have drowned many historic revolutions and quenched the zeal and fire from within. Party leaders have become embroiled in cleavages over offices and portfolios. They have forgotten the reason they assembled, to pull Nigeria out of the woods.

This is the time for the party to re-work on its original template and bring on board the unity of purpose that will drive a transformational leadership for Nigeria. It will be grave error for this regime to assume that all is now well with Nigeria. It will be foolhardy for anyone to conclude that because the elections have been won, and under relatively peaceful terms, therefore, that dreaded prediction about Nigeria and 2015 has been exploded. For reminders, some intelligence clairvoyants in the United States had warned that Nigeria exhibited tendencies of a country that will evaporate into smithereens by 2015. The year has not ended.

Even though many have lampooned that prediction and its origin, as some blood- thirsty, no-good doomsday town criers, everyday occurrences in our country continue to, willy-nilly, support that theory. And all because there had been no unity of purpose to drive this great country for the whole of 55 years. Different forces are pulling at random at the soul of Nigeria. Policies are not formulated with unity of purpose to make Nigeria great; appointments are not made with the unity of purpose required to deliver the best, in the interest of all segments of the polity. Most times, leaders work and act from the prism of their provincial biases.

The key to the greatness of many countries is unity of purpose, that nationalistic comradeship to rally citizens towards one goal, that of making the country their number one priority. That is the number one ingredient towards the making of a great nation. Such that at times of strife or invasion, countries draw from their wealth of commonality and communality to overcome. This is what Nigeria does not have in its journey of 55 years. It is well pronounced in the running of the economy, as it is in the handling of security issues. The prosecution of the prolonged fight against Boko Haram is one sector where absence of unity of purpose is writ large.

When the menace began in 2009, many, including then General Buhari, did not see it as a national calamity. They thought it was the headache of late president Umaru Yar’Adua and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). When Goodluck Jonathan had the temerity to continue where Yar’Adua ended, Boko Haram rained bombs on Abuja and environs, as if to question his entitlement to that office. The menace was thought in some circles to be some plague to compensate the breach of the rotational clause in the PDP constitution. There was clearly no unity of purpose across board to denounce the insurgency and back the government of the day.

When that government ventured to proclaim State of Emergency in the war-torn states of the Northeast, that move was met with stiff resistance by the political class of that part of the country. Several times, leaders of that zone challenged what they termed government’s excessive use of force to drive away the insurgents. Delegations came to Abuja to query government’s tactics against the insurgency. While the government and the country remained in disarray, the insurgents gained more and more footholds. They commenced the hoisting of flags and declare their own caliphate within Nigeria.

Instead of summoning a pan-Nigeria summit to locate the root of the crisis and collectively snuff it out, regional leaders merely danced around it. Some said it was the result of economic asphyxiation of the Northwest; and their proposal was that the wealth directed to rescue some Niger States from their own deprivations should be re-ordered. The politicians gained hugely from the insurgency. The former opposition APC turned it into a campaign material and promised that they have the franchise to deal with the insurgency.

Sadly, the bombs are returning to Abuja and the war is still on. Despite great efforts by the military, some territories of Nigeria are yet to be fully liberated, because Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) can still not return home. Worse still, the military has alleged that some Northeast elders are benefitting from the insurgency and fueling its continuation. That is not a new theory, except that coming from the new helmsmen in the war front, it carries more weight than was previously permitted. In the recent past, and for political reasons, it was difficult to believe anybody because partisanship dictated the Boko Haram narrative. Now that we have the APC in government at the centre and in the entire Northeast, we may now be close to some home truth. There is no reason now, why there can’t be unity of purpose between the state governments of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe on one hand, and with the Federal Government, to deal with Boko Haram insurgency. There shouldn’t be any reason now for the leaders and people of the zone to distrust Buhari, who is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and the military that is doing the battle on his behalf. Buhari is from the North, and he is well liked in the Northeast. We saw all of that in the campaigns, where Buhari pulled earth-shaking crowd, while Jonathan was pelted with stones.

Nigeria is still deeply in the woods, and the signs are there. Old cleavages are becoming reinforced because there has never been any unity of purpose. The entire Middle Belt has become a theatre of war. If the Jukuns are not battling the Tivs in Taraba, some warmongers in Nasarawa are taking on their neighbours. The Fulanis have gone berserk; they have become ubiquitous, named in several bloody hostilities going on in several locations across the country. They behave as if this is not a country with a constitution. Meanwhile, ardent lovers of Biafra are insisting on their love for the land of the Rising Sun. There are rumblings in the creeks of a return to hostilities. Afenifere is calling its militant wing OPC, to get ready to defend Yoruba territory. Arewa leaders are threatening.

Tell me, do we need any other prediction to convince us that all is not well with Nigeria? Don’t you think we really need Unity of Purpose?

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