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Nigeria – Fuji House of Commotion

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[FILES] A member of the security forces stands next to a burnt out vehicle in the Nghar Village, near Jos on June 27, 2018, after Fulani herdsmen attacked the village. PHOTO: STEFAN HEUNIS / AFP

There seem to be no answers to the multiplicity of burgeoning questions on the state of the country, characterized by heightened security challenges, deep-seated ethnic distrust, lamentations, asphyxiating poverty, socio-political distress, relegation of the rule of law, rising unemployment and failure of governance. On security, it needs be recalled that the activities of the militant Islamic group, Boko Haram took on a violent twist when their leader and founder, Mohammed Yusuf died on July 2009, in an untidy circumstance in the custody of Nigeria police with no clear explanation. Thus, over the years the activities of the Boko Haram sect metamorphosed through various stages – killing of policemen in Maiduguri metropolis, bombing of churches, notably at Madalla, Jos, Gadaka and Damaturu, bombing of Force headquaters, Abuja, bombing of mosques, all these in the north. These mixed-grilled activities of the sect did not permit a clear-cut understanding of the motive(s) neither was it clear the purpose for wanting to establish a new caliphate in the north east.

That the government, under President Goodluck Jonathan was toothless was palpable against the backdrop of its ineffectual responses to the menace of Boko Haram. This manifested in the government’s lackluster response to kidnapping of over 200 girls of Government Secondary School at Chibok in April, 2014 by the Boko Haram less than a year to the 2015 presidential election. More than anything else, this singular episode was a technical knock out for President Jonathan, in the perception of him as lacking of the moral high ground to seek re-election as President and Commander-in –Chief of the armed forces. The apparent confusion on the part of federal government and dereliction of duty by the security operatives in not responding quickly to rescue the girls raised many unanswered questions. Many years after the episode, some of the girls have not been returned provoking the vexed question – can patriotism be demanded from Nigerians in the circumstance? Certainly not and one can only imagine the pain and anguish of the parents and relations of the girls. Yet, time ticks on and the country moves on as if nothing has happened. The question must still be asked – why were the Chibok girls kidnapped by the Boko Haram sect? The follow-up episode of kidnap of 110 girls of Government Girl’s Science and Technical College at Dapchi on February, 2018 and the return of the girls save one- Leah Sharibu in her failure to renounce her Christian faith- has many questions unanswered, not least – why has it been so difficult for government to secure her release, if for nothing else, for the sensitivity of the case?

Herdsmen and farmers clashes are familiar issues in Nigeria but not on the scale we have witnessed in recent time in Benue, Taraba and indeed all over the country. But I recall that the revered Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, reportedly hinted that Boko Haram had begun to use grazing routes to create cells, which, in my interpretation, meant camps. The sporadic attacks by herdsmen on farmers and villages all over the country appears to lend credence to this warning. But killing of priests, raping of women, maiming and killing of innocent families and decimation of villages by killer herdsmen bear no resemblance to the traditional herdsmen/farmers clashes, raising more questions as to their motives. More disturbing is the cavalier disposition of government in handling of the crises. In this regard government’s admittance that the killer herdsmen are displaced persons from war-torn African countries has not helped matters raising questions as to its fundamental obligation to provide security of lives and property for citizens against intruders. In all of this, the sudden prominence of Myatti Allah Cattle Breeder Association of Nigeria and its provocative utterances amid monstrous attacks on hapless citizens by herdsmen have brought a new dimension – ethno-political – to the crisis. The corollary to this is that the crises have more than meets the eye and that government’s inability to deal decisively with it needs to be interrogated deeply.

Prior to the mindless activities of killer herdsmen, there have been all manners of criminal activities in the country including armed robbery and kidnapping for ransom. Indeed I was a victim of kidnapping on June 7, 2015 on the Ore- Benin Express way but let off the hook by the special grace of God. They were not herdsmen. But it’s not debatable that the involvement of herdsmen in armed robbery and kidnapping has raised the bar of the crisis judging from the testimonies of victims, lucky enough to tell the tales. The RUGA policy of the federal government, now suspended, as solution to the herdsmen and farmers crisis would have meant creating Fulani communities in every state of the country. Against the backdrop of the monstrous killings and destruction of property by herdsmen, the policy was bound to meet stiff objection from citizens. Again it raises the question – were there hidden motives in the policy?

From the foregoing narrative, the verdict is that Nigeria is Fuji House of Commotion, in the myriad of unanswered questions; in the current state of anarchy and in the pervasive confusion in the land. Xenophobic attacks on Nigerians as is the case in South Africa, and overt discrimination against them in the diaspora or as travelers are testaments that there is no respite for the citizens anywhere in the world. Nigerians would love to live in Nigeria but in Nigeria that works; one in which there is justice, peace and progress. Since 1966, Nigeria has not made progress ostensibly because of the system of governance, over-centralized with constituent states that are hamstrung.

Therefore, there is the overarching need to re-construct Nigeria in the system of governance to devolve more powers and responsibilities to the constituent states and for the latter to have greater control of resources with which they are endowed.

A hallmark of governance in Nigeria since 1966 is policy reversal by succeeding governments and attendant unfinished businesses. Thus, although there had been a plethora of economic reforms, they were never sustained, almost always for political reasons. It’s on record that there were major economic reforms under the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo as narrated by Dr. Okonjo Iweala in her book, ‘Reforming the Unreformable, Lessons from Nigeria’. But there were reversals of policies by succeeding administrations. Quite rightly, Dr. Iweala recognized the import of political reforms as complimentary to economic reforms when she averred: “In reform, economics is politics, and the idea that the two can be kept separate is untenable” (p. 130).

Thus, a new governance architecture anchored on true federalism, to wit, centrifugal federalism, is an imperative for Nigeria to begin the process of nation building and development. There is need for political education of the youth particularly at the tertiary education level on the necessity for political reform in the system of governance as panacea to the deluge of socio-economic problems bedeviling the country. Universities have a critical role to play in this regard to achieving a critical mass of enlightened youth on matters of state. President Muhammadu Buhari has expressly recognized the need to enshrine true federalism as a structure of governance in Nigeria but he is yet to give verve to it in practical terms. Clearly the need for a fundamental governance reform is urgent for a virile and prosperous Nigeria.

Eromosele, former deputy vice-chancellor (Academic), Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.


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