Further strain on Buhari’s Presidency as El Rufai echoes northern elders
The recent show of contrition and acknowledgment of failure by Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai, came as a further endorsement of the position taken by the Northern Elders Forum (NEF’s) verdict on the current administration in the area of security and socio-economic situation in the country.
“If not for the security agencies prompt intervention, they would have wiped out the entire villages. I also came to apologise for failing to protect you fully, we are doing our best to minimise such incidents, you should continue to forgive us.”
That was how the Kaduna State governor conveyed his feelings, last Monday when he paid a condolence visit on five villages, including Karewa in Igabi and Giwa Local Government Council, where more than 50 persons were slaughtered by bandits very early in the morning, a day before.
The governor acquiesced that “as those that have been placed in a position of leadership, the responsibility for protecting these people rests squarely on my shoulders and those of my colleagues. I also came to apologise for my failure to fully protect them.”
While reiterating his resolve not to dialogue or negotiate with the bandits, he noted that his administration has zero-tolerance for banditry and as such would, instead of granting them amnesty, grant them passage to their maker.
Prior to el Rufai’s admission of failure, a plethora of damning verdicts had been passed on the All Progressives Congress (APC) administration led by President Muhammadu Buhari, over his handling of the crucial issue of security in the country.
The string of what could be described as frustrations over insecurity got energised the day after the National Assembly reconvened for the year after the yuletide and New Year break.
While the Senate engaged in inter-party circumlocution with the opposition Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe calling for President’s Buhari’s immediate resignation, the members of the House of Representatives were unanimous in their call on the President to sack the service chiefs due to the worsening insecurity nationwide.
But, it was the NEF’s shocking delivery ten days later that removed the incipient hallow of politics on the matter and conferred it with the stamp of seriousness, thus aptly capturing the mood of the nation.
Apart from the surprising about-face by the northern elders, who had been known to be arch-Buharists, the sincerity of their summations rankled the nation, especially given how they tagged the President as ‘a misfit’ on account of his failure “to tackle growing insecurity and also appearing helpless in finding solutions to biting poverty in the country.”
IN the written address, which was read by a former secretary of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), who chose the historical ancient city of Zaria to pass their vote of no confidence on Buhari did not mince words. They stressed: “The President has failed to secure and pilot the affairs of the Nigerian nation.”
Only those who had followed the political trajectory of NEF would understand the inherent frustration in the public denunciation of their former champion. From 2003 when the retired General took interest in seeking the office of President, the NEF leaders had been supportive, believing, as most others did, that given his short stint in office as military head of state, Buhari possessed the personal discipline and focus to right the many wrongs of the country and put it on a sound socio-economic footing.
NEF must have been disappointed, not only because nearly five years after their mascot mounted the saddle there was nothing concrete to vindicate their trust and belief that Buhari has the answer, but above all that the President shut out every avenue to reach him with actionable intelligence and timelines.
To make matters worse, some members of NEF felt betrayed by the President’s dependence on a tiny clique that was not either visible or vocal all along as he waded through the labyrinth of multi-party democracy to return to office as civilian head of government.
Yet, instead of turning the knowledge of his past mistakes and failures into a top-secret of success, the northern elders gnashed their teeth as they watched the President gallivanting around the globe without getting down and close to the talakawas that served as the bulwark of his support and ascension to the high office.
NEF seemed to have been disappointed that in all his public utterances, the President did not find the statistics worrisome, which showed that most of the country’s poor were domiciled in the north.
Commander-In-Chief Of Buck-passing
BUT it must have been most depressing to NEF that President Buhari’s attitude towards well-meaning counsel or criticism is disdainful neglect that finds expression in buck-passing and the blame game.
That could have explained why the northern elders made it plain that the “President, who is from the northern part of the country did not only fail the north but the entire nation, based on an assessment of his leadership methodology.”
It was therefore in anticipation of his usual aloofness or denial that NEF maintained that “we believe that Nigerians must continue to raise our voices and organise through all legitimate means to demand that the administration address major failings in his perception of our situation and his response to our demands for our rights to security.”
From the events following the NEF press conference in Zaria, it could be safely argued that had their wise suggestions been heeded, particularly the northern elders’ demand for “a thorough overhaul of the leadership of our security and public safety agencies and the injection of higher levels of competence, integrity, and accountability in the manner of dealing with security challenges,” lives would have been saved.
But, true to type, not minding the caliber of its members that attended the meeting, including former military and police chiefs like the former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alamin Daggash and Deputy Inspector General of Police, Labaran Wurno, NEF Deputy National Chairman, Alhaji Bello Kirfi and Ambassador Yahaya Kwande; the Presidency rebuffed the august body as lacking incredible membership.
Speaking through the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, the Presidency described NEF as a quasi-organisation whose leader is much like a general without troops.
According to Adesina, “Hearing the title Northern Elders Forum you would think the body was a conglomeration of true elders. But, the truth is that NEF is just Ango Abdullahi, and Ango Abdullahi is NEF.”
Noting the attempt to downplay the seriousness of NEF assertions by the spokesman of the President, former Jigawa State governor, Sule Lamido, urged Buhari to reflect on the issues raised, maintaining that “they are real and that every Nigerian shares same concerns.”
Reminding the President how most of the NEF leaders were the loyal troops that never abandoned him in defeat, Lamido stated:
“The question you should ask yourself is why they have abandoned you in Victory to political mercenaries like Femi and Garba who are with you only for the pay?
“Sir the issues they raised are real and each and every Nigerian except Femi and Garba share these concerns, even you as our C in C claimed not to be aware of our insecurity situation until the likes of NEF raised the red alarm!
“You need to also read the warning written by Elder Statesman Bashir Tofa to Nigerian Big Men on the analysis of Insecurity in Nigeria, our Sub Region, and Africa.
“I hope the General without troops Femi was referring to sarcastically is not you sir! You have many capable hands around you sir, listen to them, engage them. You are the man of the moment. Ignore Femi, ignore Garba, keep paying them if only for charity, but please secure us!”
President Buhari was to vindicate NEF when he visited Auno after Boko Haram attacked the village and massacred rural dwellers, by shifting blames. The President expressed his belief that “this Boko Haram or whoever they are, cannot come up to Maiduguri or its environs to attack without the local leadership knowing, because traditionally the local leadership is in charge of the security in their respective areas.”
Perhaps the President forgot what the narrative was when former President Goodluck Jonathan was in office and the same Boko Haram carted away more than 219 school children from Chibok Secondary School.
It could be such sentiments that traditional rulers should be in charge of security in their respective areas that the NEF alluded to when they concluded that with this type of mindset, it is difficult to see how President Buhari can accept the challenge to radically improve his handling of our security situation.”
It is possible that if the observations from NEF and other stakeholders, including lawmakers and his party faithful did not cut ice with the President, the recent mea culpa from the Kaduna State governor would rouse him (Buhari) into responsible action.
In words and gestures, the President has been told that things have fallen apart not only in the very north from which he produces his famed 12million vote bank but across the length and breadth of the country.
And even before el Rufai’s confession of failure, which has elicited calls on the President to emulate the gesture of contrition, take the responsibility for the parlous state of affairs and make a bold detour in his strategies, Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Reverend Father Matthew Hassan Kukah, drove the point home.
The Bishop had stated during a funeral mass for a Seminarian murdered at prime by the insurgents: “No one could have imagined that in winning the Presidency, General Buhari would bring nepotism and clannishness into the military and the ancillary security agencies, that his government would be marked by supremacist and divisive policies that would push our country to the brink.”
With his confidant, el Rufai, coming out boldly to say it as it is, there is no doubt that a sincere, and honest to God stocktaking should be happening in the Presidency right now. That is about the only way to dispel the dark clouds gathering over Nigeria under Buhari’s watch.
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