President Buhari is missing out on yet another golden opportunity. May it not be said that his 8-years regime is all about missed opportunities. In the year 2007 when President Yar’Adua came into government, Nigeria had problems with the boys in the Niger Delta who crippled oil production and took up arms against the state. I recall that in 2008, Yar’Adua paid a courtesy visit to Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the United Kingdom. As usual, Brown put on his salesman cap and tried to schmooze Umaru into a $300million arms deal to ‘secure the Niger Delta and protect the flow of crude oil’. See remnants of that news here http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7511340.stm. Yar’Adua stylishly rejected the deal by speaking about how the European and American governments should help us track stolen crude oil. Brown and his folks were not happy with Yar’Adua, who came back home and instead embraced a peaceful way out of that insurgency; a deal which has somehow held up till today, warts and all.
I recall those boys the day they went to Aso Villa. It was probably their first times there, and certainly the first time they shook hands with a sitting president. Tears streamed down the faces of some of them. Boyloaf. Tom Polo, Ateke Tom, Farah Dagogo. These guys couldn’t believe their eyes. The word on the streets was that they never believed a ‘Fulani’ president could refuse the military option in the Niger Delta but take the difficult and risky approach of even inviting them to his house in Abuja, despite the fact that they were bombing different locations. A new lesson was learnt. A new precedence was set. Note that before Yar’Adua, Obasanjo had sent the military boys to ‘level’ a few of the small towns down in the Delta. Odi is one of them.
Today, we hear the presidential spokesman Garba Shehu comparing the agitations of Mr Omoyele Sowore with the activities of Boko Haram. We know how government has handled the Boko Haram problem. Shekau has been killed 5 times but still gives broadcasts. Perhaps if the kind of resources deployed against an armless Sowore was used to sincerely track Shekau, the story will be different tofay. Well, nothing surprises anymore, and we had better try to reach Buhari directly, skirting the shylock, negative and sometimes bloodthirsty aides he has surrounded himself with. I know that one’s aides reflect one’s mindset but we still have to try somehow. Sowore hasn’t taken arms against the Nigerian state. He hasn’t used many incendiary words apart from once when he said Nigerians need to remove Buhari from government. He is pro-Nigerian and for that reason, many Yoruba/Igbo and other ‘ethnic nationalists’ who believe that we are better working for the disintegration of Nigeria hate his guts and believe he deserves what he gets. If government should step back and reconsider its actions, they probably will realize that they are merely bullying Sowore as well as the other 22 years old captive, Mandate. So, government can sometimes run scared of people who take action to bring down Nigeria, but will pursue a housefly with sledgehammer? The amount of state resources that have been deployed to ‘teach Sowore a lesson’ is inordinate, extremely unjustified and totally wasteful. But some support this government even as it writes its name in the book of infamy. Many government supporters on this matter are interested in ‘teaching him a lesson’ when there are higher ideals to aspire to.
Buhari’s government is great at missing opportunities. After the 2019 elections, many people expected the government to work with people from other political parties. Some of them showed competence and pedigree. That was not to be. Not a single attempt was made. For a country where presidencies appointed people from opposition parties in 2003, 2007 and 2011, in 2019 Buhari did not believe reaching out to the opposition would add any value. Nigeria has since stopped trying to unite her people or pretending that we could ever be one. Our collective vision became more tunnelized and narrowed. The government has watched as the fissions between our people along tribal and religious lines continue to expand. The sense of nationalism has disappeared. All that matters is loyalty to Muhammadu Buhari. The point is whether the president has advisers who could prod him to do things that are broadminded in nature, or if they know he is not interested and will not listen to them. What we hear from his Vice, a very enlightened legal luminary and academician, Yemi Osinbajo, is how Buhari has shown much tolerance such that he allowed a Christian chapel to be built some metres away from his kitchen. What I read from that is that the Vice President is totally cowed; he feels so grateful that a chapel was allowed at all (that may mean they have shifted from the previous location), he almost sounds as if the Christian prayers were contaminating the president’s food and that Buhari ate the food all the same!
Imagine what could have happened to all the noise from opposition if the president had interested someone like Kingsley Moghalu or Obadiah Mailafia in ministerial positions? What is wrong in getting a couple of competent people for ambassadorship positions from say PDP? Is the president of Nigeria not supposed to be making some serious inroads into our natural divides, blasting the myths of hausa-igbo-yoruba-igala-ibibio etc tribal wars? Is he not meant to be proving to all of us that these are mere bogeymen? What about the youth divide? At 78 years or so, why has he refused to appoint into his cabinet some very youthful people such as to silence a lot of the social media criticisms? The president has jurisdiction and purview over the entire nation. He is our CEO. And a CEO knows well enough that the organization he leads can only reflect his personality, his beliefs, his philosophy. Is this current Nigeria the best Buhari can do? To make matters worse, in being taciturn, the President has shut himself out, often leaving the country to drift, or allowing interlopers to hijack our emotions for their own selfish ends.
More next week