Once again and for the second time in the five years of your presidency, I have found it expedient to write you an open letter on the state of Nigeria. In my first open letter to you on the 24th of August 2017, shortly after your return from a prolonged medical vacation in the United Kingdom, I had, after felicitating with you on your full recovery, drawn your attention to the deep division of the Nigerian state and urged you to take deliberate steps at re-uniting the country. My appeal to you then was predicated upon the deepening polarisation of the people along ethno-geographic and religious fault lines, in a little over two years after you were first elected into the highest office in the land in 2015. From the Niger Delta to the South-East and North-East to the North-West, as well as from the North-Central to the South-West regions of Nigeria, the division in the country was manifested in the form of violent ethnic and religious separatism, resource control agitations and mortal combat between various cultural economic groups over land and water resources.
I was not alone in making this important appeal on the need for you to lead a concerted effort of all critically relevant stakeholders of the Nigeria project at uniting a deeply fractured country, following your emergence as president of the Federal Republic in 2015. The 2015 presidential election, in which you emerged victorious over then incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, was one that pitted the Muslim North against the Christian South of Nigeria, while momentarily bringing to the fore Nigeria’s persistent ethno-geographic and religious cleavages. Many other patriotic Nigerians made a similar case for a united Nigeria as a condition preceding the peace, security and socio-economic development of the country, going forward. Unfortunately, my dear President Buhari, you failed to heed the call of well-meaning Nigerians to lead the process of reconciliation and healing through negotiations and concessions, in order to achieve the much needed national unity and this fundamental failure of leadership is at the core of the complex web of complicated socio-economic and security challenges that are fast driving whatever is left of the Nigerian nation down road to a possible state failure.
Mr. President, the gross incompetence of your administrative machinery has greatly hampered the ability of your government to fulfil any of your three-pronged campaign promises of fixing the economy, containing insecurity and tackling corruption. On the contrary, Nigeria has become worse-off five years after you became president, to become more corrupt, heavily indebted, the third most terrorised poverty capital of world.
Mr. President, whereas the problem of Nigeria’s disunity predates your current administration, your provincial, nepotistic, sectional, exclusivist, and overtly partisan leadership style has aggravated what was already a festering problem that was better managed by your predecessors. As a direct consequence of your unprecedented levels of divisive leadership style and poor diversity management of a multi-ethnic and religious country, Nigeria has become most divided along its ethno-geographic and religious fault lines in the five years of your presidency, than any other time in its sixty years as an independent country, including the years before, during and after the civil war (1967-1970). In addition to the deepened division in the land, your installation of perhaps the most sectional and nepotistic administrative machinery in the history of Nigeria, which has your Muslim northern section of the country dominating your kitchen cabinet, ministerial cabinet [including finance and petroleum], internal and defence security apparatchik, has elevated mediocrity over competence in the business of governance in the last five years.
Mr. President, the gross incompetence of your administrative machinery has greatly hampered the ability of your government to fulfil any of your three-pronged campaign promises of fixing the economy, containing insecurity and tackling corruption. On the contrary, Nigeria has become worse-off five years after you became president, to become more corrupt, heavily indebted, the third most terrorised poverty capital of world. Mr. President, the failure to carry out electoral reforms by your refusal to sign the 2019 amended Electoral Act passed by Eighth National Assembly into law, enthroned an unprecedented level of electoral banditry in the 2019 general elections, which has equalled the installed administrative banditry in all tiers and across all arms of government in Buhari’s Nigeria. Sadly, with out-of-control levels of corruption, poverty and insecurity pervading the land, the democratic rights of the depressed people of Nigeria to freely choose their political leadership through a credible process, have been suppressed by electoral subterfuge, thereby holing them up in a cul de sac of hopelessness.
My dear President Buhari, with a Nigeria that has become weakened from multi-dimensional divisions along ethno-geographic and religious fault lines, which is severely challenged by a chronic economic malaise; heightened insecurity on all fronts, with a large swathe of the national territory governed by non-state actors, the current nationwide protest to end the SARS unit of the Police, is an early warning sign that Nigeria is at the end stage of state failure. The EndSARS protest, which is actually a euphemism for “end bad governance” is in a reality a popular revolt by the Nigerian people against a political leadership that has deprived them of their right to good governance. Like suicidal thoughts are to a depressed mind, revolutionary ideals have been embraced by the economically depressed Nigerian people, who your government has denied any hope of dsalvaging the situation. Mr. President, contrary to the insinuations of some elements in your government, the EndSARS protest is NOT being sponsored by your political opponents, either within or outside your ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). The EndSARS protest, which is a crowdfunded movement by the millions of suffering Nigerians, whose plights are made more hopeless by electoral banditry, is an unfolding revolution that is organically driven by people power.
Mr. President, in the ranks of the EndSARS protesters are some of your erstwhile ardent young supporters, whose emotional, material, moral and spiritual investment in your presidency has not yielded the dividends of democratic good governance to since in five years. Thoroughly disappointed in your inability to deliver on your promise of change, many of them are taking advantage of the EndSARS protests to ventilate their pent up anger and frustration with endemic bad governance. Therefore, Mr. President, the on-going protest movement across the country is nothing but a popular revolt of the Nigerian people, which like a egg must be handled with utmost care because once it’s cracked it cannot be put together again. Similarly, any attempt to forcefully crush the protests as you would do a rebellion, would be akin to beating a child and preventing him/her from crying at the same time and this may make the crying children resort to preventing you from beating them by seizing the cane from your hands.
However, Mr. President, there is a way out of the predictable social upheavals and breakdown of law and order, which is in no one’s interest (including the protesters) and will only serve the criminal interests of armed groups such as Boko Haram, Ansaru, Killer Herdsmen, Niger Delta militants and other terror groups that will emerge from the shadows to fill the vacuum created by the collapse of constituted authority. To avert all possible “avertables” and halt Nigeria’s rapid slide into a failed state, and the anarchy that may arise therefrom, you must, as president and commander-in-chief take certain critical steps urgently to restore hope, confidence and trust in constituted authority, as well as usher in an atmosphere of national unity among Nigerians.
Whereas, it has been my considered view that the problem of Nigeria is not so much about the structure but its operation, it has become important to take a second look at the issue of restructuring. Mr. President, the agitation for restructuring has become heightened precisely because its operation in the last five years of your administration has been the worse in the sixty years of Nigeria’s independence.
In addition to the immediate disbandment of the police killer squad known as SARS, Mr. President, you may consider addressing the Nigerian people directly and speaking on some of the matters arising from the ongoing nationwide protests that borders on the quality of governance. An acknowledgement of some of the failings of your administrations, along with an apology for your inability to improve the lot of the people and a solemn pledge to make amends where necessary will go a long way in calming the people. Considering the fact that it will require a reformed Nigerian government to achieve a reformed police, the demands of the protesters may not be completely met by your current administration. And achieving a reformed Nigerian government that can carry out its primary function of welfare and security for the people can only be realised through a reformed electoral process, which is credible, devoid of subterfuge, malfeasance and banditry, which empowers the Nigerian to freely choose their political leadership at every election cycle.
Dear President Buhari, in your address to the Nigerian people, please restore their lost hope in Nigeria’s electoral management process, which has deprived them of their democratic power to freely hire and fire their political leadership, by reassuring them of your commitment to electoral reforms. This must be followed immediately by expediting executive/legislative action on a draft electoral amendment bill for passage and assent within the period of the protest. Mr. President, in saluting the young people of Nigeria (including your own young children) for uniting with one voice, irrespective of ethno-geographic and religious divides, to ask for a better deal from their elected government, you would urge them to convert their enormous organisational energy – displayed in the EndSARS protests – into a powerful political movement that will take full advantage of your far reaching electoral reforms to elect a political leadership that will start the process of building the Nigeria of their dreams. After sixty years of your generation’s domination of power, 2023 should be the year of a peaceful democratic transfer of power to the young people of Nigeria.
Mr. President, you may also consider dismantling the nepotistic and sectional machinery of your administration and install an all-inclusive government that reflects Nigeria’s ethno-geographic and religious plurality to command national loyalty. A renewed atmosphere of national unity, wherein no individual will be treated less Nigerian than the other on the basis of religion, ethnicity or geography of origin, has become imperative to douse tension and anger in the land. As part of the confidence building measures of your administration, Mr. President may further consider increasing the frequency of his visits to the states of the Nigerian federation across the six geo-political zones, in order to give every section of Nigeria the much needed sense of belonging.
Whereas, it has been my considered view that the problem of Nigeria is not so much about the structure but its operation, it has become important to take a second look at the issue of restructuring. Mr. President, the agitation for restructuring has become heightened precisely because its operation in the last five years of your administration has been the worse in the sixty years of Nigeria’s independence. Therefore, you can no longer ignore the agitations and expressions of concern for a better structure that serves the interests of Nigerians, irrespective of ethno-geographic or religious divides. To this end, after due consultations with the National Council of State and other relevant organs of government, Mr. President, you may consider the setting up of a national conference of the representatives of the peoples of Nigeria to have a dialogue on the formation of a just, equitable and fair structure for the Nigerian state. This avenue for dialogue by different legitimate interest groups will further douse the tension in the land, as it will afford Nigerians the opportunity to “jaw jaw” rather than “war war.” The recommendations from this conference should be forwarded as an executive bill to the National Assembly to effect a constitutional amendment to that effect.
If taken, these few steps will take the wind out of sail of the widespread protest and avert an outright insurrection that may result in the collapse of the Nigerian state as we know it today. In conclusion, as a loyal citizen of Nigeria who supported your aspirations to be president of my country between 2003 and 2015, I want to reiterate the fact that I love my dear President Muhammadu Buhari, but I love Nigeria more.