With the most recent tragic news of the slaughter of over 40 rice farmers by Boko Haram in Zabarmari, Jere local government of Borno State yesterday, virtually all Nigerians must have arrived at same juncture of opinion, something in the neighbourhood of what lawyers call unanimity of purpose, on how we horribly we fare at this critical time. Dozens of rice farmers were reported to have been slaughtered by suspected members of Boko Haram insurgents. They were summarily rounded up and their throats slit like rams while they were harvesting their crops on a rice field at Garin Kwashebe. As usual, President Muhammadu Buhari activated his condolence messages refrain always sauced with mirthless bravado. While speaking through Garba Shehu, his publicist, he “expressed grief over the killings… describing the terrorist killings as insane.”
If nothing else, this should tell us all that our security situation has gone overboard. Overtime, our opinions had been variegated, like the different seeds in a walnut pod. Politics, tribe, religion and dictates of our tummies had specified where we stood. Now however, we have realized that we are under siege and if we don’t speak up, we stand the risk of being consumed by the tide of the time, all of us. “One and all, we have got to face reality now,” Immortal Bob Marley, in his Natural Mystic, seemed to have summed up the path to tread.
The reality is that we are in a huge mess, security-wise. With the incessant kidnapping spree in Nigeria, the dozens whose throats were slit in Zabarmari and the Save Our Soul message sent last Thursday by the Sultan of Sokoto and President General of the Jamaatu Nasril Islam, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar lll, to President Muhammadu Buhari, the die seems to be cast. At the 4th Quarter 2020 meeting of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council in Abuja, Abubakar lamented the incessant killings by bandits predominant in the Northern part of Nigeria. Audacious in their impunity, the Sultan said the bandits, taking the inability and incapability of the Nigerian security forces for granted, now move from house to house to ferret out their victims, kidnap them and inflict all manner of violence on them. It is so bad that, said the Sultan, apparently to appease this god without leash with libations, “people leave foodstuff in their houses for bandits” and that the North is the worst place to live at the moment.
If we thought that Boko Haram insurgents were some spirits whose brutality was beyond human understanding, bandits, armed with AK47, reportedly stroll on Northern streets like the maishai next door, buying groceries from stalls and waiting to be given cash remainders from transactions. They have raped, killed and maimed people in multiple of hundreds. Governors had unabashedly posed for photo-ops with them, entered into publicly-known Memorandum of Understanding with the bandits and had brokered agreements that were eventually splintered by these gun-wielding Mephistopheles, under flimsy excuses.
Many Northern major highways are impassable. Not strictly because of the potholes that lace them, but because the roads have now become the exclusive preserve of lords of the Republic of Banditry. Until this meeting of minds, many northern irredentists thought that, some of us who cry that the Buhari government was one of the most troublous afflictions to descend on us in the history of Nigerian governance, were buoyed by hatred, politics or religion.
About a week ago, Philip Shekwo, chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Nasarawa State, realised too late the eternal sense in that Yoruba wise-saying which says that, when there is a clarion call for denunciation of an affliction, if you don’t join in disclaiming it, they may push it to your backyard. In 2018 when the banditry reached its apogee and we asked Buhari to take responsibility or go administer his army of cows in his Daura home, Shekwo joined in our tar-brushing. Our call for sanity in governance was self-centered and political, he shouted. He labeled us beneficiaries of corruption who were ricocheting like a bullet which bounced off a wall. Killings by suspected headsmen and bandits in some parts of Nigeria, a la Shekwo, were due to “corruption fighting back to discredit the president.”
“If not because God, in His infinite mercy, decided to bring Buhari to power at the time He did, the country would have been in a serious mess by now. The president is sincerely fighting corruption; corruption is responsible for all other reasons why there is so much rot in the system. Boko Haram was also defeated and no local government area in the country today is under the control of the group as was the case in the past. Immediately President Buhari started fighting corruption and corrupt people, every right-thinking Nigerian knew that corruption would fight back,” Shekwo said.
In his mind’s eye, Shekwo must have believed that he and his family were in the clear of bandits’ strike as a state party chairman of the Almighty Nigerian president’s ruling party. Recently however, Shekwo was abducted at his residence along Dunamis Church, Bukan Sidi, in Lafia, the state capital, by bandits. Last Sunday, he was found murdered. Again, Buhari dusted up one of his feeble crocodile tears leaflets: “I strongly condemn the killing of Philip Shekwo. He was kind and jovial. His contribution towards strengthening the party in Nasarawa State will not be forgotten. May his soul Rest in Peace,” the President said again. He “strongly ordered” the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to do the “needful.” I am sure the IGP must have enjoyed a good laugh and ordered his best wine to celebrate the mutual absence of spine in him and the president. Then, everything went calm, as usual. I can tell you – pardon my assault on the dead – no one would be apprehended for killing Shekwo. It is a lesson in why, if we fight for and achieve collective, community good, rather than narrow, personal interest, our individual good would be protected and assured.
In June, gunmen reportedly invaded Kambang-Malul village of Daffo District, Bokkos Local Government Area of Plateau State, killing the village head and one other person. In Kaduna State, Governor Nasir el-Rufai must know more covens of marabouts divining his presidential dream than the number of the dead under his watch in that erstwhile peaceful state. The Abuja/Kaduna road is a killing field where kidnappers and bandits are lords.
In the South too, those who call Buhari out for his sickening governmental lethargy have been called names. Our beef wasn’t the beatification of Buhari by party warlords, their fawners and lickspittles of power. Our bother is that, no government, in the history of Nigeria, had been this laidback and inept to rescue its people from rampaging insecurity. We were either on assignments for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) or enemies of the state. Now, “One and all, we have got to face reality now.” That reality is that, if we don’t let Buhari know of his unprecedentedly massive failure to protect us, among a plethora of other failures, by the time insecurity finishes with us, there may be no Nigeria. Or us.
Last Thursday again, gunmen suspected to be kidnappers, in broad daylight, shot dead the Olufon of Ifon, Oba Israel Adeusi, a First Class traditional ruler in Ose Local Government Area of Ondo State. The Yoruba would say o nru’gbo bo (the calamity is afoot) and as Odolaye Aremu, the Ilorin, Kwara State Dadakuwada singer once sang, no one can predict the victim of a ceaseless downpour. That is why we accept the tag of saboteurs; if only it will get our land redemption. Adeusi was said to have been returning from the state capital, Akure to Ifon after a meeting when he ran into the barricade of kidnappers. Not quite a few hours after that, the wife of the Chief of Staff to the Ondo State governor was also abducted by kidnappers. The way it is, kidnappers have taken over the Nigerian government while Buhari is just a titular head.
Last Friday evening, gunmen reportedly shot and killed a policeman while kidnapping a Chinese handling the construction of the new Ado-Iyin road in Ekiti State. The other expatriate at the site sustained gunshots injuries. A couple of years ago, daughter of Afenifere leader, Mrs. Funke Olakunrin, was murdered in Ondo State by men suspected to be herdsmen.
Pardon my conservative analysis: I doubt if, in the history of Nigeria, except perhaps during the civil war, as much people have been killed by hoodlums, bandits, miscreants as under the Buhari government. Those days, when news of kidnap and gross violence was reported by the press, it looked so extraneous, so far away, in some Afghanistan or God-knows-where country.
The president is so awkwardly fixated in his misunderstanding that those delegated authority of security – the Service Chiefs – have stewed in the broth of incapability continuously, in spite of the security slide afflicting the country. Every word needed to be said to get Buhari replace these security Methuselahs has fallen on deaf ears. Yet, Nigeria has entered a vortex of security crisis that is unprecedented in the history of the country.
Now, the reality has dawned on us – no thanks to the Buhari government – that Nigeria is one of the most unsafe countries on earth to live in. We got confirmation of this last Wednesday. In a new report published by the Global Terrorism Index (GTI), Buhari’s Nigeria is ranked the third most terrorized country in the world. The report said that the number of insurgency deaths in the country increased by 25 per cent from 2018 to 2019. Indeed, said the report, Nigeria was only bested by Afghanistan and Iraq while war-torn Syria, Somalia and Yemen were ranked fourth, fifth and sixth respectively. Not unbeknownst to us, GTI also said that since 2015 when Buhari took over, Nigeria has ranked, for six consecutive times, the third country, all over the world, with worst impact from terrorism. Shortly, the Buhari/Osinbajo campaign office vultures, paid to launder Buhari’s blood-soaked apparel, would go to town to devour into unrecognizable carcass the meat of this GTI report.
One and all, we have got to face this cruel reality. That, if we continue to hide inside the cocoon of political affiliation, ethnicity and esophagus benefits to excuse Buhari of this gross failure of governance, his Nigeria would get us. May we not end up like Philip Shekwo who became a victim of his tummy, office and political projection. The time to speak up is now.
The Averted Bloodshed In Osun
In the last two years or so, Osun has joined states in Nigeria that have become guinea pigs of the futility of godfatherism in Nigerian politics. Akwa-Ibom, Enugu, and of recent, Edo States had been predecessors of that experiment. In all of them, the tested hypothesis was whether a predecessor who seeks to morph into a tin god, literally reincarnating for another term in office, even when his term had ended, would meet his political waterloo or continue to be a mascot. Those states confirmed the first hypothesis.
Questions have been asked on why political barons seek to be godfathers. A few answers will suffice. One is what I call the Kabiyesi mentality. Because in traditional Africa, kings’ terms don’t expire and executive positions, with their untrammeled powers and majesty, can be likened to an African monarchy in the awesome powers they wield, the urge for political barons to elasticise their hold on power, even when constitutional powers restrict them to terms of office, is very huge.
The second is the huge skeletons that predecessors always keep in their wardrobes which they want buried from people’s gaze. By getting pliable successors and keeping them permanently under the soles of their shoes, predecessors continually keep their skeletons off the radar. Skeletons in this regard are stolen patrimony, abuse of power while in office and the thirst to continue to dictate the barometer and temperature of power, even out of power.
From all intent and purposes, Rauf Aregbesola, incumbent Minister of Interior and former governor of Osun State, desires or desired to do all the above. While in office for eight years, Aregbesola ruled Osun like an emperor and in the guise of being against-method, literally ruined the state with his despotism and arrogant disposition to power. In Adegboyega Oyetola, his successor, whom he thought he had found a plasticine bendable at wills, he met his political waterloo. From his two-year fare in office, Oyetola had proven to be a man of his own mind, detracting from the iron hands of the Aregbesola years and evading the calamitous policies the man who nicknamed self Oranminyan enunciated that have kept Osun in a limbo. Oyetola pays workers their full salaries, abolished the obnoxious single uniform for all primary and secondary school students in the state and restored the original names of all schools which Aregbesola had named after his whim, caprice and fancy. The people are happy with him, I found out.
This departure from the past by Oyetola has seen Osun tailspinning into political unease in the last two years. Though he and the governor are from the same party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), the party has bifurcated into two rumps – the Aregbesola and Oyetola groups. Occasional clashes have been recorded and averted. A totalitarian that he decidedly is, in and out of office, Aregbesola has mourned this drift by Oyetola like the loss of a fiefdom. During the EndSARS palaver when Oyetola’s car was attacked by alleged hoodlums, those who could read the Osun barometer correctly have said that the political temperature in the state constituted highly to this drift.
Last year when Oyetola was celebrating his first anniversary in office, simultaneously, Aregbesola also attempted to celebrate an abstruse anniversary of what he called the first year of his departure from office. It is a novel chicanery unknown in the history of Nigerian politics. This year, his aides announced well before hand that their boss was storming Osun to celebrate what they termed the tenth anniversary of an unbroken ‘progressive governance’ in the state. Whatever that is! When this queer announcement got tongues wagging, his media aide again said Aregbesola’s homecoming was in obedience to President Muhammadu Buhari’s instruction to all ministers to go have a feel of their constituents, coming after the violence that shook Nigeria in October.
Let’s leave the reversible nature of the planned homecoming and concentrate on the sense in the reversal. Why would Aregbesola just be honouring a presidential instruction that is well over a month, now? His colleague ministers conferred with their constituents long time ago and while they did, Kabiyesi Aregbesola went to Lagos, to his second fiefdom of Alimosho! If Osun must celebrate a decade of unbroken something, should it be anchored by Aregbesola who is no longer in office or by his successor, who was not in the know of the celebration?
Judging by the famed disagreeable inclination of the Oranminran group which Aregbesola sired in Osun, the planned homecoming promised to be as red as bedlam. Indeed, the state had started quaking as residents anticipated a bloody session of weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth. No one dare peer torchlight to see the redness of the Sango priest’s eye. No one could tell Aregbesola that bloodbath would ensue if he came home. The option was to allow the famed proverb of a madman bury his mother the way he liked, with the resultant outcome of regrets for all.
One man dared bite the bullet, for the sake of the wellbeing of the people of Osun. It was former governor of the state, Olagunsoye Oyinlola. In a statement he issued, he went into recent history of amity in transition of power in the state; how Governor Bisi Akande, whom he took over office from, never attempted to set the state on fire and how he, for the eight years of Aregbesola’s rule, never attempted the kind of pregnantly weird celebration he planned. Oyinlola had, in the statement, appealed for calm over the tension generated in Osun state by Aregbesola’s plan to hold that parallel event to Oyetola’s second anniversary celebrations, both scheduled to come up on Friday, November 27. How that appeal to Aregbesola not to fight his brother became an excuse to launch a vicious attack on Oyinlola beats imagination. If you are accused of repeatedly cursing your neighbours and your response to the charge is a curse, how do you want the whole world to view you?
Aregbesola thereafter proceeded to send his Rottweilers after this man of peace. The man he abused as being spent was the one whose lone roar made the needed difference. I am a political scientist and that is an example of what we call moral force. It was that voice that made Aregbesola rescind the bloody proposal of his as we see him proceeding to do exactly what Oyinlola advised him to do. Aregbesola not only wrote an about-turn, belated letter of congratulations to Oyetola, he even placed newspaper adverts felicitating the incumbent governor on “his second anniversary.” Why didn’t he do these last year? The only intervening factor between last year and this year is the Oyinlola statement. Aregbesola’s arrogance and self-righteousness would not allow him to thank Oyinlola for, as the street lingo says, “borrowing him sense,” and also seek God’s forgiveness for the lies and the very wild insinuations contained in his press statement against his predecessor. The man had merely called for calm at a time drums of war were being beaten across Osun State.
For those who wonder whether I am not an interloper in the politics of Osun, I am indeed a stakeholder. I lived in the state more than some who today have assumed political panjandrum roles in it. I hawked plastic wares barefooted, from Ikirun to Inisa in the 1970s, walked the then lonely road to Akinorun Grammar School and Iyemogun road of C & S High School, Ilesa. I follow events in Osun state, especially since 1999. It is on record that Oyinlola ran a government with a human face. He never owed workers their legitimate pay and gave every citizen of the state the respect due to them. I wish that Aregbesola could boast too that his years in government were not painful to the people, especially to teachers, civil servants and pensioners he owed 36 months of unpaid half salaries and pensions, despite the fact that President Buhari gave him enough bailouts to pay the poor workers and pensioners.
The narrative among Osun state people is that this man got a ministerial post in the name of Osun state but he is sadly using it for Lagos. His aides, as minister, he reportedly appointed from Lagos. How could a minister representing Osun State be announcing and setting aside a date to visit a state he is representing? Is that not a confirmation that Aregbesola is an absentee Minister?
By now, Osun would have been roiling in blood and tears if Aregbesola had perfected his plan of storming the state. Statesmen should hold a leash to aberrant power-mongers and not consider their own political party leaning. This was exactly what Oyinlola did which should earn him kudos from every right-thinking person. But common sense is not common, especially among persons who believe they are too big to embrace wisdom.
Festus Adedayo is an Ibadan-based journalist.