Obasanjo is a rigid but turgid Nationalist. He leaves no room for 2nd opinion where Nigeria is the subject especially when it comes to expressing his views on ethnic and tribal views that tend to divide us.
Baba, as he is fondly called, is one man who will not keep quiet when words are needed to address the state of the nation. Whatever he can’t verbalize, he’ll definitely put pen to paper.
In his letter to President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan in 2013 titled: “Before It Is Too Late”, Obasanjo literally engineered our change of Captain, the climax of which was the shreding of his PDP membership card, reminiscent of the prophetic act of Samuel’s cloth that turned the Kingdom from Saul to David. Nigeria, from PDP was passed to APC and from GEJ to PMB.
From his tactical background and training as a military officer, Obasanjo warned us before the elections on the need never to re-inforce failure. But for whatever reason, he gave Buhari the benefit of the doubt and waited till after the elections to fan the flame & the flicker of hope in Buhari’s re-election, with his letter to the President. In the spirit of “es spirit de corps” and like a senior colleague wishing for the success of his fellow General, he advised on how to lay out his duties to make the best of the class he was about to repeat.
Notwithstanding the candour, diplomacy and respect in which the tone of his letter was couched, Buhari’s “attack dogs” in Femi Adesina particularly took Obasanjo to the cleaners. He seemed to have forgotten the Yoruba adage that says; “omode to ni enu agba nrun, ikoko ni o pa aja re je”. The child that say the elder’s mouth is smelling, that child’s dog shall be devoured be wolfs.
Today we are faced with the consequences of an Elder Statesman’s advice despised and ignored by some Nincompoops; “who must never rule us again” in the words of number 16, Pastor Tunde Bakare.
Regretebly, while Nigeria is burning Garba Shehu is still spewing garbage, Lai Mohammed is still lying and Femi is still flippant with words, all in the bid to justify their hire at the expense of the country.
“Ti omode ba subu, a wo iwaju, ti agba ba subu, a wo eyin wo”, when a child falls, he looks forward, when an elder falls, he looks backwards; though, both actions are initiated by the need to investigate the causes of their falling. If for age, Adesina and Garba are looking forward and Lai Mohammed for inexperience at the level of leadership he finds himself is looking forward like the duo, it’s high time General Muhammadu Buhari looked back. He may start by pausing to reflect on the wise counsel of his Senior colleague.
In a letter dated July 15, 2019, Obasanjo advised President Buhari to immediately address the increasing cases of insecurity in Nigeria to prevent it from escalating into a full-blown war.
If only Obasanjo’s warning was considered worthy of consideration by his Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, may be, we wouldn’t be here today. Any advice that could deliver a result better than this failure is worth going back to, even if from a perceived enemy.
“I am constrained to write to you this open letter”, Obasanjo began. “I decided to make it an open letter because the issue is very weighty and must be greatly worrisome to all concerned Nigerians and that means all right-thinking Nigerians and those resident in Nigeria. Since the issue is of momentous concern to all well-meaning and all right-thinking Nigerians, it must be of great concern to you, and collective thinking and dialoguing is the best way of finding an appropriate and adequate solution to the problem. The contents of this letter, therefore, should be available to all those who can help in proffering effective solutions for the problem of insecurity in the land”.
Obasanjo was pushed to write his epistle, by the memories of the event of 1966 that led to the civil war. The issue Obasanjo said were very weighty and worrisome to all in July 2019 are so light to generate a push on President Muhammadu Buhari who in April 2021 warned bandits and Boko Haram not to push him to crush them. Buhari served the warning while death toll in farming community in Zamfara went up to 83 souls. A Hospital was raided in Kaduna and health workers were kidnapped. The Greenfield University also in Kaduna was visited with 23 Students kidnapped some of whom are daily killed by their abductors to forcefully press for ransome. 5 have been killed out of the innocent Students, whose sins and that of their parents along with all of was the failure to heed Obasanjo’s warning never to reinforce failure.
Baba had more to say:
“One of the spinoffs and accelerants is the misinformation and disinformation through the use of fake news. A number of articles, in recent days, have been attributed to me by some people who I believe may be seeking added credence and an attentive audience for their opinions and view-points. As you know very well, I will always boldly own up to what I say and disown what is put into my mouth. But the issue I am addressing here is very serious; it is the issue of life and death for all of us and for our dear country, Nigeria. This issue can no longer be ignored, treated with nonchalance, swept under the carpet or treated with cuddling glove. The issue is hitting at the foundation of our existence as Nigerians and fast eroding the root of our Nigerian community. I am very much worried and afraid that we are on the precipice and dangerously reaching a tipping point where it may no longer be possible to hold danger at bay. Without being immodest, as a Nigerian who still bears the scar of the Nigerian civil war on my body and with a son who bears the scar of fighting Boko Haram on his body, you can understand, I hope, why I am so concerned. When people are desperate and feel that they cannot have confidence in the ability of government to provide security for their lives and properties, they will take recourse to anything and everything that can guarantee their security individually and collectively”
Obasanjo’s counsel was counter productive. The issues were “puerile, small and insignificant” to bother Muhammadu Buhari who knew as Femi Adesina made us understand that he was jealous of Muhammadu Buhari’s achievement of leveling up with him as the only two Nigerians who has been military head of State and elected President. The only record left for Obasanjo to boast about was the scar of his son at fighting Boko Haram, which is nothing more than the scar Yusuf sustained while serving us as the President’s son through a bike accident. Many Nigerians have very bitter accounts and experiences of the insecurity in the land except those who benefit from it by trading in it, supplying arms to FRAUDSTARS, colluding with bandits and criminals to forment mayhem in the land. Though all hands must be on deck towards resolving these issues, the President and his lieutenant are comfortable with their hands under the deck to keep the issue escalating.
“For over ten years, four of which you have been the captain of the ship, Boko Haram has menacingly ravaged the land and in spite of government’s claim of victory over Boko Haram, the potency and the activities of Boko Haram, where they are active, remain undiminished, putting lie to government’s claim. The recent explanation of the Chief of Army Staff for non-victory due to lack of commitment and lack of motivation on the part of troops bordering on sabotage speaks for itself. Say what you will, Boko Haram is still a daily issue of insecurity for those who are victimised, killed, maimed, kidnapped, raped, sold into slavery and forced into marriage and for children forcibly recruited into carrying bombs on them to detonate among crowds of people to cause maximum destructions and damage. And Boko Haram will not go away on the basis of sticks alone, carrots must overweigh sticks. How else do you deal with issues such as only about 50% literacy in North-East with over 70% unemployment?”
Schools today are shut, bringing to fulfilment of “BOKO HARAM”, farmers will need military permission to go to the farm. The last time they did without one, over a hundred of them were brought back in body bags. Massive sensitisation of the citizens is important, but Lai is still trading lies, and NCC is wallowing in propaganda. Channels TV can interview Boko Haram, go on visit with Sheikh Gumi to the wilderness of the bandits but IPOB must not be heard!
The Government that must continuously fish out the bad eggs in government who are leaking out the tactical and Strategic plans of government to Boko Haram just gave herself out as the real enabler of the ideology. Still Pantami had no case to answer over damming allegations bothering on terrorism. If the government is indeed sincere, with this type of development, external help should by now be sought before we are completely compromised.
Obasanjo had said:
“Herdsmen/farmers crises and menace started with government treating the issue with cuddling gloves instead of hammer. It has festered and spread. Today, it has developed into banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery and killings all over the country. The unfortunate situation is that the criminality is being perceived as a ‘Fulani’ menace unleashed by Fulani elite in the different parts of the country for a number of reasons but even more unfortunately, many Nigerians and non-Nigerians who are friends of Nigeria attach vicarious responsibility to you as a Fulani elite and the current captain of the Nigeria ship. Perceptions may be as potent as reality at times. Whatever may be the grievances of Fulanis, if any, they need to be put out in the open and their grievances, if legitimate, be addressed; and if other ethnic groups have grievances, let them also be brought out in the open and addressed through debate and dialogue”.
The issue of Herders/Farmers conflict is obviously a sinister follow up plan on the gain of insurgency. Their suicide bombing tactics and territorial occupation with hosting of flags was dropped for inflation of non Fulani farming communities all over Nigeria. Benue was badly hit, with countless murdered. The Middle Belt was invaded. Through Enugu provocatively, perceived, herdsmen sneaked upon the innocent and hard-working farmers of the South East region farms and disposed them of their lands. There had been peaceful herders before but not anymore. This troublesome ones who are uncooperative and hostile to their host communities in blatant impunity are Buhari’s gift to Nigeria. Government had been blind, deaf and dumb but the opressed people of affected communities seem ready to die or live. Government suddenly regained it’s sight, but only to see that which they want to see. It has now become so bad that agitations for cecesion is now so loud all over the land!
“The main issue, if I may dare say”, Obasanjo continued, “is poor management or mis-management of diversity which, on the other hand, is one of our greatest and most important assets. As a result, a very onerous cloud is gathering. And rain of destruction, violence, disaster and disunity can only be the outcome. Nothing should be taken for granted. The clock is ticking with the cacophony of dissatisfaction and disaffection everywhere in and outside the country. The Presidency and the Congress in the US have signalled to us to put our house in order. The House of Lords in the UK had debated the Nigerian security situation. We must understand and appreciate the significance, implication and likely consequences of such concerns and deliberations”.
Those who refuse to allow peace will also not witness peace. Government’s sincere actions is long overdue. It insincerity is also seen through not just by ethnic nationalities but by the International community who are bemused by “Pantami Gate”. The needful should be done NOW!
“No one can stop hate speech, violent agitations and smouldering violent agitations if he fans the embers of hatred, disaffections and violence. It will continue to snowball until it is out of control. A stitcht in time saves nine, goes the old wise saying”.
Action and reaction they say are equal and opposite, if hate speech are reaction on the side of the people, what are the actions of Government demanding equal measure of hate and opposition from the people. But our Government seems so intelligently lazy to probe itself for productivity. Being responsible too is very important. He who lives in a glass house must not throw stones. If you think you can speak, no matter how sincere you may think you are, you should be mindful of those gifted with hearing. Every move and efforts should be made to curb staff and apologists of government from promoting or festering hostilities. Many government officials connive with bandits to commit criminal acts. Some others have commercialised information from government, trading it with bandits. It is painful that government looks on, in each of the cases of kidnap till matters get out of hand. Leah Sharibu, CHIBOK girls, Daura, Katsina kidnap; and others followed the same pattern, without any communication interception till date is fear of Pantami’s handling of Communications Ministry and Digital Economy not justified.
“With the death of Funke, Chief Fasoranti’s daughter, some sympathetic Nigerian groups are saying “enough is enough”. Prof. Anya, a distinguished Nigerian merit Award Laureate, has this to say “We can no longer say with certainty that we have a nation”. Niger-Delta leaders, South-Eastern leaders, Middle-Belt leaders and Northern Elders Forum have not remained quiet. Different, ordinary Nigerians at home and abroad are calling for different measures to address or ameliorate the situation. All the calls and cries can only continue to be ignored at the expense of Nigerian unity, if not its continued existence”.
Funke, was about the beginning of strategic personality taken down which was aimed at demoralising other ethnic nationalities by the Fulani marauders. Alhaji Fatai Yusuf, popularly known as Oko Oloyun was murdered in what looked like Fulani herdsmen killing signature. In the same axis of Oyo State, an illustrious son of Igangan a medical doctor based in Germany returned home to make investment in Agriculture employing thousands of his people. Fulani grazed their herds on his farm and when he protested his life was taken the blood bond of tribal mark on his cheeks and that of Sunday Adeyemo AKA Sunday Igboho is today an agitation the Federal Government will do well to attend to and not forcefully react to.
“To be explicit and without equivocation, Mr. President and General, I am deeply worried about four avoidable calamities:
1. Abandoning Nigeria into the hands of criminals who are all being suspected, rightly or wrongly, as Fulanis and terrorists of Boko Haram type;
2. Spontaneous or planned reprisal attacks against Fulanis which may inadvertently or advertently mushroom into pogrom or Rwanda-type genocide that we did not believe could happen and yet it happened;
3. Similar attacks against any other tribe or ethnic group anywhere in the country initiated by rumours, fears, intimidation and revenge capable of leading to pogrom;
4. violent uprising beginning from one section of the country and spreading quickly to other areas and leading to dismemberment of the country”.
We will do ourselves a lot of favour if we will look critically and clinically at Obasanjo’s four points of worry for avoidable calamities which he explicitly suggested.
Obasanjo further warned; “It happened to Yugoslavia not too long ago. If we do not act now, one or all of these scenarios may happen. We must pray and take effective actions at the same time. The initiative is in the hands of the President of the nation, but he cannot do it alone.
In my part of the world, if you are sharpening your cutlass and a mad man comes from behind to take the cutlass from you, you need other people’s assistance to have your cutlass back without being harmed. The mad men with serious criminal intent and terrorism as core value have taken cutlass of security. The need for assistance to regain control is obviously compelling and must be embraced now”.
Like the mad man in OBJ’s story the global madness of terrorism for which the world is yet to find lasting solution, came behind our Government and took hold of our cutlass. The alleged alliance of Sheikh Isa Pantami with terrorists and link with terrorism demand a call to the rest of the world to help us retrieve our data from the hands of International terrorism networks such as Al-Qaeda and others which Pantami is known to celebrate.
A couple of weeks ago at a public lecture, I had said, among other things, that:
“In all these issues of mobilisation for national unity, stability, security, cooperation, development, growth and progress, there is no consensus. Like in the issue of security, government should open up discussion, debate and dialogue as part of consultation at different levels and the outcome of such deliberations should be collated to form inputs into a national conference to come up with the solution that will effectively deal with the issues and lead to rapid development, growth and progress which will give us a wholesome society and enhanced living standard and livelihood in an inclusive and shared society. It will be a national programme. We need unity of purpose and nationally accepted strategic roadmap that will not change with the whims and caprices of any government. It must be owned by the citizens, people’s policy and strategy implemented by the government no matter its colour and leaning.
Some of the groups that I will suggest to be contacted are: traditional rulers, past heads of Security services (no matter how competent or incompetent they have been and how much they have contributed to the mess we are in), past heads of para-military organisations, the private sector, civil societies, community leaders particularly in the most affected areas, present and past governors, present and past local government leaders, religious leaders, past Heads of State, past intelligence chiefs, past Heads of Civil Service and relevant current and retired diplomats, members of opposition and any groups that may be deemed relevant.
The President must be seen to be addressing this issue with utmost seriousness and with maximum dispatch and getting all hands on deck to help. If there is failure, the principal responsibility will be that of the President and no one else. We need cohesion and concentration of effort and maximum force – political, economic, social, psychological and military – to deal successfully with the menace of criminality and terrorism separately and together. Blame game among own forces must be avoided. It is debilitating and only helpful to our adversary. We cannot dither anymore. It is time to confront this threat headon and in a manner that is holistic, inclusive and purposeful”.
Obasanjo concluded his epistles with the following prayers: “For the sake of Nigeria and Nigerians, I pray that God may grant you, as our President, the wisdom, the understanding, the political will and the courage to do what is right when it is right and without fear or favour. May God save, secure, protect and bless Nigeria. May He open to us a window of opportunity that we can still use to prevent the worst happening.
The President must rise to correct the notion many hold of the impotence of his power daily proven by the unchecked impunity of the outlaws and the non state actors. If our President won’t save us from his tribe the world should please arise for our help before we are wiped out. God forbid!
Dr. Bolaji O. Akinyemi is the founding President of Project Victory Call Initiative, AKA PVC-NAIJA.