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Insecurity: Was Buhari Misunderstood?
In this piece, KUNLE ODEREMI analyses the controversy triggered by the views of a former Head of State, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, on the state of the nation.
General Muhammadu Buhari sparingly grants press interviews. It is not a culture or principle he lately acquired. The virtue has been part of him since his first coming as a military head of state in 1983. But his interactions with his supporters on two occasions lately in his capacity as the de facto leader of the opposition party, the Congress for Progressive Change [CPC] have culminated in outbursts from the Daura, Katsina State-born politician which rattled the ranks of PDP leaders on what he perceived as the precarious state of the country.
He made the first controversial comment on April 21, 2012 at his Kaduna residence while playing host to some of his supporters. He cautioned against possible revolution in the country, given what he considered as the steady retrogression in values. What became the icing on the cake was his statement on Tuesday when another batch of his supporters thronged his home. He reportedly declared that there would be bloodshed in 2015 in case of any attempt, ostensibly by PDP, to undermine the sovereign power of the people to elect their leaders. He also delivered a devastating blow on the underbelly of the Federal Government for the general insecurity in the country and the monumental fraud in the petroleum sector.
Expectedly, the Presidency and PDP again saw his comment as a complete affront. Having served the first salvo, they, in unison, reasoned that Buhari deserved no mercy this time round. Apart from describing him as an ethnic jingoist, the Presidency challenged him to tell Nigerians what he had done to “bring education to vulnerable children.” On its part, PDP described him as a “frustrated politician,” having lost in the presidential race thrice. It also queried the democratic credentials of the former leader.
Buhari, however, is not the first eminent person who had raised concern on the seeming bad shape of events in the country lately. A former Minister of Defence, General T.Y. Danjuma made similar observations, while the present National Security Adviser to the president, Major General Patrick Azazi equally frowned at what he identified as a major obstacle to tackling insecurity in the country. Then, did the Presidency and PDP misunderstand Buhari over his comments in relation to what some consider as a true reflection of current realities in the country?
According to some analysts, the smouldering political smoke is also over the race for the 2015 elections. The political actors are evolving all manner of intrigues to put themselves and parties in good stead ahead of the election year. The meandering is not restricted to the opposition parties, but even becoming more pronounced in PDP, where political actors have stepped up campaigns that the next president must emanate from their zones, other than the South-South, the constituency of the president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan.
There are predictions that the current brickbat between the ‘rulers’ and other actors, especially in the political circle, will escalate in the countdown to May 29 Democracy Day. The government would intensify efforts at convincing Nigerians that the PDP-led federal administration has lived up to part of its pre-election promises. The Presidency has even boasted that the achievements have continued to be showcased through televised ministerial press briefings.
Not all stakeholders have so far been impressed with those ‘modest’ achievements in view of some existing critical challenges like monumental fraud, Boko Haram, banditry, problems of power supply, bad roads, unemployment, ethnicity, religion among others, in the polity. Some of these issues have led to critics expressing the possibility of the Arab spring in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, some prominent persons commented on the verbal ‘assault’ by the Presidency and PDP on Buhari, arising from his outburst last Tuesday.
Mr Fred Agbaje, constitutional lawyer and activist
I don’t know why PDP and the Federal Government are up in arms against Buhari. What has the man said that is not known to the common man? Instead of the government addressing the message, it is busy attacking the messenger. The same message was sent by a former Minister of Defence, General T. Y. Danjuma about the insecurity in the country and categorised some states in the North as failed states. To cap it all up, the NSA talked about the insecurity in the country. So, what has Buhari said that has not been confirmed over time?
It’s high time the government looked inward and deal with the security challenge, lack of infrastructure and rising unemployment in the country, instead of shadow-chasing. If the government has evidence to prove otherwise about what Buhari and others have said, let it come out. What the messenger (Buhari) is saying, to many of us, makes sense. It is the government’s response that doesn’t make sense.
Chief Supo Shonibare, a leader of Afenifere
Nigerians have an inalienable right to determine those who wish to manage their collective wealth on their behalf, both at state and federal levels. If a group of power brokers and money mongers use institutionalised forces of coercion as well as private armies to allot our collective wealth for themselves through rigging of elections, then it is the duty of every citizen to resist this by any means whatever, although speaking for myself, I will prefer passive resistance and general strike by the people and not labour.
Chief George Moghalu, former ANPP National Secretary
There are two sides to this coin. One party tries to raise awareness as to their fears for 2015, based on their past experience. Whereas the other party views such reaction as inciting, supposedly in the light of our current insecurity challenges, coupled with the fact that the speaker is not just anybody.
However, I don’t see it as anything that should overheat the polity. My advice therefore is that while Congress for Progressive Change [CPC] waits for 2015, the Peoples Democratic party (PDP), being the present custodians of our democracy should ensure that the electoral umpire being the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), lives up to expectation by delivering a free, fair and credible election, to at least dismiss the fears of CPC and other opposition parties.
Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin, President, Campaign for Democracy (CD)
It is clear that the messenger has been the focus here on this issue. If somebody says that anybody that engages in robbery would meet his waterloo, it is only robbers that will have problems with such an assertion. It is clear that we need free, fair and credible elections, because we have seen the kind of bad governance that rigged elections have thrown up all over the years. We must achieve free and fair elections without bloodshed.