by Senator Ihenyen
Sometimes, one cannot help but wonder if some of us realise the immeasurable and irreparable damage we cause when we make certain unpalatable remarks that portend danger for the polity. How in the world can a former Head of State of a country like Nigeria such as Major-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), say that the ongoing war against Boko Haram is anti-North?
The truth is that not a few northern elders and leaders find it exceedingly difficult to exercise some appreciable level of circumspection in their utterenaces on national issues. It has become characteristic of Major Gen. Buhari to make inflammatory statements whenever he feels like exercising some political relevance in the polity. With all due respect, the former Head of State needs to demonstrate a high level of political immaturity at a time when the nation is in dire need of statesmen who have some political, social and moral value to offer.
With the ruling party, the PDP, constituting sheer nuisance all over the place heightened by the recent NGF election of shame, one would have expected some of these personalities in the opposition such as Buhari to be beacons of hope in an alternative government come 2015. But of course, the opposition, if precedents are anything to go by, always have a reliable way of disappointing Nigerians.
As might have been expected in reaction to the inflammatory comment, the leadership of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has alleged that Buhari was promoting the cause of the radical Islamist group, Boko Haram. Also, a group, Niger Delta Professionals (NIGERDELTAPROFS), employed the words “senseless and foolish” to describe the comment made by Buhari. The group completely rejected the comparison of Niger Delta militants and Boko Haram made by Buhari, pointing out that whilst the former was a struggle for economic, social and environmental justice, the latter was clearly a different matter.
I continue to emphasise in my posts that any such comparison is unreasonable and must be treated with suspicion. The Niger Delta struggle has largely been a justifiable agitation for resource control, infrastructural development and inclusion of the region in the Nigerian state. No man in his right senses would not see the activities of Boko Haram as acts of terrorism. If the stand of the Federal Government before the dramatic proscription of the fundamentalist sect had betrayed any sign of feet-dragging with a knee-begging amnesty that since failed, it is not because there is anything to justify it in the first place. The Jonathan administration had only been compromising national security largely because the Ijaw-born President cared more about saving his 2015 presidential ambition than the country.
Even the politically naïve is not unaware of the north’s decisive vote in national elections owing to the huge population and usually mono-coloured voting patterns, unlike the less predictable Southern voters. Therefore, if President Jonathan had delayed his state of emergency action in the northern states of Bornu, Yobe and Adamawa, it should not be a surprise to Nigerians who understand the game of politics and power. Democracy after all is a game of numbers.
At the wake of the eventual declaration of the state of emergency in the three northern states, Nigerians witnessed the hostile reactions from the north. Not a few northern leaders accused the President of failing to see through the efforts being made to dialogue with the fundamentalist sect, particularly after giving in to pressures to grant a controversial amnesty to the sect. Of course, a greater part of that political pressure had come from, again, northern elders and leaders.
Typically, as reactions continue to trail Major Gen. Buhari’s comment, there have been defences from the northern part of the country, once again. The Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) governorship candidate in Jigawa State at the 2011 election, Alhaji Faruk Adamu Aliyu, said in a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Hausa Service interview monitored in Kaduna on Wednesday, that the comment by the CPC’s presidential candidate in the 2011 election on the state of the country was “the truth.” He also added that there was truth in Buhari’s remark that those in the Niger Delta are “favoured and pampered.”
Let’s call a spade a spade. Buhari is not just any Nigerian. He is someone who has once ruled this country as the Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. He has got a great political status and definitely one of the biggest political heavyweights in the country. He was the presidential candidate of All Nigerian People’s Party (ANPP) in 2003, 2007, and on the platform of his own party, Congress for People’s Change (CPC) in 2011. Today, his name is still among the list of possible presidential candidates ready to do battlle with the ruling party, PDP, on the platform of the new opposision mega party, All Progressive Congress (APC).
I am therefore usuallly perplexed whenever Major-Gen. Buhari makes self-degenerating statements that do not only constitute a serious threat to his political ambition, but also pull down the pillars of support his otherwise principled personality may have built for him over the years. Must we always remind Buhari that he is not the Chairman of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) nor his he going to rule the north only if he ever finds himself in the presidency. For a man who was in the highest political leadership position in the country at the time I was yet unborn, it is very worrisome witnessing such degeneration into absurdity. It is indeed disappointing, especially considering what personalities of Buhari’s status should represent in the nation today.
Without any overstatement intended, Buhari’s remark portends great danger for the polity. For those who continue to politicise sensitive issues such as our national security, they are only gathering canons for their own self-destruction. It is only the people who blindly idolise such demi-gods of bigotry and sectionalism that I worry about. This is because when our elders and leaders make the wrong decisions and employ the wrong approach to national issues, it is usually the common man that suffers more from the boomerangs. This is because such statements most times end up inflaming the passion of their followers which usually results in ethno-religious violence. The violent aftermath of the declaration by INEC of Goodluck Jonathan as winner of the presidential elections in 2011 is still fresh in our minds.
If you ask me, Buhari’s comment could reasonably be taken as a confirmation of the suspicions of many Nigerians that Boko Haram indeed enjoys some level of support from some northern elders. Curiously, the Islamist insurgency is traceable to the electoral violence that had followed the 2011 election. Gradually, it metamorphosed into Boko Haram.
Against this background, I personally believe that Major Gen. Buhari has crossed the line, again. The invitation, therefore, by concerned Nigerians to security agencies and the international community to extend their search for the leadership of the fundamentalist sect by a proper investigation of Buhari may not be unwarranted.
It is high time our political leaders and supposed statemen began to exercise reasonable restraint in their utterances partcularly concerning the our national security. Anything less should be treated appropriately given the potential dangers such inflammotory remarks portend for the polity. From precedents, asking for apologies or retraction from a man like Buhari is dead on arrival. The institutions of the state should simply do their job if they find any reason to exercise proactiveness in their fight against the high level of insecurity and violence in the country.
The north belongs to all of us, not just the northerners.