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Obasanjo worried Nigeria might disintegrate in open letter to Buhari – why it matters

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Obasanjo worried Nigeria might disintegrate in open letter to Buhari – why it matters

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo is warning that Nigeria is at the “tipping point” of disintegration. Obasanjo delivered his message in an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari challenging him to step up and address the issue of insecurity with “utmost seriousness”.

Background: This is not the first time Obasanjo has written to Buhari concerning matters of security and the issue of the violent “Fulani herdsmen” group. Obasanjo expressed worries that the country is “on the precipice and dangerously reaching a tipping point”. He warned that the inability of government to manage the situation might lead to a free-for-all. Obasanjo’s letter might have been motivated by the recent killing of Mrs. Funke Olakunrin, the daughter of a leader of the Afenifere (Yoruba cultural organization), Chief Reuben Fasoranti allegedly by the herdsmen. According to Fasoranti in a statement following the death of his daughter, Nigeria is already at war.

The four main worries of President Obasanjo: President Obasanjo outlined four “avoidable” calamities that could befall Nigeria if this trend continues unabated.

  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 the dismemberment  of the country.”

Why it matters: Some of former president Obasanjo’s fears have become a reality in some parts of the country. State failure has resulted in the administration and control of territories by non-state actors including bandits, militias and terror groups. More than ever before, the agitation for the separation of the country is getting louder. A 15-year outlook report (pdf) on Africa by the US National Intelligence Council in 2005 warned that Nigeria could become a “failed state” or  witness an “outright collapse”. The report captured some of the issues the country is currently experiencing now and the leadership response has been weak.

Trust the villa to respond: President Buhari responded to Obasanjo’s letter through his spokesperson Garba Shehu who said the former president lacks knowledge on the topic.

Bottomline: Nigeria faces a real threat and the government should address it as a matter of urgency. Among the former president’s advice to President Buhari is the need to convene stakeholders and facilitate meaningful dialogue. He should begin this process afresh and look into implementing meaningful recommendations from prior national dialogues such as the 2014 National Conference. 

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