Home CELEB COLUMNISTS Opinion (15/4/19): Nigeria: An Unhappy President, an Angry People, By Comfort Obi

Opinion (15/4/19): Nigeria: An Unhappy President, an Angry People, By Comfort Obi


We have a quotable quote from President Muhammadu Buhari. He says he is unhappy. “I am the unhappiest President in the world”, national newspapers quoted Mr President as saying. He spoke from a foreign land, Amman, Jordan, where he addressed some Nigerians who live in that country. “It is uncharitable of those who accuse me of not being worried over the killings going on in Zamfara”, he added. The killings are not exclusive to Zamfara. Every part of Nigeria is soaked in blood – especially parts of the North-west and North-east.

Many Nigerians, on reading the President, had a good laugh. I didn’t. They don’t understand. They think the opposite is the case. They think the President is in cloud nine. They wonder how a Nigerian President would claim to be the unhappiest President in the world. They refer you to the Nigerian Constitution where his powers are spelt out. It bestows on the President more powers than any other President/Prime Minister/Head of State in the world. To crown it all, they add, the man has just won a second term in office, a feat many people never gave him a chance to accomplish. So, how can he be unhappy?, they ask.

But President Buhari is correct. I believe him. He should be unhappy. And that is an understatement. In fact, he should be extremely unhappy. He should be so unhappy he should not have embarked on the trip to Jordan and Dubai. Considering the sad situation in the country, not a few people dismissed that trip frivolous. They said it was like Rome’s Emperor Nero fiddling while Rome burnt. At least, one national newspaper, The Punch, in its editorial, of Tuesday, April 9, took exception to the President’s foreign trips when Nigeria is at its lowest, at its most vulnerable. Every indices which make life worthwhile for a people points to the negative.

I insist that the President has reasons to worry. And, he has genuine reasons to be unhappy. His subjects are angry. And they are hungry. The unprecedented violence and killings in the land have taken food away from them. They are helpless. And hapless. They see no tomorrow. They are worried. They see no future. They are disillusioned. And they ask: Where is our country? What has happened to it?

Suddenly, Nigerians have become endangered species. From left, right and centre, death stares us in the face. No time is safe, and nowhere is safe. Blood flows.

We are under unprecedented attack. Our youths are mowed down. Our children have become orphans or, at best, fatherless, in their thousands. Women have been forced into widowhood in their thousands. Atrocities, as never been seen before, are our everyday life. And, our country, one huge mortuary.

Not even during the civil war did Nigerians witness what they are witnessing today. We are under attack. Boko Haram. ISIS, West Africa, Bandits. Gun-wielding herdsmen. Kidnappers. Armed robbers. Assassins. Ritualists. And, we have not added some power-drunk trigger-happy security personnel who have declared war on our youths.

We are at war with ourselves. And our country bleeds. So why will the President be happy?

No leader is happy when his country men and women are under attack; when he cannot secure their lives; when he has tried everything, and nothing seems to be working. It can be frustrating.

For President Buhari, in particular, it is even more frustrating. One of the reasons for which he sought power was to secure the country. He promised us security of lives and property. When he swept into power in 2015, the allegation was that Boko Haram had taken over a number of LGAs in Borno state. Within a couple of months, we were told, all those areas had been reclaimed. We were told Boko Haram had been degraded. We were told we had become safe. It is now debatable what the truth is. Are we safer than we were in 2015?

In fairness to the President, he gave the Boko Haram menace a good shot when he came in. The security situation improved a notch. But that was then.

Nothing seems to be working out again. Our nightmare has multiplied.

Inspite of the gallantry of our military, the billions of money spent, the number of times our Security Chiefs have met with the President, the number of military operations code-named this and that, the story remains the same.

Hundreds of thousands of our people are refugees in their own country. The number of IDPs have since risen by about 500 per cent. Our IDP camps stretch to Cameroon and the Niger Republic. And some more.

So, how can the President be happy?

From Borno, Adamawa, Katsina, Kaduna, Yobe Taraba, Plateau, Benue, Zamfara, the story is the same. Aside from the genocide going on in Southern Kaduna, the road between Abuja and Kaduna is comparable to the road to Afghanistan or Syria or Libya. Nigerians are being kidnapped in droves. And it is such a shame that a combination of the military and the police have, for more than 12 months, been unable to secure that road. The Benin – Ore road is the same. So is the Port Hacourt – Owerri road. And there are a number of other roads in Nigeria that have been labelled “no pass areas.” You do that at your own risk. Deadly kidnappers will bundle you into the forest.

I know a number of Nigerians who have stopped reading newspapers, and stopped listening to the news on radio and television because every line read, every word uttered is so very depressing.

So, how can the President be happy?

Yet, the massacres as we have seen in Zamfara in the past couple of weeks pass all understanding. Heart-wrenching stories of the slaughtering of Nigerians leave one dumbfounded. Nowhere in the world, in recent times, have such atrocities, such brazen killings, as we are seeing in Zamfara happened. Whole families are wiped out. Whole communities are wiped out. Their houses burnt. Where is the international community? Have we been abandoned to our fate? How come these armed bandits are impossible for our military to contain? The more we are told they have been contained, the more they multiply.

I began to take serious note of Zamfara a few months ago. Until then, I was associating the state with illegal mining and lead poisoning. My awakening came the day a traditional ruler in the state courageously tackled the state governor, Abdulazeez Yari, who had visited him. He decried the security situation in the state, and dismissed the governor, almost, as incompetent. He advised him to stay in the state and govern instead of spending all his time in Abuja.

True, Governor Yari is suffering from the Sokugo disease, an affliction, as written in Cyprain Ekwensi’s Burning Grass, which hardly allows one to stay in one place. Like many other governors, he is a visitor in his state. He has since lost track of the security situation in Zamfara.

And, what was his reaction to the killings? He quit his, albeit, glorified office as the Chief Security Officer of the state. He then said, tongue in cheek, that he wouldn’t mind a declaration of a state of emergency in his state. He was making a joke of a tragic situation.

Thinking of it now, I don’t know why that was not done. For, as some Zamfara indigenes led by Kadaria Ahmed, one of Nigeria’s brilliant journalists, noted in Abuja last week during a protest, the Governor has since lost the moral right to govern the state.

He does not inspire his subjects. He hardly stays with them. He takes his position as the Chairman of Nigeria’s Governors Forum more seriously than he does the governance of his state. And, this other day, he told us that the armed bandits terrorising his state were better equipped than the Nigerian military, thus emboldening the bandits. And, in case you were forgetting, Governor Yari it was, who when there was an outbreak of cerebrospinal meningitis in his state, attributed it to God’s anger over his subjects’ indulgence in fornication. In every aspect of life, since his emergence as governor, Zamfara has gone down the hill. Yet, he has neither worried, nor wept publicly before the President like his Borno state counterpart, Kashim Shettima. He is more at home, standing before the cameras in Abuja, addressing the press on behalf of Nigeria’s Governors Forum than monitoring the sad situation in his state.

Yet, the bulk of the blame should go to the FG. Why is it so difficult to deal with the insecurity in the North- East and North-west, and other parts of Nigeria?

We have been given too many reasons, they have become a bore. We have been told about so many would-be solutions, they now sound like a broken record.

This other day, the FG said some powerful traditional rulers were behind the armed banditry in the state. If so, why not name and shame them? If true, they are sponsoring genocide and should be bundled before the International criminal court.

A couple of days ago, the Acting Inspector General of Police found a nexus between mining and the Zamfara killings. Plausible. As a first step, he has suspended all mining activities in the state. But what about the killings in Kaduna, Katsina, Taraba, Adamawa, Sokoto, Yobe, Benue? Are they also attributable to mining? What about those going on in Enugu, Anambra, Ebonyi and even Abia?

Truth is: We are in a huge mess. And our leaders should swallow their huge ego and admit it.

We should re-strategize. No doubt, our Service Chiefs have tried. They have given their best. I, at once, applaud and sympathize with them. From day one of their appointments, they have been at the war fronts. They have been everywhere, engaged in everything. From the inexplicable war against MASSOB, IPOB, to engaging in election duties; From Boko Haram, armed bandits, ISIS, armed herdsmen, kidnappers, to armed robbers, etc, it’s been one long war. They must be war weary. It’s natural. A patriotic change, devoid of ethnic and/or tribal considerations, has become necessary. And so have fresh ideas.

For more number of times than we remember, Service Chiefs have met with the President. They have on more than three occasions, relocated to the war zones. Yet nothing.

Mr President, the buck stops on your table. Save your subjects. At your age, and with your status, you shouldn’t be unhappy. You should be happy, smiling in your dreams. You have achieved it all – your country’s former Head of State, now President, a ravishingly beautiful wife, lovely children and grandchildren. You have it all. You shouldn’t be unhappy.

Put your foot down, Mr President. March on the killing fields in our country. Give them hell. And we’ll hail you. At least now, we have learnt one big lesson.

No President deliberately wishes bloodshed on his subjects. Former President Goodluck Jonathan did not encourage Boko Haram. He was not weak in dealing with them. He did not hate the North as President. Proof: He has been out of power for almost four years, and instead of abetting, the killings, the bloodshed, all round insecurity has worsened. They have spread across our country. And we have no place to hide. And just in case you were forgetting, all our security chiefs, but one,(Chief of Naval Staff) are from the North.

This, therefore, is our collective burden. Our collective responsibility. Mr President, assemble the best in our country from across party and ethnic lines. Ignore the hardliners who insist they must be of our stock; they must be from our party. Your name and credibility are on the line. Not theirs. Make yourself happy Mr President, and it will trickle down your long suffering, disillusioned, subjects. Honest.

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