I find it baffling that responsible Nigerian leaders including President Muhammadu Buhari appear to be losing sleep over the possibility of another war breaking out in the country.
Some of them have postulated rightly that no country can survive two civil wars. From 1967 to January 1970, Nigeria has had its own share or allocation of civil war. In other words, nobody, no matter how crazy, should be craving for an encore, or a repeat performance. But, apparently unknown to these patriots who are worrying themselves to death, we are already at war.
Or what do we call the interminable insurgency by the Boko Haram going on for more than a decade which has killed more than 36,000 people and which has displaced more than two million people in North East? And what other name do we give to the senseless killings that have become the daily digest in our national life, the latest being in Igangan, Ibarapaland in the South West and the daily bloodshed in Benue State.
In terms of fatalities and properties destroyed, we certainly have lost count. And this is in addition to the horrors of the aforementioned Boko Haram insurgency. Nigeria has been in the throes of all manner of insecurity problems ranging from cattle herdsmen’s clash with farmers to kidnapping for ransom on the highways, or on the farms, either at home or at work; in the schools and in such hallowed environments as mosques and churches. And no place is safe enough if they can go all the way to the sanctuary of the President’s Chief of Staff to rob him. Or, by such daring move, to let us know, in case we’re by any means in doubt, that they mean business.
So what war are we trying to prevent? The one that is already in full bloom? The one that has taken so many lives and thrown many people into refugee camps in their own country? The war that appears to be without end?
If I understand the whole Twitter issue clearly, what President Muhammadu Buhari was angry about when INEC officials led by their Chairman, Professor Mahmud Yakubu briefed him about the serial destruction through arson of INEC offices in the South-East zone, is the possibility of allowing history to repeat itself. South East is the home base of IPOB, the Indigenous People of Biafra, the reincarnation of the agitation for the secession of that part of the country to be known as Biafra.
This agitation, you will recall, led to the bitter civil war that lasted for 33 months. Nigeria, through numerous acts of commission and omission, had had to fight this senseless war and at the end, with millions of lives lost, with its attendant sorrow and anguish, it was adjudged a draw game – no victor, no vanquished. But the truth is that the entire country has not recovered from that traumatic experience.
Those who suffered most in terms of loss of lives were our fellow compatriots from the East. Despite General Yakubu Gowon’s three famous Rs – Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Reintegration, the Igbo race, it would seem, has not been fully reintegrated. Or at least psychologically rehabilitated. I am quite certain that if the shoe was on the other foot if the Igbo were to be another ethnic group, lacking the Igbo man’s well-known industriousness, many of the war-affected people would have gone into extinction.
But not the typical Igbo. Their never-die spirit has seen them in the commanding height, especially of industrialization. But unfortunately, this same spirit is being put to dangerous use today by some misguided people like Nnamdi Kanu who wants to re-enact what Odumegwu Ojukwu failed to achieve, despite his brilliance, well-polished international connection and his military training, not to mention his high-profile command position in government. Despite holding sway in the East, It is not proved conclusively yet that IPOB is behind all the arson and killings going on in the region. But by openly declaring that there would be no peace in that region unless Biafra is achieved, they have not only pointed accusing fingers at themselves, they have also put many innocent Igbo people, man and woman, and the youths in harm’s way. But many of their respected leaders have kept mum in place of their trademark loquaciousness.
The war, it bears repeating, is already nationwide and it must be diligently fought to stamp out banditry, kidnapping, robbery and raping so that our children can get back to school and so that Nigerians can feel free and secure to pursue their businesses wherever they are. It calls for a war council with a daily war bulletin to speak eloquently of victory against these gangsters, a victory that will, without discrimination, free every community from unknown gunmen, bandits and rogue herdsmen with lethal weapons.
President Buhari is like the hunter in Igala folklore. This hunter, coming home with the huge carcass of an elephant on his head, cannot have the luxury of time and the frame of mind to hunt for crickets or the squirrels. By his position, as a democratically elected leader, he has, willy-nilly, become the father of the nation. In that position, there is a limit to what he can do or say openly and publicly, to escape the accusation of bias or being politically incorrect.
And methinks there are better ways than one for the President to have expressed his anger which has become the subject of the petty war with Twitter and his numerous opponents.
Truth be told, war is a dangerous but highly emotive enterprise and to remind the truly vanquished of the civil war is to make the inference that there really has been no true reconciliation since the end of the war. President Buhari may not have meant it the way Twitter and others have interpreted it, but the soldier in him comes out forcefully, at least in words if not in action, whenever he is sufficiently provoked with the possibility of his meaning being misinterpreted.
But in our current situation, what can be more provocative than the senseless and serial destruction of government property, that of INEC and that of the Police and even the correctional centers in the East? But this sort of provocation, as I said, has since been evenly spread across the country from the North West, North East, North Central and down to the South. And it must equally require the attention of the President’s anger and pre-emptive action.
A people gave to a siege mentality and which, like the underdog, enjoys international support, must feel it has been isolated to be taught a lesson that they cannot forget. Unfortunately for Buhari, he is not a typical politician who has the dubious gift of equivocation, licensed to speak from both sides of the mouth. When the chips are down or he feels pushed to the wall, his military background comes to the fore. Where others would merely give assurance, make promises and speak off-camera, he shoots straight.
Unfortunately, because some of what comes out may be politically incorrect, it counts against him. It is in a similar vein that President Olusegun Obasanjo, reacting to the killing of 12 policemen and the ambush of soldiers by a militia group in Bayelsa in 1999, using civilians as cover, that he ordered soldiers into Odi and killed many people in retaliation.
But in a more salutary situation, I recall that in the run-up to the 2015 presidential election, PDP’s presidential candidate, President Goodluck Jonathan and his irrepressible missus appeared at a point to be going beyond the bounds of decent campaign to attack the person of Buhari, their opponent. Apparently miffed by this, former Military President Ibrahim Babangida was provoked to issue a warning to President Jonathan to be more temperate in his choice of words against Buhari otherwise he and his colleagues in the military would have no choice but to resort to their famous espirit de corps in favour of Buhari, also a general. Jonathan took the warning to heart. It did not mean that IBB, a PDP sympathizer, was going to move against President Jonathan.
I wish to see President Buhari’s anger, arising from the provocative destruction in the East, in the same light.
The president’s statement was removed by Twitter in keeping with its own rules and regulations. But in anger, the President’s handlers, in precipitous haste, made the case worse by outrightly banning Twitter instead of petitioning the organization to seek redress.
Unfortunately, some rules and regulations are no respecter of anybody’s position but, I admit, as a public relations gesture, Twitter could have drawn the attention of the government to this. And perhaps both sides would have allowed bygone to be bygone.
Lesson: Next time we should learn to allow the sleeping dog to lie because Nigeria has more to worry about today than the messy Twitter war.