The reality of a band of killers roaming freely beyond 24 hours in any country today automatically implicates any president or prime minister anywhere in the world. President Buhari has remained thus implicated in the violent siege into which Nigeria has sunk but which still has no official name beyond the herdsmen violence which the media calls it. Perceptions of his own implication are complicated beyond being the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria. That complication lies in the everyday narratives that circulated around early 2016 that, by his appointments, the president was somehow laying the ground for crisis.
It was also about the same time that a Professor of Peace Studies told Intervention, for example, that the president is implicated because if the president tells the Inspector-General of Police that he wanted arrests in any case of killings, the Inspector-General would oblige, (see “Why Buhari is implicated in insecurity in Nigeria – Professor Best”, www.intervention.ng/01-01-2017). In the past week, General Obasanjo declared that a President Buhari victory in 2019 would mean the break-up of Nigeria. He could only have meant that it would be impossible for the rest of the country to cope with the state practices of the Buhari regime and the much talked about cabal the president’s wife and others have said is running the show from behind. That is the only reason why victory could lead to the break-up of the country instead of more democracy and democratisation. Former Senate President, Iyorchia Ayu, had made the same statement earlier. What Obasanjo brought to it is the authority of the cohort, (the club of retired Generals, some of whom have substantially civilianised but retain the military instinct ingrained in them) and with whom the locus of power lie in Nigeria today.
All these are claims as well as everyday narratives which no serious observer of the Nigerian space can afford to dismiss. They cannot be dismissed because, like stereotypes, everyday narratives are pregnant with nuggets of truth. The truth in them does not lie in their empirical proof but in how they came to be in the first case and the constitutive force they possess. And so, people must deal with the everyday narrative which implicates the Commander-in-Chief even when it is unimaginable that someone who attained the rank of a General, fought in the Nigerian Civil War and is a two time president of Nigeria would, consciously or otherwise, ever get into that.
But what does anyone make of a situation in which it is the president’s fellow Generals who have risen in revolt against him? Initially, it was General Obasanjo who wrote him an open letter earlier in January pointing out his nepotism and outlining a coalition way forward. This was followed by General Babangida’s letter basically along the same line. Now, it is General T Y Danjuma declaring that the armed forces are accomplices of a rampaging bandit across the land and that ethnic cleansing is afoot. In other words, it is the retired Generals, people with the most intimate knowledge of the Nigerian military, who are talking to the president. They are not talking to the armed forces but to the president and his control of the military.
Some people argue that it is a form of nemesis particularly in the case of General Obasanjo because, as the argument goes, he had a golden opportunity to have set the bar of leadership and governance so high that certain persons would never have been able to aspire to Nigeria’s leaders after him. That, it is said, did not happen, Obasanjo’s remorse for which might explain his restlessness today towards compensating for that. That is what people see in Obasanjo’s recent transition from status quo politics to Movement politics. For the first time in his life, he now believes a movement or coalition can fight an agenda. All along, he has been with the beaten track of state directed political process – registered political parties, elections, tribunals, etc, etc.
The great thing in that move is the potential of the dynamics to play out in such a way that it could transform Nigeria. This is because there is no way the thesis of President Buhari’s own entrapment and the anti-thesis in the revolt of the Generals would not produce a synthesis that is qualitatively ahead of what exists today. From the way things are going, that synthesis would favour a greater Nigeria. That is provided that Nigeria can take it that, this time, the retired Generals, (oh, Generals do not retire!) now moving in one direction in terms of what happens in 2019 do not impose someone they would end up organising to fight in 2022/23 by when they themselves would be too old to even organise anything and at a time the rest of the society might be too intimidated to even articulate opposition to such an incumbent. In other words, are they looking for the charismatic, knowledgeable and politically informed leader who can galvanise and give reality to the purpose of politics, which is serving the people? It bears repeating that the individuals they have kept selecting have not been serving the people if goodness of actions were measured by the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people.
This is the question being insisted upon here and there given the reality that the locus of power in Nigeria does lie with the national cohort. It may be embarrassing in a country where almost everyone claims to be democrats but the truth is that winning in Nigeria at the moment is determined by the cohort, It is a very interesting, if not the most interesting phenomenon in Nigerian politics that no social class or any other group have acquired their individual and collective capability and no other club has equally established itself with the capacity to quarrel among themselves but with a consensus on Nigeria remaining one country. Their major technique of doing this is deciding who wins or loses elections.
President Buhari could not have made it without their consensus. In fact, Obasanjo said in Yola in August 2016 that he and four others opted to bring Buhari to power. Although he re-worked the claim subsequently at that time and in Segun Adeniyi’s book on why Jonathan did not secure a second term, he was not grandstanding in the original statement. Obasanjo’s candidature in 1999 was a project of the cohort or the ‘IRA component’ because Obasanjo was still in jail by then. Although Obasanjo ruptured consensus in 2007 by single handedly producing Umaru Yar’Adua as his successor, the coming of Goodluck Jonathan was their consensus. In other words, all the leaders the cohort endorsed turned out to be those they had to fight to get the country back in one piece. That has made the above concern pertinent.
Beyond thei selection crisis of the cohort, Greater Nigeria as the outcome of the current stiff cannot still be taken for granted. It needs to be worked on. It is interesting that those with the most vital resources to work on it are already in the battle field – the retired Generals. They have got the name, experience or wide knowledge of state practices, the resources, the global network and so on. Still, back home, the debate must be taken to a logical conclusion. The question of who the bandits are must be settled.
In this regard, it must be time to re-read Gordon Duff, the retired mercenary’s 2011 and 2015 versions of the article “Nigeria: Targeted for Destruction”; Governor Nasir el-Rufai’s thesis that the bandits are killers from outside; the environment and climate change theorists of the catastrophe; the Sultan of Sokoto’s analysis that these are criminals who should have been arrested by security forces; the analysis of the bandits as soldiers of poverty; the claim that they are Boko Haram scattered by military assault and the president’s own framing of the bandits as armed herdsmen.
There is a symbolic message in General Danjuma choosing a university ground to make the epochal pronouncement credited to him. It cannot be a coincidence that he chose the convocation ceremony of the Taraba State University to make the argument. It must be his own recognition of the special role of the universities to provide the most holistic or most complete analysis of what the country is going through and how they might be best managed. By implication, he speaks to the imperative of building up the capacity of universities with particular reference to the study of power, peace and security in Nigeria. The universities have, almost without exception, experienced a subtler version of the physical violence the country is experiencing today. That is why even the National Universities Commission, (NUC) which, for a long time now, has been part of the problem has woken up to realise that the parameters for knowledge production in Nigeria today are not just non-existent but violent as well. One or two universities or a few departments might be up to it in one form or another but what are few departments in an entire system? NUC has set up a curriculum review committee but knowledge has a power dynamics. That makes the task of re-creating the universities and Peace Studies, by implication, a key dimension of the battle for the re-making of Nigeria.
The re-making of Nigeria is the essence. As the Catholic Bishops told the president recently, hunger is stalking the land. They might only not have told him that people are actually selling their children into livelihood that are nothing but slavery, just to eat. Bill Gates, the most important individual voice and activist in global health governance has painted a same soul destroying portrait of the Nigerian economy. Before the Bishops and Bill Gates, the World Bank said in October 2017 that the Nigerian government(s) should spend more on education and health. As the late Mallam Aminu Kano has been quoted in Professor Isawa Elaigwu’s latest book, “If your economic planning is not influenced by your political thinking, you are bound to make a mess of it”. By this analogy, the Buhari regime’s political thinking is bound to make a mess of the country economically even if its politics of insecurity were right. That, in one sentence, is what Bill Gates said last Thursday to the chagrin of his listeners at the National Economic Council meeting.
Basically, there is an elite consensus now away from Buhari if the emerging position of leading cultural platforms in the North such as the Supreme Council for Sharia in Nigeria, (SCIA), the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Borno Elders Forum and the Northern Elders Forum, (NEF) is added to the footwork of the retired Generals. The Northern Union, the Northern Political Leaders Forum, (NPLF) and the Middle Belt Forum, (MBF) which have not been mentioned at yesterday’s meeting of the above named groups have expressed reservations about the insecurity situation before in relation to the president and the Buhari regime.