Why Buhari is Implicated in Insecurity in Nigeria – Prof. Shedrack Best, (Part 2)
By Adagbo ONOJA
In the first part of this interview, Shedrack Best, a Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies, argued his position that President Muhammadu Buhari is implicated in the conflicts ravaging Nigeria; that Nigeria must be restructured and why he doesn’t think that those who think the herdsmen violence is an Islamisation campaign are mistaken. In this second and concluding segment, the interviewee delved mainly into how former president, Goodluck Jonathan got it wrong on management of security, how central the role of climate change is in the spate of violence and why he thinks the last 7 of the military leaders standing, (Gowon, Obasanjo, TY Danjuma, IBB, Abdulsalami, Buhari and Aliyu Gusau) do not, individually and collectively, provide Nigeria a fall back in managing complexity.
As stated in the original introduction earlier, Professor Best did not just study the Peace discipline, he has taught it and also operationalised it in government, thereby becoming a cross between the academic, the technocrat and the politician. He is thus in a position to speak categorically on the conflict situation that has gripped Nigeria – from Boko Haram to Niger Delta insurgency, from the south east regional contestation to herdsmen banditry across the country, from Shiite conflict and Southern Kaduna violence, all in Kaduna State to the banditry in Zamfara State.
The interview came up eventually after initial reservations partly because he thinks there are some who would think it is Jonah Jang speaking through him, (He was the Secretary to the Plateau State Government under Jang as the governor). In the end, he agreed and, for 53 minutes on December 31st, 2016, it was an intellectually stimulating encounter.
Of course, Prof Best is not a disinterested discussant just as no one else is. The genius of his intervention and his claims, arguments and positions is that they contribute to opening up the space in favour of the kind of inter-discursive process that can produce understanding. That can, in turn, remold peacemaking towards breaking down rigidities rather than Nigeria’s fire brigade menu in peace enforcement. Get on with the rest of the interview:
What is your geopolitical reading of this wave of conflicts? In other words, might Nigeria have been targeted?
I do not believe there is anybody outside Nigeria doing these things. Note that all our neighbors are small countries. They will all find it difficult sustaining involvement in sabotaging Nigeria or being a conduit for that. Nigeria is not a small country. And even if it is from outside, it is still the primary responsibility of the state to organise the people to resist it. So, outside would not be an excuse. My sense is that we are just not thinking seriously about our country. People simply do not want to manage security. If the president tells the IG of Police that he wants arrests, he will get it. Are you saying there is no intelligence available to the government on movement of those perpetrating violence? It is just not their priority. Somehow, they all get it wrong. Jonathan was guilty of the same thing. His management of security was almost the same. And it happened that his strategy had the most negative effect on my own state, Plateau. You will find that more people died, more communities were attacked and more people killed when Plateau was under emergency rule that Jonathan declared than when there was no such emergency. That is where he messed up. The point is that there is no replacement for the state in conflict management. Not yet. Even when you take the multi-track diplomacy model involving all the interests that tackle conflicts, however hard each and every track there tries, there are roles in conflict management that the state must play. If it is not so, there will be killing. No other track can play the role or substitute for the state.
Do you see 2019 unfolding in these conflicts?
Nobody will be out of his mind to think so. As we approach 2019, the pre-occupation of the government would be demonising everyone else so as for them to secure the 2019 ticket. It is a highly propagandistic government. Everyone else is a thief, is corrupt, is undisciplined except the president. It is the product of a failure to understand this society, the very weak development of the forces of production which makes the state the major source of production and reproduction. The largest part of the economy is with the state. Forget about the noise, there is no private sector in Nigeria. Until an industrial economy develops, the state would be in control. So, the question is apt. There is a sense in which 2019 can be seen in the current spate. And the implication there is that the spate, especially the herdsmen violence, could mature or mutate into a complicated emergency. I do not know if that is the strategy but the vague outlines are there to tempt such a conclusion.
The state or the central authority can be crucial but leadership also counts. In the case of the Benue Valley, political leadership seems to be missing. The space is so blank, whether you are talking of voices suing for calm or clarifying things to the people or opening contacts with other players.
The herdsmen and whatever they represent has had a programme of weakening the Benue Valley. Major parts of the area have been engulfed in conflicts, from Plateau, Southern Bauchi, Southern Kaduna to Benue. You can also see the intensity in Taraba State. It is only in Kogi and Kwara we have not seen that much. So, it is a systematic programme. It is doubtful if the consciousness of this agenda has dawned on the leaders you are talking about. Secondly, the Benue Valley is particularly disadvantaged. The analysis from the most credible agencies and sources available shows very clearly that climate change is affecting every part of the country and people and different trade groups have to adjust. In that movement, the most promising destination from all angles is the Benue Valley. Now, there is more livestock south of the Niger than anywhere else especially that the tse-tse fly threat is been removed. So, insecurity in the Benue Valley will continue to worsen and the local communities might have to innovate. There are communities in Plateau that have followed that path and they are secure.
I have come to understand that there is a national cohort that will come together to calm nerves and build bridges in moments of breakdown of communication among groups and identities as appears to be happening now.
Who are those?
General Gowon, Obasanjo, TY Danjuma, IBB, Abdulsalami, Buhari and Aliyu Gusau. That is the last 7 of the Mohicans, as they are called.
That is if they themselves are at peace
The assumption is that notwithstanding their inter-personal quarrels, they are bonded, they constitute a cohort when the nation is not at peace
But these people are embodiment of crises. What is Buhari trying to do? What he is doing is to avenge what he thinks politicians did to him, what his fellow military men did to him and so on. So, pursuit of enemies is a major issue for him. Is that not the same thing Obasanjo did? Everything Abacha did was evil in the eyes of Obasanjo. So, that is their culture and that culture means or makes the presence of military people in politics problematic. There was an argument that they should be participants in politics. Now, they are part of it but they have become the problem. They believe in conquest of the other person because that is their training and they have brought that training along to politics. What I see ahead is a replay of 1983/5 – everyone will be branded a thief. Only the Messiah is in town. Right now and in a very creative country such as Nigeria, there is no economic team. Rather, everyone must be chased around here and there in the name of anti-corruption war.
Are you then looking forward to divine intervention to dissipate the conflicts and bring peace?
God is very busy with other problems and other people. Why should God be wasting extra time on Nigeria when a people do not want to solve problems? There is no other divine intervention more than the brain God has given each and every one of us to define and solve problems. After that, you still wait on God to spend extra time on Nigeria? Nigeria that is already over blessed?
Just one last question and it is on Africa, now the only sick continent of the world, having been left behind by Asia and Latin America. Do you see the continent already extricating itself from that humiliating status?
Some African economies are doing very well but for Africa to do well, we have to be democratic, we have to create conditions that allow the economy to grow. Look at Rwanda, the economy is growing. Ghana is, at least, stable. Botswana is doing well. But, look at Zimbabwe where someone at 92 has been endorsed for the next round. The African problem is political and it is leadership. They believe they are kings, that God put them there for life. So, they do not think of planning transition. Those that tend to be stable are those with good governance record. I think Africa will continue to grow but that is tied to stability. Instability makes that impossible, in particular the type of instability that comes from conflicts tied to exclusion.
The interview is concluded