Opinion: A Nation In Throes

Nigeria, HIV, Africa

By Femi Akintunde-Johnson

Have you been seeing some online videos where all sorts of activists anarchists make calm and confident threats to ‘take our nation’ back from their rudderless kinsmen in leadership positions who are accused of being in cahoots with the ruling ‘oligarchs’? Well, we hope others are taking those videos in public domain seriously.

The casualness and confidence with which different ‘presenters’ make statements that allege grievous acts of violence against communities; acts ascribed to a particular section of the country, and they go on to berate local leaders, including traditional rulers, political chieftains and other well-heeled individuals for keeping quiet while their communities are being pillaged, ruined, raped and brutalised.

One vital issue arising from the plethora of vexatious internet media is the number of ‘views’ and ‘likes’ and such icons of emotional attachments that recipients of those videos shower on them. Obviously, the inflammatory declarations, alarming information and dreadful projections in the videos have willing and impressionable support from a lot of people, young and old, home and abroad.

Unlike the drunken sailor serenading his equally ‘spirit-filled’ audience while his ship wafted unguardedly into the embrace of marine bandits, we cannot allow such foolhardiness in these tense and dangerous times. Apparently, many people are hurt and traumatised by the vicious acts of wickedness and terror perpetuated by so-called herdsmen all over the country; and there now seems a groundswell of countermeasures to checkmate, disrupt and exterminate the nucleus of mindless extremism.

This current pass of anarchy in contemplation is seemingly fueled by what many see as complicity and indolence by the federal government of President Muhammadu Buhari on account of his tribal affiliation to the marauding elements largely identified as Fulani. Some are flying the kite that the long-held accusations against Candidate Buhari during his failed attempts at the presidential crown in 2003, 2007 and 2011 appear quite evident now, even if tangential.

He was roundly condemned as ethnic bigot, an irredeemably unfazed zealot with nepotistic and provincial tendencies. Most vehement rebuttals of these accusations were fronted by Southern associates whose pedigrees and integrity significantly doused the cinders, amongst other favourable indices, which subsequently made 2015 elections successful for the Daura-born ruler – on the fourth throw of the dice.

So, to today’s freedom-fighters’ and tribal warlords, the kith and kin of Buhari, even those sired as far away as the Fouta Djallon, in the highlands of Guinea, are swaggering over ancestral homesteads of native Nigerian people, in all the six zones, leaving tales of woes, blood-chilling atrocities, billions of ransomed naira and bitcoin. They accuse security forces of turning the other cheeks, allowing apprehended suspects to walk free, refusing to respond to distress calls of beleaguered victims, and in some cases, flogging locals who refuse to accommodate fleeing ‘pastoralists’.

We advise that iron-fist reaction to the immediate danger around us is not really a sensible way to deal with the growing unrest. Fire-bombing a settlement accused of harbouring anarchists who believe they are simply protecting their homelands from rapacious foreigners is not a panacea for peace, in the long term. Dragnet of arrests, detentions and freezing of accounts of protesters and trouble makers will only popularise and legitimatise their actions and charisma.

Every action is usually a reaction provoked by another action, whether rightly or wrongly. Let us, without biases or egos of any sorts, interrogate these actions and counter-actions…let us move out of the box of religion, tongue and other emotions… The usual stock arguments will no longer suffice: Fulani pastoralists have to move from one location to another as free citizens; nomads whose lives and stocks were threatened by rustlers and other criminals have no option but to carry AK-47; open grazing is prohibited with immediate effect, without corresponding resources to mitigate the need for open gracing; ranching or ‘ruga’ is the best option…without propositions that may influence this concept as a private-sector-driven vehicle with attendant serious investment and viable inducements. And other platitudes.

We need a new vision in tackling our security and identity crises. The prism that sees local irritation to unchecked villainy and murderous attacks as merely ethnic profiling and uncharitable neighbourliness, is essentially undermining genuine efforts at nation-building, irrespective of the exalted office where such a principality holds.

We have to recognise the sad but real juncture the country has now arrived; where palliatives in the form of board of inquiries, investigative delegations and such political sop are no longer acceptable. We have to probe and review the sinews and ligaments that bind this country of nations together. We have to sit at a table of brotherhood, not with blood-stained long knives to balkanise what is a great country of maladjusted diversity; but with bloodless pens to write and write copious texts and sense to allay fears, douse agitations, inspire hope, amend long-standing errors and misgivings, and ultimately produce an irrevocable document that will mostly be embraced by the vast majority of Nigerians who are now so starved of genuine change – the effective, comforting and exciting type we sorely look forward to.

How’s Kwara missing LKJ?

The great man of journalism and governance was laid to rest few days ago (Friday, February 12, 2021). His name and face eternally etched in the grateful hearts of a weary nation.

We have also been salivating at what Lagos State, a great benefactor of his immense talent, exemplary industry and unostentatious commitment, is planning in honour of LKJ (Lateef Kayode Jakande).

But what do the government and people of Kwara State have on ground (or in the air) to honour a remarkable son? At least, we know, and have been told repeatedly, that the parents of LKJ hailed from Omu Aran in Kwara State.

So, beyond shutting private schools down, over hijab or no hijab, in the same week that LKJ was buried…what does the state have in store to immortalise this exceptional Nigerian…an incomparable shining star of my beloved profession?

PS: The next query would be for the Nigerian journalists, and all their governing bodies, most of which were founded by LKJ! What are you doing for LKJ…beyond glowing tributes?

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