Leadership must be responsive to diversity. It is the rudimentary ingredient to fostering unity among variegated people. Where leadership becomes insouciant to diversity, every other thing fails. This is where the Buhari administration hit its nadir. The government abused, disregarded and mismanaged the delicate ethnic and religious balance on which Nigeria pivots.
In fact, President Buhari never cloaked his prejudice and oblique aspect. After the 2015 election, he infamously said those who gave him five percent vote were not deserving of the same treatment as those who gave him 97 percent vote.
‘’Words on marble’’ — Buhari: “The constituents, for example, gave me 97% [of the vote] cannot in all honesty be treated on some issues with constituencies that gave me 5%. I think these are political reality.”
This is from the president of the most powerful black nation on the planet. Compare Buhari’s blighted utterance with the statement of Joe Biden, US president, who declared that he would be the president of all Americans, and that he would work for both Democrats and Republicans.
The truth is Buhari is not fit to be the president of 21st century Nigeria. He is of an age that is long lost and forgotten. Owing to the obvious twisted proclivities of his administration, the fissures dividing Nigerians according to religious and ethnic caste widened cosmically. It is a general truth that Nigeria has never been this fractured.
The ethnic and religious taxonomies are very pronounced. IPOB in the south-east, supremacist groups in the south-west and south-south — and confusion everywhere. Some of these groups were not there until after 2015 – owing largely to the ethnic incitements of the Buhari administration – a divisive government which elevated nepotism to a state policy.
As a matter of fact, there was Boko Haram and farmer-herder clashes prior to the Buhari administration, but Nigeria fell to the suzerainty of bandits, who happen to be from the president’s ethnic stock, under Buhari. The scale of pillaging and savagery is unprecedented. From Zamfara, Katsina to Oyo and Ondo, the blood of the innocents cries out. Some roads have become ghost avenues; villages and businesses abandoned – all because of leadership failure which enabled the enterprise of banditry.
What is frightening, as some say, is that these people are of the assumption that they own Nigeria because Buhari is the president. This is what Olu Falae, a statesman who has been a recurring victim of bandits, said: ‘’When I was a child, herdsmen were our friends, they would bring their cows here and we would sing with them after selling their cows, they were not threatening anybody. But in the last 10 years or 15 years, they became violent and they have become a different thing altogether and I suspect it’s because the President is a Fulani. The ordinary herdsman ignorantly believes that they own everything in Nigeria, both all of us in Nigeria and whatever we possess.
“For example, a few years ago, one of the herdsmen hanging around my farm, met one of my workers and asked my workers why I was disturbing them, that I should be planting my maize on one side and allow them to graze on the other side, even on my farm. He was proposing that I should share my farm with him. Has such a person got any sense of property, right? Did he think he has no right in that place?’’
It is really disturbing. With a crisis of deadly potential precipitating in the south-west over the siege by bandits in the region, it is time for the president to act – by initiating a process of prevailing on the Fulani youths to desist from this path. Miyetti Allah, the Fulani socio-cultural group, has been instrumental in securing the release of captives from bandits and in establishing links for dialogue with them. For example, the freedom of the Kankara schoolboys of Katsina was by dint of Miyetti Allah. The group has also intervened in other situations. Can this group do the bounden duty of speaking to the heart of the Fulani youths?
A few days ago, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi met with some Fulani communities in Kaduna and sermonised them. About 600 bandits reportedly agreed to surrender their firearms. This is leadership. Really, this precarious occasion in the life of our nation calls for leadership by all Fulani leaders. They must rise up and talk to their won.
NIGERIA, DIVIDED WE STAND?
As I said in a previous article, crime has no ethnic face. There are people of criminal inclinations in every group, race, place and religion. We defeat the fight against insecurity if we lend ourselves to ethnic prejudices. And we must take caution not to tinge the enemy in brushstrokes of ethnicity. Let us not make banditry about “all herdsmen”. Asking Nigerians to leave a state because they are not natives or because a few of them are trafficking in blood goes against every shred of humanity. The enemy are the bandits not an ethnic group.
Our unity should matter to us. There are people working overtime to plunge Nigeria into crisis. They profit from blood and build their political assets from anarchy. We should not let these blood dealers celebrate. We have lost many souls to violence already; we should not lose more precious souls to a crisis of attrition.
Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist.