This is not President Buhari’s fire and fury

President Muhammadu Buhari

Naturally, almost obviously – but certainly not inevitably – these times are indeed very trying times for President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

For now, President Buhari may not have had the Nigerian equivalent of  President Donald Trump’s fire and fury to contend with but the horrendous insecurity problem fanned by the renewed Boko Haram insurgency, the unstoppable onslaught of the cattle herdsmen, not to mention the profitable growth industry that kidnapping  has become and the persistent fuel crisis with its attendant economic paralysis have all combined in an unholy alliance, if not  to cripple the Buhari’s administration but to dwarf the gains and  the accomplishments it recorded since inception in May 2015.

These negative forces have become more potent with the potentials of waxing stronger because of the inexplicable vacillation and even procrastination by the government. But they need not get out of hand and generate unnecessary fury. President Buhari has all it takes to curb the excesses of the Fulani cattle herdsmen as he has curtailed the ferocious onslaught of the Boko Haram. But somehow, he gave the impression that this grave problem, if ignored, would burn itself out and he chose to lay back.  How woefully was he mistaken!

As if appetite grew by what it fed on, the clash of the herdsmen which appeared initially to be endemic to the southern part of Kaduna State, spread with epidemic proportions to many parts of the North central Zone and made home mainly in Benue State with occasional inroads into Taraba, Eastern Senatorial District of Kogi State fanning out to the northern part of Cross Rivers State and even the South East Zone.  Today it has transformed into something of a national catastrophe taking a toll on the fragile unity of the country giving various disaffected groups the opportunity to spit fire and brimstone.

There is no doubt that the herdsmen phenomenon predated the Buhari regime. Historically, the Fulani cattlemen were never known for violence. As pastoral nomads, they freely and routinely moved from their base in the far North to the green land in the central part of the country, spending days and nights with their cattle in the bush, with only their women coming out to the villages to hawk their wares.

But with the ceaseless inroad of desertification, their movement to the south became an imperative economic survival endeavour. In equal measure, the land available to the farmers for their subsistence farming diminished. Inevitably, the hitherto healthy and friendly interaction between the settled farmers and the cattle nomads became a little acrimonious.

As the cattle turned from the grass that had turned grey to devour farm products, the herders had knowingly allowed their cattle to cross the forbidden line. In all instances of the clash, the case at issue is that of economic survival – the farmer being naturally protective of his farm products and the cattle herdsmen determined and desperate to find food for their cattle. Something had to give.  The onus was therefore on the government, federal and states, to intervene to prevent the simmering supremacy contest on the farms from turning into a carnage of national proportion. Unfortunately, government left the two sides to their own respective devices.

Agatu Local Government Area of Benue State, one of the epicentres of such carnage, has recorded more than 5000 casualties since 2013 according to Mike Inalegwu, the sole administrator of the local government. The Buhari administration inherited this unfortunate situation. And the people looked up to the government to act speedily. But to the extent that the government did not act when it should have done, it willingly and even tragically opened itself to accusations of double standard and ethnic and religious bias.

I don’t believe that President Buhari is personally culpable. It is pure happenstance that he is Fulani. And his kinsmen constitute the bulk of the cattle herdsmen.  That a group of people hitherto widely regarded as meek and affable now wield the AK 47 guns and such other lethal instruments of death freely, simply beggars belief. President Buhari can only be held culpable because he is the president and he had sworn to an oath to protect the lives and properties of all citizens of this country.

This is one issue that tasks his sense of fairness and his capacity to uphold truth and justice no matter who is involved. And it is not late for him to do something more practical – military instead of police deployment and to bring to book all those found to be culpable. It is not too difficult to summon the will to do that which will inspire the confidence of the people. Delay is certainly dangerous. In fact, elevating procrastination to an art form is not one of the enduring qualities of good leadership.

In the year of politics, this is what 2018 is in the political life of this country, it is not unnatural to play politics with all issues, even with human lives. My sympathy goes to Professor Yemi Osinbajo, the vice president, who has been crying blue murder, that people who are not enamoured of this administration, have no qualms   playing politics with the soulless killings in Benue State. My take is that if you give them the chance, they would do more than play politics.

If the Buhari government demonstrates the capacity and the willingness to stem the tide of this horrific incident once and for all, it will naturally record it as one of its accomplishments for which supporters must roll out the drums. Similarly, if the administration, as if to prevent the grass from growing under its feet, calls the bluff of the petroleum products marketers, and find an ingenious way of ending this paralytic fuel scarcity once and for all, it will be on record that it is the Buhari administration that demonstrated the capacity to do so and chalk it up as an achievement for which supporter will roll out the drums. But if it fails to do so and allow the chance to elude it, it can’t blame the opposition or the saboteurs. It has itself to blame.

But then, I have a strong conviction that even those with the thickest political blinkers would concede that in the most difficult areas – fighting corruption, dealing the Boko Haram insurgents and chalking in vast improvement in power generation – the Buhari administration has recorded outstanding, though not stratospheric successes; but it is an achievement worth protecting while making efforts to improve.

Nothing should be done to erase this achievement, like looking the other way while trusted officials are waging vicious war against honesty and integrity, especially the integrity of the president; promoting slothfulness as if a dysfunctional bureaucracy is a prerequisite for modern development and good governance.

President Buhari must guard against working for his political adversaries, those waiting in the wing to see him stumble and make silly mistakes, like not taking a principled and nationalistic stand against the herdsmen palaver, like not dealing ruthlessly with those who, to all intents and purposes, seem bent on sabotaging the administration with the sole purpose of plunging him into disgrace and humiliation.

This is 2018, as if you need to be reminded. It is the year of real and vicious politics when politicians deploy an all-embracing scorched earth approach with the usual dirty games, misinformation and propaganda, not to add character assassination, bare faced lies, even blasphemy against God. Those who traffic in fake news for a living are going to have a field day. But if the fight against corruption is still on the agenda, this is the time to be more vigilant because this atmosphere not only makes corruption to thrive but also to lay ambush and exert retribution.

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