Temidayo Akinsuyi, Stephen Ubimago, Sulaiman Fasasi, James Ogunnaike,
Emma Nzomiwu, Gbenga Faturoti, Ahmad Tijjani Abdul
Lagos / Abeokuta / Enugu / Osogbo / KANO – Tempers are rising in the country following kidnappings and killings allegedly wrought by herdsmen over cattle-grazing crisis which has become a national security threat, sparking ethnic tension.
This came to a head on Friday when Mrs. Funke Olakunrin, daughter to Chief Reuben Fasoranti, Afenifere’s leader, was allegedly killed by herdsmen in Ore, headquarters of Odigbo Local Government Area, Ondo State. This has spawned outrage.
This is coming as President Muhammadu Buhari may yield to demand by concerned Nigerians for an overhaul of the current security apparatus, Daily Independent has gathered.
Following the security concerns, former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Monday called for a national debate to discuss security issues affecting the nation.
Obasanjo made the call in an open letter written to President Muhammadu Buhari, a copy of which was made available to Daily Independent in Abeokuta.
The former president warned that onerous clouds were gathering over the nation, noting that the rain of destruction, disunity, and disaster was imminent.
Obasanjo’s warning was coming hours after Noble Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, lamented that President Muhammadu Buhari had been overwhelmed by the insecurity in the country.
The former president said reality on the ground contradicted claims by the administration that the capacity of Boko Haram insurgents had been diminished.
He said the recent outburst of the Chief of Army Staff that the Nigerian army was unmotivated spoke for itself, adding that the continued potency of the deadly terrorists had given the lie to the government’s claim.
The most important thing, Obasanjo said, was the mismanagement of the diversity of the country which, he said, was the nation’s greatest asset.
He noted that the crises of herders and farmers were made worse by the cuddling glove, instead of harmer, with which the president handled the issue.
According to him, the issue of insecurity could no longer be ignored, treated with nonchalance, swept under the carpet, or treated with cuddling glove because it was hitting at the foundation of Nigeria’s existence and fast eroding the root of Nigerian community.
Obasanjo said he was constrained to write the letter because the issue was not only weighty and greatly worrisome, it must be a great concern to all Nigerians and residents in Nigeria.
Part of the statement reads: “I am very much worried and afraid that we are on the precipice and dangerously reaching a tipping point where it may no longer be possible to hold danger at bay.
“Without being immodest, as a Nigerian who still bears the scar of the Nigerian civil war on my body and with a son who bears the scar of fighting Boko Haram on his body, you can understand, I hope, why I am so concerned.
“When people are desperate and feel that they cannot have confidence in the ability of government to provide security for their lives and properties, they will take recourse to anything and everything that can guarantee their security individually and collectively.
“For over ten years, for four of which you have been the captain of the ship, Boko Haram has menacingly ravaged the land and in spite of government’s claim of victory over Boko Haram, the potency and the activities of Boko Haram, where they are active, remain undiminished, putting lie to government’s claim.
“The recent explanation of the Chief of Army Staff for non-victory due to lack of commitment and lack of motivation on the part of troops bordering on sabotage speaks for itself.
“Say what you will, Boko Haram is still a daily issue of insecurity for those who are victimised, killed, maimed, kidnapped, raped, sold into slavery and forced into marriage and for children forcibly recruited into carrying bombs on them to detonate among crowds of people to cause maximum destructions and damage.
“And Boko Haram will not go away on the basis of sticks alone, carrots must overweigh sticks. How else do you deal with issues such as only about 50% literacy in North-East with over 70% unemployment?”
On the herders and farmers clashes, Obasanjo said: “Herdsmen/farmers crises and menace started with government treating the issue with cuddling glove instead of hammer.
“It has festered and spread. Today, it has developed into banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery and killings all over the country.
“The unfortunate situation is that the criminality is being perceived as a ‘Fulani’ menace unleashed by Fulani elite in the different parts of the country for a number of reasons but even more unfortunately, many Nigerians and non-Nigerians who are friends of Nigeria attach vicarious responsibility to you as a Fulani elite and the current captain of the Nigeria ship.
“Perception may be as potent as reality at times. Whatever may be the grievances of Fulanis, if any, they need to be put out in the open and their grievances, if legitimate, addressed; and if other ethnic groups have grievances, let them also be brought out in the open and addressed through debate and dialogue.
“The main issue, if I may dare say, is poor management or mismanagement of diversity which, on the other hand, is one of our greatest and most important assets.”
“With the death of Funke, Chief Fasoranti’s daughter, some sympathetic Nigerian groups are saying ‘enough is enough’. Prof. Anya, a distinguished Nigerian merit Laureate, has this to say: ‘We can no longer say with certainty that we have a nation’.
“Niger-Delta leaders, South-Eastern leaders, Middle-Belt leaders and Northern Elders Forum have not remained quiet.
“Different ordinary Nigerians at home and abroad are calling for different measures to address or ameliorate the situation.
“All the calls and cries can only continue to be ignored at the expense of Nigerian unity, if not its continued existence.”
Obasanjo said he was worried about four avoidable calamities which include abandoning Nigeria in the hands of criminals who are suspected to be Fulanis, spontaneous reprisal attacks against Fulanis, attacks of ethnic groups and violent uprising from a section of the country.
Ohanaeze Insists On National Conference
Similarly, Ohanaeze Ndigbo on Monday insisted that only a national conference could arrest the insecurity situation in the country.
Ohanaeze warned that any delay in convening such a conference could spell doom for Nigeria.
The pan-Igbo socio-cultural organisation was reacting to the latest open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Ohanaeze reacted through Emeka Atama, the media adviser to the president-general, John Nnia Nwodo.
Atama said Ohanaeze’s reaction was that this (Obasanjo’s letter) was in tandem with the views canvassed by its president-general in a recent press statement – a strident call for the convening of a national discourse on the way forward in the present security debacle.
“This is the only step that can assuage the current situation. It requires urgent action. We endorse his position absolutely.
“The sooner the better as things are really getting out of hand. Delay could spell doom for the country,” Atama said.
Lawyers Express Outrage At State Of Insecurity
Equally, lawyers have expressed outrage at the high level of insecurity in the country, saying the situation demands urgent presidential action and a re-ordering of the nation’s security architecture.
Speaking to Daily Independent on the heels of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s open letter to President Buhari, calling on him to urgently act on the matter, the lawyers lamented that the state of insecurity is already questioning the essence of governance.
According to Ogunlana Adesina, the immediate past Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ikeja branch, at the root of the worsening state of insecurity in the land is the president’s incompetence, lack of patriotism and ethnic jingoism.
He said, “Truth is that the security situation in Nigeria has worsened under President Muhammadu Buhari, particularly so in the last one and half years.
“At the personal level the president is not physically fit. I’ve heard many people say he means well. But there’s no amount of meaning well by the president that can cure his incompetence on the job.
“The root of the problem is that the president is projecting himself more as a northerner than a Nigerian, and even all the more as a Fulani and wants to be seen as a Fulani patron and protector.
“There appears a deficit of patriotism in this president. And that is why Miyetti Allah, being Fulani, could be threatening everybody and nobody is being arrested. There’s nothing deterring the harbingers of insecurity and criminality in the land.”
For Adesina Adegbite, the immediate past NBA National Welfare Secretary, the situation has dented Nigeria’s image in the comity of nations.
According to him, “The security situation is currently at its lowest ebb in Nigeria. It would be fallacious for anyone to claim that there is any place, city, hamlet, town or state in Nigeria that is secure.
“Just the other day, a colleague of mine had a matter in Bauchi. He has been properly briefed, but do you know that because of the security situation in the country, he has been so scared to travel. His wife has been begging him not to step an inch outside his base here in Lagos.
“Country after country has placed Nigeria on their security watch list, asking their citizens not to venture to Nigeria.
“So the situation has dented the country’s image. It has actually given Nigeria a very bad name. I doubt if the president understands the degree of damage done to the country by the state of widespread insecurity in Nigeria.”
Speaking in the same vein, Olusina Fasugba, a Lagos-based legal practitioner, expressed worry that the situation is already verging on a civil war.
According to him, “The entire situation is very precarious now. When you look at how civil wars start, it begins with the government losing grip of the security apparatus. That is the situation we currently find in Nigeria today.
“Informed and concerned people are worried that the country is apparently tottering at the precipice so much so that the situation calls for urgent presidential action.”
Also for Malachy Ugwummadu, President, Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CDHR), the situation has morphed to a frightening level.
He said, “The facts speak for themselves. The parlous security situation is becoming frightening that it is even questioning the very essence of governance.
“The poverty of the situation is that the government in power does not understand the urgency of the situation.
“Since these acts of criminality are not being resolved, and with the government appearing unwilling to determine it one way or the other, the criminal bandits have become more daring and emboldened.”
“There is urgent need for Nigeria’s security architecture to be re-ordered,” he said.
It’s Time To Take War To The Enemy – Oyinlola
Correspondingly, former governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, said enough was enough on Monday while reacting to the incessant killings and kidnappings in the country.
He said it was time the government led the war to the camp of the enemy of progress and peace in the country.
In a statement issued in Osogbo, the Osun State capital, and made available to Daily Independent, Oyinlola said the Muhammadu Buhari administration must not be emotional about arrest and punishment for the perpetrators of the acts.
While noting that the murder of Mrs. Funke Olakunrin in broad daylight came as a rude shock and reminder to all that “our country is in terrible times”, Oyinlola said it was time for all patriots to be sober and reflect on how the nation got to this Hobbesian point where life was nasty, brutish, and short.
Part of the statement reads: “With this tragic incident and the several reported and unreported ones across the country, particularly in the South-West, it is time to say, enough.
“Certainty of arrest and severity of punishment are time-tested deterrents to crimes and criminality. Criminal, evil-minded persons will always have a free reign where impunity is condoned.
“However, government must not be emotional about arrest and punishment. The government has a lot of work to do to convince Nigerians that it is for the law abiding citizens and that these criminals are not above the law.
“Government must never be seen as being hostage to or complicit of crime and criminality. Governments exist to protect lives and property; they do not exist to release condolence messages after each avoidable death as this.
“These criminals have declared a war against our nation and we should take the war to them.
“The Federal Government is expected to lead this war without bringing politics into it and without any emotional bias against the law.
“One of the reasons some of us backed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 was his perceived competence in security matters -given his training and status as a General of the Nigerian army.
“He needs to redeem his image now that deadly criminals have taken over the land, rubbishing all he has ever lived for.
“He needs to come out clearly now, address the nation, outlining clearly his war plans to safeguard the lives and property of all Nigerians in all states.
“Nigerians want to hear him directly not through an aide or a party chief. He is the one they voted for as commander-in-chief, not someone else.
“I appeal to Nigerians to be vigilant, decisive, cooperate with security agencies and, more importantly, join in this war against insecurity and impunity.
“We must hold our government responsible for whatever happens to our lives and property and give it whatever assistance it may need to get this done.”
Oyinlola condoled with leader of Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, and his children, as well as the husband and family of the deceased, the government and people of Ondo State, the Afenifere family, and the Yoruba people on the unfortunate incident.
Buhari May Replace Service Chiefs
Speaking with Daily Independent on Monday, a presidency source said a change of guard was imminent as the president was concerned about the raging insecurity in the country and wanted an effective solution to it before it would get out of hand.
He added that the recent promotions in the Nigerian army might be an indication of that.
“The president, as the commander-in-chief, is keeping many things to his chest. But, from feelers, he may replace the service chiefs because he is concerned about the state of the nation and the insecurity crisis.
“A lot of concerned Nigerians have expressed the belief that replacing the service chiefs would add more vigour and new ideas to the fight against insecurity and I think the president is giving it a serious thought,” the source said.
Several civil society organisations (CSOs) have accused the service chiefs of operating illegally in office since their tenure elapsed on Saturday, July 13, 2019.
Speaking on the letter written by former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Monday to Buhari, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, said they endorsed the content of the letter as silence in the face of the current insecurity crisis was not acceptable.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo called for a national debate to discuss security issues affecting the nation.
Yinka Odumakin, the organisation’s National Publicity Secretary, said: “We endorse Obasanjo’s patriotic intervention at this critical moment in Nigeria when silence is sinful for statesmen of his hue.
“We just hope the administration would listen to his call and summon an assembly of Nigerian leaders to steer Nigeria away from Kigali which the contradictions orchestrated by the actions and inactions of official leadership is pushing it.”
On its part, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) said it was still studying the letter and would make its position known soon.
The organisation’s National Publicity Secretary, Muhammad Ibrahim Biu, in a text message to our correspondent, said: “The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) is studying Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari and will make its position known soon.”
OBJ’s Letter Invitation To Chaos, Anarchy —Yakasai
Tanko Yakasai, a founding member of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), said on Monday that writing “unpatriotic” letters is a peculiar attitude of Obasanjo.
Yakasai said this in reaction to the letter Obasanjo wrote to Buhari on the insecurity in the country.
Speaking to journalists in Kano, Yakasai said the content of the letter may cause unrest in the country.
He said all letters written by Obasanjo to past Nigerian leaders were never inspired by patriotism but selfish interests.
Yakasai said one of the letters Obasanjo wrote during the reign of the late Sani Abacha, former military head of state, landed him in prison.
“The actions of General Olusegun Obasanjo are, indeed, an open invitation for disaster for this country with the kind of hate speeches and messages that are flying all over the country,” Yakasai said.
“I don’t see patriotism in General Obasanjo’s letters. In fact, all the letters written by General Obasanjo to all military heads of state and presidents of the Federal Republic of Nigeria are not guided by patriotic considerations.
“My experience with Nigerian political situation is that the top echelons of the military are always fighting one another, either when in the service or when on retirement.
“It is from this angle that I always view most of the writings of General Olusegun Obasanjo to any military officer who is a Head of State or President in Nigeria as unpatriotic. Even the ones he wrote to former Presidents Goodluck Jonathan and the late Umar Musa Yar’Adua were not patriotic. They were guided by selfish interest.
“General Obasanjo did it during Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida’s era. He did it during the late General Sani Abacha’s regime, which later resulted to accusations that he was trying to overthrow the government, which eventually led to his imprisonment.
“General Olusegun Obasanjo also wrote a number of letters during General Abdulsalami Abubakar’s regime; and he is still writing letters in this current presidency of General Muhammadu Buhari. So, this attitude of writing unpatriotic letters has been part of General Olusegun Obasanjo.”