Weekly Trust

Re: For the attention of General Buhari

Reading Dr Reuben Abati’s piece in The Guardian on Friday, 22nd April 2011 with the above title, I weep for logic and how it suffers in Nigeria. Abati echoes a hoard of people in the article blindly calling on General Muhammadu Buhari to stop the fighting in the North. I ask why and how? Buhari is not the president of my country, though I rooted for him. Mr Goodluck Jonathan is the president and he is not a new president who is still awaiting inauguration before he takes over the reins of power; he is the sitting president.

I have found the calls on Buhari absurd from two levels. First, it will be a PR disaster for his party and his reputation to take responsibility for another institution’s failing. Let us agree for a moment that certain people are aggrieved enough with the outcomes of the elections to spontaneously kill, burn and loot. What were our security apparatuses doing not preempting this? And Abati’s usually incisive analysis cleverly ignores this, opting instead to help our government look for a scapegoat. Violence has pervaded the country before announcements of results and nobody has been brought to book for them, right from the October 1, 2010 incident which was a national embarrassment as we had visitors around felicitating with us for our fiftieth year as a nation.

Would they blame that one on Buhari? Let’s not forget that there was an attempt to slam it on ‘Northern politicians’, particularly IBB, who was then a contestant for the PDP’s presidential candidacy. What is therefore evident here is that the government and its agents are keener on searching for scapegoats than facing the business of running the nation.

President Goodluck Jonathan needs to make up his mind whether he wants to be that change we desire in the country or he wants to run business as usual. He has let the violence in Jos, Maiduguri and other parts of the country linger too long, unresolved. Before the elections, there were bomb blasts in Port Harcourt, Yenagoa, and other cities that are not in the North. The tools used in these violent acts—the hi-tech bombs and guns, with media propaganda to boot—are not within the reach of the impoverished people that are being accused of being the masterminds; they are sponsored by the rich and mighty which the security agencies have known and have reported on in their largely-ignored security reports. Influential politicians and powerful military generals have been fingered in these acts behind closed doors. It takes a very determined administrator to take the required action. This has not been done in many of the cases. Abati did not think these are important.

The electoral frauds that were seen right from the times of voter registration have gone unpunished. There was the plethora of bomb blasts in Yenagoa, Abuja, Jos, Maiduguri, Abuja and other places that became like firecrackers around us prior to the elections. There were violence in Nasarawa, Benue, and Akwa Ibom States. While we can argue that state governors are the chief security officers of these states and should deploy security for them, we know that the security agencies actually take their orders from Abuja and that the state governors are parties to all the violent conflicts and so would not deploy the instruments of coercion with justice in mind. This reading of the situation would have made a responsible government choose firm actions. Why is Abati blaming all this inaction on ethnicity and religion?

Unfortunately, Abati as chairman of the editorial board of my favourite newspaper, knowing of his influence must be expressing these narrow, divisive opinions that have reflected in the media before and after these elections. He must have caused the kinds of headlines that said people in the North voted for Buhari simply because he is a Muslim. Hundreds of my friends and I are not Muslims, we do not know Buhari personally, but we chose to vote for him. We did not go canvassing votes at anybody’s doors and we did all agree that Buhari was not likely to win because he did not have the financial muscle and corrupt disposition of some other political parties. So, I felt insulted when I saw a columnist that I always respect and have met at various events write a statement like: “Buhari got sectarian votes in 16 Northern states: they voted for him because he is Muslim and Fulani, Jonathan received high votes in the South South, the South East, and the South West and captured the Christian votes plus PDP votes in the North, an indication that his Southerner kinsmen were not willing to forsake him either. Nuhu Ribadu who got 25% of the votes in four Yoruba states did so because he was candidate of a largely Yoruba party.”

That logic falls flat on its head when you ask Abati a question like: Between Shekarau who established the implementation of the criminal part of Sharia in Kano and Buhari who has no such credentials, who should have attracted Muslim votes for his service and potential service to Islam? I do not see how Buhari would have gotten such sympathy, because he has nothing to show. The only statement that the media has tried to stamp on Buhari was the phantom speech that purportedly asked Muslims to vote for Muslims only. I did read the full transcript of that speech. Buhari never said that.

Buhari was addressing a crowd and trying to ginger them from apathy to the electoral process during the Obasanjo regime. He said they (Muslims in the crowd) never come out to vote, yet they cry that they are marginalized. He said if they came out and voted, and if they voted a Muslim, why wouldn’t they get what they desired as Muslims?

That was a statement I had made to many youth groups before; that the youths who are graduates do not turn out to vote, so why would they always complain that governments are insensitive to their plights? I am a Christian but I think Abati unwittingly sounded like a religious and ethnic bigot in this article when he advised General Buhari to “go on radio, and on television and advise his supporters to stop fighting now and to allow the next elections on April 26 to hold peacefully.... And he must convey that message in his own voice and repeatedly in Hausa and Fulfude, the languages that the rioters are more likely to understand and appreciate. He must in doing this, enlist the support of the same emirs that his supporters are denigrating, and the imams and ulamas.”

The homes of Muslims were being torched by Muslims and churches and mosques were being set on fire by people with deep-seated animosity from previous conflicts and Abati’s analysis can only arrive at this?! At this rate, we are on the road to Rwanda! If all our intellectuals can do in times like this is to run to their ethnic and religious enclaves, I do not see what moral grounds Abati had for his opening paragraph about leadership failure in Nigeria. It’s logically deducible that Abati also only gives Dr Goodluck Jonathan unreserved support because he is from the Niger Delta, if he assumes that I, a Christian, Akweya from Benue State, can only vote for Buhari if I am Fulfulde or Hausa. I was one of the first to root for Jonathan to run for president until he started making his utterances that showed he was willing to defend terrorists who bombed and killed Nigerians on our National Day, in spite of repeated warnings and admission by the Niger Delta militants. The government went as far as trying to force it on ‘Northern politicians’. Instantly, it was clear that the government is keen on running regional agenda.

I write this rejoinder to say we cannot contend that people like Dr Reuben Abati can stand on a moral high ground in the future to tell their children that they were not part of the rot that engulfed Nigeria. If, as a result of some primordial sentiments such as having a South-South president or having to feed one’s family, journalists have to act in whatever ways they do, they should be responsible enough to bear the consequences. The lopsided media ownership should be used responsibly.

This is not the first time Buhari has contested an election. In all instances, he lost and he resorted to the courts. What was different this time? Is it Buhari’s accurate reading of the political temperature that the Nigerian public will not accept rigged elections this time that is the problem? The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has rejected the presidential election results, probably just after Abati finished putting pen to paper on that article, would Reuben call on ACN publicity secretary, Lai Mohammed to stop inciting people? Lai Mohammed, in the press statement, said: ‘’President Jonathan should call his dogs of war at the PDP to order, so that they will not push their luck by attempting to thwart the will of the people any more than they have already done, with the grim consequences that we all can now see.’’

Finally, let me remind us all: Nigeria is our country; Goodluck Jonathan is our president. I urge all well meaning Nigerians to call on our president to give us not only electric power but security. The people planting bombs and causing the maiming of innocent people are known at the top. Jonathan should set example, even if it is with any of his opponents that he has incontrovertible evidence on. Buhari has never given the impression that he wants to be treated as an untouchable. Bombs in Jos; bombs in Abuja; bombs in the president’s home state: let’s urge Mr. President to stop pointing fingers.

Okenyodo is a poet and public relations practitioner. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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