Nigeria: Calming the storm

June 10, 2021
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TODAY,  the Interfaith Initiative for Peace, a group led by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar; the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, and former Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, will converge on the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, to address the fissures in the country. According to the organisers, the meeting will examine issues such as national unity, security, peace, integration, economic revitalisation and development. The initiative followed the alarm raised by Obasanjo on Sunday, June 6, over the dire situation in the country.  “We seem to have been overwhelmed and unsure of how to handle the crisis in our land. But nothing is too difficult for God to do. That is why we are here,” the former president had said.

On Tuesday, a group of concerned political leaders drawn from various political parties under the aegis of the National Consultative Fronts (NCF) had called on all former presidents, Heads of State, and the National Assembly’s presiding officers to convene with a view to saving the country from “anarchy and unwanted civil war”, and to direct the country’s endowments toward erecting a truly prosperous and harmonious nation. The NCF urged all political parties, politicians and political support groups to suspend forthwith, all campaigns and ambitions for the 2023 elections, as well as all political activities not geared towards stemming the tide of insecurity and moving the country towards normalcy. The clarion call was contained in a communiqué read by its leader, Dr. Olu Agunloye, after the emergency national intervention meeting of the leaders of conscience held in Abuja, which was jointly signed by former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Ghali Umar Na’Abba, Professor Pat Utomi and Dr Hakeem Baba Ahmed. Those who attended the meeting included former presidential candidates, Professor Kingsley Moghalu and Dr. Oby Ezekwesili; Okey Nwosu, Buba Galadima, former Ondo State governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko; Nagatu Mohammed, and Senator Grace Bent, among others.

To say the least, the calls and actions by the various groups seeking to arrest the country’s impending slide into utter chaos is highly commendable. The country is currently at one of the most difficult moments in its turbulent history. From East to West and from North to South, the country is in dire straits. In the South-East, the ugly spectre of the so-called “unknown gunmen” continues to be the harbinger of death and destruction. In the zone, members of the uniformed profession are fast becoming an endangered specie, yet they are also perpetrating infamy, decreeing instant death to persons suspected of affiliation with the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) and its armed wing, the Eastern Security Network (ESN).

Across the northern states, nomadic herdsmen, bandits, kidnappers and Boko Haram terrorists are continuing their reign of terror, littering everywhere with the blood of hapless citizens betrayed by a callous and completely inept political leadership. Only on Tuesday, armed men suspected to be Fulani herdsmen launched a deadly attack in Odugbeho community in the Agatu Local Government Area of Benue State, killing over 30 residents. This was preceded by the genocide they carried out in Odoka Ishieke, Obakota Ishieke and Ndiobàsi Ishieke communities of Ebonyi State last week, which left 50 people dead, and the massacre they orchestrated in Igangan community in Ibarapa North Local Government Area of Oyo State on Sunday, June 6, leading to the death of 11 persons and the burning down of houses, shops, a petrol station, and the palace of the traditional ruler of the community.

According to Amnesty International, over 159 people were reportedly killed by bandits, herdsmen, robbers and other non-state actors in just five days. The group tweeted on Tuesday:  “From Saturday, June 5, 2021 to date, more Nigerians have been killed: Kebbi State: Danko-Wasagu 88 killed —Oyo State: Igangan 11 killed —Benue State: Agatu 30 killed —Zamfara: Zurmi 30 killed.” However, horrendous as it is, the trail of blood is not the only tragedy that the country is currently battling. The economy is in tatters, and hunger and deprivation have become the daily companions of the over 200 million population, with members of the political class and a tiny non-political elite being the only exceptions to the rule. Self determination groups are springing up by the day in the face of the blatant lopsided appointments, ethnic favouritism and uncouth public utterances by the Presidency. And worse still, the leadership of the National Assembly has failed to call the president to order and douse the tension in the land.

It is indeed tragic that in the face of increasing slide into disintegration, the Buhari government has adopted a laid-back stance, pretending that all is well. Assuming the invincibility of its residual powers, it has talked down on the people and frowned on suggestions for dialogue. Against this backdrop, we urge the various convening groups, traditional rulers, members of socio-cultural organisations and others to keep the discussion template on. They are doing the nation great service. On their part, the 36 state governors must fashion out templates to contain the tension in their respective jurisdictions. The palpable tension in the country must be contained. Delay is dangerous.

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