MAJOR socio-cultural and ethnic organizations, yesterday, took sides with former President Olusegun Obasanjo on his call for urgent restructuring of Nigeria’s security architecture amid rising wave of insecurity in the country. Groups that endorsed his position include umbrella body of Igbo socio-cultural organisations, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere. Apart from security, the groups also called for restructuring of the country. On its part, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said Obasanjo’s position vindicated its stand for the removal of Security Chiefs. The former President made the call at the 2020 Sobo Sowemimo Annual Lecture in Abeokuta, last Friday.
Obasanjo is right—Afenifere
Afenifere backed Obasanjo’s position on restructuring, saying it remained the only saving grace for the country. National Publicity Secretary of the body, Yinka Odumakin, said: “There is no doubt that Nigeria is a failed state at the moment. The state is drifting and the only thing that can keep Nigeria afloat at this moment is to restructure without any delay. “If we don’t do it, Nigeria as we know it is on its way to abyss. In the first quarter of this year, we spent a large percentage of our earnings to service debts and we are still acquiring debts. It is no longer sustainable and the only saving grace is to restructure immediately. So, Obasanjo is right.”
Let’s renegotiate the way forward—Akintoye
President of the Yoruba World Congress, YWC, Professor Banji Akintoye, threw his weight behind the former President’s call, noting that there was need to renegotiate the way forward for Nigeria. Akintoye, an Emeritus Professor of History, said: “The concept of restructuring to restore developmental competence to the various units of Nigeria is a good idea. The present over-centralisation of everything in the hands of a government in Abuja is destructive. It is what has led Nigeria to a point that it is breaking up. “Therefore, to ask for restructuring makes sense and we must thank Obasanjo that he is adding voice to that now. The security structure in this country has broken down completely and people are being killed everywhere. Nigeria is in a state of anarchy. That is what Obasanjo meant when he said the security architecture has broken down.”
Obasanjo’s comment in line with our position — Ohanaeze
Ohanaeze Ndigbo said Obasanjo’s call for the restructuring of Nigeria’s security architecture has been the position of Ndigbo. Similarly, elite Igbo group, Alaigbo Development Foundation, ADF, chaired by Prof. Uzodinma Nwala, said former President Obasanjo’s call was in order. According to Ohanaeze, it was restructuring that made the pan-Igbo group support Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in the 2019 presidential election. The President-General of the apex Igbo group, Chief Nnia Nwodo, said the body is 100 per cent in support of former President Obasanjo’s position. Speaking through his Special Adviser, Media, Emeka Attama, the Ohanaeze leader insisted that without structuring, Nigeria would not make any meaningful progress. “We are 100 percent in support of Obasanjo. That has been the position of Ohanaeze Ndigbo. Nigeria is dying, and the President does not seem to see it. We are totally in support of the call. That has been our position and that was the reason Ohanaeze backed Atiku in the 2019 elections because he said he was going to restructure the country.
“We just have to restructure, let us start from the security architecture. It a is serious issue. It is not a child’s play. You have the entire security of the country put in the hands of a section of the country. You allow the service chiefs to stay beyond their tenure,” Ohanaeze said. Alaigbo Development Foundation, through its spokesman, Abi Onyike, said: “Any opinion coming from former President Olusegun Obasanjo must be taken seriously and respected. “Obasanjo’s government from 1999-2007 was the most stable, purposeful and well-directed administration. It was after he left in 2007, that things began to go topsy-turvy.”
Obasanjo’s position vindicates our stand – PDP
The PDP said Obasanjo’s call for the overhauling of the nation’s security architecture is a vindication of its consistent call on the Federal Government to change the Service Chiefs for better service delivery. Speaking to Sunday Vanguard, the National Publicity Secretary of the opposition party, Kola Ologbondiyan, noted that security under Buhari had worsened than he met it in 2015. He said: “The former President has vindicated us. Across the country today, life has become so cheap to the extent that some criminal elements now kill for fun. “The Service Chiefs have simply failed to deliver. So Chief Obasanjo is right and he has said what the PDP has been saying for years. The Federal Government has failed in protecting Nigerians, many of whom have died either in the hands of bandits, armed robbers or Boko Haram. We have never had it this bad.”
Nigeria’s security issues Excerpts from the lecture titled, ‘Covid-19 and Nigeria’s Security Issues: The Way Forward, read: “ Over the last two weeks or so, there have been comments and remarks about the state of insecurity in the country occasioned by criminality and acts of lawlessness that are brazen and outrageous with seeming government powerlessness to act effectively. These with other willful and unhelpful acts of government at the centre had made some governors to devise means of enhancing security within their States and their geo-political zones. The issue of Nigeria’s future as a result of our current security situation must not be taken non-seriously as I see it as a matter of life and death for our country which must not be toyed with. I very much believe that God created Nigeria to lead the black race as the Americans lead the white race for now and the Chinese lead the brown or yellow race. We must do everything to actualise the plan of God for Nigeria not minding the great crises of the past and gross under-performance, incompetence and failure of the present. This makes me ask the question, “Is 1914 a mistake or the act of God through the instrumentality of man?” I do not believe God makes a mistake and He has His hands in the affairs of any man or woman and the affairs of any nation. God is purposeful and His mystery may not be easily comprehensible.
Nigeria, to me, is a creation of God for justice, fairness and equity amongst its parts. Let me lay more emphasis on the issue of security which in itself is serious enough to make restructuring imperative. The South-West Governors cried out and devised Amotekun as a solution or part-solution. We are yet to see how successfully that will be operated. Other zones are clamouring for a solution because in no State and in no geopolitical zone is life and property safe and secure. Criminality is the order of the day. And it cuts across the entire nation. Insecurity is one issue of commonality among Nigerians no matter their tribe, language, religion, geographical location, gender, age or social position. If we are all held hostage by criminality of Boko Haram, terrorists, herdsmen/farmers, bandits, kidnappers, militants, armed robbers, then we all have common ground to seek common solution by putting aside governance collapse, incompetence, failure, insincerity and insensitivity and chart a new stable, enduring and generally sustainable basis and platform for Nigeria Federation. What is permanent and constant in life is change, reform, and re-adjustment.
To avoid change when it is necessary is to avoid progress. Inflexibility is a sign of a sick mind especially in the face of overwhelming evidence for change. People often refer to history and the past to justify their rigidity. My position has always been, remember history but don’t be shackled by it nor become its hostage. For me, I don’t want to inherit the enemies of my father, that is part of history. My father’s time and life are different from mine. Circumstances do change and only fools will not know and acknowledge that. Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and other past leaders have lived their lives at their times. They have done their best and they should be respected for their service. And if in our own time we only have to live the way they lived and only be guided by what they believed and did without any change, then we might as well not have been born because we add nothing to improve the situation and to make the society better. That will be utterly wrong and unfortunate.
If we all have to agree to make Nigeria our country, and not only Yoruba country, Ibo country, Fulani country, Ibibio country, Gbashama country, Urhobo country, etc., we have to change our mindset, our attitude, our orientation and embrace inclusiveness and equal opportunities, equity, justice and love. If we only dwell on others’ mistakes of the past and cover up our own, Nigeria will be at best stagnated or at the worst destroyed as an entity. Those who cannot feel comfortable in the company of other ethnic or religious groups have no business in aspiring to leadership of a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation like Nigeria. They will do great harm to the entity and, in fact, become security risks. The Northern Elders Forum, through its spokesperson, Akeem Baba Ahmed, had declared President Buhari a failure on account of persistent insecurity within the nation. I leave out economy which is in the doldrums and fighting corruption where you see more heat than light and which is festering like a bad sore.
Leaders in politics, private sector, religion, traditional institutions and civil society have cried out against pervasive insecurity in our land. Salihu Garba, in his open letter to Arewa Governors and legislators, has a lot to say. But he begins with, “Only insane people can sit and watch their people being killed, women and young girls raped, and sons abducted by some ragtag bandits, kidnappers or insurgent group, whose motivations have been built on demonic ideology, easy access to firearms and our collective failure in providing the desired community-based shepherd leadership and a fit-for-purpose security system”. He cautioned the North on excessive dependence on the Federal handouts and security agents. He raised many issues and made suggestions that are in the domain of devolution and restructuring with collaboration, cooperation and solidarity. No one in his or her right senses will go against most of the points Salihu raised in his letter to strengthen Nigerian unity and oneness and enhance performance through devolution and restructuring.
He went on, “Our docility and indifference to insecurity always baffled me, considering the fact that we have the knowledge, good-willed people and the opportunity to serve our people with all honesty and sincerity of purpose, but we have failed to do so and so often as if we are under some sort of spell or curse”. Whatever it is, we have a new opportunity now. He concluded, “Let’s together make the message go round until we see results – a peaceful and prosperous Arewa and Nigeria at large”. That, to me, is what reform of federating units and restructuring is all about and not about break-up or disintegration. Insecurity brought about by widespread criminality of Boko Haram, insurgents, herdsmen/farmers conflict, terrorists, bandits, armed robbers, militants, kidnappers, abductors and human traffickers is a new phenomenon that is ravaging the entire country. The causes are many but the solution is beyond the capacity of the government which seemed to be at the end of its wit.
Positive action is required from all well-meaning Nigerians from across the board as we are all victims and hostages. It is evident that no ethnic group nor geopolitical zone and not even the Fulanis in Nigeria are collectively satisfied with the present situation in spite of President Buhari being a Fulani man. I am, of course, discounting invidious and irredeemable Fulani fundamentalists and hegemonists. I believe that you find such people within any Nigerian tribal or ethnic group. We must not adopt position of mindlessness ‘do nothing’ and allow a few to wreck our present and our future. Together, we can have Nigeria of our dream. And I believe that there are Nigerians in all walks of life, from all ethnic groups, religious groups, cultural groups, political groups and across age and gender who will work genuinely and sincerely for emergence of a new Nigeria based on principles of democracy, equity, justice, mutual respect, egalitarianism, good governance, federal character, and extol merit and competence. Federal security architecture, as organized and operated by the present government, cannot give any individual or group hope, let alone assurance of security within Nigeria,”( vanguard)