By Ikem Okuhu
The numbing helplessness from all the layers of Nigerian authority appears almost conspiratorial and as the country is buffeted from the four corners of the compass by rabid bloodletting and insidious national dismemberment, it has gone beyond belief that governments at the national, state and local levels have no answers to the centrifugal forces of annihilation tearing raw flesh from a once militarily strong nation.
The country’s leaders and the security chief look like they are completely without plans and tactics, to the point of triggering a growing nostalgia for the days of the man who was kicked out of office for being a disappointing epitome of the word, clueless. The growing number of those stretching their gaze backwards for the sour grapes of yesteryears summarises the people’s frustration and fears of today’s failures and the forlornness of a future we are no longer sure we would even arrive in one piece.
If what is happening to Nigeria today was planned by an enemy, internal or external, such an adversarial person or institution should be studied by everyone who wished to understand internecine war. It is almost Napoleon’s France all over again; we are fighting wars on far too many fronts to guarantee easy and low-cost victory. The Nigerian situation cannot even be compared with the situation in Napoleonic France. Napoleon, in his attempt to expand the frontiers of the French Empire, attempted to fight many other nationalities in Europe all at once. Beyond some murmurs of discontent by war-weary generals, there was peace and prosperity within the Republic. France was so prosperous that Napoleon was quoted to have arrogantly told other European leaders that, “…the French Republic is like the sun in the sky- so much the worse for those who do not see it.” He had the resources to prosecute the wars.
But this is not the case with Nigeria, a country filled with potentials it appears destined to never achieve. Unlike Napoleon’s France, Nigeria is not fighting external aggression; on the contrary, it is being torn apart by internal forces; a war (or wars) against itself. The country is increasingly looking like a pregnant viper, whose future offspring will have to eat through their mother’s innards for a chance to become “snakes” of their own. How can a country fight almost all of its citizens and expect to survive? At the time France was fighting Europe, the country was prosperous and had the most sophisticated and highly motivated military. You cannot say the same about Nigeria. News that our soldiers have been waging a war against terrorist Boko Haram in the north east with figurative bows and exaggerated arrows have been rife. Desertions by soldiers have also made many headlines. And to cap it up, the country has been everything but prosperous, especially in the past six years.
Given the widespread discontent against the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, a lot was expected of his successor. But the sorry summaries of the Muhammadu Buhari story are squeezed into the melancholic Jonathanic nostalgia many people have been mouthing in the past few months, as the country continued an unplanned, yet simultaneous searing from the middle.
Everything appears to be working against the present crop of leaders. Their pervasive incompetence is one; the emotional and responsibilities distance they keep from the people is another. But it seems the most unfortunate of them all is President Muhammadu Buhari. Molded to possess an incurable unitary mindset by successive military governments and, if I may add, a quasi-unitary federal system of government, every attention is on the president, even when the real catalysts for grassroots development rests with governors and the local council chairmen: a floundering governor and his retinue of poor-performing local government chairmen vicariously attracts low credit ratings for the reticent man in Abuja.
This is not in any way making excuses for the wretched credentials of the Buhari administration, which, even in the midst of crippling economic challenges still allowed stories of bewildering corruption and bigotry to be seeping out of his government.
Buhari appears to exemplify the man whose kernel was not cracked by benevolent spirits, if I am permitted to paraphrase this popular line from Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”. Every effort he makes towards progress triggers unintended reactions and that is why, when his story will be told, finding what to add to the assets side of his balance sheet will be tough.
His government has, in truth, done very well in a number of areas and I will mention just one here because of its relevance to the challenges the country is facing at the moment. I am aware that President Muhammadu Buhari took the issue of agricultural revival quite seriously. He personally took charge of many projects in this area, including the revival of the country’s fertilizer production capacity. It took him five years, but the country now boosts of a capacity of 1.5 million metric tonnes of fertilizer per annum. For a country that was importing practically every cup of this critical agro input a few years ago, this is a major milestone.
Ordinarily, this success story should energise the drive for increased food production and employment generation in the almost limitless agriculture value chain. But where will the food come from when all the farmers are either being killed or kidnapped in their farms? What growth will anyone expect from agriculture in the face of what appears like state-sponsored destructive open grazing that has entitled Fulani herders to regard freshly-growing crops from a farmers’ grueling toils as pasture for his cows?
I am a victim and sure know how it hurts. In 2018, I lost 17 hectares of my Vitamin A cassava farm in the Uzo Uwani agro belt of Enugu State to the trampling hoofs of cattle herded by the Fulani. They also destroyed 5,000 heaps of yams I had planted around portions of the farm’s sprawling perimeter.
Given this situation, who then would benefit from Buhari’s auriferous agricultural policy when farmers that are the direct beneficiaries are either murdered, kidnapped for ransom or had their crops forcefully converted to cow fodder?
Such an unfortunate president. The country is fraying under his watch and those who love Nigeria are hoping he finds the strength, wisdom and tact to be like Sir Winston Churchill who, as German forces advanced on Britain during World War II, swore that he would not “supervise the dissolution of the British Empire,” and didn’t just mean it, but mobilized Britons to achieve it.
Okuhu, a former Special Assistant to Governor Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, is a journalist, author, farm entrepreneur, whose most recent book is ‘Pitch: Debunking Marketing’s Strongest Myths’