On October 28, President Muhammadu Buhari urged Nigerians to shun all actions and comments capable of putting the unity of the country in jeopardy.
According to his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, the President made the appeal during the launch of the 2021 Armed Forces Remembrance Day (AFRD) Emblem and Appeal Fund.
Buhari had said: “This years’ occasion reminds Nigerians of the need to guard jealously the unity of the nation which was won at a great cost.”
Acknowledging that “Nigeria’s strength lies in her diversity,” he declared: “We honour the memory of our gallant officers and men who have paid the supreme sacrifice in order to keep the country united as one entity.”
Buhari’s preachments come at a time the country is in the throes of widening ethnic and religious tensions. The deepening fault lines have not been helped by serious threats to the country’s sovereignty, a development that has placed its military under massive pressure.
As lofty as Buhari’s preachments are, he needs to honestly appraise the policy flaws even within his administration that seem to stoke the embers of disunity, and threaten the peace and stability of the country.
Critics are quick to remind Mr President that he has to remove the logs in his eyes before extending such gesture to Nigerians, having been accused serially of mismanaging Nigeria’s unity.
This gains expression in the distribution of strategic portfolios of government which appear to be deliberately skewed in favour of some ethnic, religious or nepotistic considerations. No where is this more evident than in the country’s security architecture.
Examples have been made of the offices of Minister of Defence, the National Security Adviser, the Chief of Army Staff, the Director-General: State Security Service, the Comptrollers-General of Customs, the Inspector-General of Police, and Director-General, National Intelligence Agency.
The seeming disregard of the constitutionally-enshrined Federal Character principle in Buhari’s appointment into strategic offices is the administration’s biggest image challenge.
Dealing with the negative perceptions do not look like a priority to government at the moment and this raises important posers.
Does President Buhari really have a moral right to preach unity when he seems guilty of flouting some of the rules that had been deliberately laid to unify the country and its people? Can Nigerians ever live in unity even as the Buhari-led administration struggles woefully to create an environment for a united Nigeria?
Perhaps, Mr. President needs to come to terms with the fact that the country needs to rebuild the failing sense of belonging now being alleged by the various federating units, especially those from the southern half of the country.
President Buhari must work harder to steer the nation away from the current divisions along ethnic and religious lines.
Two other talking points
That Ndigbo-must-go notice
President Buhari, on October 25, could not hide his displeasure over the hate messages and eviction notices issued to ethnic and religious groups.
He averred that it was the right of all citizens to live and work in any part of the country as it is their constitutional right, pointing out that such would be defended by the government.
Garba Shehu, quoting the President had said, “President Buhari also condemned hate messages and eviction notices to ethnic and religious groups asking Nigerians to take pride in the fact that our diverse people have been living with one another in harmony for ages.”
His statement was not unconnected with the viral video message by Young Yoruba for Freedom leader, Adeyinka Grandson, who asked Igbos to leave Lagos State in 48 hours or face dire consequences. Grandson’s hate-filled message was as a result of the unbridled looting and destruction of public and private property by hoodlums – whom he thinks were mainly Igbos – after the alleged shooting of unarmed #EndSARS protesters in Lagos State.
It could be recalled that the country experienced such a hate-filled message on June 6, 2017, when the national leader of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (ACYF), Yerima Shettima, at a press conference in Kaduna State, issued a three-month ultimatum for all Igbos in the 19 Northern States to leave the region.
Many argue that the reason so much bad blood had been bred is because these ethnic jingoists had often received a mere slap on the wrist.
It is not enough, therefore, for the President to issue statements in condemnation of eviction notices but initiate legal actions against promoters of such divisive tendencies.
Buhari’s COVID-19 alarm
On October 28, President Buhari warned that Nigeria’s economy was too weak to bear another round of coronavirus lockdown.
The President issued the warning in his message to Muslims in Nigeria as they joined others all over the world to mark the Eid-el-Maulud.
While advising Nigerians to continue to observe COVID-19 protocols, he emphasised: “Looking at the trends in other countries, we must do all we can to avert the second wave of the pandemic. We must make sure that our cases, which have gone down, do not rise again. Our economy is too fragile to bear another round of lockdown,” he said.
Buhari is right. It would be disastrous for Nigeria’s economy to face another lockdown.
It is common place to notice that people are no longer diligent in observing COVID-19 protocols. This portends a bad omen as it could make the fears of the President materialise.
Sadly, it is not only the citizenry that are flouting the COVID-19 protocols, government officials, almost at all levels, have been spotted disregarding them. This is mostly expressed in their organisation of rallies and other functions where physical distancing are disregarded.
The presidency, therefore, must endeavour to lead from the front in ensuring that the seriousness attached to the observance of the protocols is reignited.
Besides, the recent discoveries of warehouses and looting of ‘hoarded’ COVID-19 palliatives, across the country, calls for critical questioning. They should serve as a clear signal that something had gone wrong with management of the pandemic.
A probe must unravel the rationale behind hoarding the palliatives meant to help poor Nigerians, while arrest and prosecution of looters must extend to government officials fingered in the entire blunder.
And, beyond all these, the government must now institute appropriate structures to account for all the monies, local and foreign, received and expended on the COVID-19 pandemic. Integrity must be placed at the front burner at this time.
By John Chukwu…
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