Last week was a memorable one for Nigeria, with the country clocking 60 years after independence from colonial rule. However, rather than engage in revelry of the moment, the dominant discourse centred on deepening fault lines and how the country has failed to achieve unity.
These were expressed in both President Muhammadu Buhari’s independence anniversary speech and an earlier commentary by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
The two speeches were among the stories that made our pick of major political events last week. Their imports for nation-building cannot be ignored.
1. Buhari’s dreams
President Buhari in his anniversary speech, themed ‘Together’, said that Nigeria would be greater if its people stayed together. In doing so, he urged the citizens to reflect on the country’s historical journey and work towards building a strong indivisible nation.
Among other admonitions, Buhari had said:
“…We are bound by destiny to be the largest and greatest black nation on earth. At this stage in our nationhood, it is important that we reflect how we got here to enable us to work TOGETHER to get to where we aspire to be as a strong indivisible nation, united in hope and equal in opportunity.”
Why it matters
Buhari’s October 1 speech was traditional and basic, devoid of any earth-shaking policy pronouncements as many had expected.
His call for unity was not totally unexpected. Many agree that the country’s political landscape had long become a battle ground for agitations by various interest groups, with most arguing that Nigerian had never been more divided.
With allegations of lopsided appointments, nepotism, disregard for rule of law, human rights abuses, corruption, political suppression and brutal repression trailing his administration, it must be said that President Buhari has a duty to restore confidence in the polity .
To achieve this, Mr president must rise above ethnic and religious sentiments to lead by example. The buck stops on his table!
Above all, he must initiate an honest national conversation on the future of Nigeria. To pretend that there is no need for such would be to set the country deeper into a fractious existence troubled by agitations over claims of injustice.
Evolving concrete and workable plans to strengthen harmonious living through inclusiveness, equity in appointments, wealth distribution and equal access to opportunities for all Nigerians regardless of religion, class, and ethnicity is a burden Buhari must bear with equanimity.
2. Osinbajo’s fears
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Sunday, September 27, called on all Nigerians to join hands in rebuilding the country, expressing fears that Nigerians may break-up if its citizens fail to, like the biblical Nehemiah, embrace efforts to rebuild the cracked walls of the country.
Represented by the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha at the 60th Independence Anniversary interdenominational church service held at National Ecumenical Centre and titled ‘Come, let us rebuild…’ Osinbajo said:
“For us in Nigeria, Nehemiah should be taken as a metaphor for Nigerians who either reside in Nigeria or outside, to cry to God to use the abandoned opportunities in Nigeria to address our challenges of nation building. Fortunately for us, our walls are not yet broken but there are obvious cracks that could lead to break if not properly addressed.”
Why it matters
Osinbajo only re-echos the views held by many. Evidence of the cracks is replete with agitations all over. With threats to the country’s sovereignty now almost a daily occurrence, it is glaring that urgent steps need to be taken to address distrust between and among different regions of the country.
In politics and other aspects of national life, it is evident enough that groups and individuals now lean on elemental sentiments of ethnicity and or religion to pursue parochial interests.
Just as Osinbajo and many others have pointed out, it will be too foolhardy for government to ignore the substance of that warning even as the country makes merry over its 60 years of independence.
If Nigeria wishes to celebrate more years together as supposed by the theme of its 60th independence anniversary, then, it is necessary that its leaders recognise the obvious cracks and make allowance for an honest debate in the form of a constitutional conference that may help restore genuine peace, stability and progress.
3. Zulum’s narrow escapes
On Sunday, September 27, the convoy of the Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum, suffered yet another terrorist attack, less than 48 hours after the Friday onslaught along Monguno-Baga Road that left no less than 30 persons, including security personnel killed.
According to sources, “There was no death recorded this time around except for some minor injuries. The windscreen of some vehicles was shattered. Some vehicles had their tyres destroyed by gunshots, including the Government House Press Crew bus. The military gun truck was also shot at and a soldier had his shoulder scalded with a gunshot.”
Why it matters
One takeaway from these persistent attacks is that it puts a lie to the several claims by senior Nigerian government officials that the terrorists have been decimated or technically defeated.
Indeed, on the contrary, Boko Haram remains a potent fighting force willing and ready to go on the offensive against the Nigerian military.
The incidents also query the safety of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who are literarily being dragged back to their ancestral homes without sufficient security arrangements made to protect them.
The attacks around Baga, a town less than five kilometers from one of the biggest military bases in the North-East, also casts serious doubt on the safety of Borno State itself.
The question demanding urgent answers remains why the military, in spite of the huge sums poured into the war, is unable to defend the country’s territorial integrity more than ten years after.
The continuous breach to Zulum’s safety and the failure of the military in Borno State should warrant an urgent probe. Could these be acts of sabotage as speculated by many who are quick to remind Nigerians that Zulum’s confrontations with the military may have marked him out as one to be shabbily treated?
Could it also be true that the war against insurgency has become a huge business from which many are profiteering and would do anything to frustrate a closure?
Relevant institutions of government must consider a forensic probe now as a patriotic assignment to avoid a descent into utter anarchy. Not even the President who is Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces should be spared.
4. Ortom’s rail line posers
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State on Wednesday, September 30, queried the economic benefits of a rail line the Federal Government plans to construct from Kano to Niger Republic. He called on the National Assembly to prevail on Buhari to put aside the project expected to cost $1.9 billion.
Speaking during the inauguration of Benue State Geographic Information Service in Makurdi, Ortom said, “What is the economic benefit of a rail line from Nigeria to Niger? Why do we have to take $1.9bn to make a rail line to Niger? Some of the policies of the federal government has made some of us to be suspicious. We have seen cattle colony, Ruga and open grazing camouflage coming into play.”
Why it matters
Buhari’s government seems not to have demonstrated enough transparency in the proposed controversial railway line from Kano to Maradi in Niger Republic.
Even as the government, through the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, battles hard to defend its action regarding the proposed rail line, the nagging question is:
Why the haste to extend a rail line to Niger Republic when Nigeria does not boast of an ideal network connecting its various cities, owing largely to poor vision and funding?
Speculation that the chief aim of the rail line is to facilitate the supply of crude oil from Niger Republic to a $2 billion private sector-driven petroleum refinery under construction in Mashi, Katsina State, may sound good but shrouding same in secrecy puts the administration’s commitment to transparency and accountability to serious test.
If confirmed true, the government must rejig its current communications strategy which, rather than inform, leave most citizens suspicious of the country’s leadership.
Buhari may have to do more to convince Nigerians that his government means well and has no hidden agenda regarding diversion of resources to achieve selfish or sectional interests.
5. Can of worms in Ondo
The governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, on Thursday, October 1, while featuring on a radio personality programme in Akure, opened up on the frosty relationship with his deputy, Agboola Ajayi saying:
“l ensured that Ajayi was well paid in order to make him comfortable in office despite all warnings from different quarters that he should not entrust Ajayi with power. Ajayi does not want to wait for his time. I made him comfortable. I asked him to represent me in so many places but some people were warning me, I said they should leave him alone. No deputy governor has collected what he was collecting in the history of the state. I gave him N13 million monthly. His predecessors did not collect as much as that.”
Ajayi confirmed the claim but said that the governor was paying him N12 million and not N13 million. He went further to allege that Akeredolu collects N750 million as security vote and N150 million as imprest.
Why it matters
The revelations that the deputy governor pockets either N13 or N12 million monthly, and the governor N150 million, provide an insight into the level of squandering of States’ riches, and the unchanging character of Nigerian politicians.
Ignoring the claim that the monthly takeaways cater for several heads and individuals, one obvious fact to draw from the Ondo can of worms is the level of greed that permeates the governance structure led by a selfish political class.
To imagine that these are the same set of people that find it difficult to pay monthly salaries of workers and pensioners drives home the sickening level of corruption in the society, and why the country fails woefully on the global transparency index.
The people of Ondo must go beyond the revelations to demand undiluted transparency and accountability from all those now jostling for political offices at all levels.
Have a great week ahead as QuickRead makes a return next week Sunday.
By Ebere Ndukwu…
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