By Owei Lakemfa
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari last Tuesday peered into the last three years of his administration and released a volley of nine promises to be fulfilled. He must have looked back at the past five years of his government and found them littered with broken promises. I know his propagandists have been on full throttle these past years painting pictures of how he is transforming the country into a paradise, insulting and shouting down those who disagree.
To these gentlemen and women, whose focus is doubtlessly not the country’s interest, I commend the African saying that if you lie to a person and assume he does not know, at least, you must admit to yourself that you are lying. I am not sure President Buhari, who knows that history is not written based on piles of propaganda, is taking in by such noise. As an African elder, he must have availed himself the wise saying that even if people around you are deceiving you, you don’t have to deceive yourself.
This may be the reason for his announcing nine programmes that must be implemented before he leaves office on May 29, 2023. In choosing the occasion when he received the Letters of Credence from Ambassadors and High Commissioners of eight countries, he told Nigerians and the international community that in the next three years, his government plans to: “Build a thriving and sustainable economy; Enhance social inclusion and reduce poverty; Enlarge agricultural output for food security and export; Attain energy sufficiency in power and petroleum products and expand transport and other infrastructural development. Expand business growth, entrepreneurship and industrialisation; Expand access to quality education, affordable healthcare and productivity of Nigerians; Build a system to fight corruption, improve governance and create social cohesion; and improve security for all.”
This is a long list and one wonders what his government has been doing in the past five years; building the foundation on which these promises will rest? In any case, these programmes are not new, they are the same ‘nine-point Agenda for Nigeria’s Development’ Buhari released at the Eagle Square, Abuja on Wednesday, October 15, 2014 when he declared his intention to run for the 2015 presidential election. Never mind the age of these promises, people are wont to say, better late than ever.
However, as he stated at his June 18, 2020 meeting with service and security chiefs, “… it takes common sense for anyone to understand that without security, the pursuit of the other (programmes) will just be an exercise in futility.” Our situation is tending towards that in Mali where low level insurgency in the North over the years became full blown with the insurgents overrunning the North, occupying the Central, and making a dash for the South.
When the Buhari administration came to power in 2015 promising to end insecurity in the country, the main challenge was the Boko Haram. Within a year, massacres in the name of herdsmen-farmers clashes and banditry became the new order, so much that large swaths of land were seized from the indigenous people in the Benue Basin. These areas were occupied by the invaders and renamed. In Plateau State alone by July 1, 2018, 54 such occupied communities had been renamed by the invaders. The inhabitants of those communities had been killed, forced to flee or pushed into internally displaced peoples’ camps without the security services moving to retake them. This trend continues. In a frightening twist, the Buhari administration in 2018, advised the victims of these land invasion and seizures, to abandon their ancestral lands to the terrorists as it is better to be alive than be killed in their homes!
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, speaking on an AIT morning programme in response to a question on ancestral attachments to land said: “Ancestral attachment? You can only have ancestral attachment when you are alive. If you are talking about ancestral attachment, if you are dead, how does the attachment matter? … So, if your state genuinely does not have land for ranching, it is understandable; not every state will have land for ranches. But where you have land and you can do something, please do for peace. What will the land be used for if those who own it are dead at the end of the day?”
In January 2019, President Buhari who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces in throwing up his hands as a way of explaining why the military was not engaging the invaders and restoring indigenes to their lands, blamed the situation on the late President Mouammar Ghadaffi of Libya who had been killed eight years earlier. In his interview with Arise Television, President Buhari claimed: “The Nigerian cattle herder used to carry nothing more than a stick, but these are people with AK-47 and people refuse to reflect on the demise of Gaddafi. Gaddafi for 43 years in Libya, at some stage, he decided to recruit people from Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, from the Central African Republic and these young chaps are not taught to be bricklayers, electricians, plumbers or any trade but to shoot and kill.
So, when the opposition in Libya succeeded in killing him, they arrested some and they did what they did to them. The rest escaped with their weapons and we encountered some of them in the North-East and they are all over the place now organising attacks.” Since then, the bandits have fully manifested in the North West, particularly Katsina, Zamfara and Sokoto states and have flowed into Niger State with reports of them setting up organised camps in Oyo State. They also carry out organised kidnappings on all major highways in the country. Even at this critical point, the Buhari government continues to make excuses.
When on August 10, the President met the five governors from North-East, he assured them things will improve very soon and that the delay is due to the time it takes to acquire military hardware and train the users. This seemed logical. Then he went on to claim that the COVID-19 pandemic was making resources scarcer, and having severe impact on the supply chain of military equipment and spare parts.
True? How can the government blame COVID-19 whose advent in the country is less than six months, as having a devastating impact on the military supply chain? What Nigerians desire are results: the defeat of local and foreign terrorists, bandits and other criminals. But what the Buhari government is adept at doing is giving excuses or blaming others. Given the foregoing, I have the impression that the Federal Government under President Buhari has no answer to the insecurity in the country; Nigerians are just left to glide in the shadows of insecurity.
Owei Lakemfa is the Secretary General, Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU).