Increased secessionist agitations in Nigeria: Blame the President

APRIL 4, 2021

By Femi Orebe

What is required is for us to continue to work towards a nation in which the doors of opportunity are open to all our citizens irrespective of ethnicity, creed, class or circumstance. Above all else, we must give justice to all our citizens who seek justice and feel left out in a land they call home. We must give meaning to democracy so that every Nigerian can find a place and a voice in a land of free men and women. We must deploy our diversity to increase our strength. We must make our streets and highways, and now forests and farmlands, safe again for all Nigerians to fulfill their individual dreams.”- Rotimi Ameachi – Hon. Minister of Transportation.

“The call for separation is expensive and can be disruptive. It takes a great toll on development. The creative energy and scarce resources of the people calling for separation are dissipated in what may turn out to be a fruitless effort. Some of the agitations have been going on for centuries and they are not closer to it than they were at the beginning”.

“Besides, those who take the precipitate action of resorting to armed conflict often plunged their land and people to ruin from which there may not be an exit option”

– Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola – Hon. Minister of Interior.

“Today’s Nigeria is becoming an unlivable country where bandits/terrorists, among other reckless daredevils, are killing and maiming innocent citizens including state governors, without  any sanctions, whatever. Things have fallen apart so rapidly the centre can hardly hold.

This unprecedented insecurity, and the absence of political will to deal decisively with it, have led to acute food shortages. Many farmers have been displaced from their villages by cattle herders. Tensions  have reached intolerable levels. The situation has made some ethnicities become more radicalised than hitherto. Separation has, ill-advisedly, become an option in the absence of inclusion and equity both of which define this administration” – Prof Samuel Oluwole Ogundele, University of Ibadan.

Within the statements above inhere my take on the increasing agitation  for secession in Nigeria. While the first, probably unintended, is a damning critique of the Buhari administration, the other two represent a very sensible caution to those being driven by indescribable inequalities into seeking an exit.

When this government talks about the unity of Nigeria, being cast in stone, I see it as mere cheap talk as all  one can see from its actions is that the North is superior to the South.

I have written my fingers sore  on  the President’s lopsided appointments which see nearly all important ones going  to the North whether in Defence, Intelligence, or in key national agencies which are all headed by Northerners:Customs, Immigration, EFCC, Civil defense, Ministries of Agriculture, Water resources, Aviation, Defence, Petroleum, Communications, Education,  Power, Humanitarian services, Civil Defence , the Inspector General of Police, Chief Justice, name it.

So totally wrong, and unreflective of the country’s diverse ethnicities are President Buhari’s appointments that the Coalition of Northern Elders for Peace and Development, in a statement by its National Coordinator, Engr. Goni Zana, had the following to say, among other things: “As difficult as it is speaking the truth, we feel constrained to admit that our quick resort to religious, ethnic and regional considerations led us (Northern elders,  especially the Mafia) to advise the President in wrong directions. The war against insecurity could have been a thing of the past if we had made good and informed decisions. We believe the complete consideration of our interest in making appointments into security agencies among other things led us to this present situation. We are losing it as a country and Mr President  needs to take extra steps before we are consumed. The rate at which we are going if nothing is done within the shortest possible time; we may not have a country to call our own”. That was by some Northern elders of conscience, who are themselves embarrassed by President Buhari’s excessive pursuit of Northern interests.

To further elucidate this , in the Ministry of  Petroleum Resources where the President is  minister, the  under listed individuals are alleged to be holding the topmost  20 positions::

  1. Mele Kyari (GMD)
  2. Umar Ajiya (Chief Finance Officer/Finance and Accounts)
  3. Yusuf Usman (Chief Operating Officer)
  4. Farouk Garba Sa’id (Chief Operating Officer, Corporate Services)
  5. Mustapha Yakubu (Chief Operating Officer, Refining and Petrochemicals)
  6. Hadiza Coomassie (Corporate Secretary/Legal Adviser to the Corporation)
  7. Omar Ibrahim (Group General Manager, International Energy Relations)
  8. Kallamu Abdullahi (GGM Renewable Energy)
  9. Ibrahim Birma (GGM Governance Risk and Compliance)
  10. Bala Wunti (GGM NAPIMS)
  11. Inuwa Waya (MD NNPC Shipping)
  12. Musa Lawan (MD Pipelines And Product Marketing)
  13. Mansur Sambo (MD Nigeria Petroleum Development Company)
  14. Lawal Sade (MD Duke Oil/NNPC Trading Company)
  15. Malami Shehu (MD Port Harcourt Refining Company)
  16. Muhammed Abah (MD Warri Refining and Petrochemical Company)
  17. Abdulkadir Ahmed (MD Nigeria Gas Marketing Company)
  18. Salihu Jamari (MD Nigeria Gas and Power Investment Company Limited)
  19. Mohammed Zango (MD NNPC Medical Services)
  20. Sarki Auwalu (Director, Department of Petroleum Resources)

This allegation has been in the public space for months, yet neither the Presidency nor the NNPC has deemed it necessary to deny its veracity; a fact that demonstrates nothing but utter disdain for our diversity which, incidentally, the President, only this past week, surprisingly said we should forget rather than appreciate and even romanticize for the sake of equity and peace.

How in the face of all these sickening incidences can sensible non – Northerners feel wanted in a Nigeria whose unity some  people mistakenly assume to be sacrosanct?

Are these facts blackmail as claimed by Garba Shehu? Of course no , and writing about them cannot tantamount to ill- will towards  a President  whose victory one  aggressively canvassed, both in 2015 and 2019, on this very medium.

Shehu came on television the other day, gigling like a baby, that they finally got the source of Boko Haram’s funding. After how many years in the saddle, and  with how many  Nigerians killed, or turned into IDPs in their own country? How serious a country  does this portray Nigeria?

President Buhari’s actions have no way of cohering a plural – multi ethnic, multi religious and multi-cultural – country like Nigeria and he needs to change his governance model, like yesterday if he truly, and seriously, desires peace.

I thoroughly enjoyed Ambassador Baba – Ahmed’s recent put down of Garba Shehu’s characteristically specious statements. What, for instance, is the logic in saying that agitators want to harass Buhari out of office? The NEF chieftain was perfectly correct when he opined that Garba Shehu’s statement is symptomatic of a government that has  “run out of ideas”.

This is where the President acutely needs help. As I counselled here some weeks ago, the President must expand his narrow base  of advisers who are  mostly, if not all, Northerners and looks more like a re- incarnation  of the Kaduna mafia of yore; pandering only to Northern interests. He has to also embrace  restructuring if he doesn’t want Nigeria to become history.

Nigerians must tell  the President the truth when he still has time to make amends lest the secessionist agitations he detests become reality.

Consider, for instance, when he went to commiserate with Benue people over the Agatu killings. Below is how Dele Sobowale of the Vanguard captured  that event: “The rape of Agatu in 2016, less than a year after Buhari became President, set in motion the events which brought us to our present predicament. Despite the massacre of at least 200 Agatu people (I was there to see the grave sites), the Federal Government did not even  send them  relief materials or condolence message. Instead, he blamed the victims for not welcoming strangers – in a community where Agatus and Fulani herdsmen had lived together for over 200 years. The FG might not have intended it, but, it was the first approval of the use of arms by herdsmen without challenge. Very quickly, armed herdsmen became regular features of the Nigerian landscape. It did not take long for them to realise that they had power in their hands – which they could use with impunity”.

In supporting Buhari in 2015 and ’19, the Yoruba’s did not forget his visit to then Oyo state governor, Lam Adesina, to canvass the case of Fulani herders, nor have we forgotten him saying that any attack on Boko Haram was an attack on the North. but we thought that three unsuccessful attempts at becoming President, during which he completely disdained the South, should have changed his world view. We have been proved completely wrong..

Concerning insecurity, can anybody say that President Buhari was just becoming aware  of the reasons that  now made him proclaim a “shoot at sight” order?

Or that he is presently unaware that AK 47 – carrying Fulani  herders, many of them complete foreigners, are crawling  all over Southern forests? Have we heard him say anything about them? This is the same federal government that forbade Amotekun from bearing arms even where it is for ensuring the safety of millions of Nigerians.

Who should be surprised that all these have resulted in  some sections of the country wanting  to part ways with Nigeria?

Certainly not the President.

It is not only secessionist agitations that will reduce if the President would  change, and better  manage our diversity, If he  would change his governance style, and embrace egalitarianism, which will mean that far fewer marauding foreign Fulanis would flood Nigeria, and the billionaire Northern cattle owners  who are waiting for ranches to be built for them in the South using federal resources, would dip into their own deep pockets to build ranches near their abodes in the North.

If President Buhari would do these things, Nigeria would see the end of all the mayhem that has descended over it  in the past 4 or 5 years.

And peace will gradually return to our country.

Nigerians can barely wait, Mr President.


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