Ethnic tension: Sure, we can beat a retreat By Femi Adeoti

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FEMI ADEOTI COLUMN

He is rarely heard because he hardly talks. So, he can’t be talking nonsense. Neither is he out of his senses. He means every word he says and says what he means.

He is serious for it’s a serious business deserving serious attention. Ignoring him may be calamitous. And to our own peril.

The General displayed a strong character. He was daring from start to finish and we were not disappointed. He couldn’t have behaved or acted otherwise. As if unto war, he was armed. Well prepared for any eventuality.

Pointedly, he confronted the throne. He spoke straight to those in the highest positions of authority in the land. He told them his simple but honest mind. But we saw it as the bitter truth.

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He is not known to have any political leaning. He has not been messed up by Nigeria’s murky political waters. His voice can still be reckoned with. He was not given to politics and its “politricks.”

But he detested the eyesore he saw. And he was bold enough to say so loud and clear. He could not keep quiet. As a military officer, he knew what is expected of him. He must not cave in to frivolities and trivialities.

Navy Commodore Kayode Olofinmoyin (rtd), a former military administrator, Ogun State. He poured out recently in Abuja. He was crossed by the absurd composition of the National Security Council (NSC).

He is moved by his genuine concern for Nigeria and its citizens. He took a deeper look at the council. He drew from his wealth of experience. His frightening discovery:

Raw power is at play. Nigeria is speedily slipping into the rule of the mob. He was not kidding. He backed his assertion up with good reasons. Without mincing words, he roundly condemned the council for “being heavily skewed” in favour of the North.

It was an explosive observation. He was discussing the theme: “Sustainable Peace: The Divide of a Growing Nation.” It was damn too appropriate to voice his misgivings.

Everything was in Olofinmoyin’s favour. He was in the midst of like minds. A former civilian governor, Adamawa State, Mr. Boni Haruna, chaired the event.

He roared: “This is a clear example of political inequality in the country and one of the reasons elevating ethnic tension in the country.” Of course, this is unhealthy for unity and peace. Imagine, a situation where nine out of the 11 members on the NSC are all from the North!

The General was not timid to shout it. Neither was he intimidated: “We are practicing the presidential system of government which promotes equality and the rule of law. But if you don’t guarantee equality like we don’t in Nigeria, you cannot have peace, you cannot have progress and you cannot develop.”

He meant real business: “Let me go straight away to address Mr. President. People have said with the political inequality as it is in Nigeria today, you cannot have peace. I cannot have trust in the government.

“Security is the first thing. And then people must separate your security infrastructure-the security team” He said it as he saw and felt it, without any ambiguity.

Olofinmoyin remains one tough General, in and out of office. He served in the General Abdusalami Abubakar (rtd) regime. That was between 1998 and 1999, barely for 11 months. But he left an indelible mark. That is what is obviously fueling his zeal and firing his patriotism.

Then an ugly mild drama reared its disgusting head as usual. A very top government official, Dr. Maurice Nnamdi Mbaeri, felt extremely uncomfortable.

Olofinmoyin’s “hostile” views were irritating to him and him alone. He wanted the General to “off the mic.” He must showcase the perceived hard stuff he thought he was made of.

Mbaeri is Permanent Secretary, General Services Office (GSO), Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF). That is the engine room of the Federal Government. You see his predicament and plight? He needed to do something very fast.

The raving and raging General must be cut to his “small” seize! The damages already done must be effectively checked. He deployed all the arsenals at his disposal at that material time.

He tried hard to stop him. That attempt collapsed like a pack of loosed cards. He angrily vacated his seat on the podium (high table). He opted for a seat at the backstage. That served him right. The fiery General has become glaringly unstoppable. Mbaeri was annoyed but helpless.

That ignited the fire in Olofinmoyin the more. He became ruthlessly undeterred. He would not be distracted by a “bloody civilian.” He simply ignored Mbaeri’s body language and forged ahead as if nothing happened. He told his attentive audience:

“Aside from the President, the majority of the members of the security council, including the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof Ibrahim Agboola Gambari; the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno; Minister of Defence, Maj. Gen Bashir Magashi (rtd) and the Chief of Army Staff, Maj. Gen Attahiru Ibrahim; the Director-General, Department of State Services; Mr. Yusuf Magaji Bichi; the Director-General, National Intelligence Agency, Mr. Ahmed Rufai Abubakar; the Chief of Navy Staff, Rear Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo; and the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar Adamu are all northerners.

“The only southerners in the council are the Chief of Defence Staff, Maj Gen Lucky Irabor and the Chief of Air Staff AVM Isiaka Amao.” What does this awkward security architecture tell us? A lot:

“So, in your NSC of 11 (members), you have nine northerners and two southerners. As a practitioner, a former governor of a state, a General, and I am 70 years old; when you go to such meeting, those two southerners are just there as onlookers.”

No ethnic group should be an onlooker in this Project Nigeria: “Who is going to believe in the outcome of such a security meeting and you say it is national?” Nobody. And it is obvious:

“The prevailing herdsmen clashes, spate of killings and kidnapping occur because of the ethnic imbalance in the National Security Council.” The only remedy, Olofinmoyin insisted: “The Federal Government should correct the inequality as it is a sure way to guarantee peace.”

We can still surely beat a wise retreat. Yes, we can. We simply need to sincerely demonstrate the will. It’s there for the asking.

This General is not like any other. He needs to be courted and listened to. He is not making his treatise just for its sake. If you want, hold the message and pretend it has no messenger.

But for heavens’ sake, don’t throw away the baby with its bathwater. Both cannot be totally useless. It’s not possible. We cannot escape the consequences if we arrogantly ignore this message. You are adequately warned.

For all you care, he was not saying anything new. That lopsidedness has grown to become a national monster. It has been encouraged to permeate every sector of our national life.

This is deliberate. It is being masterminded and promoted by the Federal Government itself. It is a well-designed policy. We refuse to be convinced otherwise.

It started almost immediately this government got to office in 2015. Since then, it has nosedived to the ridiculous. Going from bad to worse. And there is no concrete or concerted effort to halt its dangerous drift.

The result is the glaring and graphic distrust in the land today. Government and its officials are not reliable and cannot be trusted. They lost that long ago. And they appear not keen in regaining our trust.

They speak from both sides of their extremely large mouths. They explore and exploit our gullibility to their greatest advantage. They are hugely narrow-minded.

We too are not near eager to return our jealously guided trust. That’s the only thing left with us. We won’t let go easily. It’s very precious.

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