By Lasisi Olagunju PHD
I seek to draw lessons from the fate of northern Nigeria and that of Adams Oshiomhole of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Both currently suffer at the hands of their own creations, begging to breathe. The North grieves, wailing at the feet of its wild, untamed murderous boys; Adams is gasping in the grip of his audacious disciples. It is not funny at all.
The men rolling Oshiomhole in the mud today were the boys he used in retiring the principalities of the past. Nietzsche warned that whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process, he does not become a monster. ‘And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.’ I doubt if Oshiomhole thought about this when he was boasting about sacking godfathers in Edo and plotting to replace their common cold with his own deadly virus. Again, there is wisdom in benefitting from disagreements, especially with family and friends. Emperor Oshiomhole did not know that both the axe and the knife have their individual usefulness; each with its wisdom. And the elders have an elegant way of putting this across. They say a wise man never knows all; only fools know everything. Each time I watched Oshiomhole dance to beats of cocky wisdom, I always wished his friends would shove this proverb in his face before it was too late. Now, it is too late; omóye has danced naked into the very centre of the market. The national chairman of Nigeria’s ruling party lost his seat in Abuja because he was suspended from the party at his village. Even if the rebellious godson is finally defeated at the coming polls, he has shown that the feet of the garrulous godfather is made of mere clay.
Leadership makes a lot of difference in the lives of any people. Think of Nigeria’s North and its roiling insecurity and the recent news of a presidential rebuke of security chiefs. That, obviously, was President Muhammadu Buhari saying good morning at night time (ìgbàyí l’àárò). At what point did he become aware of the failure of leadership in the security sector? Does he even know that the president of Nigeria is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces? This failure is extended also to the president’s political party. Where the leadership is right, a small house will host a million persons peacefully. That is what APC lacks in Buhari and Oshiomhole which is steering the party’s ship towards disaster. It was what PDP tragically lost which cost it power in 2015.
Buhari’s bumbling leadership represents the very best the North can offer Nigeria. With all that northern Nigeria has creamed off our country in resources and leadership since Lord Lugard grafted it on Nigeria, would it look at itself and say it has made a pass mark? If it has been a success as a region, its house of cards won’t come crashing at the hands of its wanton boys. Would anyone say, truly, that Oshiomhole was a success as party chairman? His hubris was his Achilles heel; his nemesis his own ‘cheated’ and insulted boys. Priests who lack decorum almost always get sacrificed to their own deities. When the Yoruba say a worshipper does not throw snails at the gods (a kìí fì’gbín s’òkò s’óòsà), they are emphasizing the place of decorum in human actions and activities. The seed of rudeness which Oshiomhole planted while kneeling, the planter cannot now uproot standing up. Just like the fallen APC leader, the North too is in the slaughterhouse of its untrained children.
Oshiomhole is humbled by the taste of his fruits; the North is overwhelmed by the waters of its collapsed dam.
My people say you do not list vulture among edible birds. The North would not think so. It got it wrong from the beginning; anything that gave it advantages over others was okay. No one relies solely on money to contest for a title reserved for the strong. The ones who did in history came out losers. At a time other regions were strengthening their children for a future of knowledge, the North was lowering the bar for easy scaling by its pampered team. Now, the vulture meals of that past and the consequential bad breath have poisoned the air for the whole country. The result is the North’s current daily doses of violent deaths.
Check out John Campbell’s Nigeria Security Tracker Weekly Update: June 6–12. The horrid details tell tales of a house that has fallen: “June 6: Troops killed two bandits in Tsafe, Zamfara. June 6: Sectarian violence led to four deaths in Bali LGA and two deaths in Donga LGA, Taraba. June 6: Herdsmen killed twelve civilians and Nigerian troops killed five of the herdsmen in Guma, Benue. June 6: ISWA fighters killed six Nigerian soldiers in Konduga, Borno. June 6: Nigerian troops killed “scores” (estimated at forty) of bandits in Zurmi, Zamfara. June 7: A Nigerian military airstrike killed “several” bandits in the Kwayanbana Forest in Zamfara. June 7: Boko Haram killed five and kidnapped nine in Konduga, Borno. June 8: Nigerian troops killed an “unspecified” number of Boko Haram militants in Gwoza, Borno. June 9: Boko Haram killed eighty-one and kidnapped six in Gubio, Borno. June 9: Bandits killed fifty-seven in Faskari, Katsina. June 9: Communal violence led to twenty-three deaths in Lamurde, Adamawa. June 10: Nigerian troops killed “several” (estimated at ten) Boko Haram militants in Gwoza, Borno. June 10: Boko Haram killed four in Damboa, Borno. June 11: Boko Haram released a video of them killing one Nigerian soldier and one Nigerian police officer. June 12: Bandits killed eight and kidnapped nine in Faskari, Katsina”(see cfr.org).
Today is June 22. The past ten days not captured in the tracker above have recorded even more deaths. I never knew there would come a point when longsuffering Buharists would say enough is enough. Even Buhari himself reportedly told his security chiefs that they had failed. I am waiting for that day he will look in the mirror and identify the real culprit. So, this past week saw leaders and youths of the North calling out their governments. They said they were tired of the killings. They were tired also of government’s insensitivity to their plight. There were demonstrations against their beloved Buhari and his government. The government felt it was wrong for children of the North to protest against their hero. The leader of the protesters was arrested and detained. Then, an old man called Bashir Tofa came out firing at the Villa’s god of thunder. The last time Tofa was in national consciousness was in June 1993 when he contested against Moshood Abiola in that year’s presidential election. It was this tepid man the North exhumed to issue a flaming order to Buhari to release the arrested protester or face the consequences: “It is unwise and unjust. Not even during military rule would citizens demonstrate peacefully about a matter that worried the entire country and anyone be arrested… He (Buhari) must remember that in three years, someone else will be President…” Tofa said and went further with a direct threat of violence: “If this collective anger is tickled…the 2011 violence, destruction and death…will be a child’s play this time around. Nigerians are very angry! Insecurity everywhere, poverty, joblessness and now COVID -19, disease, despair and desperation have eaten deep into people’s patience and good sense.”
In those lines were threats of violence. The government, notorious for hard-hearing, sat up. It heard and understood the message, panicked and released the detained youth leader. I never knew that day would come when Buhari’s government, in its all-knowing almightiness, would eat the humble pie and drop the ball. But that cannot be the end of this discussion. What will wean the North’s bandits of their banditry? Nothing. If the killings won’t stop, the newly found spirit of protests in the North won’t either. But what can the protests do to stop the killings? Nothing. The killers in the North are children of the North, not outsiders. They have tasted blood, they won’t stop. Train your children so that they may give you peace of mind. That is the wisdom that eluded the North, and today peace there is scarce from pillar to post. The focus of Nigeria’s North has always been on political power. It thought having power to cheat and enslave all others was all it needed to be well forever. It doesn’t work out that way, at least not always. There is a family in Badagry whose wealthy ancestor was Nigeria’s foremost slave merchant. Struggling descendants of that merchant today live in cells he built for his slaves. The affluent North has produced an army of unschooled children who are today lords of the bush, killing without a cause. The neglected are grown and are tearing down the house of unconscionable power built by their leaders. The killings won’t stop exactly the same way flood from a collapsed dam won’t abate. It is a hopeless situation.