Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Nigeria: When Does A Leader Respond?

By Rotimi Fasan
It’s indeed a pertinent thing to ask when a leader should respond to a crisis situation. Perhaps, a more pertinent question is why a leader should respond at all. The simple answer is that by responding a leader shows he/she care for and understands his/her duty by their people.
 
*Buhari and El-Rufai 
Questions of this nature are especially relevant at a time Nigerians continue to debate the failure of President Muhammadu Buhari to make his views known on the ongoing spate of killings across the country being perpetrated by so-called herdsmen. These marauding groups have apparently found better rewards in violent employment than in herding cattle. Yet, our leaders don’t have an answer to the question posed by the violence or occurrences that lead to loss of live. I shall return to this shortly, but first to the basis of what appears now to be a collective career in terrorism.

The cause of trouble, as always, is over land ownership and the right (or lack thereof) of these herdsmen to graze their cattle in other peoples’ farmland.  Even when it’s generally admitted or presumed that the roots of these violent eruptions reside in ancestral claims and counter claims of land ownership and the rights that come with this, ongoing killings by supposed herdsmen do not appear to have any connections to land issues. They are cases that border on pure criminality by blood thirsty hounds who wipe off whole villages or clusters of villages, killing the men, raping the women and destroying farmlands and animals.

The once innocuous image of cattle herders who went on long treks grazing their cattle has been replaced with that of gun-totting brigands some people now tell us are in fact aliens from foreign countries. But whether indigenes, aliens or marauding bands, the question is what is government, particularly our leaders, doing to address these growing cases of criminal impunity? In the many cases that were reported all through last year, not once did the country’s leaders demonstrate any sense of a coordinated response to the issue. What rings so loud is the dead silence that emanates from the corridors of power. The Buhari government seems to be very adept at this- playing dumb at a moment that demands eloquence, except when the president is abroad and is obliged to address foreign press corps.

At other instances, you hear some state official, usually a spokesperson, taking on roles one would naturally expect belong to the president, governor or any other person the matter concerns. Such responses are most times fire fighting measures meant to mitigate the aggravation and outcry that are the responses to the silence of our leaders in the face of terror that gestures at the failure of leadership. It’s a terrible reminder of such failure that since the latest spate of attacks that have increased since the last quarter of last year, including the Kafanchan killings which some call ethnic cleansing, not once have Nigerians heard President Buhari make his position clear on the matter.

Either by condemning the killings and destruction of property or explaining what his government is doing to make perpetrators of these criminal destructions pay for their activities, President Muhammadu Buhari is yet to say a clear word that can be directly traced to him. This has led many, mostly members of the affected communities who are invariably of different ethnic and/or religious background from their attackers, to conclude that this president or his government is not interested in their plight. The situation is not helped by the fact that Buhari is himself a Fulani, same ethnic background as the identified aggressors and perpetrators of the violence.

The president is thus, often, accused of connivance. This is when his supporters make their angry responses that only serve to muddle the waters further. Not even Nasir El Rufai has helped matters with his, sometimes, inflammatory or improperly weighed statements. But looking beyond Buhari the recent history of official responses to crisis is grievous and indeed proof, if nothing else, of what little premium our leaders place on the life of a Nigerian. Although they took the oath to secure Nigerian lives and property, Nigerian leaders are hardly ever prompt to rise to the role the constitution demands of them in time of crisis.

We see this now and again in this country and as the Buhari government is presently showing with the case of the herdsmen that have been killing from the north to the south of this country, and from the east to the west, without leaving out the mid regions. One would have expected this government to be more alive to its responsibilities to protect Nigerian lives for the very reason that some of its officials and others have claimed that the herdsmen are not Nigerians.

This point, ironically, is being adduced in a manner that seems intended to absolve the Nigerian government of responsibility to protect its citizens. But by failing to protect Nigerians against alleged foreign attacks is this government not observing the Nigerian constitution in the breach? Long after the occurrence of a crisis involving loss of many lives and properties in their hundreds of millions of naira and billions of dollars, our leaders and governments would act both ignorant and impervious to it.

When they choose to respond, they cannot help groping around as if confused about what to say, when not in total denial, trying to reduce the casualty figure or accusing the victims of their own complicity in their plight. It took several weeks after the Chibok girls had been abducted before the Jonathan government would even accept that any such thing happened. Now 1000 days after the abduction and the return of tens of them, there are many who still doubt there was ever any abduction. Human lives, especially Nigerian lives, don’t count for our leaders. They are dispensable and don’t count for much.

Which explains the manner these self-obsessed leaders are quick to spread misery around by their acts of mindless stealing and treasury looting that both impoverish and destroy the majority of our people. Many times, many lives are lost on our roads or to collapsed buildings, and the manner our politicians look upon these events as normal is beyond shocking.

After offering mere platitudinous words of consolation and promises of some action to prevent similar cases in the future, they write off the loss as an “act of God”. Thus, where Buhari chooses silence Donald Trump with all his inadequacies twits his responses on 24/7 basis.  But where foreigners are concerned, even if the occurrence took place abroad, our leaders respond immediately and send their “heartfelt” condolences like we saw and still see during attacks across countries in Europe. Do Nigerian lives matter at all to our leaders?

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