Friday, July 6, 2018

President Buhari, Call A Spade A Spade!

By Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie
Every human life is precious. The life of every Nigerian, irrespective of ethnic, regional or religious affiliation is to be treated with dignity. 
All around the world, citizens look to their government to protect them. But, here in Nigeria, the blood of the innocent flows like water despite Nigerians’ desire and demand that government secure their lives and property.
*President Buhari 
Not too long ago, Chief Olu Falae, a senior citizen of Nigeria, was abducted on his farm by herdsmen. Since then, others have struck in Enugu, Delta and Oyo states. In the Middle Belt, they have robbed, raped, and slaughtered human beings like cows. They have taken over other people’s land in the name of grazing.
A member of Miyetti Allah appeared on television, justifying as retaliatory the killings in Plateau State. He was not the first member of Miyetti Allah to make the statement. Nigerians are baffled that he is yet to be arrested. Where were those responsible for our security at a time they were needed most? 
Dear President Buhari, I am compelled to write to you again because, since the bloodshed of the first day of this year, there has been more bloodshed in Zamfara State and in the Middle Belt. The latest killings in Plateau State make us wonder: where were you, Mr. President, while innocent lives were being wasted in Plateau State?  Where were your service chiefs when babies were being ripped out of their mothers’ wombs by men who claim to do so because of their cows?
While all this happened during the national convention of your party, it would be unfair to insinuate that the latest round of killings had anything to do with your party. However, it was scandalous that at about the time innocent Nigerians were being slaughtered like cows in Plateau State last weekend, some members of your party were dancing and feasting at your party convention in Abuja, while some were throwing chairs at each other, and some others were exchanging blows.
That, in itself, points to the absence of democracy in your party, as is the case in virtually all the political parties in Nigeria. The absence of internal democracy in yours and in other parties is itself a threat to security. 
It points to a scarcity of politicians with credible democratic credentials and temperament. It signals that our democracy is in danger. Where democracy is in danger, civil liberties are in danger. 
The right to life cannot be guaranteed in a country where those who aspire for public office resort to violence and other undemocratic practices at their party convention. The number killed under your watch, Mr. President, provides more than convincing evidence that the government you lead has failed to secure our lives. 
You are commander in chief of the armed forces. If, more than three years into your administration, you have been unable to stop these killings, why don’t you seriously consider the option of an honourable renunciation of the presidential seat? One of the major factors behind the patent failure of your government is the fact that you are surrounded by men and women who fail to tell you the truth about Nigeria and who shield you from seeing what is happening to the ordinary Nigerian. 
Instead of assisting you in the governance of this country, they insult those whose dissenting opinions you need if you are to succeed. 
How does one explain the fact that, under your watch as commander in chief, agencies established to maintain law and order, instead of protecting innocent citizens of this country, dissipate their energy running after members of opposing parties?  Do you call that democracy? No right-thinking person would advocate letting anyone off who has committed a crime. No one is above the law. Not even you, Mr. President. That is why the Constitution provides for a process of removing the President. 
That is why the point must also be made that those who contravene the laws of Nigeria be brought to book irrespective of their political, regional, ethnic or religious affiliation. 
But the sad reality is, under your watch, that is not what obtains. The war on corruption, now personalized, has failed because it is selective and partisan. Its failure, which can be seen in empirical terms, is not in the interest of our country. 
It is seen in the near impossibility of obtaining or renewing a driver’s license without paying above the official fee; in the way immigration officials punish those who, following due process, pay online to obtain or renew their passports, only to be run around and aground; in blatant extortion by police officers on our country’s highways, to mention but these; in tanker drivers who, with impunity, put our lives in danger on our highways.
The bloodshed in the middle belt and in Zamfara provides incontrovertible evidence that your avowed intention to put an end to insecurity has suffered the same fate as your war against corruption. 
Your predecessor lamentably failed to overcome Boko Haram.  You have failed in tackling the menace of herdsmen. They are neither ghosts nor anonymous invaders from an unknown planet. They are known to your security chiefs. 
You described what is going on as a clash between herdsmen and farmers. If the identities of these criminals are not hidden, why has the Nigerian intelligence community, under your watch, failed to prevent them from shedding blood? 
Why have Nigerian intelligence operatives, who report to your office, failed to apprehend the perpetrators? Why is your government treating them with kid gloves to the point of providing excuses for their flagrant violation of citizens’ right to life? 
 Dear Mr. President, in writing you this letter, I expect your media assistants, spin doctors and propagandists to attack my person. Their stock in trade is insolence. They forget that you, as President, are a servant, not master of the nation, a citizen and not a monarch.
Ignorant of the fact that a regime that intimidates and stifles opposition is undemocratic, they apotheosize you. 
They demonize whoever expresses a dissenting opinion about the way you run the affairs of Nigeria as your enemy or a looter or a wailer. However, at my age, and given my vocation, I am not afraid to risk my life for the sake of this country, for the sake of future generations. I have no party affiliation. 
In fact, I am appalled at the way yours and the opposition parties practice politics. Neither you nor the opposition can convincingly claim the moral high ground. The outrageous fallacy of a party of saints and a party of sinners can only be accepted by those who do not know the extent to which the separation of politics and morality cuts across party lines in this country.
Dear Mr. President, we must call a spade a spade. You were elected to protect the land and its people. But neither is protected under your watch. 
You, therefore, have the most important decision of your career to make. And that decision is this: Are you for Nigerians or not?
*Cardinal Okogie is Archbishop emeritus of Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos

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