By Festus Adebayo
The Nigerian socio-political crises are throwing up many frightening dimensions at the moment. On the social plank, several occurrences that you were, only a short while ago, at liberty to dig up only in your dreams, are happening in our very before.
It is same story on the economic front. Save for seemingly mythical stories during the civil war of parents who, unaware of where to find the day’s meal, conspired to offer their children for dinner, and able-bodied men who found toads and lizards veritable cuisines to beat hunger, Nigerians in Muhammadu Buhari’s Nigeria are today inventing shocking and ingenuous ways of plotting the graph of their daily survival. Finding daily breads which even the holy writ trivialized as commonplace (that even ravens and birds of the air find foods on their table without much toil} is becoming a herculean task for an average Nigerian today. There are so many occurrences happening today which, a couple of years ago, would have made very innovative muses for thespians in Nollywood.
For instance, the Nigerian state, which we have been fed diverse stories of its frightening Octopus power, is being mocked, belittled and stood up to with frightening rapidity. Nigeria is perhaps pushing its people to the precipice where they exhibit a derring-do that social scientists hitherto theorized was alien to their character. Gradually, the hood is leaving the monk and the country is heading for a phase in its evolution which is a total demystification of the state.
Take as an example the story of the Founder of The Omega Fire Ministries Worldwide, Apostle Johnson Suleiman, the clergy who was quoted to have incited Christians to take daggers against assailants of the church. Take another closer look at the Commando-like story of the clergy’s rescue by the Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Peter Fayose, from the grip of men of the Department of State Services in Ekiti State during the week and the criticisms, as well as commendations that greeted the act. What could have lionized the pulpit, which was, over the years, versed at grooming pacifists, up to the point of telling the Nigerian state to go jump into River Majidun if it liked? What could have gone wrong, so much that felonious words that were only spoken in whispers, have become what Nigerians, unperturbed, today seek megaphones to proclaim to whoever cares to listen? How did the schism in the Nigerian governmental system get so bad that state governments routinely take cudgels against the Federal Government and instead of getting upbraids from the people, such governments are instantly carried shoulders high to the gate of pantheons of history? Why is heroism earned as cheaply as this?
The alleged injunction to Christians to embark on reprisal attacks if assailed by either their Muslim counterparts or Fulani herdsmen has become a subject of upbraids on Suleiman by some Northern leaders. The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, was also quoted during the week to have asked that any religious leader who incites his congregation against adherents of opposing faith should be handed over to security agencies.
Emerging from his shield by Governor Fayose, Suleiman denied that he ever asked Christian adherents to attack their Muslim counterparts. “There are widows and orphans that we take care of. No leader will see his shepherd being killed and be happy… What I said was that if gunmen come around the church to attack churches, you must defend yourself but if they come to pray, don’t attack… Time for self defence has come… someone can’t just come to your house and kill your children and you keep quiet.”
The truth is that, the belief in the Nigerian State, as it is constituted now, to secure the people who are its sworn responsibility, from their assailants, is at its lowest nadir. Also, whether real or configured, there is a sustained and ingrained belief that President Muhammadu Buhari has an undisguised misanthropic bias against Christians and the Southern part of the country. It didn’t start today. Unfortunately, his minders have, till now, failed to totally purge the consciousness of Nigerians of this very poisonous mindset. The other mindset about Buhari, built several years ago, which nothing has been able to erode is his perceived hatred of corruption. Both began while he was Head of State in 1984. Judging from his appointments, his perceived anti-South pattern of arrests of politicians, to even his policies during his short-spanned tenure as military Head of State, the grain of his uprightness, as well as suspected bias for his Hausa/Fulani kindred was successfully sown like the biblical story of the wheats and weeds allowed to grow side by side. The seeds merely needed watering to germinate, which they got in subsequent years.
While the late Alhaji Lam Adesina was governor of Oyo State, Buhari and former Lagos Military Administrator, Buba Marwa, were reported to have stormed the Oyo Government House, in deference to the distress call of their fellow Fulani herdsmen, to whom Buhari was/is a life patron, who were allegedly under the harangue of people in the Northern part of the state. It was where Buhari was quoted to have made that infamous statement to wit, “your people are attacking my people” to which Adesina, known never to suffer fools gladly, promptly gave Buhari the back of his tongue. At this forum, the watering trough was placed to water the seed of Buhari’s perceived hatred for Southerners and bias for his kinsmen Fulani herdsmen. When he contested for the presidency under the PDC and he allegedly made that call to violence, of a river of blood which would flow if he failed in his bid, the watering trough tendered the perception. So when he sought the 2015 presidential election, tissue by tissue, those perceptions loomed large but were too weak to be routed and tamed by the generally perceived humongous moral baggage of the Goodluck Jonathan government. When the President was asked at his maiden American tour if he would run an inclusive government and he made that perceived comment that the South East would be the least treated because of its poor votes for him, the final sculpture of the behemoth of a biased President was made.
Whether we like it or not, a picture is already painted of a biased President; its evidential reality another kettle of fish entirely. So when you have incidents that populate this mindset, the society is merely preparing a fecund ground for a rebellious polity. And they are legion. Benue, Enugu and some other states have been cringing under the bayonets and AK 47 of Fulani herdsmen who have raped mothers, killed fathers and beheaded children with rapacious abandon. These are the people – the orphans, the widows, the homeless – that the likes of Pastor Suleiman tender. Killings in Southern Kaduna, suspected – whether real or contrived – to have been carried out under ethnic and religious cloaks, have gone unabated yet there is no ostensible presidential anger at this sustained bloodshed. Not long ago, a Redeemed Christian Church of God woman pastor was macheted to death in Abuja, simply because she was carrying out the injunctions of her faith. Till today, her abductors are yet to be fished out by the Nigerian state. Also in Kano last year, a septuagenarian was clubbed to her death simply because she refused to allow some miscreants to use her shop entrance to do the Islamic ablution. Not only are her killers strutting about free today, the court was said to have given them not only a slap on the wrist, but declared them without blemish. The totality of these events make the Nigerian state their state while those who do not have any iota of trust in it burrow new grounds to accommodate a state of their own. A state of their own is so elastic as to accommodate all converse values and vices.
This is where smart politicians like Fayose and perhaps Enyisom Wike, the Rivers governor, come in to coast home with a trophy of what you may label unearned heroism. Though it may not be what is a subject of megaphone in the public, the graph of persecution complex has been plotted successfully by the duo of Nigerian Christians and Southerners, in the hands of the current government. It will be a shame if security agencies haven’t yet submitted reports of this incendiary mindset to governments at both state and federal levels. Go to liquor joints, shebeens and listen to radio comments by the ordinary Nigerian people, especially down South, and you will listen to raw frustrations in the hands of the state. The feeling of persecution is so palpable and rife that you can catch it with your bear hands. Although there are no feelings of religious divides in the South due to its cultural leaning which allows for inter-ethnic coexistence, the fact that the state is in cahoots with authors of repression is widespread.
Rather than threatening to arrest the Suleimans, which will only deepen the anti-South and anti-Christian fissures currently gaining currency, and birth many other heroes who would openly verbalise the anti-State inflammatory remarks made in whispers in many homes and under wraps, what the current government needs to do is promote narratives of instances where it had been nationalistic, if there are any. Government is already living with radicalised minds of the governed which, as they do in reformatories, need to be totally purged. This was perhaps what gave birth to that giddy remark by Apostle Sulaiman that his arrest “would put this country on fire.”