By Tonnie Iredia
Palpable tension caused by Nigeria’s increasingly unsafe environment moved to near boiling point last week when two of our state governors, Samuel Ortom and Bala Mohammed of Benue and Bauchi states respectively employed intemperate language to controvert one another.
While some people were able to understand Ortom’s hurt from the number of persons of Benue origin killed and or displaced by herders from their homes and farmlands, others were prepared to tolerate the anger of Bala Mohammed who has become the leading voice against the tendency to criminally profile the Fulani.
When it is realized that the posture of both governors can hardly provide any solution to the intractable problem on ground, it makes sense to appeal to both leaders and all their counterparts nation wide to ignore justifications and embrace their primary constitutional mandate which is to ensure the welfare and security of those they lead.
Luckily, Bala Mohammed has taken steps to restore some level of normalcy by apologizing to all Nigerians who may have been disgusted by the diction he used while defending his people.
Bala no doubt appreciates the need to be sensitive to the sensibilities of other Nigerians. We thank the governor for his decision to reduce tension in the polity especially his call on all herders to drop their AK 47 weapons.
The earlier explanation by the governor that he only used AK 47 figuratively would mean that his appeal should apply to all those who possess whatever weapons or implements of coercion to desist from hurting fellow citizens.
It is our hope that all other governors will adopt a similar position in the days ahead. Indeed, it is not just governors; all leaders must depart from the part of parochialism which has of recent pushed them into defending the indefensible.
To this end, no one should be engaged in the type of truth told the other day by governor Simon Lalong of Plateau state that farmers also carry AK 47.
The appropriate message is that no Nigerian should carry unauthorized arms, let alone using such implements to commit extra-judicial killings.
The path to unity which many of our governors seem to have followed in the last few weeks makes it mandatory for the same governors to be the first to condemn any divisive statements irrespective of their authors. Sadly, such talks which our governors should ignore while working to rescue Nigeria have become quite many.
They include the statement by former governor Isa Yuguda that the federal government should subsidize herders’ businesses because it also supports agriculture.
That statement would have had only one meaning under normal times but to reiterate it at a time of tension is ill-advisable as some people might understand it to mean a tacit support for herder invasions here and there.
In any case, which of the three herders identified by governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano is Yuguda speaking for? Would it for example include the foreign Fulani herders that Ganduje categorized as criminals?
Our governors must also ignore much of what Sheik Gumi has said so far as well as those of people opposed to the cleric because the pro and anti Gumi narratives are distractions.
In specific terms, we need to encourage people to quickly forget statements such as Gumi’s argument that killings by bandits are mostly accidental.
It would also be detrimental to our fragile peace process to embrace the call by different groups for government to investigate Gumi for allegedly behaving like the spiritual leader of bandits.
Another negative information that our governors must discountenance is last week’s statement credited to my friend, our Information Minister who revealed that in many countries of the developed world, school children are also subjected to kidnapping.
The statement which uses one wrong to justify another is unacceptable, instead we would like to hear about arrangements by our government to do some great things such as exploits to the moon because other nations have also been showing off their prowess in this era of advanced technology.
The venues of criminality in Nigeria today are the states making the leader at that level – the governor the most affected by every criminal act.
The resort to the President for help makes huge sense but the pace at which help comes or does not even come, places the governor in jeopardy.
A Nigerian governor can therefore not afford to toy with the issue of criminality more so as it has become a notorious fact that each governor picks a huge monthly security vote to counter crimes and criminality in each state.
There is hardly any Nigerian today who disbelieves the argument that security vote is a certified source of corruption.
Under the circumstance, our governors must quickly come together and evolve a unity of direction in combating the current common challenge. First, what is the nature of the challenge? Events have shown that it is not about religion or ethnicity.
As Kayode Fayemi, Ekiti state governor and chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum explained a few days back, the issue at stake is terrorism. If there is any governor thinking differently at this point, the rest have to plead with him to come on board.
A unity of direction which our governors are able to achieve through a collective resolve must be immediately followed by a design on uniformity in operating procedures.
Today, there is hardly any rationality in the subsisting template which counsels our leaders to dialogue with bandits. Before now, Nigerians who believed that dialogue in every conflict can be a win-win strategy have waned.
Perhaps this explains why Bello Masari, Katsina state governor has been more silent these days than Muhammad Matawelle, governor of Zamfara state who had argued strongly that negotiating with bandits was no sign of failure!
Of course, the report of a fresh
abduction of over 300 students from the Government Girls Secondary School Jangebe, in Zamfara state must have at this point placed Mattawele himself in despair concerning the efficacy of his preferred approach. The frustration of Sani Bello, Niger state governor about no help from the federal level challenges the bond of unity among governors.
What we have seen so far is much of condolence visits by governors to affected states, but do the visits translate to real support to a colleague under severe stress? It is probably time for our governors to listen to Akinwunmi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank who has asked Nigeria to leave ‘Federal Fatherism To A CommonWealth.”
Nigerian governors need to learn a few lessons from what they have been occasionally subjected to in the recent past. An analyst would not be said to be harsh if he concludes that our governors are yet to appreciate the real consequences of a failure to squarely face good governance.
Too many of them are too distracted by what is now commonly called the politics of 2023; yet the approved period for electioneering is still quite far. In earnest, a huge portion of the time for governance that is choked by electioneering has easily exposed Nigeria’s poor governance to the global media.
The dilapidated structure of the Kagara “government” school from where some students and teachers as well as some of their family members were abducted almost two weeks ago is instructive.