Any serious student of Nigeria’s political development must have read the amazing story of Malam Umaru Altine. He is the Fulani cattle dealer, adventurer and politician who left his home in Sokoto during the colonial era and settled in Enugu where in 1952 he emerged as the first elected Mayor of the town.
The story sounds incredible in today’s Nigeria where the more we live together as one country the more we drift apart as a people. Today if a man from Sokoto dares to aspire to any elective political office in Enugu, he will be politely told to go away or most likely chased away violently. Our situation as a country reminds one of the contradictions to be found in the immortal words of Charles Dickens who wrote about Europe in 1859 that:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period….”
In 2015, two issues – insecurity and corruption threatened our existence. Faced with bare faced public stealing in government and a fast advancing army of insurgents, Nigerians decided to chart a new course and voted out an incompetent sitting president from office. We all looked forward to the change that was promised us by the victor.
The initial signs as the new government stepped in were good. The fight against the ‘invincible’ insurgents yielded results – positive results. Captured territories were speedily liberated. Greedy scoundrels in the disgraced government were exposed and put in public for opprobrium. We all thought “we were going to heaven” only to discover, very much to our dismay that “we were going the other way”.
Today, the insurgents have re-emerged with frightening menace. Hapless Nigerian are being killed or taken hostages on a daily basis as was the case before the 2015 elections. The claim that Boko Haram is ‘technically defeated’- whatever that means – seems hollow.
Equally disturbing is the fight against corruption. We operate a system of government that has three branches: the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. For a major policy like eradication of corruption in public life to come through, these three arms must work together. Sadly this does not appear to be so under this government. Each arm of government has its own idea of what constitutes corruption and what needs to be done about it. The three arms of government are at daggers drawn with each other over issues of corruption.
Most disturbing is the situation in the executive branch of the government which by the virtue of its constitutional powers should be the engine house of the anti-corruption war. Unfortunately, what we have is a situation where the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. There is absolute chaos and commotion. The DSS wrote a report to the legislature against the leadership of the EFCC; not once but twice. A few days ago, my friend, Comrade Salihu Othman Isah on behalf of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami issued a public statement accusing the EFCC of sabotaging the war against corruption. My limited knowledge of government is that all these officers and agencies are under the control of the President, Commander In Chief of our Federal Republic. It would appear as if there is nobody on the drivers sit and the executive branch of our government is on auto drive. Nothing could be more dangerous than this in a country as large and complex as Nigeria.
As the commotion beat goes on in the executive, the drift which we all thought we had voted out in 2015 has come back in full swing. The economy is in deep recession and Nigeriansare desperate. The initiatives by the executive that attracted applause in the beginning are now stuck in the mud. The investigations in theDasuki arms scandal have reached an inconclusive dead end with disturbing strange stories making the rounds. Last year, the government set up a panel under Senate President Ken Nnamani to review our constitution and electoral process. The panel submitted its report and nobody hears about it again.
We can go on and on.
The National Assembly has been passing resolutions about our constitution and electoral reforms. Unfortunately there is very little public trust in the National Assembly whose leaders today are identified as the godfathers of corruption and scoundrels. One of them was involved in a wrestling match in the House of Representatives in the disgraced government and had his clothes shredded almost to a state of nudity; today he is promoted to the upper legislative chamber as a Senator.
Maybe the President Muhammadu Buhari would have instilled some sanity in the polity if hewas a man of good health. His poor state of health has not helped matters and we are in a hollow vacuum. And as the time worn saying goes, nature abhors a vacuum.
It is therefore little wonder that all kinds of utterances have taken over the public space from agitations for secession to rustication of some citizens from sections of the country and restructuring. President Buharis broadcast on his return from medical vacation saying that the National Assembly and the National Council of State are there to handle these agitations is not reassuring at all. The times call for a National, effective and rational leader to show us the way. The institutions he named are amorphous, dubious and discredited.
In the ongoing cacophony, I have kept my ears near to what Atiku Abubakar the former Vice President is saying. I have had a distant relationship with him since I was assigned as a young reporter for the New Nigerian in Kaduna to cover his investiture in Yola as theTurakin Adamawa in 1982. He was then an ordinary Customs officer but his investiture was such a big occasion that it shook Yola, Gongola State and Nigeria. To me at the time he was just another establishment man taking a feudal title and committed to sustaining the status quo of our unjust system.
On leaving the customs, I watched him, again from a distance trying to find his feet in politics as a disciple of General Shehu YarAdua from the Katsina ruling house, another establishment man. He has since become an accomplished politician since his master’s death and I am beginning to see him in a different light.
He has been responsible for the emergence of Jolly Nyame as Governor of Taraba and Boni Haruna as Governor of Adamawa. Both men are from minority ethnic groups and Christians. Atiku is a Fulani and Muslim man; a religious fanatic or tribal bigot would have sponsored his ethnic and religious bedfellows who abound in the two states.
His current advocacy for restructuring of Nigeria deserves attention. He has even suggested that Nigerians should be identified by their states of residence and not states of origin. Evidently my initial perception of him as an establishment man committed to our unjust status quo was wrong.
The key to Nigeria’s future is certainly in the hands of people who think and act like Atiku Abubakar.
First published 26/8/2017