Flickers: The Buhari/Punch tango by Festus Adedayo
A very pathetic story which crept into the media a few hours to this weekend suddenly took away the appetite of sane citizens of the world. According to the story, some suspected Fulani herdsmen had beheaded Charles Chrisanthus, Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Bare Ward of Numan Local Government Area of Adamawa State. He was brutally slain on August 29, 2018, right in the presence of his wife, Dorcas, while the couple was on the farm. Dorcas watched helplessly as the grisly drama unfolded, with the assailants hacking Charles to death like butchers do at the abattoir. “His attackers, led by our Fulani neighbours, repeatedly stabbed him on the back and on his stomach before beheading my husband in our farm and made away with his head…The police under the guise of allowing the suspects to seek medical attention are shielding those that killed my husband,” she had been quoted to have said.
The Punch newspaper, one of the few newspapers still keeping the flag of Nigerian journalism aloft, had penned an editorial comment on September 4, 2018, which situated the unprecedented killings of thousands of the likes of Chrisanthus since the Muhammadu Buhari government came into office in 2015 and the complicit silence or even abetment of the carnage by a government that has shown a palpable – or if you like, vicarious – connivance with the blood-thirsty killers. The Punch leader’s major grouse with Buhari was the cadence of his illogical, apparently biased and inconsistent narratives of the unrestrained blood spillage which his Fulani kinsmen have subjected hapless Nigerians to in the last three years or so. Last Sunday, on the sidelines of the China-Africa Cooperation Summit in Beijing, while addressing Nigerians resident in China, Buhari had lapsed into a variant of his incoherent epistle of why herdsmen terrorism persists in Nigeria.
“To my disappointment…the press in Nigeria do not make enough efforts to study the historical antecedents of issues that are creating national problems for us,” the president had begun, citing what he called “cultural and historical implications” as responsible for murders of thousands of Nigerians by Fulani herdsmen. He also deployed a callous euphemism of calling the carnage “misunderstanding, especially between herders and farmers” while finally heaping the blame of the persistent murders on climate change and drying up Lake Chad which he claimed necessitated the frenetic search for pastures by displaced cattle nomads. The Punch aptly called the Buhari histrionics a “patently callous and dishonest argument.”
However, in a reply reminiscent of the identifiable but disingenuous route of intolerance that has marked the geography of the current government’s media machine, Garba Shehu, one of Buhari’s Goebbels, immediately sprang into the government’s disgustful communication profile. The conclusion of the editorial, Shehu called unfounded; its claim of governmental sympathy for the murderous activities of the violent herdsmen and Buhari’s indifference to herders’ widespread atrocities, he labeled “disrespectful of Buhari and his office”, and “reckless, thoughtless, inflammatory and totally irresponsible.”
Garba maintained the same ludicrous and infantile narrative by the President that the bloodletting of those Fouta-Djalon animals whom we unfortunately share human space with, otherwise known as Fulani herdsmen, was due to climate change and search for pasture by cattle nomads. To stave off allegation of Buhari’s infamous disdain for the people he was elected to preside over through his comment that the Nigerian youth who make dangerous incursion on the Mediterranean into Europe were on their own, as against that of Ghana’s Nana Akufo-Addo who, in the presence of Germany’s Angela Merkel, asked for humane treatment of Ghanaian illegal immigrants, Shehu cited a USD500,000 which he claimed the Buhari government paid to evacuate stranded Nigerians in Libya and at the World Cup as evidencing Buhari’s commitment to the plight of his countrymen.
My take from this spat is that Buhari and his henchmen are very distant, yet think of themselves as near to the prevailing discourse and reality on the streets of Nigeria today. That Punch editorial is an apt mirror of the views of the average Nigerian. Fixated on corruption as the sole key to bail out the country from its current stasis, the Buhari government has even been grossly deficient in carrying out this self-imposed task. Its covert support for the murderous herders has become a tale in the rank of a legend. Even from the euphemistic reference to the spillage of blood of locals by alleged Fulani killers as“misunderstanding,” where the presidency belongs in the divide is very glaring to all. It is on record that for three months after the killings in Benue and Taraba, Buhari never uttered a word in denunciation of the bloodletting, except for the omnibus press releases by the Garba Shehus. Confronted by Benue elders who stormed Aso Rock during the period, all Buhari asked for was for the elders to make friends with their neighbours, ostensibly the killers of their wives and children. When he was eventually pulled out of his Villa fortress by incendiary public opinions, the president lapsed into the comparison of cadavers, stating that the Benue, Zamfara casualties were not as many as his Fulani kinsmen allegedly murdered in Taraba.
What is even more worrisome is Buhari and his presidency’s demystification of centuries-old belief by the governed that government machinery all over the world was so awesome that it literally had a third eye that penetrates far ahead of what the ordinary eye can see. For the Buhari government, there is an embarrassing demonstration of naivety, ignorance and incompetence or insincerity in understanding and articulating the real cause of the Fulani/herdsmen crisis. This was perfectly articulated by Punch in that leader. In one fell swoop, we have been offered almost four rationalizations of the supposed causes of the bloodletting. While the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan Ali, towed the Garba Shehu vacuous route of drying-up Lake Chad and scarcity of pasture as cause of the mayhem, at another forum, we were told that renegades of Muammar Gaddafi’s armed men found their ways out of Libya to Nigeria with their weapons and mutated into the killer herdsmen. At yet another forum, Buhari laid the blame squarely on the doorsteps of ISIS and later, on spiritic opposition members who, in the quest to tar-brush government, have been funding the mayhem. No one knows what narrative to believe.
What is apparent to all and sundry is that the Buhari government, for whatever reason, exhibits consanguinary affinity and by that very fact, jelly fish-grip disposition to these animals in human skin. If ever there are, the number of convicts of these murders statistically estimated to be in multiple of thousands, is countable on the fingertips. Miyetti Allah, the outlawed association of cattle rearers whom the Global Terrorism Index has labeled one of the most notorious terrorist groups in the globe, at the forefront of this cadaver-breeding, has become law unto itself. Nigerian herders daily seek to best the credential of Boko Haram which is said to have, till date, killed 3,094 Nigerians. Yet, government has chosen to be blind to this descent into anarchy.
The question to ask Buhari and believers in his absurd narrative is, what is the connection between a drying up Lake Chad and a bestial inclination to, for example, slaughter Charles Chrisanthus like herders’ companion, the cow, behead him and flee with the head? How can any sane human being rationalize this William Golding-like bestiality, for whatever reason? Did the supposed drying Lake Chad sow the seed of bestiality in the herders or it merely provoked a latent vice native to the nation? Why should the Lake Chad ever be a variable in the herders’ bloodthirsty binge other than the fact that we are dealing with psychopaths who are periodically thirsty to have renewed sip of human blood?
Garba walked the same route which military despots walked in time past by appealing to a non-existent national interest which he said should supersede narrow interest. If ever there will be a national interest in this regard, it is that Buhari should stop his romanticism of narrow Fulani ethnic interest and embrace a more global human interest of the sanctity of human life. Minister Lai Mohammed worsened the take by asking that Buhari should be criticized but not impugned. I beg to disagree. On this score, Buhari deserves both for his failure to guarantee the safety of lives and property he swore to uphold. The Punch deserves kudos from even the government of Buhari for telling truth to power, one that its coterie of grovelers will tell it seldom.
Dickson’s prodigal religiosity
There seems to be no limit to how political office holders tinker with the destinies of the people who elect them, according to the dictates of their whims. One of the culprits of that misguided governmental mind is Seriake Dickson, the governor of Bayelsa State. Apart from the well-burnished self-advertisement of his Godliness in recent time, Dickson has been taking the hapless people of Bayelsa on the roller-coaster of his religious persuasion. An example of this is his highly talked about Annual Bayelsa Thanksgiving Day and his government’s monthly praise service. He is said to hold a daily devotion in the Government House as well. Dickson had earlier built what he called an ecumenical center in Yenagoa, with billions of the creek people’s patrimony. It was declared opened by the Redeemed’s General Overseer, Pastor Enoch Adeboye.
The Thanksgiving Day, which Dickson declared a public holiday in Bayelsa and decreed would be an annual event on November 2 every year, was celebrated with unrestrained fanfare, attended by the high and mighty of society. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, on July 2 this year, was one of the guests, as he wheeled his Janus persona to the monthly event.
Now, while no one can begrudge Dickson of his religious inclination, there is a need to begrudge his backtrack of the people’s money into his personal religious craving. Going by the well-known prodigality of people in government, if you peer a searchlight into how much Dickson frittered into this elephant religiosity, you will be alarmed at the indecipherability of the governor’s misstep from that of the biblical prodigal. What the suffering people of Bayelsa apparently need is everything but humongous religious appetite of their governor to which they are willy-nilly made complicit. What the people need is good life, for which they elected Dickson and passable dosage of religious guidance. By the time the people wake up from the trance called Seriake, they will realize that under the veneer of Dickson\s religiosity may be hidden the real picture of a Smart Alec who is structuring the minds of the people to see him as a man after God’s heart but whose actual mind is the colony of Mammon and maggots.
The Akure Teaching Hospital debate
The Ondo State capital, Akure is today at loggerheads with its government. The spat between this ancient city and its government is founded on the former’s perception that it has always been unfairly treated by those who administer it when it comes to infrastructure. For starters, it is on record that Akure is about the only state capital in Nigeria where none of the state’s higher educational institutions is located within it and where its metropolitan status is always exploited by politicians at election period. When it comes to distribution of infrastructural largesse however, Akure witnesses abandonment by successive governments.
The current silent brickbat in the state is on the citing of the state Teaching Hospital. With a parcel of land granted to FUTA for its expansion in 1978, successive state governments had bypassed the idea of formalizing the hospital idea or granting a C of O for the federal government to build any structure on the land. Akure’s only savior was going to be Goodluck Ebele Jonathan who allocated the sum of N2billion in the federal budget for the takeoff of the hospital. Rahman Olusegun Mimiko, persuaded that the citing of the hospital in Akure would imperil his ambition of taking a Teaching Hospital model to his Ondo home, not only frustrated the idea but continued bending over backwards in his self-indulgent phantasm of a world class University of Medical Sciences idea which he cited in his hometown. The TSA policy of the Federal Government however ensured that the earmarked sum was returned to government’s coffers and Akure back to its forlorn status quo of serial abandonment.
There is a very strong apprehension that, in spite of its comparatively huge population, its centralization for ease of access to all the zones of the state, factors which should be strong points for the location of a Teaching Hospital in the state capital, Akure is yet being cheated with the ploy to make it a mere annex of the hospital, in spite of its appropriateness, more than all other cities in the state, for the citing of this project. Arguments, at best tenuous and self-centered, are being proffered on why the State Hospital, located in the capital, should remain what it is or at best, an annex of the University of Medical Sciences in Ondo. Akure’s counter-argument is that rather than making it an annex to Ondo, its State Hospital should be given to FUTA for its clinicals. Those who say this is impossible have the footsteps of states like Akwa-Ibom and Bauchi where, the former, donated its state hospital to the federal government for the clinicals of students of the University of Uyo and the latter, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi as examples.
The need for a Teaching Hospital however gets urgent by the day. For instance, medical students at the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) are about getting to their clinicals stage, and would need to be seconded to a Teaching Hospital. Self-centered arguments are flying in the air to the effect that the students should embark on inconveniencing shuttles to Ondo town or Owo where there is a Federal Medical Centre. Common sense however convicts the architects of that narrow-minded rationalization.
Governor Akeredolu has however assured the downcast people of the state capital that he would not make their hospital a mere annex of the Teaching Hospital proposal. Which is gladsome. The governor must however be persuaded to walk this talk by etching his name in the annals of the state history by breaking the jinx of successive governors’ penchant of seeking to make their hometowns deputy state capital to Akure by diverting amenities naturally fit and proper for all Ondo State, which citing them in Akure represents, as all its indigenes have representatives in the state capital.
Dr. Festus Adedayo is a Columnist with the Nigerian Tribune newspapers