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Series of socio-economic challenges facing the country including problems of insecurity and other social vices have been traced to lack of visionary leaders in the country.
Making this submission in an interview with TUNDE THOMAS, Colonel Tony Nyiam (retd) lamented that Nigeria has not been blessed with visionary leaders either in the years past or at present.
“Except for late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and to some extent, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Nigeria since independence has not been blessed with visionary leaders, and this is why Nigeria has not made much progress in her 57 years of nationhood. Sadly, some of the people who emerged as leaders are not only parochial, they are weak, ineffectual and lack focus,” the former military chief involved in the Gideon Orkar’s attempted take over of power in 1989 declared.
Nyiam also spoke on other national issues including the Fulani herdsmen attack in Benue State, which led to loss of several lives, the controversial 1 billion dollars deduction by the Federal Government from the Excess Crude Account to fight Boko Haram, President Buhari’s leadership style and restructuring of the polity. Excerpts:
Some Nigerians have expressed concern about the recent killings in Rivers and Benue states, especially that of Benue where suspected Fulani herdsmen were on rampage attacking and killing innocent villagers. Do you see this as a good way for the nation, pining under so many challenges to start the New Year?
To me, what is responsible for all these crises all over the country can be traced to lack of visionary leadership. Except for late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and to some extent Sir Ahmadu Bello, Nigeria has not had visionary leaders, and our government is not hinged on vision, it is like having or taking action without reasoning. Reasoning controls actions. Nigerian leaders both past and present who are still alive should seek forgiveness from God for bringing the nation to this sorry state. Again in the case of Nigeria, we also need to seek spiritual rejuvenation because these things happening to us or taking place are not ordinary, they are not physical. To get things right in Nigeria, we have to restore the principles of justice, fairness, truth, equity, liberty, compassion and also our leaders should see to the general well being of citizens so that the objective of governance can achieve the desired goal. The objective of governance in Nigeria should reflect the thinking of the popular French philosopher which says greatest happiness to greatest number of people. Today, can we say that greatest number of Nigerians are happy? Obviously no, and this is why there is a need for our leaders to be visionary. Governance should be about greatest happiness to a greater number of citizens. Once a government or leaders lacks vision, anything such government or leader does will not work.
The New Year speech by President Buhari was a disappointment. First, his speechwriters were insensitive to the yearnings of majority of Nigerians. His speechwriters were also arrogant to mislead the President to think that he can lecture Nigerians on what they want by saying that the problems with Nigeria are processes and not structures. That statement lacked intellectual depth in the sense that Buhari’s speech writers should have told him that processes are pre-determined by the system in which processes work.
Processes or actions doesn’t operate in isolation, they are always context- bound. It is the structures that determine the processes, and effectiveness of processes, but processes do not exist on their own, they are always determined by the system in which the processes are being conducted. To that extent, Buhari’s speechwriters didn’t do Buhari a good job.
Secondly, Buhari needs to do what General Ibrahim Babangida used to do when we used to work with him. When you write a speech for Gen. Babangida, he would now engage the speechwriters in a discussion in order for him to have a good knowledge of the speech he wanted to read. It is wrong for Buhari to just take any speech they gave him to read without he, himself, having knowledge of what he was reading or about to read. I also believe that it was wrong for Buhari to say that it is ethnicity that is dividing us. But I believe that is wrong, rather our diverse ethnicity should have been an advantage to make Nigeria a very strong nation.
Are you saying that ethnicity …
(Cuts in) … I know that Nigeria is made up of different ethnic nationalities, but what I’m saying is that, that diversity should have been turned into an advantage. The President should not have been emphasizing the ethnic diversity issue as a problem for the nation in his address. We should have been able to transform our diversity into a source of strength. Again it is wrong for President Buhari to have dismissed calls for restructuring. For Buhari to have made such dismissal, it means that Buhari has been grossly misinformed about what restructuring is all about. The problems we are having all over the country now are a consequence of lack of appropriate governance. That’s why we have these recurring clashes between the Fulani and host communities.
Buhari also appeared to have been misinformed about the clashes between Fulani herdsmen and host communities or Buhari and his aides are deliberately twisting the whole thing to be as if the clashes are between Fulani and host communities. This is wrong. Fulani herdsmen are the aggressors. They are invaders. They are the ones unleashing violence on host communities, killing and maiming innocent citizens.
But the impression Buhari and fellow Fulani apologists want to create is that there are clashes between two parties. No. Clearly, it is the Fulani herdsmen that are the aggressors. They are the invaders. We should be able to call a spade a spade.
We are talking about invasion by Fulani herdsmen, and here our Inspector-General of Police is saying that it is a communal clash. What a shame. This mischievous and dubious talks by government officials like the Inspector-General of Police will not help matters. When there is an assault on an individual, then the person who assaulted the other party can’t now turn around to say that it is a fight between two parties.
To pretend that invasion of Benue communities by Fulani herdsmen is a communal clash is very unfortunate. In fact there was a prior warning about the invasion, and the state governors, Samuel Ortom cried out and the irony of it is that the governor of Benue State and the President belong to the same party, yet the President couldn’t do anything to forestall the attack by the herdsmen.
Why should Buhari order the Inspector-General of Police to go and fight well -armed herdsmen, whereas in minor cases involving militants and even demonstrators in the Southeast soldiers were deployed by the Federal Government? This amounts to double standards. Why this double standards? I think Buhari should help himself. Buhari through his own actions is undermining his own government, through his utterances, actions and inactions.
Where non-state actors like Fulani herdsmen are defying government, even defying Buhari himself is very sad. It’s been said that Buhari is even the Grand Patron of Miyetti Allah, the umbrella body for Fulani herdsmen, but, be that as it may, another leader of Miyetti Allah group has come out to condemn the invasion by Fulani herdsmen. What this means is that some people in the Miyetti Allah Association also believe that ultimately what some of these herdsmen are doing is not good in their own interests in the long run. Buhari’s frequent reduction of clear cases of the violent and sophisticated armed Fulani herdsmen invasion of other people’s lands, farms and communities to a case of two communities or two parties fighting is grossly unfair to the Middle Belt communities who have always been the victims.
Calls and agitations for restructuring should be taken serious by Buhari, otherwise when the looming implosion eventually happens, nobody can predict its consequences, but definitely it will have a devastating effect on the nation.
Let me define again what restructuring means for the benefit of those who don’t know what it means or pretending not to know what it means, Restructuring, simply put, means an appeal for the restoration, or for the enthronement of timeless and universal principles of justice, truth, fairness, equality and engendering of a sense of belonging in all the people and nations that make up Nigeria. The issue of restructuring is an issue of correcting injustice in the land – lack of fairness, and inequality has resulted in people not having a sense of belonging in the nation. We are sitting on a keg of gunpowder, which can explode at any moment.
The sum of one billion dollars was recently ordered to be withdrawn from the Excess Crude Account, ECA, by the Governors Forum to tackle Boko Haram insurgency, but the issue has polarized the Forum with two governors, Ayodele Fayose and Nyesom Wike kicking against it. Fayose had even gone to court to challenge the withdrawal while Wike demanded that a similar amount should be withdrawn to tackle environmental challenges in Rivers State, what’s your view on this?
Both Wike and Fayose are right. That withdrawal of 1 billion dollars to tackle insurgency is illegal, more so since it didn’t go through National Assembly for approval and neither was it appropriated for. I fully support their action in challenging the illegality. Wike is also right in demanding that 1 billion dollars should also be released from the Excess Crude Account to tackle environmental challenges in the Niger-Delta because while Niger-Delta has been suffering over the years from environmental oil degradation as a result of oil exploration, such a measure has never been taken like it is being done in the case of the Northeast where 1 billion dollars is being withdrawn to tackle Boko Haram insurgency. In the case of Boko Haram attacks, we are talking of human lives being affected, but I also want to ask our hypocritical leaders this question, is it not human lives that is involved in Niger-Delta where the zone has been suffering from ecological disaster over the years. What is even more annoying is the fact that this money being withdrawn to tackle crisis in the Northeast is got from Niger-Delta, while Niger-Delta where the money is got or which owns the money is neglected and abandoned. This is another case of double standard by the Buhari government. Buhari’s government is a government of double standards.
Again, that 1 billion dollars being withdrawn to tackle insurgency in the Northeast as they claim will provide another opportunity for looters. To me, it is a misplaced priority for government to be talking of using the 1 billion dollars to buy new equipment in order to contain the Boko Haram war. For me, this is a wrong approach.
Buying armoured tanks, and fighter jets is a waste of time because the Boko Haram war is not a conventional warfare where two armies faced one another directly in battle. What Boko Haram used mostly now is guerilla tactics, hit and run approach. Not only that, they also used suicide bombers. Do you now fight a suicide bomber with fighter jets or armoured tanks? What kind of battle tactic or strategy do you call that? That’s very defective. This is why I said earlier that the 1 billion dollars will be looted. It will provide easy money for some contractors and arms manufacturing firms. If at all 1 billion dollars is to be released to contain the Boko Haram insurgency, that money should be used to recruit more intelligence officers because what the Boko Haram situation now require is intelligence gathering, which will make it easier for Boko Haram suicide bombers to be detected through intelligence gathering. More personnel can also be recruited for armed forces, police and other security agencies. But like I said earlier, the double standard approach of Buhari’s government will create more problem for Nigeria. Ogoni, an oil producing community has been suffering serious neglect, and has been abandoned as a result of oil exploration, and the excuse the Federal Government has always been giving is lack of funds to start the clean up project, but when it now concerns the North, they find it easy to withdraw 1 billion US dollars to tackle the problem – what a double standard? The impression our leaders are giving is that some citizens are special more than others, but this should not be so. Buhari is showing too much bias for the Northeast and Northwest to the detriment of other geo-political zones in the country. But even in the Northeast, some areas are also marginalized by this administration. Non-Kanuri areas and Chibok areas in the Northeast are being marginalized by Buhari and this is not good for our nation. Buhari should behave like a visionary leader, a visionary leader is the one that not only sees all parts of the country as his own constituency, but also ensures that he doesn’t show preference or bias towards any section.
It is indeed a very big shame that 1 billion dollars oil money is being taken from Niger-Delta that produces oil to solve a problem in the Northeast, a non-oil producing community, whereas Ogoni, an oil producing community has been suffering from oil pollution that requires a massive clean up for several years now, but that community has been abandoned by the government citing lack of funds as an excuse for delaying the clean up project, so where is justice in all these? Most of these people who parade themselves as national leaders are deceitful. They are parochial, very partial and biased. We need visionary leaders to take Nigeria to greater heights.
It is very sad that Nigeria has been bereft of visionary leaders, and the nation is paying dearly for it. With all these crises here and there, what are your fears for Nigeria?
My fears for Nigeria is that we may suffer the consequences of lack of courage or failure to take right actions by our leaders. The present state of insecurity is very worrisome. Violence and bloodshed are on the ascendancy, and agitations for justice and equality are on the rise. Our leaders should not pretend that all is well. We are in a very explosive situation. This is not the Nigeria of the dreams of the nation’s founding fathers. The situation in Nigeria today is not only pathetic but also very worrisome – the only way out, the only way to save or prevent the looming implosion is restructuring. There is no alternative to restructuring. It must also be emphasized that as a matter of urgency, we need to have a group or platform that will comprise eminent, principled and people of integrity who are apolitical that will be saddled with the task of grooming visionary Nigerians that will later emerge as the nation’s leaders.
Nigeria’s growth and development has been stunted over the years as lack of visionary leaders. Without visionary leadership, Nigeria’s quest to attain greatness or desire to be in the league of great and powerful nations will only be a mirage.
What is happening in Nigeria today calls for sober reflections. All stakeholders should rise above partisan interests and think first of Nigeria as a nation. We should all strive to build a nation where fairness, equity and justice reign supreme.