The General is Divider-in-Chief
By Shaka Momodu
By his occasional exhortations to Nigerians during festive periods and in moments of national tragedies to live peacefully and in unity, the Nigerian Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari wants us to believe he is a uniter and not a divider. He preaches religious tolerance when acts of barbarism and heinous crimes are committed by devilish Muslim extremists who act in the name of religion, when he is riled enough to do so. But when he wakes up on the wrong side of the bed, he looks the other way, aloof and totally unconcerned. He found his voice once again to spew such patriotic sentiments when 11 people of the Christian faith were gruesomely executed by Boko Haram and its ISWAP affiliate.
But the general’s appeal that we should not let Boko Haram’s satanic activities divide us was supremely hypocritical. Only useful idiots took him seriously. Well, there are many useful idiots around and who put us in this mess in the first place. Heaven trusted them to be so and they have not disappointed. The general should have looked at himself in the mirror before making that appeal.
Wait a minute – did he really mean what he said when he urged Muslims and Christians to live together in peace and harmony? Did he even believe himself? What did he mean when he said that he was doing his best to unite the people of this country? Unfortunately, this man is not living by his exhortations. I scoff at his speeches and preaching of peace each time I come across them and turn away in perplexing bewilderment at how successfully he has managed to fool so many people.
Without mincing words, Major-General Buhari is arguably the greatest single threat to Nigeria’s unity. In case he doesn’t know, the misplaced optimism and hopes that brought him to power have since evaporated. His ways reveal a caricature of a messiah with a deeply clannish agenda, a tribal lord with nepotism flowing through his veins – a man with a medieval mindset who has destroyed the little progress recorded prior to his ascension to power. Many are wondering, how someone that is promoting divisions by his actions, inactions, appointments, utterances, etc., be preaching unity?
It is ironic that he is urging us not to allow Boko Haram divide us when he is doing same. No one is guiltier of dividing Nigerians than General Buhari, whether along ethnic or religious lines. It is this man Buhari who has put a dagger on the things that hold us together by his policies and appointments. He declared from the outset of his regime that he would pursue a policy of 97 percent and 5 percent and proceeded to implement his regime’s policies and appointments on that basis. His high-profile appointments to strategic national parastatals are so lopsidedly in favour of his tribal/ethnic/religious stock almost to the total exclusion of other parts of the country such that even his most rabid supporters and defenders are now too embarrassed to defend him. The more he is criticised for his insensitivity to the principle of federal character as enshrined in the constitution, the more adamant and brazen he has become on his single-minded focus and obsession with his ethnic and nepotistic agenda to foist dominance on other parts of the country. This is the man calling for unity and urging Nigerians not to allow Boko Haram divide them. Only the useful idiots are listening to him. He should look at himself in the mirror.
General Buhari, it should be recalled, was a staunch defender of Boko Haram. He opposed the declaration of a state of emergency to deal with the group and called it an attack on the north. Yes, he did just that. He lamented that Boko Haram members were being killed and their houses demolished while Niger Delta militants were being given “special treatment” by the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
He so defended Boko Haram that it nominated him as one of its negotiators with the Jonathan government. For those who have chosen to forget, the support of people like Buhari, the Borno Elders’ Forum, Northern Elders’ Forum, the Northern intelligentsia and the All Progressives Congress (APC) made it difficult to defeat the group. The APC rode on the bestial activities of the group and Jonathan’s poor understanding of the nuances of power to the presidency. Boko Haram is what it is today because it had a big supporter in Buhari and his party, the APC.
Buhari’s divisive rhetoric dates back to the early 2000s. During Lam Adesina’s reign as the governor of Oyo State, Buhari travelled all the way from Daura in Katsina to visit Governor Adesina in Ibadan. It was no ordinary visit, but a protest visit over the allegation that Adesina’s people were killing his (Buhari’s) people. Still wondering what all that meant? Well, you don’t have to wait for long: it was all about the clashes between Hausa/Fulani herdsmen grazing with their cattle on indigenes’ farmlands and destroying their crops. Buhari’s exact words were: “Your people are killing my people.” If this is not a sufficient proof of this dictator’s sectional/ethnic affinity and inclination, then someone will have to tell me what is. Former Governor Adesina was so disappointed in Buhari that he issued him a rebuke, urging him to play the role of a statesman, instead of the narrow ethnic interest that chipped away at his position as a former head of state.
The nation has been hurt to its core by most of his utterances, actions and inactions, both past and present. General Buhari is the father of hate speech as the lava he spewed and still spews out from his cocoon constitutes offences under his lethal Hate Speech Bill he wants to use to now gag us. And he now has a willing and pliant National Assembly that will approve any request that he makes to them because according to his lackey Senate President, “He means well.” In the build-up to the 2003 elections, Buhari urged Muslims to vote for someone who would defend their faith. It is noteworthy that he was not advocating for someone with a progressive vision to lift the country to a whole new level of development. Rather, he was only interested in someone who could defend Islam! After the 2011 presidential election, the general threatened that “if what happened in 2011 (alleged rigging) should again happen in 2015, by the grace of God, the dog and the baboon would all be soaked in blood”. Arguably on his prompting, some youth corps members were killed following the riot that broke out after his loss of the 2011 presidential election. What of the 97% vs 5% sharing formula? The 2019 elections were not left out either, as he was caught on video in Zamfara State during the campaigns, telling the people at a rally to stock up food items and prepare incase there was violence. That’s the character portrait of the man admonishing us now. His hypocrisy knows no bounds. He should look at himself in the mirror.
Almost everything General Buhari has done with government positions exposes a dangerous fraternal solidarity with his ethnic group. The roll call of recruitments carried out so far by his regime into the security and paramilitary services were driven by an ethnic motivation to dominate. Just check the recruitment into the police force, military, prisons, customs, immigration, road safety, NIA, NSCDC, DSS, EFCC, etc., and you would see a pattern to entrench his tribesmen and ethnic people everywhere. Competence and qualifications are not yardsticks and qualities General Buhari believes in to make appointments or recruitments. Unlike the Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan governments that operated heterogeneous presidencies, the top brass of the military establishment and the dictator’s inner circle are made up of his relatives or people from his part of the country almost to the total exclusion of others.
In multi-ethnic Nigeria, the dictator displays hatred for diversity in his workplace. It beats me that a man whose persona feeds into Boko Haram’s divisive agenda, is now advising us not to allow Boko Haram he actively supported before he gained power, to divide us. To further buttress how General Buhari undermines Nigeria’s unity, how does one explain that while waiting to be sworn into office in 2019, the very first bill he wanted to send to the National Assembly was the Grazing Bill? It was the most important matter on Buhari’s agenda. It is remarkable that he is obsessed with his ruthless land grab agenda in different guises namely; cattle colony, RUGA and now National Livestock Transformation Plan which was coined to pull the wool over the people’s eyes, having met plenty of pushback from other parts of the country when previous coinage gave away the plot. It is latent RUGA and equally very potent. According to reports, he had earmarked N100 billion for it, more than twice the budget for education in the 2020 fiscal year. It is evident where his priorities lie. It almost beggared belief that this regime, through RUGA, which was a divisive state-funded policy, attempted to force state governments to cede land for settlement of Fulani herdsmen in other people’s ancestral lands. The massive resistance to it, notwithstanding, has not diminished the dictator’s obsession to give his ethnic group advantage over others as he continues to plot new ways of ensuring their dominance.
Who knows the underlying motivation for the new visa-on-arrival policy? Suspicions are rife and rightfully so, that it may well be another creative ploy to advance the dictator’s Fulanisation agenda to make Nigeria home to his marauding tribesmen by altering the demographic of certain areas. Nothing is beyond the reach and contemplation of this ethnic irredentist. The fears expressed by people over the policy are not groundless because so many questions abound without anyone providing convincing answers: what benefits Nigeria stands to gain from this policy? What is the wisdom in this policy? Are there reciprocatory gestures from other African countries to Nigerians? Is it not curious that at a time many countries in Africa are stigmatising our nationals and denying them basic travel courtesies, we are extending huge open-ended privileges to others with doubtful benefits to the country already beset by huge unemployment, economic and security challenges? It beats me that the regime is granting unfettered entry into the country to foreign nationals from Mali, Libya, etc., that it had severally accused of maiming, killing Nigerians and burning down villages when it tried pathetically to deflect attention and exonerate his tribesmen from the heinous crimes they were committing in the name of cattle grazing. The regime told Nigerians then that the killer Fulani herdsmen were from Mali, Libya, Senegal, Equatorial Guinea, etc. Now, why create a homeland for killers and agents of destruction?
Suffice it to say that the reasoning of this regime is completely warped. Many of us seeing through its devious and underhand ways should speak out against the policy. General Buhari has set toxic precedents for running this diverse country to give one part the advantage. He is undoubtedly the divider-in-chief. Instead of disturbing our senses of national purpose with sermons on unity, he should do more to walk his talk by his actions, inactions, policies, appointments, etc. After all, as they say, an example is better than a precept.
▪ First published by Thisday
Shaka Momodu: A Columnist as Hater-in-Chief
By Femi Adesina
For many years, week after week, Shaka Momodu opens the sewers, and pours vitriol on President Muhammadu Buhari on the back page of Thisday Newspapers. We ignore him, reasoning that when a mind is diseased, there is hardly much you can do to point such soul to decency. It remains impervious to anything not from the very nether region of hell.
However, on Friday, January 10, 2020, Shaka Momodu overreached even himself in hatred and deviousness by his piece with the headline, The General is Divider-in-Chief. Yes, you know who he was talking about. He usually has no other topic than President Buhari, whom he takes delight in using the foulest language against. Foul language is often evidence of poor breeding.
In the build-up to general elections last year, Momodu embarked on a crusade, urging all and sundry to vote out President Buhari. And what did he, and his cohorts, get at the end of the day? A shellacking, drubbing that left them reeling in shock. But rather than wake to reality that he is among the tiniest of minority voices in the country, the columnist rather gets worse by the day. He still stubbornly waves a flag that is perpetually limp, not even at half mast.
In the very repetitive January 10 verbiage, the columnist, who curiously is also an editor with Thisday, demonstrated that hatred for President Buhari was deeply embedded in his bones. He dug up, and kept repeating long discredited narratives, parading them as truths, to attain his jaundiced purpose.
Hear one thing he kept repeating like a broken gramophone record in the piece: “He declared from the outset of his regime that he would pursue a policy of 97 percent and 5 percent and proceeded to implement his regime’s policies and appointments on that basis.”
Thick skulls and sick minds keep repeating falsehood, even when their follies have been repeatedly pointed out. The columnist was referring to what the President said in the early days of his administration, as he met with Nigerians In Washington, United States of America. He said in rewarding those who voted for you in any election, it stood to reason that those who gave 97 percent of votes should get more positions than those who gave 5 percent. But he ended by submitting: “The Constitution forbids me from such, and I won’t do so.”
What did perennial haters do to that speech? They took the earlier part only, cut off the conclusion, and began to trumpet it on all media of mass communication. We explained the true position, but since it didn’t favor their narrative, they refused to listen. It is amazing that an editor and columnist is among those still advancing the jaundiced position after much explanations. See what hatred can do to a man!
Another falsehood, talking of President Buhari: “He so defended Boko Haram that it nominated him as one of its negotiators with the Jonathan government.” But that is just a tiny part of the story. When that purported nomination came from Boko Haram, it was seen clearly for what it was. An attempt to cleverly demonize the then General Buhari by the government of the day, who saw the Daura-born General as the greatest obstacle to its continuation in office. Buhari denounced the nomination, and said he had nothing to do with Boko Haram. Why did Momodu leave out that part of the story, if mischief was not at play? Hatred addles the mind, and makes people lose all sense of reasoning.
If Gen Buhari was to be Boko Haram negotiator, why did the same group attempt to terminate his life in Kaduna in July 2014, leading to many loss of lives? Except maybe it was not Boko Haram…
And the columnist gave himself out again, when he posited: “For those who have chosen to forget, the support of people like Buhari, the Borno Elders’ Forum, the Northern intelligentsia, and the All Progressives Congress (APC) made it difficult to defeat the group…. Boko Haram is what it is today because it had a big supporter in Buhari and his party, the APC.”
Ah ha. This is about hatred for a man, a section of the country, the North, and a political party. Can we rightly say then that Shaka Momodu is one of those who miss the wheeling-dealing days of the People’s Democratic Party? Well, those days are gone, and a new order is here. You may resent and deride the new order, but here it is. And it is laying a new foundation for our country, giving the people a future and a hope.
The bilious article was written based on a statement issued by the Presidency, after 11 people were executed in December by Boko Haram. Momodu said they were of the Christian faith. Does it really matter which faith they belonged to, except to somebody who wants to divide Nigerians further? Long ago, it has been established that Boko Haram is not about religion, but sheer evil and anarchy. They kill Muslims (even possibly more than adherents of other religions), kill Christians, animists, and anyone they can lay their hands on. It is not about religion, except to columnists with convoluted minds.
He alleges that “useful idiots” foisted Buhari on Nigeria. Fifteen million voters are idiots, while Momodu and his ilk are the only wise ones. Good luck to them. Before the elections last year, we told them that Buhari would give them a whacking. They didn’t believe. Now, they are still licking their wounds. The pains would endure till 2023, God willing.
There is something about believing, and chronic unbelief. Those of us who believe in Buhari will follow him from Cape to Cairo, while those who don’t believe are welcome to their unbelief. Momodu is in the latter group. How do I know? He gave himself out again: “I scoff at his speeches and preaching of peace each time I come across them and turn away in perplexing bewilderment at how successfully he has managed to fool so many people.”
Once you have resolved not to believe a man, and “scoff at his speeches,” you are really beyond redemption. Chronic unbeliever! Right is the man who said to those who believe, no explanation is necessary, and to those who don’t believe, no explanation is possible. Shaka Momodu is obviously in the latter group.
At the end of 2017, the Presidency released a comprehensive list of all appointments made since 2015. It was very revealing. Ogun State had the highest of 21 positions, Imo and Kano followed with 15 each, Edo and Katsina (the President’s home state) had 14 each, Ebonyi and Abia, two each, Kebbi, three, while Zamfara, Sokoto, Oyo, Enugu, Ekiti, and Akwa Ibom, had four each. Yet, the cry then was still about lopsided appointments, till statistics put the lie to it. More than two years later, Momodu still repeats the same hollow lie: “His high profile appointments to strategic national parastatals are so lopsidedly in favor of his tribal/ethnic/religious stock almost to the total exclusion of other parts of the country.” God, give us journalists that are not blinded by hate, those who won’t attempt to feed the populace with noxious substances in the name of Information .
To the columnist in question, all is fair in love and war, including lies. The Hate Speech Bill , he says is promoted by President Buhari, “to now gag us.” Lie! The President has nothing to do with the Bill, and it has been said repeatedly. Even the lawmaker promoting the Bill has said so. But when you are Hater-in-Chief, reason flees.
All attempts to bring amity between farmers and herdsmen in the country, Momodu describes as land grabbing gambits. He seems to prefer that the bloodletting should continue, thinking it would discredit Buhari. It’s like swallowing poison, and thinking it would kill your neighbor. Issorait (as it’s said in local lingo).
Let’s leave Shaka, who usually attempts to treat the President shakashaka (Yoruba word for treating someone like what the cat dragged in), and go attend to more serious things. We simply commend to him the words of William Shakespeare : “Love me or hate me, both are in my favor. If you love me, I’ll always be in your heart… If you hate me, I’ll always be in your mind.”
▪ Adesina is Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity