Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari and the leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu stand a world apart, obviously. One is the president of Africa’s largest country, the other a villain facing treason charges for wanting to divide the country. What then is my basis for comparing the two, you might ask. Well, for any deep thinker, the answer is obvious. Both Buhari and Kanu are Nigerians who don’t believe in Nigeria; Nigerians whose loyalties lie with their respective groups, be that ethnic or religion.
Both are, if you will, ethnic champions who are so fanatical about their love for their respective groups that they make no pretenses about their dislike for those outside such groups. But then, that’s where their similarity ends. Evidently, both have radically different ideas about what the needs of their respective groups are and how to go about meeting same. This is the irony of how one ended up as president and the other a fugitive wanted by the law, alive or dead. Between Buhari and Kanu, it is simply a clash of ideologies. One’s ultimate goal undermines the other’s.
Since President Buhari came to power in 2015, riding on the back of huge support from the South West after trying severally in the past without success, he has not given anyone room to doubt where his loyalty lies. Starting with the first set of appointments he made as president, it was soon obvious, as some of us warned, that he was no patriot but only a sectional leader seeking sectional domination. He has since doubled down. As it stands, the country is firmly in the hands of his northern constituency.
From the commanding heights of the country’s economy, to its entire security architecture, the north is now firmly in charge. The removal of Babatunde Fowler from the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and his subsequent replacement with Muhammad Nami meant that all key revenue generating and regulatory agencies – save for the Central Bank of Nigeria – are now in the hands of the north: From Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Pension Commission (PenCom), to Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Petroleum Ministry and Finance Ministry. Of course, in terms of the economy, Nigeria, it us simply about NNPC, FIRS NPA and Customs Service. He who controls these controls the economy. Yet, for each appointment made every now and then, everyone can already guess where the appointee would be coming from. It is Buhari’s Nigeria.
As it is with the economy, well, obviously, it is with security. Virtually all arms bearing security agencies are headed by northerners; be it the police, civil defence, army, again Customs and Immigration. Those who argue that the chief of naval staff and the chief of defence staff are southerners miss the point, or are simply ignorant. The chief of army staff is the head of the military. The others – particularly chief of defence staff – are largely ceremonial.
Instructively, while the commanding levers of these security agencies are taken up by the region, who in turn uses them to abuse the constitution, southerners are mostly considered as spokespersons to defend the atrocious actions of the institutions. They are good as spokespersons but never as heads or commanders.
Now, pause for a second and wonder if Kanu were to be president of Nigeria. From his antecedents, could he possibly do things differently? Not quite. But of course, Kanu is not seeking to be president and that, again, is where he differs from Buhari. Kanu does not believe in Nigeria, so what does he do? He pushes to take his people out of the union. Buhari does not believe in Nigeria – evidently he believes in the north – what does he do? He pushes to take power and impose his people on the country.
Unfortunately, Nigeria is one nation whose foundation is laid on hypocrisy, and where villains are heroes and heroes villains. It is hardly surprising therefore, that it has failed to make any progress more than nearly 60 years after independence.
As one who sincerely believes that Nigeria, with honest, fair and selfless leadership, will be the envy of the world given it inherent potential, neither Kanu nor Buhari is my model. But if you ask me to chose between the two who mean better for the country, I will not hesitate to chose former. It takes principle and courage to seek to work away from a union if you don’t like the other partners, not minding the pecuniary gains in the union. It takes greed, selfishness and hypocrisy, on the other hand, to insist on such union, not because you believe in it, but because you seek to profit from it.
There is nothing to suggest, from his actions as president, that Buhari believes in Nigeria. Evidently, he simply believes in the north and his insistence on a united Nigeria cannot be out of love for country, but out of desire to dominate and take advantage of it for his people’s ‘benefit.’ The reality, however, is that it is only in a just Nigeria that even his people will drive real benefit as opposed to momentary triumphalism that could provoke catastrophic resistance.
However, from his antecedents, was there any ground upon which anyone would have expected something different? None! absolutely. You can take away every other thing from Buhari, but one thing you can’t take away from him is his being ever straightforward about his beliefs. From words and actions, he never hid the fact that he is for the north.
But of course, in 2015, some individuals, out of spite for certain groups, and greed for power fetched him, re-branded him and presented him to gullible Nigerians as the patriotic messiah that the country has been waiting for since 1914. The cost is proving steep, and this is yet morning.
It is hardly in doubt that we are headed for a crisis. The administration appears relentless in its apparent pursuit of ethnic hegemony. I am convinced, however, that ultimately, such agenda will fail. It is utter myopia to imagine, by any stretch, that 150 million people can be subjugated.
My worry, however, is that we may have incurred heavy loses before those who seem bent on overrunning the country realize that they would meet a dead end. My prayer is that we may never get to that point and that before it’s too late, everyone would realize that our best bet is to build a modern country on the principles of fairness equality and justice. And that ultimately, every group stands to benefit from a Nigeria that is structured to work for all rather than one organised to subjugate some.