Buhari doesn’t pretend, they pretend for him!
I owe a lot to The Guardian. The Flagship of Nigerian journalism to me is not only a claim, but a reality. What I learnt in the Mass Comm classrooms, is only, but a fraction of what The Guardian Institution – the real institution taught me.
One of the most salient is eyes for details – tiny, nondescript, minute details often overlooked or ignored by others – yet telling very powerful stories.
The editors, particularly Ogbuagu Bob Anikwe my mentor and one of the best there is, if not the best, in his soft but firm approach would always insist. A Guardian copy is not complete without those uniquely distinct details.
Of course, we the students made our mistakes initially and took our flogging, sometimes by finding what we assumed were good stories tucked into the corners of the paper as briefs – ask a journalist how that feels – then you know.
So, while the euphoria of the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari was going on and whilst everyone else concentrated on his now in(famous) statement, “I belong to everyone, I belong to no one” my trained organs were at work.
That was how I spotted out that throughout the entire inaugural address, he never mentioned Michael Okpara alongside other regional leaders. Search the entire speech and see for yourself! In fact I noticed he actually struggled to mention Owelle Nnamdi Azikiwe. Tiny detail, powerful message! That was a red light signal. Was it deliberate or mere oversight? Ndigbo be careful!
Then, the day gave way to night. Enter the inaugural dinner. I had expected the National Troupe, which usually performed the various songs, dances, dance-dramas and other forms of performances reflecting Nigeria’s diversity. I had expected Sunny Ade, the popular Atiliogwu and Benue’s Swange, to join some gifted northern delights like Dan Maraya Jos, to thrill the audience in the original Nigerian sense. But if there was any, they must have performed after I dozed off. Otherwise, the musicians I witnessed were some strange fellows performing some equally strange music that beat me completely. Stranger still was that the audience seemed thrilled.
As much as I didn’t join in the fun, because I found no fun in it, regardless that music is supposed to be universal, I didn’t miss out on the message. I thought then and still do now that the organisers wanted to make a statement. That music came from Niger Republic, if I recall – tiny detail, powerful message!
That the total disdain for Ndigbo and the overwhelming influence of the Fulani are the dominant features of the Buhari administration, doesn’t surprise me, took its roots from these early signals.
Of course, you could fill in the gap about his ostensible, manifest and demonstrable rabid hatred for Ndigbo. You could also search the firmament for the Fulanicentric nature of this government including the alleged gifting of a whopping N100billon from our commonwealth, my money, your money to them at a point in time.
Femi Fani-Kayode found the Igbo aspect indescribable. In one of his outings, he tried to capture what he saw as the President’s pure, undiluted pain, resentment and zeal for vengeance against the Igbo. The former Minister of Aviation, in his futile attempt at describing the fiery bitterness, said the only explanation was that Igbo killed his people!
Recall that the incident in question happened about 54 years ago. Remember that almost all the key players of that era are also gone, mostly by natural death, meaning that even if the said LEADERS were not killed, they would also have likely died by natural causes, like the others.
Assuming FFK was not lying, it means the blood of the millions of Igbo that died as a direct consequence, beginning with General James Thomas Umunnakwe (JTU) Aguiyi Ironsi, the scores of the finest Igbo officers, trained at the best military schools of Sandhurst and Aldershot, and the over two million others that died in the civil war, including women and children slaughtered mercilessly in their homes, schools, markets, churches, hospitals and other public places, seemed not enough to assuage the pain and anger.
Remember that encounter with that NYSC member that was singled out among his colleagues at the home of the President in Daura in 2017 or so and told of how his people were vanquished in the war?
So, when the First Eleven was chosen without a single Igbo – not even the SGF – with all the speculations – Ogbonnaya Onu, Chris Ngige, George Muoghalu, I was in the least surprised. The infamous 97-5 per cent statement, only accentuated what I know already.
What has the Buhari government not done to show the Igbo people pepper? Well, if it suits you, you may join in arguing that the hundreds of Igbo youths that stopped bullets with their bare chests during the Operation Python Dance (OPD), did so purely as the consequences of military exercises.
Those shot at the Onitsha Head Bridge, including the survivors traced to the various hospitals, where they were receiving treatment and forcefully yanked off hospital beds and similarly dismissed or those mowed down inside a secondary school in Aba while conducting prayers or most recently, those at Emene, some of which were captured in video clips, or either fake stories or they brought the calamity on themselves for daring the government, you may also join in saying. But these are the undeniable legacies the Igbo particularly have suffered under the Buhari era.
At best, like some others, are wont to do, point out the wonders Buhari is doing in Igbo land. Go ahead and tell fantastic stories of how all the federal roads in Igbo land under Buhari have been transformed into some of the world’s smoothest and fulsome highways. If that is not enough, point to the transformation of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport (AIIA) into the JFK, Heathrow or Almaktoum in Dubai, even without something as basic as a functional toilet. Go ahead and flaunt the Second Niger Bridge as the best thing to happen to Ndigbo since the Biafran Ogbunigwe or Ojukwu Bunker. They will all come to reckoning some day and every mouth would account.
But in the end, it turns out to one fact – Buhari is not pretending about anything, you are the one making the excuses, the one pretending for him. He has made his position known and has shown his hands.
Just as he has not pretended about his Igbo sentiments, he has also not hidden where his real love lies and the place of his Fulani people and the future he wants for them. Of course, before Buhari there have been other Presidents of Fulani extraction. So, he is not the only one. But you could judge the place of Nigeria, including the Igbo in the governments of the late Shehu Shagari from Sokoto and Umaru Yar’Adua from Buhari’s Katsina and determine whether you ever saw them as Fulani.
Under the two previous Presidents, perhaps outside the usual depiction of being dexterous with power, did anyone see the Fulani beyond a unique, benign and friendly race to contemplate the fiendish, merciless and bestial bloodhounds that now prowl the landscape of Nigeria, as they are presently being perceived?
Of course, the pointers are simple and the arguments of discerning Nigerians are quite clear. Do to one as you do to the other. Cikena! They’re not expecting more than what has already been seen with regards to others who are not Fulani. If Igbo youths could be so brutally and wantonly cut down for mere agitations without carrying guns, the Ak-47-wielding Fulani accused of these mindless carnages all over Nigeria, should similarly be dealt with if not more.
If you could quickly arrange for the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), which no member has ever been caught with a cutlass not to talk of a gun, but placards and high-sounding words to be declared a terrorist organisation by the courts, take a similar route for the Fulani herdsmen, declared as a the fourth most powerful terror group in the world. Simple!
But what do you have? Fulani people don’t carry guns. What they carry are machetes with which they cut grasses for their cows and sticks to guide their animals, is the line you hear from the President at all times, home and away. Yet, these are the same people that chase farmers away in Plateau communities and occupy their lands, the same that have made it impossible for farmers to go and grow their crops, the ones that kidnapped Chief Olu Falae and Killed Funke Olakurin, daughter of Reuben Fasoranti. These obvious, eyewitness evidences are not enough to convince the President that these people no longer carry machetes and sticks, but deadly weapons.
But, who is to tell him? Politicians, who have created the insidious catchphrase of herder-farmer clashes? Imagine calling a situation where a man comes into your house, and kills your relations, chases you away and forbids you from returning a clash. Imagine going to your traditional ruler and all he could tell you is go and learn to live in peace with the same man!
So, the President does as he pleases, sets his agenda without pretending about it and leaves his goons with the rest. They are the ones that would sharpen the raw edges or smoothen it to fit into the narratives. They are the ones that would do the pretending.
So, when a RotimiChibuike Amaechi, goes to build the Transport Institute in Daura, the President’s town and then caps it all by borrowing $1.9billion from China to extend rail lines to Niger Republic, when major towns in Nigeria, including South East, his next door neighbours are yet to be connected and feign ignorance of the arguments, he is merely pretending on behalf of the President.
Similarly, when Alhaji Lai Muhammed, with klieg lights and television cameras beamed on him tells his compatriots unabashedly that the new water bill, has nothing to do with the now forgotten RUGA or cattle colony, don’t think he doesn’t know the truth or that he is convinced himself, don’t imagine that he is not seized of the facts, he is merely pretending for the President.
The only time Buhari may have pretended was when he was seeking power. That was when he employed the notorious Takiya, the Fulani tactics of deception with which the defeated the Hausa centuries ago and with which the Alimis vanquished the Afonjas in Ilorin. That’s when he needed it.
Unfortunately, though Ayo Fayose and some other street-wise Nigerians who saw through him were shouting and warning the rest of the country, the Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubus and his co-travellers were blind to it. It may well be that the Jagaban Borgu, et al, are already testing the bitter pills of the Hausa and Afonja descendants.
But, if the morning foretells the day, many members at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting where that treacherous decision to extend the railway to Niger Republic, when the entire Igbo land, a major ethnic group in Nigeria, including their own voices at FEC, plus the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo and the Southern component of that meeting will also learn the hard way, what others before them learnt. If not sooner, it’ll be later. But they surely will, as surely as death.
For the whip with which the first wife was flogged, is still hanging somewhere on the wall. For now, let them keep on. After Niger, there is also Chad and Sudan. They need to be connected too. And when it happens, let them find the words. For they will be the ones expected to do the needful – Pretend! Pretend for Buhari– The Tiny Voice!