In one of the moments that I chose to be quiet for some meaningful minutes, I discovered, though not surprisingly, that in today’s Nigeria it is such a herculean task to enjoy absolute quietude the way one would desire to. Indeed, it was not easy, within this period to avoid punctuating my tranquil rumination with staccato thoughts of the debilitating mood of the nation. Nigeria is on edge and everyone who holds the green passport, whether living within or outside the country, has continued to show signs of being edgy.
Gradually, our good old country is slipping into chaos, something never experienced since the end of the civil war hostilities that ended in no victor, no vanquished.
The Boko Haram menace was the first major threat to national security to raise its ugly head since the present unbroken democratic dispensation. It defied every effort to nip it in the bud and actually sank its taproot in the northern part of the country, bringing along with it its cousins called ISIS, ISWA and the like.
The Boko Haram exploits snowballed into the kidnapping of Chibok school girls in Borno State, an incident believed to have been one of those that denied Goodluck Ebele Jonathan a second term as president in 2015. Since Jonathan left and held a party to celebrate his exit from Aso Rock, neither his successors nor Nigerians have rested. In addition to Boko Haram, the nation acquired bandits and killer herdsmen who seek mainly to dispossess people of their land and make them refugees.
Then, a series of controversial court judgments on election cases that looked like juvenile decisions but proved to be deep in meaning. Lopsided executive appointments at the federal level which heavily came in favour of a particular section of the country also had a smouldering effect on the political arena.
And counter arguments follow that Jonathan did the same thing. The nation will not be in a hurry to forget the vexed issue of rural grazing area (RUGA) arrangement of the federal government which had met with vehement opposition of the south and middle belt zones of the country. The rejected proposal was quickly followed with the national water resources bill that had a semblance of RUGA.
Wow! Shall we shy away from the rave of the moment – known and unknown gun men, IPOB, ESN, Oduduwa republic movement, Miyetti Allah show of power, et al, all happening within a few years?
Interestingly, the president maintained a sturdy and un-golden silence in the face of all occurrences, allowing “the presidency” to do the talking. I was later to learn that there was a difference between the two, from the mouth of a generalissimo in the present federal cabinet. The picture of Nigeria at a point was that of a house of commotion where the father appeared indifferent to altercations and missiles flying around the house. All eyes were focussed on the President to speak out because the nation was drifting and non-state actors appeared to be taking over control. Then, suddenly, the president himself came up on a national television interview. The old soldier left no one in doubt that his combatant nature had hardly left him, although he had earlier professed a born-again posture at Chatham House in 2015 to convince the British that he had changed from a despot to a democrat. Old soldier never dies!
When asked what he could do to make Nigeria a more competitive and a more attractive destination for foreign investments, the general let lose his anger at the young people he thought were bent on removing him when they marched the streets during the EndSARS protest, rambling further about the composition of the federal executive council and delving into the matter of joblessness and those who “may die without even a job!” I felt pity for the septuagenarian who had gone through so much stress in hospitals and, here, he is left with a chaotic nation to handle.
There again is the problem. The president was unable to show that he was abreast of the times when he insisted on grazing routes of a century ago. The president said that he had asked the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) to go and dig out the gazette of the 1st Republic where the grazing routes and areas were mapped out, according to him. Grazing routes created by who and leading to where? Shockingly, the father of our nation could not appreciate that land was fast depleting with the rapid population growth, that land holdings system differs among the diverse groups that make up the country called Nigeria and so every shade of men must be accommodated in any arrangement to resolve the farmers-herders clashes, that the Land Use Act in the Federation grants use of land by government only on grounds of overriding public interest of the landowners in their respective states.
He failed to recognise that ranching and other modern methods of herding have numerous advantages to the cow, the owner and the aggrieved owners of farms frequently pillaged by the herdsmen and their cattle. He expressed anger that the South rejected open grazing. The age old axiom that the right of one man to swing his arms ends where the nose of his neighbour begins still stands as a veritable measure for peaceful coexistence.
Going back to 1st republic laws and gazettes, somehow, opens a debate as to whether we should return to the 1st republic constitution. Should the nation be moving forward or backward?
What, however, was incomprehensible was the description of the IPOB as a dot in a circle. I came away convinced that the President had some difficulty differentiating between the organisation called Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Igbo as a people. The fact is that IPOB is only a group seeking the realisation of a new nation from Nigeria.
Although their ambition is premised upon a few reasons, it cannot be assumed that their demand is the consensus of the entire Igbo race, just as the Boko Haram cannot be seen as representative of the northern outlook. That group has not minced words in saying that they would not apply force of arms to realise their objectives.
Time without number some Igbo and non-Igbo elements have advanced Biafra as a metaphor for perceived injustices and unresolved grievances rather than a struggle for territory. If the president and the Presidency could view it from that prism, then no one would be seeing the dot in the circle, neither shall we all fail to see an entire circle without dots whatsoever.
On a Candid Note, we shall then relegate the dot to the world of punctuation where it belongs, or consign it to the language of the Internet where we could simply say, for instance, ndigbo.com and no more than that.