By Benjamin Opene
What qualities define a statesman? Most people would agree that having the requisite leadership skills, experience, a selfless disposition, the ability to be just and fair, and all other qualities that command the respect of fellow compatriots should earn any tried and tested leader the tag of a statesman or stateswoman.
Sadly, going by the rhetoric used by Nigeria’s president, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, it is obvious that these important qualities are lacking in the country’s current leadership. At no time during the country’s 60 years of existence as an independent country has there been such a desperate need for a rallying national figure that would unite the discordant regions, rather than divide them. This president is clearly not up to the task of piloting the affairs of State and should urgently consider stepping aside.
President Buhari’s actions or inactions indicate his primary allegiance lies only with a specific section of Nigeria; his ethnic Fulani kin. And the consequences of such a bigoted approach to governance are already playing out across Nigeria. Buhari’s specific bias against anything Biafra was manifest in the now deleted tweet he shared on Twitter. Perhaps the SouthEast region should now thank Twitter for inadvertently bringing to global attention the killings and human rights abuses already occurring at a massive scale within the region and elsewhere in Nigeria!
During an interview with State House media correspondents on Thursday 10th June 2021, the president reiterated his intentions of applying maximum military force to quell the increasing agitation for Biafra. He however failed to explain why he wouldn’t apply the same violent hardline approach when dealing with more dangerous terrorist groups such as Boko Haram, Islaminc State Province West Africa [ISTWA], and the increasingly violent Fulani bandits who are wreaking havoc against indigenous communities across Nigeria.
Although the security challenges facing Nigeria are by no means limited to the Biafra heartland of the South East and South-south regions alone, there has clearly been a deliberate escalation of the volatile situation there. There continues to be this massive deployment of military personnel and equipment to the region. Currently, there are widespread human rights abuses and extrajudicial killings occurring at the predominantly Igbo homeland on a daily basis. It seems that Buhari’s Government is sparing no efforts at provoking an all out war against Biafrans.
There is now the case where the police and military harass people who regularly get stopped and searched on the streets. The discovery of “enemy apps” like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube on any digital device would lead to further investigations into the device owner’s social media contacts. There can also be much more severe consequences if the search reveals any personal or remote affiliations to pro-Biafra groups [like shared digital videos or materials]. Surely, the international community ought to be raising human rights concerns in a situation whereby current laws in Nigeria now equate the support for Biafran self-determination with allegiance to, and direct involvement with a terrorist group.
Earlier this week, we had gory images of an Igbo community who had been attacked overnight. Dead bodies of slain children, women and men were piled up at the town square. The horrendous act was committed by armed Fulani bandits who were able to decimate an entire Igbo community without any intervention by the police or military. This same situation has been replicated across several other communities in Nigeria, and the response from Buhari always remains the same; to do absolutely NOTHING!
But a particularly disturbing image that circulated on Thursday 10 June 2021, was so shocking that it prompted this article and the plea for an immediate intervention by the rest of humanity! It was an image of a father clutching the burnt out remains of his infant child who was killed and set alight together with other residents of their community. As usual, the few surviving victims pointed the finger of accusation at the usual culprits, the Fulani bandits – of the very same ethnicity as General Buhari.
Nigerians already constitute large refugee communities in neigbouring African countries as people flee the unfolding genocide. But as thousands flee, there are millions without the means to do so. We must therefore be their voice and demand for an end to the death and destruction. Enough is enough !
Nigerian communities in the diaspora therefore urge the international community to take more action against the oppressive and tyrannical regime of Major General Muhammadu Buhari and to hold them to account. As it is already clear that the various ethnic nationalities now want out of Nigeria, it is important that the country’s leadership must approach this critical moment with as much sincerity and openness. The Federal Government must acknowlegde that the convocation and immidiate implementation of any agreements reached during any national dialogue should be the way forward.