Why Buhari Should Listen to People like Abubakar Umar 

Why Buhari Should Listen to People like Abubakar Umar

By Azuka Onwuka

Col. Abubakar Umar (retd.) as a military officer

Many people have reacted to the Federal Government’s application to the court to revoke the bail conditions of Nnamdi Kanu and order his re-arrest. But the most striking was the view of former governor of Kaduna State, Col Abubakar Umar (retd.), who advised President Muhammadu Buhari on how to solve the problem of agitations in Nigeria.

In his article published in the Daily Trust of August 31, Umar started by quoting Shiekh Usman Danfodio thus:

“One of the swiftest ways of destroying a kingdom is to give preference to one particular tribe over another, or to show favour to one group of people rather than another, and to draw near those who should be kept away and keep away those that should be drawn near”.

Umar noted that the plan of the Federal Government to have Kanu rearrested was “both dangerous and politically unwise.” He added: “Mazi Kanu is not a common criminal as the government appears to think. On the contrary, he is a bitter young man fighting for a fairer deal for his Igbo kinsmen. His seeming militant approach is the result of the strong arm tactics with which the Federal Government deals with him.

“His long incarceration before a court granted him bail testifies to this. Like Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, many Igbos genuinely feel marginalized since they belong to the category of those who gave Mr. President only 5% of their votes and appeared to have fallen out of his favour. President Buhari’s insistence that the unity of Nigeria is a sealed issue is a nationalistic wish and is no surprise coming from a veteran of civil war fought to keep the country one. However, this does not take into account the mood of the nation as indicated by the growing agitations for self-determination, restructuring and many other similar demands.”

Umar, who is Chairman, Movement for Unity & Progress, emphasised the importance of having a united Nigeria but asked for certain issues be noted. His words: “Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, Adeyanju and other similar agitators might seem like felons or even anarchists. But as often happens over humanity’s turbulent history, appearances can be deceitful. One man’s terrorist could well be another man’s freedom fighter.

“In any event, despite what the security agencies might feel, there is nothing to fear from Mazi Kanu. He and his compatriots are people who love their country dearly and are willing to take a risk with their lives while blowing a whistle on some of our bad habits.
It will be a tragic mistake to treat them as common criminals. It is evident that they are fighting a cause millions consider entirely legitimate. Until our democracy learns to accommodate dissent, vigorous, robust, even if inconvenient, it will be incapable of serving our common good.”

Umar’s piece was filled with empathy, which is lacking in most Nigerian leaders and citizens on issues that relate to people from other ethnic groups. Most Nigerians simply see things only from their ethnic points of view. They think of only how things should favour their own people. They see the worst in others and care very little about how others are treated. They see the revealed part of an iceberg without knowing that there is a bigger part underneath, which sustains the visible part, and for one to appreciate the iceberg in full one has to consider both the part below and the part above water.

There was also deep wisdom in Umar’s piece. While many people see the agitations as a disease, he saw them rightly as symptoms of a disease. For one to understand them and curb them, one has to cure the disease first, so that the symptoms can disappear. But President Muhammadu Buhari and many Nigerians see the agitations in the country as a disease that needs to be attacked frontally and eradicated.

Ironically, the more they attack these symptoms with the hope of eradicating them, the more the symptoms appear and spread. And that is dangerous for the nation. The reason is that those who assume they are on a divine mission to save Nigeria from trouble makers may end up inadvertently plunging Nigeria into a crisis through their wrong approach.

The words and actions of the President since his inauguration two years ago point to an unimpressive level of emotional intelligence quotient. He regularly misses opportunities to take advantage of opportunities to unite Nigerians. Last week while Benue State was submerged by flood, the President travelled to his hometown where he was receiving his old classmates. In the United States, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were busy making personal donations as well as physically attending to victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas. Seeing their President and Vice President helping in clearing the debris and comforting survivors does wonders to the psyche of the people. It shows the people that the leaders and the nation care about them. That makes the people to also care about contributing to the growth and welfare of the United States.

Last week too after the meeting of the Southeast leaders with Nnamdi Kanu to drop his agitation for the exit of Biafra from Nigeria, the newspapers published a story about the restructuring that took place at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, with 15 CEOs swapped, 10 of them from the North, five from the South, with none from the South-east. With this recurrent attitude of partiality and exclusion from the administration of Buhari, how can the South-east leaders convince any of those agitating for separation from Nigeria that it is in their best interest to remain in a united Nigeria, when the words and actions of the President frequently make it clear that Nigeria has first-class citizens and second-class citizens?

Two weeks ago the United Nations released a statement asking the federal government to arrest and prosecute the Northern Youths that gave the Igbos October 1 deadline to relocate from the North. The Federal Government has not even bothered to arrest them, charge them and allow them bail as it has done to Kanu and others. Rather the FG said that it was searching for the Arewa Youths that were granting live interviews on different television stations, but later said that it would not arrest the Arewa Youths because they said they were misquoted.

Reggae musician, Peter Tosh, sang: “Everybody is talking about peace, none is talking about justice. I don’t want no peace; I need equal rights and justice.” He implied that the cart should not be put before the horse, for the cart cannot draw the horse. The horse should always be put before the cart. Once equal rights and justice are implemented, peace will automatically fall in place. But harping on peace and unity will lead to achieving the proverbial peace of the grave yard, where there is peace all over the cemetery but all is not well there, and nobody wants to visit the cemetery to enjoy the peace there.

Every person should be under the law. Anybody who breaks the law should be made to face the law. But the leader of the nation must ensure that nobody is treated differently before the law because of tongue or creed or political affiliation. Once the people are certain that they are assured of justice at all times, there will be less motivation to agitate or result to self-help.

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