It is now apparent that President Mohammadu Buhari has betrayed the hope of millions of Nigerians who hoped and yearned for a president that will be a symbol of national unity and will unite the country fractured by severe ethnic, religious and regional tensions especially in the periods leading to the 2015 general elections. Rather than heal and ameliorate such divisions, the President has, by his words and actions, deepened the divisions and is now feeding the perception that he is an ethnic champion incapable of being a true national statesman. At no time since the end of the civil war is Nigeria more divided and fractured along ethnic and regional lines than it is now. This has unleashed centrifugal forces on the country like never before and is feeding the predictions of naysayers that the current president may preside over the disintegration of the country.
If the President’s unfortunate comment at the United State’s Institute of Peace on July 22, 2015 that he cannot “in all honesty” treat constituents who gave him 97 percent of votes equally with constituencies that gave him 5 percent is seen as a Freudian slip, then his filling of his kitchen cabinet with people from just one part of the country, the gradual filling of all top security positions by people from the same section of the country, the treatment of the marauding and killer-Fulani herdsmen with kid gloves while at the same time sending the army to harass and intimidate a whole section of the country for the views of a few cannot be so excused.
We wholeheartedly condemn the current operation Python Dance 2 taking place in the SouthEast and the use of the military to harass, intimidate and torture people in Abia state. That some people advocate for secession is absolutely no excuse for the army to be unleashed on them to perpetrate the kind of evil, footages of which were captured and are being shared on social media. The right to self-determination is an inalienable right and Nnamdi Kanu and his supporters are within their constitutional rights to express their views so long as it is peaceful.
If the Nigerian government has any problem with the activities of the said Nmadi Kanu and his IPOB organisation, they should approach the courts and not send soldiers to surround his house and cause mayhem in the South-East on that account. He was granted bail by a court and it is only the courts, not the government, that can decide whether he has violated his bail conditions.
Truth is, the President has failed to appreciate the complexity of the country and the need to carry along and give a sense of belonging to every part and people of the country. The president may not be sectional or does not deliberately choose to be. But his actions are feeding that perception and that is where he and his handlers and minders should be most concerned. His actions currently portray him as a divisive leader who actively hates a section of the country he is supposed to lead.
Perception generally need not be true. But that is why it is particularly dangerous because it is not open to factual verification. That is also why the president and his minders should have avoided feeding such perceptions in any way and working actively to demonstrate his Pan-Nigerianness. Currently, his actions do not in any way match his words that the unity of the country is non-negotiable. Leading ethnic champions and bigots have capitalised on his words and actions since coming to office to make their cases for the disintegration of the country.
Clearly, the president’s inability to build bridges across all parts of the country is hurting the country and giving ammunition to ethnic champions to continue to call for and work for mobilisations along ethnic lines while actively working to subvert the goal of building a united and strong nation.
It is time the president take a step back and evaluate his actions and how he relates to all parts of the country. He was elected to united and move the country forward. That task requires unity of purpose. And now that the unity of the country is being lost, the overarching goal or task of moving the country forward is being jeopardised.