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The wisdom in Danjuma’s intervention

The wisdom in Danjuma’s intervention
March 29
16:37 2018

Partisans, political hirelings and ethnic apologists have taken serial swipes at the former Chief of Army Staff and Minister of Defence, Gen Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, for that shocking outburst at the convocation of the Taraba State University in Jalingo last weekend.

The one-time Chief of Army Staff ruffled feathers when he called on Nigerians to defend themselves against the attacks from herdsmen suggesting that “the armed forces are not neutral, they collude, they collude, they collude with the armed bandits, they kill people, they kill Nigerians, they facilitate their movement, they cover them… If you are depending on the armed forces to stop the killings, you will die one by one. This ethnic cleansing must stop in Taraba State. It must stop in all the states of Nigeria, otherwise Somalia would be a child’s play.”

Of course, Danjuma has received support from many quarters as well but most of that has come from leaders of the various groups whose people have been at the receiving end of the incessant marauding that the elder statesman decried and warned Nigerians about on Saturday.

Here is a checklist of those who saw a wise man’s counsel in his intervention: Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State, perpetual critic of President Muhammadu Buhari and first state governor to seize the initiative and sign an anti-grazing law after herdsmen attacked a community in his state and killed two people; Senator Shehu Sani, a regular voice of opposition within the ruling All Progressives Congress; a former Minister of Steel, Paul Unongo, one of the leaders of Benue, one of the states which have felt the most impact of the herdsmen attacks and someone who made the same call a couple of weeks ahead of Danjuma; the Yoruba socio-political and cultural group, Afenifere, a self-determination group relentless in its call for the restructuring of Nigeria; Indigenous People of Biafra, a separatist group insisting on the Igbo’s right to cease relations with Nigeria and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, IPOB’s precursor in the quest for Biafra.

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Sadly, the powers that be, who should take this matter seriously, investigate and assure Nigerians of their safety and the neutrality of the armed forces have been largely dismissive. True, there were attempts to make Nigerians see Danjuma’s comments as unfortunate and fallacious by the duo of Minister of Defence, Brig. Gen. Mansur Dan-Ali(retd.) and Brig. Gen. Texas Chukwu, spokesperson for the Army, these efforts were not only tentative, they run in the face of facts on the ground.

Dan-Ali, whose spokesperson described Danjuma’s utterances as uncalled for and “an invitation to anarchy, “which should be disregarded by well-meaning Nigerians was the same one who gave excuses for the attacks last January?
Just about the time that Benue and Taraba states buried over 100 victims of the attacks, the minister told newsmen that: “These people are Nigerians. It is just like going to block the shoreline, does that make sense to you? These are the remote causes of the crisis. But the immediate cause is the grazing law. These people are Nigerians and we must learn to live together with one another. Communities and other people must learn how to accept foreigners within their enclaves, finish!”

The man who was appointed to keep all Nigerians safe by this statement literarily approved the right of herdsmen to fight state governments for legitimately enacting laws aimed at the securing their people!
And for the military, it is inexplicable that killings have not stopped in the North-Central Zone in spite of the much publicised Operation Ex-Ayem Akpatuma. While it took the military about four weeks to accomplish Operation Python Dance II and terminate criminal activities like kidnappings, armed robberies and the like in the South-East, Fulani herdsmen are still on the rampage in Benue, Taraba and Plateau states, killing, converting and appropriating people and properties at will.

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In addition to the manifest ineffective state of military operations, different interests in Taraba State in particular have expressed lack of confidence in the operation of the military. On Tuesday, Governor Darius Ishaku, contrary to claims by the spokesperson for the Minister of Defence, said he reported suspicions of misconduct by military men to the President and military authorities without consequence.

A statement by Ishaku’s Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity, Bala Abu, on Tuesday said, inter alia, “The governor informed the Presidency about the concerns raised by some traditional rulers in the state concerning the influx of Fulani militia and about the attacks on their communities. Letters of complaints from the traditional rulers whose communities suffered from these attacks were also attached and forwarded to the presidency… Copies of this letter were sent to the National Security Adviser, Chief of Staff to the President and the Inspector General of Police.” How we do not realise that this seeming abandonment of responsibilities by the state has already imposed a desperate state of self-help on the people. That it can only be a matter of time before the dragon of vengeance borne of a desire for survival and personal dignity is unleashed and anarchy becomes the order of the day. I see Danjuma’s warning on Saturday as a red flag that should urgently point the leaders of this tiring and tiresome union called Nigeria in the direction of self and national salvage. With this palpable level of discontent, the Nigerian authorities should take the retired General’s comment with all possible seriousness.
Added to the seeming universal level of public angst against the military in Taraba and neighbouring states, there are a few other reasons Danjuma should not be dismissed just like that.

One is that given the military post he once occupied and associations he has across board in Nigeria, the old man must be privy to some information that Nigerians should not wave off. In addition to this, Danjuma, unlike people like former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Prof. Wole Soyinka and former military dictator Ibrahim Babangida hardly makes the type of public comments that has continued to reverberate nationally almost one week after. That President Buhari, who is the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces has not called a meeting of his security chiefs to probe these grave allegations is therefore as alarming as the prospect of the truth in the allegations.
But Nigerians behave like a nation in amnesia. Danjuma spoke about ethnic cleansing and Nigeria’s potential descent into full scale genocide and civil war and the reaction of the authorities and a lot of Nigerians give the impression that this is a far-fetched proposal. But observant Nigerians must realise that we have moved farther off the cohesion mark in the last couple of years possibly than ever.

We should also never forget our fears before the 2015 general elections. We spoke so much about an American advisory that said Nigeria might become a failed state. This 2012 report by a number of American experts on sub-Saharan Africa, working under the auspices of America’s National Intelligence Council suggested that Africa faced a number of threats- the most important of which “would be the outright collapse of Nigeria. While currently Nigeria’s leaders are locked in a bad marriage that all dislike but dare not leave, there are possibilities that could disrupt the precarious equilibrium in Abuja… Indeed, an overwhelming majority of terrorism in Africa will be caused by indigenous groups waging war against their own or neighbouring governments or against other population groups, defined by religion or ethnicity.”

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Our current state not only now manifests all these symptoms, elite dissonance is beginning to gain ground. Sometimes, when the common people get disgruntled and angry with the state of affairs, the selfish interests of the elite across ethnic divides absorb tension and prevent a conflagration that may consume such a nation. But when the elites, even elders who should be the conscience of the nation begin to make statements like Danjuma made on Saturday, that country is moving towards the trenches and only the patriotic leaders can save the day. Can Nigeria boast of those?
Twitter @niranadedokun

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