By Adrian Awoyele
I read Pa Ayo Adebanjo’s interview in The Punch newspaper on 25 February with so much relish. But it was the elder statesman’s submission on President Muhammadu Buhari and his administration that caught my attention.
It is wise that when an elder speaks, the younger generation listens. This is because, not only does Pa Adebanjo have loads of experience and wisdom but also because he has a vast knowledge of Nigeria, past and present.
It is with that respect that I would like to tackle the issues Pa Adebanjo raised in his submissions not just because it has to be done but because if it is not done it may be taken by a few who don’t have the clearer picture as “truth”
I’ll tackle the issues he raised one after the other, starting with President Muhammadu Buhari’s inaction on herdsmen.
What then is being done about security? The approach of the government has been to deploy mobile police forces to troubled areas and also both the army and airforce, the Nigerian Army formations and units in Benue State for example, especially 72 Special Forces Battalion, have consistently maintained Forward Operating Bases at the flash areas covering Guma, Logo, Katsina-Ala and Agatu Local Government Areas.
The operation has the generic name Operation MESA, but it is nicknamed Operation ZENDA in Benue State. The Army had within the last few days scaled up the size of troops and equipment in Agatu, Guma, Katsina-Ala and Logo Local Government Areas of Benue State.
The Army also recently deployed troops at Awe and Tunga Local Government Areas of Nasarawa State, in order to monitor and block the gaps that were presumed to be used as staging points by armed herdsmen to attack communities in Benue State.
Additionally, troops of 93 Battalion, Takum in Taraba State, also occupy blocking positions as well as maintain constant liaison with troops in Benue State.
Furthermore, the command and control structure of the Army formations and units in Benue and contiguous states have been reorganized.
Accordingly, more troops were deployed and the Commander 707 Special Forces Brigade was reassigned to Taraba State for effective command and control of troops operating in the entire Benue/Taraba general area. And next week, the Nigerian Army will flag-off Exercise AYEM AKPATUMA, to checkmate the activities of armed bandits and militias in Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa and environs.
The killings on herdsmen is condemnable no doubt but to say the Federal Government is aiding and abetting them is not true.
Only last week, the Benue State Government jailed three herdsmen for open grazing without an objection from the Federal Government, this is proof that Buhari’s government wants an end to the herdsmen debacle.
Not only has he deployed the Inspector General of police to Benue, he has deployed also droves mobile police forces, army and air force to troubled areas with a view to end the attacks but also to bring peace to these areas, but to stem further tide of the herdsmen menace on neighboring states.
This deployment as had been read in many national dailies has accounted for a drop in the aggression seen as regards the herdsmen issue
Worthy of note also is that President Buhari has set in motion a new Committee to rebuild communities affected by herdsmen-farmers violence, and in doing so he appointed His Excellency, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; which further shows the importance Buhari attaches to resolving the issue. The committee is expected among other things to find ways of providing welfare and other needed facilities to ameliorate the resultant effect of the crisis.
Like many Nigerians, Buhari’s appointment of northerners as security heads was raised by Pa Adebanjo. The argument he posited and this same line of reasoning has been raised by other persons without recourse to the fact that the hierarchy of these security institutions existed way before Buhari and if the hierarchy had these officers in cue should the president just jump the constituted authority because he wants to satisfy quota? Truth be told had all these high-ranking officers in the DSS, Police and Army were non-northerners would Buhari have simply promoted northerners and made them head?
Would he have promoted a Major in the Nigerian Army just because he was from Daura, Katsina state and made him Chief of Army Staff? I don’t think so. All these men were next in line for these appointments so they got it.
The case of the CJN is one of key reference, when it got to confirming Justice Walter Onnoghen, the president just towed the line because the current CJN was the next in line it didn’t matter whether he was from the South-South; it was the hierarchy that mattered not his place of ethnicity.
On the issue of Buhari’s integrity, it is pertinent to note that he inherited Nigeria in a bad state, given the maladministration of the previous government.
To put things right, he needed to start from the scratch. He needed to tackle the principalities and powers that had held sway and needed to put his feet down on some matters.
At Buharis inauguration Nigerias foreign reserve was at an all time low, that even the worlds global lending organisations advised that it was unhealthy to lend Nigeria any money. Quite a few nations were not interested doing any business in Nigeria. We were like a nation suffering from leprosy.
Today, Nigeria’s savings has since soared, trillions have been garnered from anti-corruption campaigns and agencies like JAMB have begun generating billions of naira for the economy, Nigerian Customs has generated all it did in over 7 years in under 2 years not to mention many others.
On restructuring, Pa Adebanjo said anybody opposing restructuring is an enemy of Nigerian unity. Quite frankly, I do not think this government is opposed to some of the issues raised on restructuring.
President Buhari himself set up a panel within the All Progressives Congress, APC, to dispense with the current pseudo-federal structure.
The panel made sweeping recommendations to save the fragile polity through true federalism.
Essentially, the APC Committee on True Federalism proposed the devolution of powers to the federating units and a measure of resource control. In line with this, it recommended state police, which is to operate “alongside the federal police” and each force with its own defined areas of authority. The committee views the current Exclusive Legislative List, which has 68 items, as a bastardisation of federalism. That is a good judgement.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has said more than once that he is support of having state police in Nigeria. He believes this will help improve the security measures that are already in place in Nigeria. Even President Buhari has never opposed restructuring, he only believes that the time for it is not now.
Like millions of Nigerians know, Buhari is not given to much talk, so if he keeps quiet on certain issues, people regard it as negligence or an I don’t care attitude.
Pa Adebanjo’s stance against President Buhari was long before he was elected President in 2015.
In his interview with Punch he said, “Before he (Tinubu) supported Buhari, I shouted. My interview was published: ‘Don’t vote for Buhari. If you vote for Buhari, you will regret it, particularly you people from the West’. They said I got money from (former President Goodluck) Jonathan. I said, ‘I know what you people don’t know’ because a lot of people, who were Buharists at that time, were between the ages of 30 and 40. All of the things I was recounting that Buhari is guilty of, they were not born (to witness) then (1983-1985); those who were born then were teenagers, so they couldn’t appreciate it.”
Perhaps, the elder statesman never gave President Buhari an opportunity to succeed. But more importantly, was the call for Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to resign because restructuring was not implemented.
Osinbajo is not only Buhari’s deputy but also one of the main players in this government.
He quelled the restive Niger Delta militants after holding meetings with them, he engineered creation of modular refineries in Nigeria and has repeatedly stated this government’s readiness to improve the general wellbeing of Nigerians.