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‘Collective Thinking, Dialogue’ll, Solve Nigeria’s Problem’ Obasanjo Says In Letter To Buhari

Former President, Dr. Olusegun Obasanjo, recently wrote
another open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari calling for urgent actions to
tackle Nigeria’s challenges. The letter released by Kehinde Akinyemi, his
Special Assistant on Media, reads:

I am constrained to write to you this open letter. I decided
to make it an open letter because the issue is very weighty and must be greatly
worrisome to all concerned Nigerians and that means all right-thinking
Nigerians and those resident in Nigeria. Since the issue is of momentous
concern to all well-meaning and all right-thinking Nigerians, it must be of
great concern to you, and collective thinking and dialoguing is the best way of
finding an appropriate and adequate solution to the problem. The contents of
this letter, therefore, should be available to all those who can help in
proffering effective solutions for the problem of insecurity in the land.

One of the spinoffs and accelerants is the misinformation
and disinformation through the use of fake news. A number of articles, in
recent days, have been attributed to me by some people who I believe may be
seeking added credence and an attentive audience for their opinions and
view-points. As you know very well, I will always boldly own what I say and
disown what is put into my mouth.

But the issue I am addressing here is very serious; it is
the issue of life and death for all of us and for our dear country, Nigeria.
This issue can no longer be ignored, treated with nonchalance, swept under the
carpet or treated with cuddling glove. The issue is hitting at the foundation
of our existence as Nigerians and fast eroding the root of our Nigerian
community. I am very much worried and afraid that we are on the precipice and
dangerously reaching a tipping point where it may no longer be possible to hold
danger at bay.

 Without being immodest,
as a Nigerian who still bears the scar of the Nigerian civil war on my body and
with a son who bears the scar of fighting Boko Haram on his body, you can
understand, I hope, why I am so concerned. When people are desperate and feel
that they cannot have confidence in the ability of government to provide
security for their lives and properties, they will take recourse to anything
and everything that can guarantee their security individually and collectively.

For over ten years, for four of which you have been the
captain of the ship, Boko Haram has menacingly ravaged the land and in spite of
government’s claim of victory over Boko Haram, the potency and the activities
of Boko Haram, where they are active, remain undiminished, putting lie to
government’s claim. The recent explanation of the Chief of Army Staff for
non-victory due to lack of commitment and lack of motivation on the part of
troops bordering on sabotage speaks for itself.

Say what you will, Boko Haram is still a daily issue of
insecurity for those who are victimised, killed, maimed, kidnapped, raped, sold
into slavery and forced into marriage and for children forcibly recruited into
carrying bombs on them to detonate among crowds of people to cause maximum
destructions and damage. And Boko Haram will not go away on the basis of sticks
alone, carrots must overweigh sticks. How else do you deal with issues such as
only about 50% literacy in North-East with over 70% unemployment?

Herdsmen/farmers crises and menace started with government
treating the issue with cuddling glove instead of hammer. It has festered and
spread. Today, it has developed into banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery and
killings all over the country. The unfortunate situation is that the
criminality is being perceived as a ‘Fulani’ menace unleashed by Fulani elite
in the different parts of the country for a number of reasons but even more,
unfortunately, many Nigerians and non-Nigerians who are friends of Nigeria
attach vicarious responsibility to you as a Fulani elite and the current
captain of the Nigeria ship.

Perception may be as potent as reality at times. Whatever
may be the grievances of Fulanis, if any, they need to be put out in the open
and their grievances, if legitimate, be addressed; and if other ethnic groups
have grievances, let them also be brought out in the open and addressed through
debate and dialogue.

The main issue, if I may dare say, is poor management or
mismanagement of diversity which, on the other hand, is one of our greatest and
most important assets. As a result, very onerous cloud is gathering. And rain
of destruction, violence, disaster and disunity can only be the outcome.
Nothing should be taken for granted, the clock is ticking with the cacophony of
dissatisfaction and disaffection everywhere in and outside the country.

The Presidency and the Congress in the US have signalled to
us to put our house in order. The House of Lords in the UK had debated the
Nigerian security situation. We must understand and appreciate the
significance, implication and likely consequences of such concerns and
deliberations. No one can stop hate speech, violent agitation and smouldering
violent agitation if he fans the embers of hatred, disaffection and violence.
It will continue to snowball until it is out of control. A stitch in time saves
nine, goes the old wise saying.

With the death of Funke, Chief Fasoranti’s daughter, some
sympathetic Nigerian groups are saying “enough is enough”. Prof. Anya, a
distinguished Nigerian merit Laureate, has this to say “We can no longer say
with certainty that we have a nation”. Niger-Delta leaders, South-Eastern
leaders, Middle-Belt leaders and Northern Elders Forum have not remained quiet.
Different ordinary Nigerians at home and abroad are calling for different
measures to address or ameliorate the situation. All the calls and cries can
only continue to be ignored at the expense of Nigerian unity, if not its
continued existence.

To be explicit and without equivocation, Mr. President and
General, I am deeply worried about four avoidable calamities: 1. abandoning
Nigeria into the hands of criminals who are all being suspected, rightly or
wrongly, as Fulanis and terrorists of Boko Haram type; 2. spontaneous or
planned reprisal attacks against Fulanis which may inadvertently or advertently
mushroom into pogrom or Rwanda-type genocide that we did not believe could
happen and yet it happened. 3. similar attacks against any other tribe or
ethnic group anywhere in the country initiated by rumours, fears, intimidation
and revenge capable of leading to pogrom; 4. violent uprising beginning from
one section of the country and spreading quickly to other areas and leading to
dismemberment of the country.

It happened to Yugoslavia not too long ago. If we do not act
now, one or all of these scenarios may happen. We must pray and take effective
actions at the same time. The initiative is in the hands of the President of
the nation, but he cannot do it alone. In my part of the world, if you are
sharpening your cutlass and a mad man comes from behind to take the cutlass
from you, you need other people’s assistance to have your cutlass back without
being harmed. The mad men with serious criminal intent and terrorism as core
value have taken cutlass of security.

The need for assistance to regain control is obviously
compelling and must be embraced now.

A couple of weeks ago at a public lecture, I had said, among
other things, that: “In all these issues of mobilisation for national unity,
stability, security, cooperation, development, growth and progress, there is no
consensus. Like in the issue of security, government should open up discussion,
debate and dialogue as part of consultation at different levels and the outcome
of such deliberations should be collated to form inputs into a national
conference to come up with the solution that will effectively deal with the
issues and lead to rapid development, growth and progress which will give us a
wholesome society and enhanced living standard and livelihood in an inclusive
and shared society.

 It will be a national
programme. We need unity of purpose and nationally accepted strategic roadmap
that will not change with whims and caprices of any government. It must be
owned by the citizens, people’s policy and strategy implemented by the
government no matter its colour and leaning.

Some of the groups that I will suggest to be contacted are:
traditional rulers, past heads of service (no matter how competent or
incompetent they have been and how much they have contributed to the mess we
are in), past heads of para-military organisations, private sector, civil
society, community leaders particularly in the most affected areas, present and
past governors, present and past local government leaders, religious leaders,
past Heads of State, past intelligence chiefs, past Heads of Civil Service and
relevant current and retired diplomats, members of opposition and any groups
that may be deemed relevant.”

The President must be seen to be addressing this issue with
utmost seriousness and with maximum dispatch and getting all hands on deck to
help. If there is failure, the principal responsibility will be that of the
President and no one else. We need cohesion and concentration of effort and
maximum force – political, economic, social, psychological and military – to
deal successfully with the menace of criminality and terrorism separately and
together.   Blame game among own forces
must be avoided. It is debilitating and only helpful to our adversary. We
cannot dither anymore. It is time to confront this threat headlong and in a manner
that is holistic, inclusive and purposeful.

For the sake of Nigeria and Nigerians, I pray that God may
grant you, as our President, the wisdom, the understanding, the political will
and the courage to do what is right when it is right and without fear or
favour.

May God save, secure, protect and bless Nigeria. May He open
to us a window of opportunity that we can still use to prevent the worst
happening. As we say in my village, “May God forbid bad thing”.

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