Sectionalism As A Threat To National Security, By Majeed Dahiru

The numerous negative side effects of Buhari’s sectionalism are being felt across board. From a largely incompetent Federal Executive Council, to the absence of an economic management team, thereby leaving the nation’s economy in a limbo and drifting into recession with the heavy consequence of mass poverty among a large section of citizens.

Nepotism, tribalism, regionalism, cronyism and religious bigotry – collectively known as sectionalism – are at the roots of corruption. Sectionalism rewards mediocrity and relegates competent expertise because the yardstick is who knows you and not what you know. Sectionalism rewards complacency but punishes hard work because the index is where you are coming from, not being the first to arrive. Sectionalism has been the fundamental cause of Nigeria’s underdevelopment and inability to evolve into an egalitarian and prosperous modern nation. If corruption has national security implications then Buhari’s sectionalism is a threat to national security.

The Muhammadu Buhari administration has elevated sectionalism at the highest level of government to the highest it has ever been, perhaps since the General Sani Abacha military junta; a government in which president Buhari was a prominent part of. The entire kitchen cabinet of the president, the most powerful lever of government, where programmes and policies are incubated and hatched, is staffed and dominated by Nigerians of northern origin. These include his chief of staff, the secretary to the government of the federation, national security adviser, chief security officer, chief of protocol, and for the first time since 1999, the president’s aide de camp comes from his North West region. The few offices in the presidency that were given to Southerners are equally shared with northern counterparts. For example, Femi Adesina, a firm supporter of the president throughout his wandering years in the electioneering wilderness, was rewarded with the position of special adviser on media and publicity, yet he still has a very powerful if not dominant partner in Garba Shehu, a Northerner, who the president appointed as senior special assistant on media and publicity. The office of presidential liaison officer to the National Assembly was also split into two between Senator Ita Enang, a Southerner and Hon. Samaila Kawu, a Northerner. The president and his handlers have defended this manner of appointments on the fact that it is based on loyalty and trust; a position that is severally re-echoed by his devoted supporters. In trying hard to always rationalise the president’s every action, the hailing hailers this time have unknowingly, by putting up these excuses for his extreme sectionalism, indicted the president and called to question his nationalist credential, which is a vital requirement for the occupant of the highest office in the land.

The numerous negative side effects of Buhari’s sectionalism are being felt across board. From a largely incompetent Federal Executive Council, to the absence of an economic management team, thereby leaving the nation’s economy in a limbo and drifting into recession with the heavy consequence of mass poverty among a large section of citizens. Institutions of state have been deployed to serve sectional but not national interests. The broad consequences arising from the impunity and gross abuse of powers and privileges of “loyal and trusted” appointees, are the escalation of corrupt practices, leading to economic and financial crimes in high places.

The Fulani often justifies their violent attacks as a reprisal on farming communities for earlier attacks on them and their cattle. Little wonder Nigeria’s Fulani dominated internal security apparatus, headed by a Fulani commander-in-chief, appears to have approached the problem of killer Fulani herdsmen from a sectional prism rather than a national broad view, thereby making the crisis intractable.

Nowhere are the negative consequences of Buhari’s sectionalism felt more than in the conduct of the exercise of internal security. The entire internal security apparatchik is headed and dominated by northern Muslims, including a significant section of the defence services (the army and air force). It appears that the internal security architecture of the Muhammadu Buhari administration is designed to ensure sectional security rather than national security. For example, the fight against the terror group, Boko Haram, whose insurgent activities are adversely affecting the people and land of the Muslim North-East, is being tackled with renewed vigour. The president also personally went to Zamfara State to launch a military operation against cattle rustlers; a problem that affects his own Fulani ethnic group negatively.

Similarly the governors of the North-West, with cooperation from security agencies, coordinated a military operation which flushed out bandits and cattle rustlers from the forests of Birnin Gwari, bringing respite to Fulani cattle breeders in the area. By contrast, other sections of the country have not had it this good. The case of Bridget Agbahime is classic. As a Christian of southern origin, residing in the northern city of Kano, in life she was not protected by security agencies from a blood thirsty irate mob of northern Muslim youth who killed her, and in death she gets no justice because the Fulani Muslim government of Kano State has declared her killers as having no case to answer. How about Eunice Elisha, the Kubwa preacher who was hacked to death a few miles from the presidential villa? A case forgotten and her family left alone to mourn in pain but silence.

The president and commander in chief has shown more concern for the lives of cattle, than human lives, in Agatu, Enugu, Anambra etc. Buhari’s disposition to the scourge of marauding killer Fulani herdsmen, who like parasitic locusts forcefully descending from the highlands of Futa Djallon on the Senegal River and swooping across Nigeria’s green belt of the guinea savannah through the forest to the wetlands of the mangrove swamps of central and southern Nigeria, leaving destruction of cultivated lands, tears and blood thereafter, has been unfortunately very complacent. Not even a strong word of condemnation or a physical visit to affected communities has been considered by the president. The most his government has done in this case is to appeal to both host farming communities and cattle breeders to co-habit peacefully. The president, like the typical Fulani cattle breeder that he is, would rather claim to be the victim than the aggressor. The Fulani often justifies their violent attacks as a reprisal on farming communities for earlier attacks on them and their cattle. Little wonder Nigeria’s Fulani dominated internal security apparatus, headed by a Fulani commander-in-chief, appears to have approached the problem of killer Fulani herdsmen from a sectional prism rather than a national broad view, thereby making the crisis intractable.

It is sad that the evil of reprisal attacks have assumed a virtues garb. Aggressions against the Fulani during the post-election violence were wrong and its occurrence was as a result of the failure of the government of that day to maintain law and order by protecting the lives of all citizens.

This position is further strengthened by the approach of Nasir El-Rufai to the recent massive attacks by the Fulani killer herdsmen on farming communities of southern parts of Kaduna State. The governor is widely reported to have appealed to the ethnic sentiments of the killers that as one of their own, they should give him a chance to financially atone for the violence they suffered in the hands of the people of southern Kaduna in the wake of the 2011 post-election violence and pull the brakes on their recurring reprisal attacks. This is sectionalism taken too far. Nasir El-Rufai should realise that the day he became governor of Kaduna State, he ceased to be a Fulani man but a Kaduna man. His duty is to protect every Kaduna man and woman against external aggression from any quarter, including members of his ethnic Fulani group. It is sad that the evil of reprisal attacks have assumed a virtues garb. Aggressions against the Fulani during the post-election violence were wrong and its occurrence was as a result of the failure of the government of that day to maintain law and order by protecting the lives of all citizens.

Reprisal attacks arising from the foregoing is equally wrong and also a failure of the present government to maintain law and order. Nobody should be allowed to take laws into their hands. Governor El-Rufai should mobilise all resources to protect the people of southern Kaduna against killer Fulani herdsmen. He should exhaust all avenues, including diplomatic channels, to pressure the host countries of killer herdsmen to bring the bandits to justice. In 1914, George V, King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, did not react to German aggression on vital colonial interests of the British Empire during the First World War by using his Germanic ancestry to appeal to the Germans “as one of their own” to desist, while promising to pay reparations for their military expenses during the Franco-Prussian war of the preceding century. King George V did not only declare war on Germany but also dropped his original dynastic Germanic sobriquet, Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and adopted the English House of Windsor as a demonstration of strong English nationalism. His Majesty stood up to the Germans as a true British patriot and statesman, working in concert with other allied powers and defeated the German led axis powers by 1918.

Majeed Dahiru, a public affairs analyst, writes from Abuja and can be reached through dahirumajeed@gmail.com.

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