By Mark Adebayo
“WE LIVE IN A WORLD WHERE WE HAVE TO HIDE TO MAKE LOVE, WHILE VIOLENCE IS PRACTISED IN BROAD DAYLIGHT”
– John Lennon
AS a student of revolutionary history, I do know that when overwhelming numbers of people within a society are dissatisfied with a system that promotes injustice, unfairness, inequity and repression, resistance and agitation against such a system become a natural cause. Where the leadership quickly recognises the problem through the observation of the sociological early warning system of mass discontent and fixes it before it escalates, a major destructive outcome would have been averted.
We have heard it often said that without justice there cannot be peace. This statement will remain factual till the end of human existence. Justice is to society what blood is to the human body. Deprive the body of blood and you will see it shut down and die. Any society where justice is otiose or seen to be so is a society preprogrammed to shut down and die prematurely. Where the cry for justice or against injustice is ignored for a long period of time a cataclysmic eruption of unmitigated violence that has the potential to cut the life of a sovereign entity short becomes inevitable.
It is public knowledge that Nigeria is currently buffeted by numerous strata of insecurity – terrorism, killer herders, banditry and mass kidnappings either in our schools or on the roads. These are acts of criminality perpetrated by hoodlums strictly after the proceeds of crime.
Unrelated to criminality but of wider consequences and security significance to the country is the current wave of agitations for secession blowing like Hurricane Katrina across the country, especially in the South.
Nigeria is a delicate potpourri of ethnoreligious diversity composed of hundreds of ethnic nationalities and about 350 languages and dialects or more. Ditto, beside the two dominant religions of Christianity and Islam, traditional religious practices remain active in many parts of the country. In a situation of such critical diversity, it requires excellent leadership capacity to manage such a diversity without causing adversity. It is a function of deliberate political will and human management intelligence and capacity to successfully steer the ship of state without rocking the boat to be able to run a country like Nigeria.
On several occasions, Nigeria’s diversity has been a threat to its continuity as a corporate entity but there has not been any time that it has been as grave as now, not even during the Civil War in the 60s and thereafter.
Recently, multifarious issues have led to widespread discontent among Nigerians of various divides that significantly threatened the trade relations between the South and the North. Northern traders in foodstuffs and cattle under the aeges of Amalgamated Union of Foodstuff and Cattle Dealers of Nigeria carried out a total blockade of trucks carrying foodstuffs and cattle to the southern parts of the country as a protest over alleged targeted killings of its members and arson against its members’ properties in the South, especially the Southwest. In the South, many people are rising against suspected killer herders who are mostly Hausa-Fulani alleged of committing heinous crimes like farm destruction, killings, kidnappings, rapes and land-grabbing and forceful occupation against their host communities.
In the Southeast, IPOB’s Eastern Security Network was filmed chasing Fulani herders and their cattle from Iboland as a response against the same allegations of atrocities being committed by killer herders. In the Southwest, non-state actors have taken laws into their hands and expelling cattle herders of northern extraction from western territories. These clashes had raised inter-ethnic tension to a crescendo across the country which exploded into horrific bloodbath at Shasha market, Ibadan, in February this year because of a minor dispute that led to the death of a Yoruba cobbler. The alleged reprisals by the Yoruba marketers escalated the incident and led to many more deaths and massive destruction of properties.
Yoruba marketers alleged that northerners kick-started the violence against them while northerners alleged that they lost too many people and properties in the violence and, therefore, no longer felt safe in the Southwest. In protest, the Amalgamated Union of Foodstuff and Cattle Dealers of Nigeria announced that it was embarking on a blockade of foodstuffs and cattle to the South. This further worsened the situation as there were threats and counter-threats from both sides of the Niger. The situation was degenerating so fast that the country had reached a precipice.
It was in that confusion that a sudden announcement, which sounded funny to me at the time, was made. Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi state, we were told, had been mandated by President Muhammadu Buhari and given a marching order to intervene in the stalemate and find immediate solution to break the deadlock.
Not being a great fan of Governor Yahaya Bello, I was both cynical and pessimistic. But, I was soon proven wrong!
We heard that he was given 72 hours to resolve the crisis but he managed to pull it off in less than 48 hours. Personally, I never gave Yahaya Bello any chance. For one, he is the youngest governor in the country and young people are not called upon to preside over peacemaking efforts because they are generally considered to lack the level-headedness and wisdom of the elderly. I was wondering why the choice of Yahaya Bello when there were many elderly and more experienced governors in the country produced by the same APC that he and the president belong to who I believed could handle the matter better. Surprisingly, he delivered.
That critical assignment that he handled so masterfully and successfully within an incredibly short period of time would remain an indelible positive record on his political career. He saved the country from an extremely dangerous situation that could have been a national consuming fire. Capacity for effective crisis management is not only a mark of leadership maturity but also a sophisticated criterion of statecraft which is sine qua non in the management of a diverse and complex society like ours.
It is not a cheap leadership quality. That is why not many leaders, especially in Africa, are gifted with such a rare capacity. I have seen many African leaders go down – in some cases their countries with them – simply because they lack this crucial ingredient of leadership.
Late General Jaafar Muhammad Nimeiry of Sudan, Late Samuel Doe of Liberia, Late Colonel Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, Valentine Strasser of Sierra Leone who has become the poorest living ex- president in the world today, all failed and fell simply because they lacked the capacity for effective crisis management, inter alia, which cost them and their countries dearly. You have no business in leadership, especially of a country, if you lack the requisite emotional intelligence for effective crisis management.
In Nigeria today the falcon cannot hear the falconer because the center seems not holding and things are falling apart. Recently, the agitation for secession by sections of the country has been gaining speedy momentum especially in the South – Southwest, Southeast and South-South. When a people feel unjustly treated, they will naturally resort to desperate actions that they feel can procure justice for them including a demand for a separate nation where they can feel safe, accommodated and treated fairly and justly. However, if such a situation is left unattended by relevant authorities especially through proactive dialogue, it can boomerang and consume the entire country. Nigeria is sitting on a time bomb that may erupt catastrophically if no deliberate actions of dialogue and robust engagement of all the dramatis personae of the agitation are not actuated before too late and it is already getting late.
Something has to be done urgently by the Federal Government to forestall violence and mass bloodshed in this country. This is beyond what security agencies can handle if it is allowed to boil over. This situation requires statesmanship and intelligent application of state authority to resolve.
This is where a school of thought emerged advancing the position that, considering his recent successful resolution of the food blockade crisis, the presidency should consider deploying Governor Yahaya Bello again to the field to find the means of peaceful dialogue with all concerned across the country and save the country from a potentially volatile and destructive but preventable cataclysms.
Has Yahaya Bello become Nigeria’s Black Moses?
Time will tell.