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Deja vu


Among the lobby rumbling with President Muhammadu Buhari over the current state of Nigeria, perhaps only Prof. Wole Soyinka, our own WS, is worth any serious mention.

Government to government, season to season, constant is the word, in  the critical essence of WS.  And he is certainly no grandstanding rascal, seeking cheap attention.

Even then, WS has had his own rumble with the Buhari government.  Indeed, from his latest fire, “Garbled megaphone” (for Garba Shehu — and you need no especial acuity to figure that out!), is relic from the last WS-Buhari government exchange, over COVID-19 restrictions!  Still, hard as WS punches, you hardly can accuse him of mischief.

That cannot be said of much of this swarming crowd, and the goal here is not to commit an ad hominem fallacy.

Take Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.  You can trust the old fox, plotting some post-letter-writing bounce, to pop up with fresh mischief, after the disastrous collapse of that pre-2019 election pastime.

The piqued Presidency gored the often meddlesome Obasanjo as divider-in-chief, from the great heights of commander-in-chief, hinting at a former president, who also rebuffed “restructuring”, claiming back then, like every president before and after him, that Nigeria’s unity was settled and non-negotiable.

At the ethnic lobbies’ Abuja show, which elicited that presidential put down, the Ebora Owu postured as voice-of-reason-in-chief, among a not-so-restrained band of putative secessionists.  When he went laying a wreath at the Benue grave, to roast the entire Fulani, for the crimes of “Fulani herdsmen”, he was crowing and unfazed mischief-maker-in-chief.

The Ebora fairly fits all of these descriptions, like some ever-changing chameleon.  The former president must make others look bad for him to look good.  That is how the old fox rolls.  Absolutely no surprise there.

Nor is there any, about the neo-restructuring ensemble — Afenifere, Ohanaeze, Middle Belt Forum (MBF) and Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) — that somewhat clutched Obasanjo to chair their Abuja parley.  They mean well for a better structured Nigeria, no doubt.

But even their most fawning friends would concede a common bond: the “hateful” Fulani as crusade battering ram — simply because a Fulani man is president?

Perhaps when a Yoruba or Igbo person becomes one, and “restructuring” is still undelivered, perhaps this regime-demonization-in-ethnic-garb would logically — or more appropriately, emotively — go round!  What goes around comes around, doesn’t it?

Afenifere, at the apex of its glory, made restructuring its constant battle cry.  Now, plagued by existential peril, the rump of that once-upon-a-time supreme socio-cultural-political lobby of the Yoruba, is clutching at that same battle axe, to survive.

Just like WS, you can’t accuse Afenifere of inconstancy on restructuring, though its strident screeches of late, in inverse proportion to its present far diminished legitimacy, in contrast to its high glory days, make not a few accuse it of blatant self-help, under the pretext of its age-old restructuring rumble.

Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Igbo Afenifere equivalent, is a latter-day restructuring convert.

But just as Afenifere appears to have impacted Ohanaeze on restructuring, IPOB, the rogue arm of the Igbo crusade, appears to be inspiring a more reckless Yoruba secessionist lobby, filled with dangerous ethnic hubris, and even reportedly pulling stunts like flags, coat of arms and — wait for it — alleged currency, of their darling Oodua Republic!  Hitherto, these stunts were IPOB monopolies.

Between MBF and the so-called “Hausa-Fulani”, there has been no love lost over the ages — no thanks to the North’s Muslim-led political configuration, while non-Muslims out there cry hard for group identity.

With the advent of Buhari, however, the “Hausa” appear to have got a break, with the Sten gun of MBF anger seemingly aimed at the Fulani.

Of all the lobbies, however, PANDEF makes you puke the most.  With Goodluck Jonathan, the minority of minorities of the Ijaw nation, chancing on the Presidency, “restructuring” assumed a loud quiet; and swashbuckling pitch for Ijaw domination took centre stage, even if the Ijaw, with the rest of the Niger Delta, which PANDEF represents, are themselves minorities!

Now, PANDEF storms back as radical “restructuring” crusaders!  What cant!  But then, there is an Obasanjo in many of these lobbies!  Still, they thrive because Nigeria lacks institutional memory.

So, there is a sense of deja vu about it all — haven’t we see all of this before?

Indeed!  The opposition would lunch Armageddon-like hysterics to push its case: Nigeria will collapse this very next second!  The sitting government would counter: away with your alarmist screeches!  Nigeria’s unity is settled and cemented!

Both lobbies are wrong in their grandstanding, though the concept of restructuring, to making Nigeria more efficiently and effectively structured, is spot on.

For the government — and this is true of the present Buhari Presidency, as it was of Obasanjo’s — Nigeria’s unity is not settled.  Indeed, no country’s unity is permanently settled.

That is why the United Kingdom, even after 700 years, still has Scotland and Irish tension.  That is why Donald Trump’s United States is near-unravelling, under President Trump’s gung-ho racist behaviour.

But wired into the Nigerian Presidency is a centralist DNA.  That is why Obasanjo would defend “settled unity” as president but howl as hyena for “restructuring” after his power years.

Perhaps a post-power Buhari too would turn a latter-day convert one day?  You never know!  But even if he did, the taciturn PMB would be far more tolerable than the ever grating OBJ — and all in the service of cant!

Restructuring is effective counterpoise, peaceful, tolerable and sustainable, to that harmful presidential centralist DNA; and it can gift Nigeria new life in organic, as opposed to mechanical, unity.

But as desirable and reasonable as restructuring is, perpetual hectoring and explosive threats are no way to push it.  That is the opposition’s worst strategic gambit, in pushing restructuring.

By hectoring and threatening, our people are more adept at raising their voices, instead of raising their logic.  That is why we seem to go round and round in circles, instead of attaining any national consensus.

That must change if we hope to sell restructuring, and allay the fears of those scared stiff by it.

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