Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Monday wrote another letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, warning that a Rwanda-like genocide was looming in Nigeria.
Obasanjo, in the four-page letter released by his media aide, Kehinde Akinyemi, said President Buhari must open up the public space for debates and dialogues, the outcome of which he stated should form the basis for a national conference.
The ex-President stated that Buhari must be seen to be addressing killings by herdsmen and other issues “with utmost seriousness and with maximum dispatch and getting all hands on deck to help.”
According to him, the President will be held responsible for his failure to address the issues, which he warned could lead to a pogrom similar to the one that occurred in Rwanda.
During the Rwandan civil war, there was a mass slaughter of Tutsi ethnic group and moderate Hutu between April 7 and July 15, 1994.
In his letter, Obasanjo recalled that prominent Nigerians and groups, including a Nigerian merit laureate, Prof. Anya O. Anya, the Niger-Delta leaders, South-East leaders, Middle-Belt leaders and Northern Elders’ Forum had called for measures to address killings by herdsmen and other forms of insecurity in the country.
The ex-President quoted Anya to have said, “We can no longer say with certainty that we have a nation.”
Obasanjo warned that the calls by groups and individuals could only be ignored at the expense of Nigeria’s unity, if not its continued existence.
Four calamities await Nigeria – Obasanjo
The former President said four calamities awaited Nigeria, if the President failed to act with maximum dispatch.
He stated, “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 the Fulani and terrorists of Boko Haram type;
“2. Spontaneous or planned reprisals against the Fulani which may inadvertently or advertently mushroom into pogrom or a 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.”
Obasanjo said the issue he addressed in the letter could no longer be ignored or treated “with cuddling gloves.”
He added, “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.”
‘Buhari’s govt claim of victory over B’Haram, a lie’
He stated that in spite of the Buhari administration’s claim of victory over the Boko Haram terrorist sect, the activities of the insurgents had been potent and remained “undiminished, putting a lie to the government’s claim.”
Obasanjo stated, “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 the 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 destruction and damage.”
‘Killings by herdsmen festered because Buhari treated herders/farmers’ clashes with levity’
He said Buhari’s administration started by handling herdsmen/farmers’ crises with treating herdsmen attacks “with cuddling gloves instead of hammer.”
Obasanjo added, “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 the 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 (Buhari) as a Fulani elite and the current captain of the Nigerian ship.”
“Perception may be as potent as reality at times. Whatever may be the grievances of the Fulani, 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.”
Cloud of destruction, disaster violence gathering, OBJ warns
Obasanjo stated that the Buhari administration had mismanaged the diversity of the country, which he claimed, was one of the nation’s assets.
He stated, “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 ex-President recalled that the Presidency and the Congress in the United States as well as the House of Lords in the United Kingdom had warned Nigeria to put its house in order.
Obasanjo stated, “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.”
Call national conference, ex-President urges Buhari
Obasanjo, who noted that there was no consensus on the issues of mobilisation for national unity, stability, security, cooperation, development, growth and progress, advised the Federal Government to open discussion on violence across the country.
According to him, the outcome of such deliberations should be collated to form inputs into a national conference to come up with the solutions that will effectively deal with the issues and lead to rapid development.
He said those that should be contacted should include “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 paramilitary 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 the opposition and any groups that may be deemed relevant.”
Advising Buhari further, he stated, “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.”
Hearken to what Obasanjo is saying, Afenifere, PANDEF, MBF tell Buhari
But shortly after Obasanjo released the letter, various groups, including the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Afenifere, the Ijaw Youth Congress, the Middle Belt Forum and the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, reacted and expressed their support for the ex-President.
They advised the President to hearken to the counsel contained in Obasanjo’s letter.
The associations stated that a gathering of the nation’s leaders was necessary to proffer solutions to the current security challenges and save the country from the edge of the precipice.
The National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, said the pan-Yoruba group endorsed Obasanjo’s letter to the President, noting that “it could only flow from the mind of a statesman who is concerned about the state of the nation under this federal arrangement.”
He stated, “It is unfortunate that it would take an Obasanjo to remind the President of what needs to be done. We hope that he would heed the advice. We still believe the government is in a position to call people together.
“The Buhari regime has taken Nigeria on the road to Kigali (genocide). The President should immediately hearken to the call of Obasanjo. Now, we need a gathering of Nigerian leaders to chart the way forward.”
FG has encouraged criminality – PANDEF
Also, the PANDEF secretary, Dr Alfred Mulade, said his group aligned with Obasanjo’s position that urgent steps should be taken to save the nation from imminent implosion.
He said the government had by its actions encouraged criminality, insecurity, banditry and kidnapping in the country, particularly in the South and Middle Belt regions when it failed to arrest and prosecute perpetrators of heinous crimes.
PANDEF noted, “It is appalling and stands against rational reasoning that up till now, the security agencies have not made any arrest of any Fulani herdsman, kidnapper or bandit ravaging the length and breadth of the South and Middle Belt.
“We are persuaded to align with the recent letter written by former President Obasanjo to President Buhari. The inferences and conclusions arrived at, and the advice proffered make the message a rehash of what the southern and middle leaders have been advocating.”
In the same vein, the MBF President, Dr Bitrus Pogu, said he was in agreement with the content of the ex-President’s letter, adding that Buhari should hearken to the admonition.
He noted, “I am in full agreement with Pa Obasanjo because he is one of the leaders who speak objectively. As far as I’m concerned, everything he does is with the nation’s interest at heart. It is best for this government to keep to what Obasanjo is saying so that the nation can move forward.”
Call a conference to save us from the precipice, Ohanaeze tells Buhari
Also, the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, said the only way to solve the insecurity problems pervading the country and save her from being ruptured was to convene an urgent national conference.
Nwodo, who spoke to one of our correspondents in a telephone chat, said the call by Obasanjo to the Federal Government to convene a national conference was apt, adding that “it is the only way to solve this impasse.”
“I am telling you we are in a very serious difficulty now; the government is unable to stem the insecurity and its thrust in the country is pervading and it requires that all leaders must come together otherwise we will be sliding into a precipice, the type that we have never seen before.”
Anglican Church backs Obasanjo’s letter to Buhari
On its part, the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), called on the Federal Government to be committed to the implementation of the extant laws against crimes to stem the tide of insecurity, including the Fulani terrorists.
The Church also supported Obasanjo’s recommendations to Buhari on the prevailing insecurity in Nigeria.
The Bishop of Kubwa Diocese, Rev. Dr Duke Akamisoko, who stated this in Abuja during a press briefing, said the Anglican Church had been so worried by the rising cases of insecurity in the country.
On Obasanjo’s letter to Buhari, the cleric said the government had not done well in ensuring the protection of lives and property.
He said, “Obasanjo is a former (Army) General and former head of state. If the government had done enough in the area of security, we would be more secure, and people would move around safely without fear. But presently, that is not the case. There is fear and anxiety everywhere. So, if a retired General and former Head of State feels so, I think it is a thing of great concern to us.”
We are studying OBJ letter to Buhari, says ACF
But the pan-northern socio-political organisation, Arewa Consultative Form, said it was studying Obasanjo’s letter.
The National Publicity Secretary of the forum, Alhaji Muhammad Ibrahim-Biu, told one of our correspondents on Monday in Kaduna that the group would make its position on the letter known.
It said, “The Arewa Consultative Forum is studying Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari and will make its position known soon.”
Obasanjo’s letter to Buhari an invitation to chaos – Yakasai
However, an elder statesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, described Obasnajo’s letter as an invitation to chaos.
He also described the letter as selfish and unpatriotic.
The elder statesman said in the response which was sent via whatsapp, said, “The actions of General Olusegun Obasanjo are, indeed, an open invitation to disaster for this country with the kind of hate speech and messages that are flying all over.
“I don’t see patriotism in General Obasanjo’s letters. In fact, all the letters written by General Obasanjo to all military Heads of State and Presidents of the Federal Republic of Nigeria are not guided by patriotic considerations.
“My experience with Nigerian political situation is that the top echelons of the military are always fighting one another, either when in the service or when on retirement.”
Buhari isn’t helping matters – Junaid
Also, the Convener, Coalition of Northern Politicians, Academics, Professionals and Businessmen, Dr Junaid Mohammed, described Obasanjo’s letter as monotonous.
He, however, said some of the issues raised by the ex-President especially about the precarious security situation in the country could not be ignored
Nigeria facing serious security situation – IYC
However, the President of Ijaw Youth Council, Eric Omare, described the points raised by Obasanjo as germane, adding that “Obasanjo needs to be commended for speaking out in the midst of a country where a lot of people who ought to speak out are keeping silent.”
He added, “President Buhari needs to realise that we are in a serious security situation, which demands far-reaching actions. The fact on the ground is that government is losing the war against bandits and I don’t think the President is doing enough. Whether it is Fulani herdsmen or not, the fact is that this is criminality and government must fight it.”
PDP, SDP, ADC back Obasanjo
Also, the Peoples Democratic Party, the Social Democratic Party and the African Democratic Congress on Monday backed Obasanjo over his letter to President Buhari.
The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, his SDP counterpart, Alfa Mohammed, and the ADC NPS, Mrs Yemi Kolapo, in separate responses said the current insecurity in many parts of the country had made Obasanjo’s letter and position inevitable and imperative. They urged Buhari to listen to the voice of reason.
Ologbondiyan in a statement said Obasanjo’s letter re-echoed the PDP’s numerous cautions against the violations, insensitivity, impunity, vindictiveness, divisiveness, intolerance and dangerous sectionalism that allegedly characterized the Buhari administration and which, he alleged, are jeopardizing national unity.