On Monday, Former President and elder statesman, Olusegun Obasanjo wrote another open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari. He warns against an impending Rwanda-like genocide looming in Nigeria.
The four-page letter was released by his media aide, Kehinde Akinyemi on Monday July 15th. In the letter, Obasanjo 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.”
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.”
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.”
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