The Bird In Buhari's Hand - THE DAILY CRUCIBLE



Monday, March 22, 2021

The Bird In Buhari's Hand

By Dele Omojuyigbe

Nigeria has started manifesting symptoms of a terminal patient. Only a miracle can save her. Current indices align with countries that have disintegrated. A tongue in cheek doesn’t help matters this time but dangerously underscores baseless pretence. If we are ready to accept reality and not whistle in the dark, we should admit that Nigeria became a failed state shortly after President Buhari came-in for a second term in office. A state fails when the political body disintegrates to the extent that the sovereign government can no longer meet its primary responsibility to the people. What does the weather say in your area? Violence, crime, poverty, unemployment, insecurity and the rest have taken over. If you still sleep with your two eyes closed in your house, you are lucky, but you are on your own.

We reckon regrettably with an experience of grave betrayal, an unfair treatment in the hands of a trusted administration. It is most dishonourable.  We are literally docked, facing an unholy trial in our own country. Nigerians committed no sin by voting for President Buhari. He offered himself for service and the people accepted him. Instead of being appreciated for making that choice, their woes have multiplied. Buhari promised cessation of abduction after the ugly Zamfara episode. But four terrific ones occurred in succession afterward. The government has the mandate but has lost its power and pride to bandits. Rape incidents have not abated and fears not allayed as violence rises. An attempt was made on the life of a state governor, Samuel Ortom of Benue, a courageous man who, after the close shave, still appeared in public to reaffirm his strong opposition to open grazing, the presumed reason for the assassination attempt. So, some people actually wanted to kill Ortom?

Are you there? Nigeria is adrift. Beats of disintegration are reverberating across regions. Sectional bitter warnings are blaring between the north and the south before the very eyes of a government which promised life. A government headed by an Army General who fought the civil war to keep Nigeria one! It is such a pathetic irony. The government is distressed and the radar is no longer reading.  This is the best time to discuss Nigeria. “To keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done” was a popular slogan and good music during the civil war. It is a loathsome noise today. We even had GOWON standing as an acronym for “Go On With One Nigeria”. Whoever chants those slogans now will suffer reprimand from ethnic comrades who signed off Nigeria after witnessing diverse open injustices. The spirit is down today; it was high in the 60’s. Many soldiers who fought the civil war did so patriotically to avert Nigeria’s disintegration. Some of them didn’t believe the war should happen. The Black Scorpion, Brig-General Benjamin Adekunle, noted for his gallantry during the war, was probably one of them. This is it:

I was writing for Headlines, a historical publication of the Daily Times and had suggested to my editor, Oga Adams Aliu, that I would like to have an interview with the Black Scorpion. He gave his approval. It was around the civil war anniversary, either its beginning or end. After a long, winding search, I got to know the man’s house around Iwaya or Onike, Yaba. I can’t remember precisely now. He was excited to see me, having introduced myself as a journalist from the Daily Times. He offered me a seat and went straight to his room. Coming out, he was dragging something big. I looked and looked but didn’t understand.  What he was pulling was beyond him in weight. It looked like a big tarpaulin sown into a dress. “That is my war regalia”, he told me, standing and pointing to the material. It was like Saul’s garment on David, considering the General’s small frame. He called the dress another name which I can’t remember. However, I guess he wanted to tell me a story from the regalia.

I could not contemplate how he grappled with that kind of burden of a dress on the battlefield. Then he sat down and asked, “Have you read Ojukwu’s recent book?” ‘Which book sir? You mean, BECAUSE I AM INVOLVED?’, I asked. “Yes”.  ‘No sir!’ “Okay, go and read it and come back for the interview. Ojukwu said certain things in the book and I want to discuss them”, the General said.  ‘Ok sir, I will be back’, I replied. That was after I had tried in vain to convince him that I had read many scripts about the war and so we could have the interview. All he wanted was BECAUSE I AM INVOLVED. 

General Adekunle didn’t say more than that. But I deciphered the signs. I could read his enthusiasm about the Ikemba and interpret his face. He was sympathetic to Col Ojukwu’s cause. It showed.  I may be wrong but it is most unlikely. The Ikemba had published the book less than a year before then and it was a national discourse. I had thought that it was a love story between him and his beauty-queen-fiancĂ©e until General Adekunle mentioned it. I got the book somewhere, skimmed it and rushed back on the third day for the interview. I didn’t get the General again, even after three attempts. But I got the initial message.

Can anyone still fight for this country on the basis of patriotism? Doubtful! Even the soldiers parading the bushes deserve pity for doing so much for a difficult country. The tune everywhere, these days, is ethnic and discordant. Whether Nigeria lives or dies, President Buhari holds the bird in his hand. He decides. But if the country manages to remain as one before Buhari’s term expires, I don’t envy whichever president succeeds him. The weather is hot.

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