I read President Muhammadu Buhari’s tribute to Chad’s late maximum ruler, Idriss Deby Itno. It was evocative, poignant, moving and timely. It came straight from the heart of a retired general to a fallen colleague.
Coming at a time when the presidency (i.e. Garba Shehu) commands us to nail the coffin on an embarrassing situation of employing a terror sympathiser and putting him in charge of communication, this tribute ought to show the humanity in Buhari. Unfortunately, it did not. On the contrary it portrayed the cold bitter side of a ruler, always eager to please his neighbours while being vindictive, vicious and lacking in the domestic evocation of human kindness to his own citizens.
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It has been a while since President Buhari had something moving to say to his troops at the forefront of the fight against terror. In the midst of banditry, this general has remained conspiratorially mute. While unknown assailants wasted the lives of police officers in the East, the president has turned the deaf side of his ear to national or regional sympathy.
When in his absence, Yemi Osinbajo mobilised the head of the police on tour of the scene of crime, Buhari announced his sack and promptly named his replacement. He ensured that same vice president swore in the successor. That was how to crave loyalty.
With Buhari, this has become a pattern. He had boasted that he would end the insurgency in the North within three months in office. It’s been six years and nearly every family in Nigeria has a memorial grave. It does not matter as the president has declared technical victory even as comrades and parents of gallant soldiers continue to bury their loved ones sometimes in unmarked graves.
The commander-in-chief sees no wisdom in making spontaneous morale-boosting visits to rally his troops in their trenches. Instead, he has left them with little better than Dane guns to confront the sophistry of a murderously determined and religiously fuelled insurgency.
In retrospect, it took all the persuasions in the world to make Buhari visit Chibok a campaign point during his election. When he finally visited, it was in resplendently starched brocade and perfectly polished shoes. He would not soil those shoes with Chibok dust and so; a red carpet was spread at his feet. This president is not to be compared with Joe Biden, of the same age, who lately almost sub-judiciously rallied a fractured America with a prayer for a good verdict in the George Floyd case. He had knelt before Floyd’s young son in homage as he handed monetary compensation. I could bet Buhari has not called any parent of a fallen hero to commiserate with them for the sacrifice of their wards in the battle against insurgency.
President Buhari is missing in action. His troops have no access to clean drinking water. When they have food, they eat from shovels and when they are wounded, they have no real hospitals in which to be healed. Their commander-in-chief jets off to London to treat ear infections while playing deaf and dumb to their plight.
The Nigerian people are a suffering lot. They pay for everything, and nothing. If the last seems untrue, ask anyone who has an electric meter in their home the last time they had the supply of electricity. If the light twinkles, it is followed the next day with a crazy bill that they must pay.
Deby was a maximum ruler, who fought insurgency from the front-line. In one moment of heroic chivalry, he personally led an onslaught against Boko Haram when they ambushed and wasted 100 of his soldiers. He gave them such a bloody nose Shekau released an emotional plea video pleading the brotherhood of faith.
In retrospect, that plea sounds familiar now in the context of a repentant Isa Ali Pantami who once swore to lead a jihad against Christians in Shendam, Langtang, and Yelwa. It may also explain why the group continues to take entire towns without much resistance while unarmed Shi’a protesters are met with deadly force, Lekki and IPOB protesters are murdered in cold blood. What a government says is not as important as what it does or how it is generally perceived.
Just days after Buhari’s mournful tribute to Deby, armed assailants broke into Greenfield University on the outskirts of Kaduna and harvested young victims. They did not stop at asking for the usual ransom, they showed that they meant business by executing three of their nubile captives. Nasir el-Rufai the man in Kaduna is now an orphaned die-hard Buharideen.
That attack prompted the president to issue a statement urging bloody groups not to try him. If they did, he vowed, he would crush them with furious anger and merciless fury!
The last time anyone acted that way was way back in elementary school days when tormenters would bully a lame classmate to the gates of their home. The bullied endured the taunts, the beating, the jeers and kicks without as much as a whimper, but as soon as that coward opened his father’s gate to see his elder brother standing akimbo, he turned round to dare the aggressor to come in. Seldom were such challenges taken.
In the case of Nigeria, the bully is already in the compound, he has broken windows, smashed through doors and set fire on vehicles; the elder brother who ought to protect is hiding under the bed whimpering that he would deal ruthlessly with the bully if his patience is tried!
Surely, Chadians have lost a gallant soldier. Neighbours have lost a bully whose aggressiveness helped stabilize their own boundaries. Deby was a bully to his political foes. Although he marched on Ndjamena in rags and tatters, he soon established himself as the force majeure of the sub region, harvesting its resources for personal gain.
Deby became wealthier in death than his beleaguered nation and has bullied his political rivals into total submission that even in death, they only felt safe when they installed his shadow as their new leader.
The entire Chad is barely the population of a city in Nigeria. But here, in Nigeria, the big question people are asking is whether President Muhammadu Buhari would leave a nation worth salvaging. He has fractured every institution and every strata of our society to the extent that even the hungry falcons are unable to hear the charming whistle of the falconer. Buhari’s silence on issues threatening national entente is as fractious as his nepotistic actions.
It is evident that Nigeria made a fatal mistake on this one, the big question is, whether there still exists clear heads that could rally whatever is left of our nation if Nigeria survived this disaster for the next three years.
Watching Deby’s clansmen crossing the bridge into Cameroon at the demise of their benefactor, one wonders where 300 million helpless and hapless Nigerians would turn when the curtain finally falls on this tragedy.
Prince Philip has been lowered into the vaults of Windsor Castle in a ceremony reserved only for royalty. The last is yet to be written about the hegemonic impact of the British monarchy on humanity. The late Prince deserves accolade for remaining a loyal consort for 70 years and two steps behind his wife. RIP!