By Femi Adesina
President Muhammadu Buhari spoke on Tuesday, warning troublemakers in the country that the picnic was over, and the next day, I saw this comment online from a Buharist, as lovers and admirers of the President are known:
“I just finished watching the President on TV reading the riot act to troublemakers, and I couldn’t be prouder of the President. I suddenly remembered why I fell in love with the President.”
That respondent sure spoke the minds of millions of Buharists in Nigeria and the Diaspora. The man we fell in love with is of iron and steel, one ready and willing to knock sense into contumacious heads, whipping everyone into line. And being kind to us in the process. A kind bully, if you like the oxymoron.
How did things unfold that Tuesday afternoon, that led President Buhari to make the speech that is perhaps the most epochal in recent times?
Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu, had led top guns of the electoral body into the meeting room with the President, shortly before the scheduled time of 3 pm.
Like clockwork, President Buhari came in at the dot of the appointed time. He never misses it. And Prof Yakubu began his briefing. What were the main points?
*The spate of attacks on INEC’s offices and facilities nationwide has grave implications for elections and electoral activities in Nigeria.
*So far, there have been 42 of such attacks across the country since the 2019 General Election. The incidents occurred in 14 states for a variety of reasons, including bandit attack, 1, Boko Haram, 1, EndSARS protest, 18, post-election violence, 4, thuggery during elections, 6, unknown gunmen and hoodlums, 12.
*Thirty out of the 42 or 71% of the attacks happened in the last 7 months. They appear to be targeted at future elections, with the intention to incapacitate INEC, undermine democracy, and precipitate a national crisis.
The INEC Chairman enumerated the immediate implications of the development, unfolded actions taken by the Commission, and asked for the intervention of Mr President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
Confronted by such graphic display of anarchy, what should a President do? Throw up his hands in surrender, acquiesce, and tell everyone to go home in defeat and capitulation?
Remember how we started this piece. President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) was once General Muhammadu Buhari (GMB), the army commander who gave Chadian forces who made incursion into Nigerian territory a bloody nose. He dealt with Maitatsine religious fanatics. He gave a red card to hard drug traffickers, who were executed by firing squad. He introduced War Against Indiscipline, and generally attempted to make us prim and proper. He was succeeding, before hidden, hostile hands terminated the regime. Thirty years later, Nigerians yearned for that GMB, and massively voted him back to power.
The response of the President to INEC elicited different kinds of reactions from different people and groups. What did he say?
*Those behind the attacks on national assets want the Administration to fail, and enough is enough. Soon, they will receive the shock of their lives.
*Many of those misbehaving today were too young to know the destruction that attended our Civil War (1967-1970), but those of us that were in the fields, fighting to keep the country together, won’t just fold our arms. We’ll rather speak to them in a language they would understand.
*I lead the country according to our Constitution, and anyone who wants to destroy the country would answer for it.
*We are expending resources to build infrastructure, and we won’t allow anyone destroy them. We will be harder on troublemakers.
*We have changed the Service Chiefs and Inspector General of Police. We will give them all the resources they need, and then demand security from them.
*We will give INEC all the resources required to conduct elections, so that no one would accuse us of not wanting to leave office, or that we want a 3rd term.
In reaction to what the President said, I also saw this comment online: “His followers are reinvigorated. They are buzzing.”
True. What our country needs at this time is iron and steel. An alchemy of GMB and PMB. We are in a democracy, yes, but democracy is no byword for lawlessness. If anybody misbehaves in any part, repeat, ANY PART, of the country, they need to be whipped into line. The nation needs not go into a tailspin because some people bear giant sized grudges in their hearts. By the way, is there any part of the country that does not have one grievance or the other? Is the next option then to capsize the boat of the country? Any leader that has sworn to uphold the Constitution would not open his eyes, and see it happen.
Leaders must do whatever they should do to maintain peace and tranquility in their countries. Their intentions will always be misinterpreted and misrepresented. No matter. The good of the larger majority must be considered at all times. North, South, East, West, anarchy should never be condoned, no matter what some people may say.
I like how Moyosore Oyetunji, a passionate Buharist on Facebook summarized latest developments: “When he pleaded with you to eschew violence, you accused him of becoming a motivational speaker, instead of the General that he is. Now he has decided to be it, you are crying. Please, what exactly do you want from him?”
President Buhari is not genocidal, and can’t ever be accused of such intentions. But a leader worth his salt cannot look on, and watch law and order break down irretrievably. It is not about a people, or region. It is about the country he took an oath to keep together.
Every region has one grouse or the other against the state of our union. But murder and mayhem should never be an option in resolving matters. That is the message of President Buhari, and it should be the message of every good Nigerian.
*Adesina is Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity