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On President Buhari’s Arise TV interview

Last Thursday, President Muhammadu Buhari granted an interview to a leading private broadcast station in the country, Arise Television, two days ahead of Democracy Day. In that interview, which was the first in an unjustifiably long time, President Buhari tried his hands on some burning issues that have been of great concern to Nigerians and have also been among the factors responsible for the agitations from some parts of the nation especially the Southern states.

One of them is the continued maintenance of the grazing-routes to enable the herdsmen have unrestricted access to all parts of the country including the Southern states whose governors recently converged on Asaba, the capital of Delta State, to throw their weight behind the ban on open- grazing, already in operation in some states.

They also called for the restructuring of Nigeria. Another touchy issue was the claim of the number one citizen that herdsmen raping and destroying people’s farmlands, though of Fulani stock, were not Nigerians but of other nationalities like Mauritania and Senegal. President Buhari also said that the South-East would be subjected to heightened security presence with remarkable denial of access to the sea.

That the country’s number one citizen made such a turn-around, less than two years to the end of his eightyear rule, and for once refraining from speaking to the people indirectly through go-betweens, like his spokespersons, to subject himself to the grilling of a credible media organisation like Arise TV, is an interesting phenomenon. Though his interaction with Arise TV ended without most of the concerns of the people being addressed, such an engagement, no doubt, gave the citizens the opportunity of thoroughly observing and decoding the body language of the President on some of the nation’s contradictions.

However, we note with displeasure that some of the remarks of the nation’s number one citizen, to say the least, were unpresidential and somewhat dictatorial. As the country’s Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces from Saturday, December 31, 1983 to Tuesday, August 27, 1985, then Major-General Muhammadu Buhari was dictatorial in his utterances and actions. Going by convention the world over, he was expected from May 29, 2015 to have metamorphosed into a democrat, on being sworn-in as an elected President.

But like the adage goes, can a leopard change its spots? Based on what we saw, the answer is clearly – no! To the dismay of all who subscribe to the age-long cherished democratic tenets, he could be said to have reduced the substance of the democratic cornerstone, by his handling of some matters, including those that were thrown at him during the interview with Arise Television.

Sadly, indifference, subjectivity, sectionalism and lack of remorse were on display. New Telegraph feels that there is nothing wrong with anyone, including President Buhari, in aligning with his or her kinsmen or women. However, what is unfortunate is the conscious or unconscious effort to ensure the well-being of a sociocultural group at the expense of others with federal might and even with the resources sourced from some of the marginalised and agitating parts of the country.

Though Nigeria is one country, it is certainly inhabited by many sociocultural groups with their age-long cultural patterns. While one sociocultural group wishes to keep to its customs, it should ensure that it does not compromise the long-existing security, peace and unity of people in their communities. This is why we find it disturbing that President Buhari should be deploying the considerable might of the Federal Government towards the revival of grazing routes across the ancestral lands of people including those in the South.

The establishment of ranches, especially in the traditionallycattle- breeding states to be spearheaded by the cattle-breeders themselves, should rather be vigorously pursued. The remark, by Mr. President that the Fulanis, who attack, rape and kill as well as destroy their victims’ farmlands are of other nationalities is, provocatively, a mere generalisation and buck-passing that does not and cannot stand the test of elementary logic. At what point, did a credible organisation, independent of the Federal Government or any other tier of administration, carry out a survey or research to establish the citizenship of the devouring herdsmen? Since there is, probably, no demonstrable evidence, to such effect, the alibi that foreign herdsmen are behind the referred atrocities is simply untenable and a distraction. New Telegraph is of the view that what is important is the immediate arrest and diligent prosecution of the rampaging herdsmen and terrorists whether they are Nigerians or foreigners. At no point should there be haste in branding them ‘repentant terrorists’.

Let courts of competent jurisdiction be allowed to hear their cases, and make judicial pronouncements, as they deem fit. While we support the improved protection of lives and property across the country, it negates the justification for the setting of a government for an administration to subject one of its component parts, as is the case with the South East, to an intimidating security presence resulting in alleged dehumanisation, injury and killing of some innocent and defenceless people. Security operatives accused of extra-judicial killings and civilians suspected of destroying private and public facilities should be arraigned before the law courts.

Similarly, controversial and divisive innovations like the Water Resources Control Bill that will make lands, streams, rivers, lakes and other forms of water, the property of the Federal Government and the establishment of Rural Grazing Areas (RUGA) should be jettisoned especially in the Southern states as they are at variance with the socio-cultural and political peculiarities of the people.

Given the bewildering contradictions of the country, President Buhari should intensify efforts to speak more frequently to the people directly in nationwide broadcasts, interviews to media houses and at public fora as well as subject himself to other accountability-oriented sessions.

This will go a long way towards helping the current administration to connect with the people on some critical issues, as some are likely to be keen in making their input in governance. We unequivocally state here that, until the people’s buy-in is deemed to have been secured on each thorny subject, the government could regrettably be said to be on a doomed mission.

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