Opinion: Conspiracies against Buhari’s second term By – MINABERE IBELEMA


If there ever were any doubts that President Muhammadu Buhari plans to run for a second term, those doubts should have dissipated by now. What with all the reconciliation meetings and feasting by chieftains of the All Progressives Congress. Yet, were Nigerian politics normal, he would lose by a landslide. And one can blame it at least in part on conspiracies.

It would not be through the efforts of the Peoples Democratic Party, which is splintered at all levels: federal, state and provincial. Nor would it necessarily be by the act of Buhari’s rivals within the APC. Buhari’s undoing will come from a conspiracy of history, Boko Haram, and Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association.

The coup-de-grace of this conspiracy was delivered on Feb. 19, when Boko Haram struck the town of Dapchi and made away with more than 100 girls. It was the unkindest blow of all to Buhari’s repeated claim that Boko Haram has been vanquished. It was a claim that the administration started making barely months into office and has kept making despite a preponderance of evidence to the contrary.

It is a case the administration has to make because it is a defining issue. Defeating Boko Haram is second only to wiping out corruption in what Buhari articulated as his mandate. And it was on that mandate that he provided the most comprehensive plan of action, including moving the command headquarters from Abuja to Borno State. In thus demonstrating leadership, the retired general sought to distinguish himself from Goodluck Jonathan, the biology lecturer he succeeded.

More than anything else, it was Jonathan’s failure to rein in Boko Haram that engendered widespread disillusionment in his administration and cost him re-election to a second full term. Boko Haram’s abduction of about 200 Chibok schoolgirls and the administration’s failure to rescue them became the ultimate manifestation of failure.

In now reprising in Dapchi what they did in Chibok, Boko Haram is in effect telling Nigerians and the world that Buhari is no better than Jonathan in containing them. Ordinarily, it would be a mortal blow to any aspirations that Buhari ask for a second term. During his days as an army field commander, had he drawn up a battle plan that failed this badly, he would have been relieved of his command.

The timing of the Dapchi abductions couldn’t have been worse for Buhari: he just shifted his re-election plan into second gear. Just as the Chibok abductions gave Buhari a tangible target for pummelling Jonathan, the reprise in Dapchi has done the same for the PDP.

“President Buhari has completely reneged on his assurances, before his election, to be a father to all and to lead the fight against insurgency from the fronts,” The Punch quotes the PDP’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, as saying in Abuja on Tuesday. “Today, Nigerians are daily slaughtered and taken as captives because those who have the direct mandate to protect them are more interested in 2019 re-election ambition while the citizens are left to whatever fate befalls them.

“Nigerians are shocked that the presidential mandate of protecting lives has now been reduced to a cosmetic dispatching of ministers and persons with no knowledge of security, on mere fact-finding missions, while machinery for proactive security measures is left unattended.”

It is very much an echo of what Buhari and other APC chieftains said of Jonathan in 2015.

Miyetti Allah

And then there is the saga of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, a group whose actions seem conspiratorial—conspiratorial against Buhari and the nation. Like Boko Haram’s Dapchi adventure, the carnage perpetrated by Miyetti Allah has done much to compromise Buhari’s selling point as a tough law-and-order president. Now he is seen as ineffectual, indifferent or — worse still — complicit.

If Miyetti Allah is not in conspiracy against Buhari — preposterous idea, you say — it is certainly spurring conspiracy theories about his and the organization’s intentions. From the Middle Belt down to the Niger Delta, Fulani herders are now seen as much more than herders. They are seen as people being planted for purposes of executing a grand plan.

It would all seem ludicrous, except that those who make the argument point to aspects of Buhari’s policies as well as history. The appointment of security heads almost exclusively from the North by itself fuels conspiracy alarms. And when a government minister proposed the establishment of cattle colonies around the country that played into the hands of history. Various Northern ethnic groups, especially in the Middle Belt, cite their forebears’ experience of welcoming Fulani herders only to have the territories come under Fulani control.

So, here’s the arithmetic: The reality of history plus the president’s policies plus a minister’s proposal plus the ubiquity and aggression of cattle herders equals palpable misgivings around the country.

In the Niger Delta island city of Bonny, my hometown, for example, the Fulani and other Northerners have always shared their place along with other ethnic groups and non-Nigerians involved in the manufacture and processing of liquefied natural gas and crude oil. Lately, though, there has been some murmuring about the sheer number of Northerners and the range of territories they inhabit. That includes remote villages that are far removed from the centre of industry and commerce. There was a time when none of that would be noticeable, but today they fuel the conspiracy alarm about a grand agenda.

Leaders of Miyetti Allah have not helped matters with their utterances, some of which betray a lack of understanding of the resentment and anxieties. The organization was founded in 1986, about one year after then military head-of-state, General Buhari, was overthrown after a short stay in office. As recounted in a write-up in Daily Trust earlier this month, Miyetti Allah’s leaders told an investigating team of the Nigerian Bar Association that the group’s trustees at inception were the Sultan of Sokoto, Emirs of Kano and Zaria and the Lamido of Adamawa. This, they said, was an indication of the group’s stature as a legal and responsible organization.

But that does little to dampen the conspiracy theory. The issue is not about legality and responsibility for that matter. It is about whether there is an agenda. That Northern leaders of calibre signed on as trustees of a cattle breeders association only piques curiosity.

Miyetti Allah’s leaders also told the ABA investigators that the destruction caused by cows is the result of giving the reins to boys. It was a mistake, they said. But that’s the equivalent of putting boys behind the wheels of trailer trucks. How could the disastrous outcomes not have been anticipated?

In any case, whether Buhari is re-elected in 2019 or not, the tension caused by cattle herders will remain. Ameliorating it will require reckoning with the conspiracies of history and the present.Punch


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