Last week, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had his first interview with any media house in Nigeria this year. He had the interview with Arise TV. To show how unusual it was for Buhari to grant an interview, the Chairman of Arise TV, Mr Nduka Obaigbena, was on set with his editorial team who did the interview: Reuben Abati, Segun Adeniyi, and Tundun Abiola. From photos taken after the interview, one could see how excited and fulfilled Obaigbena was that his TV station pulled off the milestone of interviewing Buhari.
Interestingly, in spite of that rare opportunity he had to speak to Nigerians on sundry national issues, Buhari bungled the opportunity again and got his country more divided than before the interview. The high point of the interview was his response to the agitation by the Indigenous People of Biafra. Buhari said:
“That IPOB is just like a dot in a circle. Even if they want to exit, they will have no access to anywhere. And the way they are spread all over the country, having businesses and properties, I don’t think IPOB knows what they are talking about. In any case, we say we’ll talk to them in the language that they understand. We’ll organise the police and the military to pursue them.”
Note how he equated IPOB with the Igbo. As far as he is concerned, IPOB is the same thing as the Igbo. Every Igbo person is an IPOB member and the Igbo land area is the IPOB land area.
Also, note the condescension and malice. To him, it should not be well for “these people”. Whatever should be done to make life miserable for them is welcome. Whoever should work against their success is an ally.
This attitude towards the Igbo has characterised Buhari’s regime since the past six years. He does not see them as equal partners in the Nigerian project. He does not believe they should get anything. To him, whatever is given to them should be out of pity or generosity, and they should be grateful for such a show of large-heartedness. Like beggars, the Igbo should not be choosers.
Interestingly, whenever he displays this Igbophobia, there are many Nigerians who feel happy that “these terrible people” have been treated the way they deserve. You then wonder what the gain in all this is. Sadly, weeks or months later, the same people who laughed at the Igbo for being treated poorly by Buhari get their own treatment from the same Buhari. They then turn to look for those who would stand by them or sympathise with them.
How does Buhari’s attitude to the Igbo make Nigeria better or stronger? What value does it add to Nigeria’s wellbeing? None. Rather, what it does is to destroy the bond that holds Nigeria together.
Since last week when Buhari made those unpatriotic comments, IPOB would have, ironically, got more members and received more funds from supporters. Some people who still nursed some hope that Nigeria could be turned around would have given up and turned their back on Nigeria.
To show their defiance to what Buhari said, many Igbo people took possession of the dot-in-the-circle tag and began to show how the dot is the nucleus of the circle. Many immediately printed T-shirts with the dot in the circle and began to sell them and wear them.
Ironically, people like Buhari who regularly take actions that distance many Nigerians from Nigeria usually claim that they are patriotic while those who are agitating are termed enemies of Nigeria. But that is false. The biggest threats to Nigeria are those who act like Buhari in matters concerning Nigeria. They divide Nigeria. They create anger and distrust among Nigerians. They treat Nigerians of other ethnicity and religion as second-class citizens, thereby making them distance themselves from Nigeria.
There is a simple way to know those who are enemies of Nigeria: those who don’t want Nigeria to progress or survive:
When you note that Nigeria is not progressing or headed in the right direction and ask for Nigerians to sit down to peacefully discuss how to make Nigeria work and progress, they say no vehemently and give lame excuses how Nigerians should first of all restructure their minds, restructure their states and hold their governors accountable. They do everything possible to see that Nigerians never peacefully sit down to resolve the issues concerning Nigeria.
Then, when you complain that you are tired of the backwardness and bloodshed in Nigeria and need to part ways, so that you can run your life and territory in a more peaceful and progressive way, the same people shout that you are asking for war and should be dealt with.
These are the real enemies pushing Nigeria into crisis and praying for Nigeria to be destroyed. And Buhari is the number one member of that group. They do not believe in dialogue. They do not believe in compromise. They love the backwardness Nigeria is experiencing. They love the crises happening in different parts of Nigeria. As far as they are concerned, it is better to let Nigeria burn down than have any peaceful discussion on the way forward.
These are the people who make separatists like Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho popular. These are the people who make Nigerians feel unsafe and frustrated and ready to take extreme measures to protect their people. The more people like Buhari display their hatred against other Nigerians, the more these people become more popular.
Sadly, people like Buhari do not see how their actions and utterances are pushing Nigeria to the brink. They do not see how volatile Nigeria has become and how delicate Nigeria’s future has become. Rather than take conciliatory steps to calm down frayed nerves and unite Nigeria and see what can be salvaged about Nigeria, they relentlessly employ offensive measures which make things worse.
The irony of Nigeria, therefore, is that those who do not wish the country well are those who package themselves as patriots and defenders of Nigeria. It is a tragedy of unquantifiable proportions. Sadly, Nigeria is the victim of this subterfuge.