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OPINION: Who Divided Nigerians? When? How Was It Done?

By Sharon Faliya Cham

Ever since General Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in as President at the end of May 2015, all the groups, political parties and individuals who promoted all manner of lies, propaganda and hate campaigns against him before the elections in which he resoundingly defeated them have been regularly promoting a particular lie against his administration, apart from many other lies, that Nigeria has become more divided than ever under him, and that he (President Buhari) was responsible for the divisions. They always use another lie, which they concocted to defend that particular lie, that his appointments are lopsided in favour of the North or Hausa/Fulani Muslims, and as such, those “lopsided appointments” were therefore responsible for the divisions in the country. But really?

Well, when they mouth these lies, people like us with long memories, furnished better with a sufficient knowledge of this country’s history, always feel angry and insulted rather than disappointed. We always see it as a brazen attempt by them to make us all feel like dunces in a Duncedom, which they would rather Nigeria is so that they can reestablish or perpetuate the kleptocracy that served their pockets very well from May 1999 to May 2015. Without shame, and without any regard or respect to our senses of probity and discernment as well as our sense of collective humanity, they heap the blame of the consequences of their bigotry and hate campaigns against his election and reelection upon him without remorse or contrition, much like drunkards blaming their drunkenness on the persons they insulted or assaulted while in their state of drunkenness!

The latest of this periodic orchestra of lies was the statement in October 2020 by former President Obasanjo to a gathering of failed bigoted groups, all affiliated and sympathetic to the PDP machine of plunder, that Nigeria is now more divided than ever, and that it is even heading to being a Failed State under President Buhari – a claim also being given amplification by bigoted priests like Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah. But without bothering ourselves digging into how Obasanjo turned Nigeria into a Failed State when he was President, whether it was the killing of NITEL, Nigeria Airways, Nigeria Railways Corporation, M-TEL, textiles, and many other public and private economic ventures, or whether it was the introduction of kidnapping through the kidnapping of a state governor by glorified thugs loyal to Obasanjo, the murder of a serving Attorney General and Minister of Justice, the assassination of opposition politicians, the stealing and total disappearance of a large ship, the first ever police strike in February 2002 due to poor welfare of officers and men, or the mysterious disappearance of over $16bn electricity funds, the collapse and deliberate neglect of our roads, the allocation of oil blocs for sex, the brazen looting of public funds to finance a third term bid for President Obasanjo, the usually forceful interferences to corruptly change the leaders of the National Assembly, the many instances of using few States Assembly legislators to unlawfully impeach governors, and many other misdemeanours which his party, the PDP perpetrated and perpetuated through to May 2015 with reckless abandon and impunity, let us rather take a brief journey into finding out who divided Nigerians, how it was done and when it began.

For the sake of time and space, I will not belabour myself and readers of this piece in narrating details and sequence of how the seed of the current hyped divisions was sown in 1966 by a bloody coup d état that selectively targeted leaders and politicians of the North for murder, rather I will prefer to begin from as recent as 1999 when General Olusegun Obasanjo was given a second shot to lead this country as its civilian President. Obviously, when northern leaders and politicians led the way in pulling all stops to make him President in 1999, Nigerians were not divided as he now claims they are, even though there was a division prior to that, which was created and sustained by certain “pro-democracy” elements from southern Nigeria that tribalized, regionalized and sectionalized the “struggle for the actualization of the June 12, 1993 presidential election” wherein they erroneously and mischievously painted the annulment of the election as a northern Nigerian agenda!

Faced with the grim reality of possible failure of being reelected in 2003, owing to the poor failure of himself and his party to make any positive impact on Nigerians in four years, coupled with unpalatable daily reports of monumental corruption in those four years, President Obasanjo and his party the PDP resorted to deploying ethnic, sectional and religious bigotry as tools to win reelection, especially since a very formidable opponent in the person of General Muhammadu Buhari has been presented by the opposition as their candidate. Buhari’s moral rectitude and well known integrity, factors that made him the popular darling of Nigerians during and after his short stint as military Head of State, made it look very compelling that Obasanjo and the PDP were going to be swept out of power in 2003.

With that beautiful picture forming in the horizon, they became rattled to their bones, and before you could say OBJ, a bigoted or mischievous reporter with a poorly edited newspaper alleged that General Muhammadu Buhari told a gathering of Muslims in Sokoto to make sure they voted for only Muslims in the coming elections. Curiously and mysteriously, since that time till today, none of them has been able to present either an audio or video recording of that speech, especially since they said he made the statement at an Islamic event with a large gathering of Muslims in the full glare of the media. And before you could also say 2003, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) embraced and propagated that blatant falsehood among its members in their churches, directing them to “defend the Christian faith” by voting for Obasanjo and the PDP, therein wittingly or unwittingly giving themselves the sobriquet of “the spiritual wing of the PDP”, which most Nigerians call them with till today. Now, if that wasn’t another seed of division and bigotry sown in the hearts and minds of a section of Nigerians, then what else will you call it, and how could any person of good conscience hold Buhari responsible for it?

Well, not withstanding that blatant promotion of bigotry and lies by the PDP and its affiliate groups against Buhari in the 2003 election, the PDP and Obasanjo had to militarize the polls with a heavy coalition of well armed thugs, the police and the military to violently rig the election and return Obasanjo as President. And that massively rigged election became a watershed for election riggers and various unlawfully armed groups in Nigeria to continue to plunder and ruin the country, a problem that has persisted to this minute, which Buhari himself is battling strenuously to curtail, having been a victim thrice. If in doubt, kindly visit any newspaper library for recorded details in print.

And then in 2011, the seed of hate, bigotry and division that was sown against the same Buhari by the same Peoples Democratic Party and its very loyal affiliate groups was nurtured into a big thorny tree. CAN and its own affiliate groups turned the preelection Sundays of 2011 into an open campaign, urging church goers to “vote in defence of the Christian faith” by voting for Goodluck Ebele Jonathan of the PDP. Prior to that, the injection of this bigotry and division was done within the PDP itself when the northern bloc of the party demanded that President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan shouldn’t seek election owing to an existing agreement about zoning in the party. Immediately this demand was tabled, the very same groups and individuals now lying to themselves that Nigerians are now more divided under Buhari surreptitiously began making inane noises that the North wanted to deny Jonathan the presidency because he was a Christian and an ethnic minority, cleverly avoiding the merit of the case of zoning tabled, which, fortunately, was signed by Jonathan himself. By that conscious injection of religion and ethnicity in the zoning debate by Jonathan’s surrogates, the tempo of our divisions or fissures was deliberately raised by those very same groups. Their swan songs then were “ZONING IS DEAD!” and “ZONING IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL AND UNDEMOCRATIC!”, therefore, “JONATHAN MUST CONTEST!”, and one can barely suppress a guffaw whenever you see the same pathetic characters now shouting about zoning and Federal Character! In any case, the election had to be massively rigged again through the same methods deployed by the PDP in 2003 and 2007, and Jonathan remained President.

Have you now seen the graphic picture of how Nigeria’s perennial dividers sowed, nurtured and amplified the virus of division and hate, which they are now trying to mischievously blame on the very man that has been the victim of their ignoble actions and attacks? Well, I’m still not done. How was the 2015 presidential election conducted, of which General Muhammadu Buhari managed to defeat them? Again, for reason of time and space, there wouldn’t be any need to rehash the sordid lies and hate campaigns sponsored against him on a particular television station by the same coalition of perennial dividers, which was just one among countless others, but what stood out was the fact that President Jonathan turned the preelection Sundays between 2014 and 2015 into church campaign visits, a not so subtle attempt at projecting the election as one between him a Christian and General Buhari a Muslim, and this was with the active support and collaboration of majority of the Christian religious leaders in the country. And while that open campaign of sentiments and bigotry was going on against him, there wasn’t a single moment Buhari was heard or seen moving from mosque to mosque campaigning and projecting himself as a Muslim candidate.

Apart from that, the deliberate mismanagement of the “Boko Haram” insurgency in the country by the Jonathan administration was equally deployed by the administration and its surrogates to further polarize the country and to also blackmail General Buhari, as they deployed all manner of covert and overt campaigns to link him with the sect. Little did we know that while they were doing all that, they equally converted the insurgency into a cash cow for themselves while cities, towns, villages and millions of people were being uprooted from their homes in northern Nigeria with tens of thousands massacred. A spectacular event that occurred, which highlights their brazen effort to use the insurgency as a tool to polarize Nigerians was the Chibok schoolgirls abduction in April 2014. In spite of the fact that several other mass abductions have occurred previously, and that several towns and villages have been uprooted with millions of northern Nigerians in refugee camps in Cameroon and Niger Republic, and with several Emirs and other top northern opposition leaders either killed or displaced – all of that during 3 supposedly stringent State of Emergency with curfews and military checkpoints everywhere in the Northeast – Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, the President of CAN at that time, and Femi Fani-Kayode who was then the spokesman of the Jonathan reelection campaign, all held different press conferences where they waved white sheets of paper purportedly containing names of the abducted girls to news reporters, saying the Chibok schoolgirls were abducted because they were Christians, which was a shamelessly brazen attempt to inflame religious passions and set the country’s citizens against one another, which was all a subtle campaign to inject religious fervour into the entire 2015 electioneering process by presenting President Jonathan as a victim of northern Muslims conspiracy!

In addition to that, there was also the fraudulent National Conference set up by the Jonathan administration in 2014, which was more for divisive and diversionary reasons than for any solution to our country’s problems, of which the National Assembly is duly empowered by law in a democracy to handle. To further promote the bigotry and division of citizens which the administration and its main support bases actively promoted and sustained, as highlighted above, the Jonathan administration deliberately lopsided the appointments of conference delegates in the ratio of 67% Christians and 33% Muslims, which was a very loud statement of intent of the mischief intended to be executed as the outcome of the conference. There was no way that that was a reflection of any Federal Character principle or practice, but today, the collaborators to that very heinous polarization and mischief are the loudest noise makers about some unproven Federal Character violations by the Buhari administration. Apparently, Federal Character to them is as defined by them. Such sheer shamelessness!

Well, Buhari ended up defeating that very same coalition of corruption and hate this time round in 2015. But while one would expect that they would give up, and cooperate with his administration to right the wrongs they ruined the country with, they began this new series of lies, mischief and propaganda that he has polarized Nigerians, and that Nigerians are now more divided than ever. And what’s their excuse? Without shame they lie that his key appointments are lopsided in favour of the Hausa/Fulani Muslim North, and then further enhance their lies that all his military service chiefs are northerners and Muslims, whereas a comparative analysis of his appointments vis-a-vis those done by Obasanjo and Jonathan will reveal that Buhari’s is fairer and balanced. When they utter these lies, they are invariably saying the years 2010 to 2015 didn’t exist when President Jonathan had his Chief of Staff, SGF, Head of Service, Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Air Staff, Chief of Naval Staff, DG SSS and DG NIA all Christians. And we also had the Senate President, Deputy Senate President and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives all Christians, with all the heads of Nigeria’s public finance sector like AMCON, PENCOM, Securities and Exchange Commission, Nigerian Stock Exchange, Debt Management Office, Finance Minister, as well as many other federal agencies like the NCC, etc, all headed by the Igbo ethnic group, which was probably the kind of Federal Character Ohanaeze Ndi-Igbo wants in light of their usually hypocritical rants that Buhari’s appointments lacked Federal Character. The point must be made though, that in spite of the Igbo domination of the Jonathan administration, not a single road or bridge or anything outstanding was caused to be built in the Southeast by them until Buhari became President!

In sharp contrast, while Buhari’s Chief of Staff is a Muslim, his SGF, Head of Service, Chief of Defence Staff and Chief of Naval Staff are Christians, which is a fair balance compared with the total religious lopsidedness that was in place before his administration. And if you want to argue that his heads of the Immigration Service, Prisons Service and Civil Defence Corps are Muslims, then I will also tell you that they were also all Christians when Jonathan was President. So, in what ways has Buhari polarized Nigerians when he is actually still a victim of the actions of our perennial dividers? And when some apostles of hate turned their pulpits into bully pulpits, where all manner of hate sermons and death wishes were said and “prophesied” upon Buhari ever since he torpedoed the caravan of corruption that helped make them wealthy, was that also not a conscious action to polarize Nigerians by inducing worshippers of a particular religion to continually live in hate and division? Is it now Buhari’s responsibility to go and undo the hate sermons and death wishes sown in the hearts and minds of those innocent worshippers? How could he even do it? Isn’t it the holy and patriotic obligation of the perpetrators to swallow a fraction of their severely punctured pride by undoing what they did and apologize to the people they misled and turned into gullible zombies, and then turn a new leaf and have the country healed of the cracks they created?

A lie repeated ceaselessly by liars could be accepted as truth by the gullible, but it doesn’t in any way confer on it the royal robes of truth and factuality. It will always remain a lie, no matter who tells it or regurgitates it. Failed rulers like Obasanjo and the coterie of people who personally benefitted from those failures may have coalesced together to deafen the country with their noisy lies of blaming Buhari for the divisions they created and sustained, which is all a clever ploy to distract Nigerians from the great infrastructural developments and economic transformation President Muhammadu Buhari is accomplishing for the country. And their overall clear objective is, the more they overheat the country with those noisy lies, the more they hope to make their gullible followers hate the President and use that same hate to deliberately blind their eyes from his administration’s very visible achievements.

Simply put, how has Buhari polarized or divided Nigerians by favouring the Hausa/Fulani North when he is rapidly pursuing the completion of the multi-billion Naira Second Niger Bridge in Igbo land while the more politically and economically profitable Abuja – Kaduna – Zaria – Kano expressway commissioned since 2016 for reconstruction by him has been abandoned, just as most other roads and projects in northern Nigeria are? Or did he prefer the North over the South when he speedily completed some rail projects in the South without starting any in the North? Or when he remodeled the Akanu Ibiam international airport in Enugu into a beautiful international airport, which one in the North has he remodeled and commissioned as at now? Statistically speaking, as at the time of this writing, southern Nigeria has had more completed and commissioned projects done by the Buhari administration compared with the North. So, where is the division or nepotism or whatever, and who is the culprit?

Sane people with enough fibre of morality and fairness in their veins know how painful it is to the corrupt class when they see Buhari transforming Nigeria with very little revenues, which is a total opposite of how they turned Nigeria into a destitute village in 16 years when they earned very superlative revenues. Creating and manipulating crisis to fit their narration of divisions appears to be their favourite modus operandi, and that’s why they would always be deafeningly quiet over killings in Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Niger, Borno, Northern and Central Kaduna, or when Tiv and Jukun are killing one another, but will bring in religion at the drop of a hat when it is in Southern Kaduna. All that just to create divisions, distract news headlines from Buhari’s ongoing great accomplishments, and then turn around and blame the same Buhari for the divisions, and then lie again that he has spoiled Nigeria – the same Nigeria they spoiled with their unbridled love and passion for corruption!

Undoubtedly, corruption and love for corruption are very dangerous diseases that have benumbed the moral fibre of Buhari’s antagonists. To cure them, President Buhari should steadfastly ignore them and continue doing his job. Nonetheless, intelligence and security agencies must put these cantankerous rabble rousers under constant watch as it is very clear that they would rather have news headlines reporting something else other than Buhari’s daily accomplishments, to the extent that they even use radio and press columns to promote lies and bigotry, and then claim they heard it from traders in the market when subjected to scrutiny.

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