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Editorial: The Presidency & Nyako; Matters Arising



President Goodluck Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan

The rather combative riposte by the Presidency to the reckless, divisive and inflammatory memo by Adamawa Governor, Murtala Nyako, wherein he accused the Jonathan administration of committing genocide in the north, once again advertises in dramatic fashion, the absence of grace in the highest realms of governance; and this certainly cannot be in the national interest. With his petulance, foul temperament and imprudent conduct, Nyako impoverished the dignity of his office in ways that calls to question his public standing as an elected official. However, the almost puerile response of Doyin Okupe, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs; was equally imprudent, in a way that speaks directly to pettiness at the highest level of the country’s leadership. For, after all is considered, Nyako’s vituperative outbursts may have served its political purpose but Okupe’s acerbic response neither served Nigeria’s purpose, nor that of graceful purposeful leadership, which Nigeria stands in dire need of, at the present moment.

The contents of Nyako’s memo to his northern counterparts are too unedifying to warrant any repetition, but suffice to say even in his existential state as an individual, Nyako was caught in a seemingly clannish grandstanding, after he accused the Jonathan administration of perpetrating the mass murder of Muslims for partisan political advantage. It was not the first time Nyako was making these disturbing accusations. Recently, the Adamawa Governor, in faraway America, directly accused the Federal Government and its security agencies of fuelling the Boko Haram insurgency. The choice of a foreign country for such an accusation was clearly inappropriate and less than patriotic. Nevertheless, coming from a former high-ranking military officer and the governor of an affected state, these are weighty allegations from someone who knows better, and so must be taken seriously.

In a reaction ornamented with bile, vitriol and insultive grandiloquence, the Presidency dismissed Nyako’s letter as “extremely divisive and intentionally meant to incite one section of the country against the other…Nyako’s claim that President Goodluck Jonathan is from the Eastern region, which, according to him, was responsible for the killing of Northern political elites on the 15th of January 1966, is a very disgraceful remark by the governor and a pathetic embarrassment to the Nigerian Military from where Nyako derives his career antecedents,” adding that the letter is an “unmitigated leadership disaster and a sad betrayal of trust by a major beneficiary of the Nigerian Nation. The content of the Governor’s letter unfortunately exposes him as lacking a sense of history as well as incapable of rising above parochial sentiments and possessing a morbid hatred for facts and truth in public discourse.”

The unsavory exchange, of course, made sensational headlines but it certainly will not stop the insurgency. In point of fact though, Nyako and the northern governors should be hiding their heads in shame, for failing to walk the talk by apparently looking the other way, while pointing accusing fingers at the federal government for the horrendous gravity of the insurgency and senseless killings going on in their States. Too many security personnel are being killed by a presumably less trained terrorist group. Even far more innocent civilians are falling victims. The air is rank with tension, there is disenchantment everywhere. In short, what is currently on display is a groundswell of anger, occasioned by poverty and public distrust for government and this has fuelled the insurgency into a time-bomb.

The halting grammar and rambling syntax notwithstanding, Nyako’s admonition seem an expression of concern, if not worry, of someone who has seen the good, the bad and ugly of Nigeria. A retired Chief of Naval Staff; Nyako has been endowed by circumstance and history with the attainment of a position that is symbolically above government intrigues and ethnic patronage. As a sitting governor, he has attained a statesmanlike height and pedestal of influence and experience whereby the roadmap for national reconstruction could be crafted from his public utterances. Because of the volatility of Nigerian politics, Nyako ought to maintain a graceful distance from any form of clannishness and refrain from utterances that overheat the polity, given his status. His understanding of the civil war was a despicable vilification of the multitudes who died in that grotesque campaign of human savagery and barbarism.

But by electing to disperse his missive only to the Northern Governors Forum, an ethnic coalition in which he is a chieftain, Nyako validated ethnic nationalism, and negated the very notion of one Nigeria he was espousing. The monumental contradiction was self-evident with Nyako wearing the garb of an ethnic jingoist while dishing out preachments about a united Nigeria. His bellicosity highlighted what is truly definitive in contemporary Nigeria, namely the phantom unity of the multiplicity of nations that make up Nigeria, and the absence of a distinct national character. What is real about our collective existence is not the eloquent philosophy about an abstract idea called Nigeria, but the ethnic closet we all run to when the chips are down.

But if at all Nyako’s memo warranted a response, the Presidency should have given a measured one, a point-by-point rebuttal that would indicate a seriousness commensurate to the weighty allegations, impolite and discomforting as Nyako’s apposite remarks may have been. Okupe’s vituperative outbursts and banal aspersions against Nyako was bad politics, even more so, as the language was very unedifying. Okupe must be reminded that, in this fight against terrorism, Nigerians want to see concrete results. It is embarrassing that terrorists pick their targets at will, move in convoys of cars, kill, maim, and destroy even at police and military barracks. Unless there is more to it than the eye can see, the fight against Boko Haram is for the country and not for self or group glory; so, it requires trust and collaboration to overpower the sect.

And while the bloodletting continues, the recriminations and blame game by high officials is distracting from a focused collaboration between the federal and state authorities to fight the raging inferno. It is indeed pathetic and unconscionable that the frightening state of insecurity; a very serious threat to the nation has been politicized, if not trivialized, and reduced to pedestrian verbal altercation and political point-scoring by the very persons entrusted with the mandate to secure and protect life and property. Leadership has been the bane of Nigeria, north or south, east or west. More than ever, Nigeria needs statesmen who embody the unity of the country and, with their presence alone, render admonitions such as Nyako’s unnecessary.

Time is fast running out and desperate as the situation might be, it is not beyond redemption and so should not be allowed to set a new national agenda of reconsideration of our unity and nationhood. The difficult times should spur national grandeur; bring about good leadership and the best in every one of us, instead of the current hype in ethnic nationalism and religious bigotry that seek to promote self-destructive cleavages. Nigeria’s political leaders, it must be clearly stated, must do nothing to alienate any section of the country. The law of complementarity proves that we need one another. Nigerian leaders must unite and confront the clear and present danger and give meaning to the creed: “though tribe and tongue may differ; in brotherhood we stand.”


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Admiral Murtala Nyako rtd

Admiral Murtala Nyako rtd

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