The Sun News

That October 1 hate speech

If I say President Muhammadu Buhari’s October 1 speech was pre-recorded, that could amount to “hate speech’. Especially, as I have no documentary evidence. So, I’ll not say what I think.

Similarly, if I say the Independence Day broadcast is the second hate speech I’ve heard from the president in a space of 40 days, I would also be incorrect. Especially as the details of what constitutes a ‘hate speech’ is increasingly looking like the proverbial Malawian constitution of Kamuzu Banda’s. It is whatever they tell us is the law that we accept as the law.

So, I’ll only recall that, after being away for 103 days, PMB returned to deliver one angry-speech (where he berated us for behaving badly, especially on the social media, while he was away), and that about 40 days later, he delivered yet another one (where he took Igbo leaders and elders to the cleaners, over IPOB).

Yes, PMB makes “anger-speech”, not “hate-speech”.

In August, he not only addressed us as “My dear citizens” (a reminder that we could well be subjects of an Imperial Majesty), he also accused us of crossing the ‘red line’ – a line which we did not know who drew it, or when it was drawn.

Well, PMB then went ahead to draw a new line; he called it ‘hate speech’.

Till this day, we’re still waiting for the DSS, the Defence Headquarters, the Ministry of the Interior or the Attorney-General to give us a breakdown of what does (and what does not) constitute a ‘hate speech’.

In the same August broadcast, PMB regaled us with the ‘tales by moonlight’ story of how, as far back as 2003, he and Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu (who, by the way, is in no position to corroborate the story) met in Daura (over two days) and decided the fate of us 170 million Nigerians – vis-à-vis the non-negotiability of Nigeria’s unity. It was PMB’s barely concealed resolve not to address whatever was hurting IPOB and the Igbo in Nigeria.

And when everyone (including the usually stubborn Obasanjo) advised that he needed to discuss with Kanu and IPOB, PMB returned to the same podium last Sunday, to restate that he would only address genuine grievances – like Niger Delta militancy (and probably, Boko Haram).

So, IPOB, which is not on record to have ordered the death of any one – nor claimed credit for any deaths, has suddenly become the most dreaded terrorist group in Nigeria – more deadly than the Niger Delta militants, who kidnapped, blew up pipelines and other oil installations and crippled our economy. More deadly than bloo-thirsty herders. Even if the herdsmen (whom we have been ‘ordered’ to stop addressing as ‘Fulani’ herdsmen) wipe out entire villages in Benue and Enugu and Delta states, the narrative from the Presidency deliberately underplays it, as herdsmen/farmers clash.

I always thought a clash was more like a fight – when two parties (or more) engage in violent face-off. I did not know that a situation whereby ‘pastoralists’, without any provocation, invade villages and farmlands, killing everyone in sight (and in cold blood), is also regarded as a clash. Hmmm! Isn’t it already bad enough that we’ve been forced to accept that these murderers are not Nigerians?

Meanwhile, all Igbo are now dubbed separatists, on the strength of IPOB.

PMB, on October 1, was not satisfied with just dismissing IPOB (and the disquiet in the South East) with a wave of the hand, and, as a friend pointed out last weekend, “refusing to condescend into discussing Biafran agitation”: He lumped all the elders and leaders of the South East together as failures – for having failed to advise their youth. For having failed to tell their children the gory details of the civil war massacre of the Igbo and how the Buhari government would not mind doing it again. Yes, the same details, which successive Nigerian governments have tried to suppress and/or sugar-coat, culminating in the official ban on the teaching of History in our secondary schools. The same gory details that the people of Asaba are commemorating today, 50 years after.

Of course, since we have refused to properly and honestly educate our children, they have now had to rely on grossly skewed folktales to fill the blank spaces – and, in most instances, utterly mis-educating themselves. That is why we have this nostalgic romanticism about Biafra today.

Of course, not all Igbo are followers of Nnamdi Kanu, but all Igbo are agreed on the fact that Nigeria is giving them an unfair deal. So, even if they’re in the minority, a key tenet of democracy is that while the majority have their way, the minority must have their say. So, Mr. President, you must negotiate with Ndigbo. There’s no wishing it away.

…Still on restructuring

Two weeks ago, I had the fortune (or was it misfortune?) of being among five members of the Nigerian Guild of Editors nominated to fly into Bori, in the heart of Ogoniland (and later, Abonnema), with Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State.

As we flew over Ogoniland, we were confronted with this endless stretch of intricate mangrove swamp and oil-covered water bodies. There was hardly any clear water in sight. It meant one thing: Fishing, which hitherto constituted the bulk of the preoccupation of the local people, is no longer possible. Without jobs, you don’t need anyone to tell you what the hungry, angry and able-bodied youths would try their hands on.

At Bori, where we stopped to inspect a road/bridge project and the remodeled Binari Memorial Secondary School, we came face to face with the environmental impact of oil exploration. Even though it had rained heavily for two consecutive days, the humidity was simply unbearable. How could human beings live here? The heat burnt you directly on the face. Roofs had been corroded by acid rain. Crops look blighted and stunted. I remembered that the federal government, with fanfare, recently launched a project to clean-up Ogoniland. The people are still waiting for the clean-up to begin.

From Bori, we hopped over to Abonnema, where Nyemoni Grammar School had also undergone a complete make-over. But the star project for me here was the Abonnema Ring Road, a bypass road through the swamp. Here the state government had to sand-fill nearly three metres of swamp, stretching over two kilometres.

Yes, we might vilify the governors. Yes, many of them are stealing their states blind. Yes, many may have pocketed their state’s bailout funds. Yes, many of them are more dictatorial than any Nigerian president can ever be. Yes, nearly all of them have pocketed both their state assemblies and the local government areas. But the fact remains: If there is any tier of government delivering the dividends of democracy, it is the states. From Lagos to Ogun, Rivers to Bayelsa, Enugu to Ebonyi, Sokoto to Kebbi, Borno to Adamawa, Anambra to Imo, the story is the same.

I may not have the brains to assimilate the finer details of concurrent and legislative lists, fiscal federalism, but what I know is that any restructuring that does not give the states more, from the federation account, than the central government is national injustice.

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