By Ochereome Nnanna
LAST week Wednesday, the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, was forced, on behalf of his colleagues, to pronounce the Inspector-General of Police, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris as an “enemy of our democracy.” He declared him a persona non-grata and unfit to hold public office both within and outside Nigeria. This was after Idris refused on three occasions to honour the lawmakers’ summonses to answer critical questions bordering on the nation’s security challenges and the treatment the Police meted to one of their colleagues, Senator Dino Melaye.
As often pointed out in this column, the National Assembly is not about the specific individuals elected into it or occupying its high offices at any given time. It is about an institution that represents the people of Nigeria who elected them to be in government on their behalf. They are there to make laws, supervise the ways the funds of the federation are spent, perform oversight functions on the ways the government is implementing the budget and the laws of the country and act as effective checks to ensure the Executive does not drag us back to dictatorship and impunity.
The Inspector-General of Police is the number one enforcer of law and order. The safety and security of Nigerians are domiciled in his office. Since the various Governors depend on the Police Force to perform their duties as “Chief Security Officers” of their states (not having command and control over the Police), it is the IGP that primarily answers for the security challenges facing Nigeria.
The killings in most parts of the country are the major reasons the Senate invited IGP Idris. The case of Senator Melaye was just a minor attachment. Even at that, there is nothing wrong with the IGP going to the Senate to explain to Nigerians why the Police chose to waste the nation’s resources to arrest a single person, a job that a handful of police officers could have effectively done.
It was clear that IGP Idris never intended to personally appear at the Senate. In the first place, he is a very disobedient officer who projects an image of lacking discipline. What else do you say of an IGP that disobeyed a presidential directive? If he could do that to a president who could grind him into dust if he so wishes (as former President Olusegun Obasanjo did to his IGP, Tafa Balogun), he can do anything to anyone and go scot-free.
Mischievous and misguided individuals with personal or political interests are egging IGP Idris on. They say the Senate wants to protect Dino Melaye from answering to charges against him. They are pushing the Melaye issue in front of the fact that the police top gun has questions to answer about the general insecurity in the country. If I were IGP Idris and my hands were clean, I would be excited to capitalise on the live telecast to make my case against Melaye and swing the populace to my side. But IGP Idris did not want to appear on live television because he really had no credible answer to give as to why he disobeyed the President and cannot protect indigenous Nigerians. Also, he knows he cannot justify the pro-Fulani herdsmen statements he had been making which projected him as their protector.
Even while the armed Fulani herdsmen rampaged through the Middle Belt and Southern states, the IGP ordered the various Police Commands to disarm community vigilante groups. Many people read this move as an attempt to further render these communities vulnerable to attacks by the heavily-armed “Gaddafi boys from Libya” as President Muhammadu Buhari calls the Fulani militia. It is as if IGP Idris is determined to ensure that the call by retired General Theophilus Danjuma for communities to defend themselves from these land-grabbing militia, does not succeed.
Why should the head of a police force that cannot protect the people want to disarm law-abiding community vigilante groups? These vigilante groups are generally known to work closely with the police to enhance their jobs in community policing. Is it not obvious to IGP Idris and his shortsighted hailers that disarming these groups will merely give the armed Fulani bandits a free ride to carry out their evil agenda against indigenous Nigerians?
President Buhari’s frequent explanation that Fulani herders “only carry sticks and machetes to clear the bush” is very deceptive. Nigerians have never had any problems with Fulani herders who only carry sticks and machetes or daggers because they never used these simple implements to harass or threaten anybody. Nigerians know that the Fulani cow is their main source of animal protein, except for poultry products.
In fact, the Fulani nation is widely viewed with admiration because of their exotic ways, though their political establishment is highly suspected due to its domineering attitude. However, Fulani domination is possible only because other Nigerians choose to be docile and gullible. I won’t blame the relatively newcomer minority Fulani for their sagacity in dominating the vast majority of indigenous Nigerians. You can ride a camel only because it is willing to lie low for you.
But I strongly believe that the domination of a vast majority by a smaller group can only last for a temporary period. When that period expires, what comes next is often a backlash. This is pure sociology and has nothing to do with prophecy of doom or hate speech. I have always believed in live and let live. Take your share and give to others theirs. That way, most people will be willing to overlook the fact that someone appears to always be at the top.
The wise men who inserted the concepts of federal character, rotational presidency/zoning, power sharing and balancing in our constitution did so in order to preserve the unity of Nigeria. They wished to give all Nigerians a sense of equity and belonging. It was this concept that made it possible that a Minority Ijaw from the smallest state was elected President in Nigeria with the second highest number of votes (22.5 million votes) ever cast for any Nigerian living or dead. The only person whose votes surpassed Jonathan’s was a liberal Fulani, Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua, who scored over 24 million votes in 2007 in a contest in which all three main contenders (including Atiku Abubakar and Buhari) were Fulani.
What we are seeing under this Muhammadu Buhari presidency goes way beyond the so-called “Fulani domination” which had been with us before independence. Some call it a re-enactment of the 1809 Fulani expansionist campaigns but this time, shifted to the Middle Belt towards the Atlantic Ocean. Suddenly, the stick-and-machete-carrying simple Fulani herder has been joined by an armed wing made up of fighters drawn from all the peripheries of this nationality around Africa.
It is more than a coincidence that Buhari created a security architecture that has no respect for the federal character principle and generously condones the killings perpetrated by the invaders. IGP Idris is an active player judging by his actions and utterances.
It is those given the power to protect Nigerians but fail to do so that are the real enemies of Nigeria. Those put in positions of authority for the good of the generality of Nigerians but have chosen to use such positions to push narrow tribal interests over the rest are our enemies. Those who have no respect for our institutions but mortgage our public patrimony to the personal or political interests of their paymaster are enemies of Nigeria.
Thank God, their certificate of occupancy will soon expire. What we do after that is up to us.