The Niger Delta Crusaders, Muslim pilgrims and the United States of Nigeria – Parts 1 & 2

“If Boko Haram kills Christians and burns down churches, we will slay Muslims and raze down mosques. We want to warn them that we, the Niger Delta youths, in this 21st century will not accept the killing of innocent Christians or the burning of churches. That if they try it in the north or any part of Nigeria, we the Niger Delta youths will not see any Muslim or mosque in the Niger Delta”- NIGER DELTA REVOLUTIONARY CRUSADERS, VANGUARD NEWSPAPER, 5th AUGUST, 2016.

It is no longer news that the new leader of Boko Haram, Mr. Abu Musa Al Barnawi, who apparently has the backing of ISIS, has said that he will target only Christians and burn down all the Churches in the country.

He has also said that Muslims and mosques will no longer be targeted and that Mr. Abubakar Shekau, the erstwhile leader and principal voice of the terror group is no longer the leader.

Mr. Shekau has responded by saying that he will continue to slaughter whoever he pleases to kill and boasts that he remains the authentic leader of the deadly group. There appears to be a very serious rift in the ranks of Boko Haram which is good news.

As far as I am concerned the two factions can do us all a favour by destroying one another and burning in hell.

Anyone that targets Christians and Churches, or indeed any innocent civilians for slaughter, is not worthy of life. They are nothing but vermin and, like the cockroaches that they are, they must be crushed.

Mr. Shekau is evil but Mr. Al Barnawi is even worse: he is the devil incarnate. He represents ISIS and we all know what that means.

Whichever way we look at it and whatever is going on within the ranks of Boko Haram we must not lose sight of the bigger picture. And that bigger picture points to one thing: Nigeria is in a mess.

Apart from the poverty and hardship that has afflicted the land coupled with the total destruction of the economy and quite apart from the shattering of people’s dreams and the drastic reduction in their standard of living by the ineffectual and barren fiscal and economic policies of an inept and incompetent government, our President did not stop there.

He also went as far as appointing Solomon Dalung as his Minister of Sports.

This is a man that can barely speak English and who, during the week of the Olympics, publicly referred to our country as “the United States of Nigeria” whilst reprimanding our Olympic football team for getting stuck in America and arriving late in Brazil.

Someone should tell Honorable Minister Solomon Dalung that it was HIS job to get our boys to Rio De Janeiro on time and that it was something of a scandal and a national embarrasment that it took the last minute intervention and assistance of Delta Air, a private American airline, to get them there in time for their match with Japan.

Whilst our boys did us proud by going on to defeat Japan and later Sweden, the video of the Minister disparaging them and spouting nonsense about some fictitious and imaginary country called ‘the United States of Nigeria’ whilst wearing his ridiculous red beret went viral on the internet.

In normal climes the Minister would have been forced to resign the following day and he would have been compelled to apologise to the nation that he is purportedly serving for forgetting its name. Sadly though, there is nothing that is “normal” about Nigeria or the Buhari administration.

Equally abysmal was the recent outing of Raji Fashola, President Buhari’s “Super-Minister” of Power, Works and Housing, on BBC TV’s Hardtalk.

Before millions of viewers from all over the world, the Minister told his host Mr. Stephen Sackhur that he never promised Nigerians an increase in power generation and supply.

It is his inability to be forthright, to appreciate the virtues of telling the truth and to keep his election promises that has earned my younger brother (aburo), Tunde Fashola, to be nicknamed as the Minister of Darkness.

Since he was appointed ‘super Minister’ the power generation in our country has dropped from 5000 megawatts at the time when President Jonathan left office just over a year ago to under 2000 megawatts today.

Worse still, he has not managed to construct or complete the refurbishment of a single road.

Yet it is not the crippled economy, the erring and dim-witted Minister of Sports, the lying Minister of Power, Works and Housing or any of the other numerous foibles of the Buhari administration that gives us the most concern today.

It is rather the gradual and systematic generation and invocation of a frightful and cataclysmic atmosphere of war and the looming threat and increasing likelihood of a great and violent ethnic and religious conflict, the likes of which Africa has never seen before.

If it is not Boko Haram that is slaughtering our people it is the Fulani herdsmen. Worse still, they are doing these despicable things with the active connivance and support of a few people that are in the corridors of power today whose objective is to islamise our nation, plunge us into a fiery abyss and create chaos.

The Bible says ‘there is no fellowship between light and darkness’. We have said it before and we will say it again: we must restructure Nigeria before it is too late. If we fail to do so we will have no choice but to reconsider our so-called unity.

If things don’t change quickly we must consider the possibility of dividing our country and renegotiating our union.

We cannot afford to wait any longer because we are playing with fire and we are sitting on a keg of gunpowder. We must attempt to do whatever needs to be done peacefully and we must not allow the butchers and those that kill in the name of their god to provoke us into another civil war.

Nothing represents the danger of the war that is looming more than the response of the Niger Delta Revolutionary Crusaders (an affiliate of the Niger Delta Avengers) to Al Barnawi’s threat.

They responded by saying that if Christians and Churches are targeted by Boko Haram they will kill all the Muslims in the Niger Delta area and they will burn down all the mosques. It is a simple case of “action” and “reaction” and I sincerely hope that those that are used to killing others and not being killed themselves take them seriously.

Clearly we are living in dangerous times and I sincerely hope that those that brought religion into our politics in 2015 and that used Islam and the Boko Haram offensive as a political tool against a southern Christian President are seeing the fruits of their labour. When you invoke the proverbial genie and let it out of the kettle you must be prepared to live with the consequences and whatever follows.

Yet the folly does not stop there. As if our sensibilities were not already sufficiently provoked President Buhari took the religious dance to yet another level last week by directing the Central Bank of Nigeria to sell foreign exchange to Muslim pilgrims that were on their way to Saudi Arabia for hajj at 197 naira to 1 USD.

This whilst everyone else, including students, manufacturers, businessmen, Christian pilgrims, the ailing and holiday-makers, must continue to buy at 400 naira to 1 USD. When the math is done this amounts to a whooping N7.9 billion naira concession for Muslim pilgrims.

And all this in a country that is not only impoverished and whose people are suffering from the worst economic hardship and poverty crunch since independence but also one that is meant to be a secular state. Such is the national outrage that President Buhari’s forex concession to his Muslim brothers and sisters has provoked that a well-known political commentator and activist Mr. Paul Achalla wrote the following on his Facebook wall on August 5th:

“N410 to $1 for business, education, entrepreneurship, food processing, manufacturing, etc. and N197 to $1 for pilgrims going to Saudi Arabia? Bluntly put, Boko Haram ideology won Nigeria’s 2015 general election!!!”

Paul Achalla is right. How can this sort of nonsense be justified in a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious secular state? Is Buhari’s Nigeria crafted only for the Muslim north? Is Saudi Arabia now the spiritual headquarters of our nation?

If it is not the Sultan of Sokoto declaring public holidays, it is the President giving subsidised rates of foreign exchange and preferential treatment to members of his own religious faith.

If it is not that he is leading our country into a sinister and dangerous military coalition of Sunni Muslim nations it is that he is holding conferences in Abuja with foreign Muslim clerics whose stated objective is to “spread sharia throughout Nigeria” and islamise our country.

Worse still virtually all his Service Chiefs and principal commanders in his Armed Forces together with his National Security Advisor, his Minister of Defence, his Minister of Internal Affairs, his Inspector General of Police, his Chief of Defence Intelligence, his Director General of State Security, his Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, his Commander of the National Civil Defence Corps, his Comptroller General of Customs, his Comptroller General of Immigration, his Comptroller General of Prisons and ALL his other security, para-security and intelligence agencies, bar one, are northern Muslims.

Can there be any greater form of corruption, abuse of power, injustice and betrayal of trust than this? Does this not prove the fact that our country is in dire need of restructuring?


The Niger Delta Crusaders, Muslim Pilgrims and United States of Nigeria – Part 2

Sadly many in the conservative core north remain unconvinced. For example the Arewa Consultative Forum issued a statement on the 7th of August in which they stated their total opposition to restructuring and instead of offering an olive branch of peace and understanding to its advocates who are predominantly in the south they issued the usual warnings of dire consequences if the matter is pushed too far.

Worse still a few days ago the Emir of Katsina publicly admonished all northerners to support the government of President Buhari insisting that they had a duty to do so. His words: “President Muhammadu Buhari is trying his best to rectify the situation and we must support and encourage him. During this trying period, we as northerners are expected to support President Buhari and his team instead of joining others to criticize them.” (THE SUN NEWSPAPER, 7th AUGUST 2016).

There are no prizes for guessing who the “others” that he is referring to are because it is self-evident. What the Emir appears to have forgotten is that had it not been for a sizeable number of votes from the south west the President would not have had a hope in hell of being elected.

Simply put what he is saying is that Buhari is effecting a clear and simple northern agenda which must be supported by all true sons and daughters of the north. He is also suggesting that the feelings and sensibilities of those that oppose him from the south do not matter.

Meanwhile the tension that is being generated by the sectional nature of President Buhari’s policies and government continues to escalate and a face-off is imminent.

Nothing reflects this fact better than the words and obvious concerns of the Ohanaeze Youth Wing who condemned the fact that whilst the Buhari administration continues to keep Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of IPOB in prison, they are releasing hundreds of murderous Boko Haram terrorists from detention. Their words: “Buhari’s Federal Government continues to jail Nnamdi Kanu and other Biafrans while Boko Haram terrorists are being released from prisons. It beats the imagination that terrorists who have been responsible for the death of innocent Nigerians are being released while unarmed freedom fighters are kept behind bars against court orders” (VANGUARD NEWSPAPER, AUGUST 8th, 2016).

They also went as far as to suggest that Mr. Kanu’s continued detention may “trigger a crisis in the south-east.”

Not to be left out, the northern youths, under the auspices of the Northern Youths Leaders Assembly issued a statement on the 8th of August threatening to deal with anyone or any group of people who continue to criticise or try to “tarnish the image” of President Buhari.

Their words: “We will no longer tolerate any insults to the family and members of the President’s cabinet and we will mobilize all our resources to take on anyone who thinks they can use their image as a chess pawn in the game playing out in the media. We hereby warn that the north will no longer tolerate any further attack on the image, family and character of President Muhammadu Buhari in his quest to make Nigeria a better place for all” (VANGUARD NEWSPAPER, 8th AUGUST 2016).

Yet the most chilling warning of all came from yet another militant group in the Niger Delta Area known as the Adaka Boro Avengers. They went a step further than their brothers in arms, the Niger Delta Crusaders, by saying: “On the threat by Boko Haram to kill Christians we are also sending this message to those Northerners who want to burn and kill Christians in North in the name of the Islamic religion to commence immediately but they must know that one Niger Delta soul will be exchanged for 100 Northern souls” (VANGUARD NEWSPAPER, 8th AUGUST, 2016).

These are dangerous words from dangerous people. We ignore them at our own peril. It is clear to the discerning that now, possibly more than at any other time in the beleagured history of our country, we need prayers to ensure a peaceful resolution to what is essentially an extreemly complicated problem that presents us with an existential threat.

Only a fool would disregard the fact that the ethnic and religious polarisation that we are faced with today is real and that the drums of war are beating in our country.

When one considers all of the above is it any wonder that yours truly wrote the following words in my column a couple of weeks ago. I said: “The prayer is no longer ‘God bless Nigeria’ but rather ‘God break Nigeria.’

It is no longer ‘God defend Nigeria’ but rather ‘God restructure Nigeria.’

It is no longer ‘God deliver Nigeria’ but rather ‘God deliver US FROM Nigeria.’

It is no longer ‘God preserve Nigeria’ but rather ‘God redefine Nigeria’. It is no longer ‘God remember Nigeria’ but rather ‘God dismember Nigeria’ “- (‘NIGERIA’S THIRD MAHDI AND THE LAST OF THE AMALEKITE KINGS’, THE SUN NEWSPAPER, NEW TELEGRAPH NEWSPAPER, 25th JULY, 2016).

Clearly things are falling apart. Yet if the Buhari administration continues to ignore our concerns and admonitions and if they continue to insist on arresring and locking us up and attempting to intimidate us simply for our timely counsel and interventions perhaps they will listen to one of their own.

If they do not wish to hear the truth about the way forward from us perhaps they would be ready to hear it from someone who openly supported them and helped them to come to power last year.

That person is none other than the distinguished and highly respected General Alani Akinrinade, a war-hero, an elder-statesman, a reverrred and respected Yoruba elder and a leading supporter of President Buhari and the APC during the 2015 presidential electuons. In July he said the following to the Sun Newspaper: “First, the APC must be told, in no uncertain terms that it is fraudulent. They led us down the garden path, lying to us about what is in the end of the tunnel.

“What was in the end of the tunnel was restructuring and each one of them, the party chairman, the president, his vice, and in that order, are all talking from the other side of their mouths now. In other words, they lied to us in 2015 before the election.

“My message to them is, they should embark on a very major exercise now to restructure the country, otherwise, how do they propose to settle the crisis in the South-South because it is becoming embarrassing?

“A man whose land you went to tap resources and then he couldn’t farm or fish, because you bastardised his farmland and you then send back to him stipends from what you took away from his land, such a man can never be happy.

“Is the APC thinking that the matter of religion, ethnicity and other crises across the country are just going to go away? Even the late Sardauna of Sokoto said so, that we are a disparate people and we must recognise that fact and use it to our advantage.

“Nobody is going to build Nigeria the way APC is going about it. I’m not too sure how many people sing our National Anthem again because they don’t even believe in it.

“There is nothing like unity in this country. Unity can only exist when we all understand one another and there are some mutual relationships.

“If I know you are always cheating me by giving 44 local councils to Kano and giving Lagos 20, which is not in the same parameter with Kano in terms of population, production and name it, how can I be happy?

“However rickety Nigeria has become, if there is a wholesome reconstruction and re-engineering of the system, it can work. “That was the major reason the Southwest went along with the APC and Buhari, as the presidential candidate in 2015….to tell us that he didn’t read the recommendations (of the 2014 National Conference) and that it is best for the archives and that, in fact, restructuring is unnecessary and according to his Vice, what we needed is diversification and whatsoever, I remain baffled.

“They were just saying we would diversify into agriculture and solid minerals, as if the items will come from heaven.. If the APC fails to do something in that direction, I’m not talking about the 2014 conference report alone, but all others preceding it that have similar recommendations to restructure this country, then President Buhari may forget it and I’m saying he is likely to be the last president of this country. It is as bad as that”- ( ‘A REALITY CHECK FROM GENERAL ALANI AKINRINADE’ THISDAY NEWSPAPER, 5 AUGUST, 2016).

It took courage for Akinrinade to speak up in this way and I commend him for it. His words and counsel are timely and I hope that those that are in power today are humble enough to accept them and retrace their steps.

Of all the heroes in both history and mythology the greatest were King David of Israel, William Wallace of Scotland, King Leonides of Sparta, Hector of Troy, Alexander the Great of Macedonia, King Jehu the son of Nimshi and Achilles of the Mermidans. They all stood for the truth.

They all loved their God. They all had faith and the courage of their convictions. They all refused to bow before the enemy. They all fought till the end. O that we had just a handful of such gallant men in Nigeria: we would have restructured long ago and made waves in the comity of nations.

O that we had more men who have the courage of their convictions and who are prepared to risk all and speak truth to power.

Permit me to end this contribution with the words of Minister Louis Farrakhan the leader of the Nation of Islam in the United States of America. On the 7th of August, he said:

“Anarchy may await America due to the daily injustices suffered by the people. There really can be no peace without justice. There can be no justice without truth. And there can be no truth unless someone rises up to tell you the truth.”

I concur. And this applies in the Nigerian context and to the Nigerian situation more than any other. There can and will be no peace in this country without justice.

That justice begins with “restructuring” and it ends with “separation” and the birth of two or more new nations out of one.

Why? Because the Bible says “there is no fellowship between light and darkness”. It says “there can be no love or friendship between the children of God and the servants of Belial”. It says “we must not be unequally yoked.”

•Fani-Kayode is Nigeria’s former Minister of Aviation.