JOS: ADEBANJO, BALARABE MUSA ATTACK OBASANJO
Mixed reactions have continued to trail former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s remark that Nigeria may soon become Rwanda or Burundi because of the repeated sectarian crises in the country.
The crises have led to loss of lives and property, the latest being the Jos incident, where about 500 persons, mainly children and women were killed in an attack on three villages by suspected Fulani herdsmen.
In an exclusive interview with The Westerner, a sister publication of the Nigerian Compass, the former president had said that if the crises were not properly managed, they might degenerate into the situation in Burundi and Rwanda which flowed into Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and also into Northern Uganda.
But in a swift reaction, Afenifere Chieftain, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, said Obasanjo could not exonerate himself from the crises because he (Obasanjo) failed to act when it mattered most.
He said that when Obasanjo ought to give the country a true federalism and save it from imminent danger, he was busy playing politics with the destiny of over 140 million Nigerians.
He said: “If anything he contributed to it. When he ought to give us true federalism through the Sovereign National Conference (SNC) which we proposed to him, he was busy scheming for his third term project. The SNC would have helped us to determine how we are going to live together; the methodology and the conditions, not the type of forced arrangement we have now.
“We are heterogeneous in culture, language and religion. In heterogeneous society if you don’t allow self determination for each ethnic group, there will always be a conflict,” Adebanjo declared.
However, Constitutional Lawyer, Itse Sagay, agreed with Obasanjo. He said that the senseless killings in Jos may soon snowball into a serious national crisis if not checked.
Sagay contended that the killings of women and children as witnessed in the Plateau villages could be likened to genocide.
“I think Obasanjo is right. It was senseless killings. When people, including children are slaughtered at night, when it gets to that situation, it has genocidal tendency. And if it continues like that, it may degenerate to what we have in Rwanda, Burundi or Congo Democratic Republic (CDR),” Sagay said.
But the Second Republic Governor of the old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, insisted that bad governance at all levels in the country was responsible for the upheaval.
Balarabe said the sectarian crises started in 1979 during the regime of Alhaji Shehu Shagari.
“We started to have this organised violence in 1979 during the administration of Shagari and government never did anything about it. Nobody was punished to serve as deterrent.
“You remember the Maitatsine riot that rocked Kano, Kaduna ,Jimeta and other parts of the North during the Second Republic, none of the fanatical sects responsible for the crises was convicted. In fact, Shagari set them free,” Balarabe said.
He also said that the situation in Nigeria may be worse that Rwanda because the government has not shown enough seriousness that it would tackle the problem frontally.
“This government is irresponsible, so indifferent and too weak to act. It may be worse than Rwanda or Burundi if the injustice continues” he added.
Also, the immediate past President-General of Ohanaeze Ndi-Igbo, Dr Dozie Ikedife, advised Obasanjo to watch his comments as they could incite anger in the people.
He said that it is necessary to juxtapose Obasanjo’s comments with that of the Libyan leader, Muammer Gaddafi, who recently said that the way out of the crisis in Nigeria is to break the country into two.
Ikedife warned that Nigerian leaders should be careful about the things they do or say.
“You can now juxtapose what Obasanjo said with that of Gaddafi. The players at the centre should be very careful about things they say or do, they should know that when a man is pushed to the wall, there are many options for him to stay alive,” he added.
By Victor Oriola & Emma-Enyinnaya Appolos