Former Commonwealth Secretary-General, Emeka Anyaoku, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to eschew sectional practices and focus on eliminating Nigeria’s ethnic and religious fault lines.
Mr Anyaoku’s comments came at a book launch in Abuja on Tuesday.
Over the past week, Mr Buhari has faced condemnation from prominent voices like Wole Soyinka and Olusegun Obasanjo — with both warning of impending disaster should the president fail to recalibrate his responses to lingering insecurity and economic woes.
“Every diverse federal country throughout the world achieves political stability and socio-economic development through successfully managing its national diversity,” Mr Anyaoku said while delivering a speech at the launch of a book by Nigerian jurist, Dadi Onyeama, at the Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja.
“There are two common keys to this. The first is having an inclusive central government which gives the peoples of the component parts of the federation a sense of belonging that in turn underpins the sense of unity and patriotism in all the citizens.
“The second is having adequate delegation of powers to the federating units to enable them to handle their internal security and significant aspects of their socio-economic development,” he added.
Mr Anyaoku led the Commonwealth for 10 years between 1990 and 2000, and is widely considered one of Nigeria’s most respected personalities.
Unlike Mr Soyinka and Mr Obasanjo, however, Mr Anyaoku rarely criticises a sitting government.
But as kidnapping, armed robbery, herdsmen violence and other crimes continue to claim lives and devastate the economy, Mr Anyaoku said he was compelled to join calls for Mr Buhari to change course before it is too late.
“No objective observer, including those in the government, can deny that the current state of affairs in our country is extremely worrisome,” the 86-year-old said. “We see an unprecedented diminution of national unity; we see an unprecedented level of insecurity of life and property with kidnappings and killings of human beings occurring virtually every day in many parts of the country including the seemingly unchecked violence by Fulani herdsmen which has spawned fractious controversies over the proposed Ruga policy by the federal government.”
Specifically, Mr Anyaoku asked Mr Buhari to thoroughly analyse the legal and national security consequences of his administration’s Ruga policy before implementing it.
“For the sake of peace and integrity of the country, the Ruga policy must be handled with circumspection and strictly in accordance with our extant constitution’s provisions on the land tenure,” he said.
The policy, which would see mostly northern herders occupy swathes of land across the country, was recently suspended following widespread outrage across the south.
Governors and other leaders from the southern states accused Mr Buhari of pushing a landgrab policy for northern herders.
Administration officials initially argued in favour of the policy, saying it was the best amongst available options under consideration for intermediate resolution of the crisis.
Mr Anyaoku said the time was running out on an effective solution, and called on critical institutions to save the country from a disastrous end.
“I call on our president, the members of the National Assembly, the governors, and indeed, on all our political elites not to continue to live in denial of the seriousness of these glaring facts, if not effectively addressed, are bound to push the country over the brink of a national disaster.
“Fortunately, to provide insightful governance which would facilitate effective tackling of these challenges, Nigeria does not need to reinvent the wheel. If only the people in government and all concerned would learn from our history, thereby avoid validating the saying by the German philosopher, Friedrich Hegel that “the only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.”
“Because it is undeniable that Nigeria’s history has demonstrated that the economy attained greater sense of national unity and faster progress in socio-economic development during its period as a true federal of more viable federating units with greater devolution of powers to them. The period was in the immediate years after the country’s independence under its 1960/63 constitutions.
“As I have stated on many occasions, I believe that the current travails of Nigeria will be more effectively tackled if the country’s diversity is managed with a structure of governance that draws not only from the present lessons of successful diverse federations but more importantly, from Nigeria’s own past happier experience during its immediate post-independence years,” Mr Anyaoku said.