– The Sultan ExampleTHISDAYLIVE – THISDAY Newspapers
By Kayode Komolafe
0805 500 1974
Many disappointed patriots often sum up their reading of the national horizon by saying that Nigeria has never been so divided. To worsen matters, insecurity is also a severe test of nation – building at this time. The defenders of President Muhammadu Buhari, who may legitimately disagree with this view of things, should at least concede that those who hold the opposite view are actually speaking for not a few of their compatriots.
The political leadership has grossly mismanaged the country’s diversity. Not enough sensitivity has been shown in tackling the fault lines. The net effect is that hardly is anyone speaking for Nigeria anymore. The subjective factor of a sense of belonging is, perhaps, the most important one for national unity. That crucial factor in nation-building is being steadily eroded under Buhari’s watch. It is, therefore, a false assumption to think that national cohesion could be taken for granted in the circumstance. Putting it in the mildest form, it is worrisome that Buhari is not paying adequate attention to this intangible factor in his policy steps.
The President’s publicists correctly point to the tangible fact of infrastructure being built; but they have little or nothing to say about Buhari’s efforts at nation-building.
It would be a great thing for the health of the polity if before the end of his tenure Buhari could be sold to the public as a unity President. To achieve that the President’s approach to nation-building should change now.
Little surprise that the socio-political space is practically left for ethnic and regional champions as the strident voices of their people. Positions are progressively getting hardened. The advocacy for the restructuring of the Nigerian federation to make it more workable and acceptable to all parts of the country has been hijacked by separatists. It should worry those strategising for the Buhari administration that these are not mere agitations by rabble rousers. In various parts of the country, embittered and serious-minded intellectuals and other elements of the middle and upper classes are deeply (albeit remotely) involved in the agitations. Movements are springing up for the creation of all manners of republics. Driving the centrifugal pull is a deep sense of alienation from the centre. When the intellectuals of the ethnic and regional movements talk of “self-determination,” with a good measure of justification, it would be difficult for the government and its agents to dismiss, much less criminalise that approach.
What with the fault lines becoming increasingly conspicuous, the situation calls for influential voices that could resonate across the lines.
It is in this context that of the voice of the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, is noteworthy in some respects. A refrain of the ethnic and regional leaders in their criticism of the President is that of “Islamisation and Fulanisation.” Now, the Sultan is a Fulani Muslim like Buhari. In fact, both of them are Muhammadu. Beyond Buhari, some of the critics from other ethnic groups and religions often insinuate that the Fulani Muslims of the Sultan’s class are also culprits of the alleged agenda of Islamisation and Fulanisation.
Talking about identity politics many years ago, the late Kogi technocrat turned politician and Aro of Mopa, Chief Sunday Awoniyi, famously said “you cannot be more Christian than a Sunday just as you cannot be more Yoruba than an Awoniyi.” In fact, as he correctly added semantically, Awoniyi is a synonym of Awolowo. Awoniyi was responding to his Yoruba critics who accused him of identifying with the north in his politics.
Similarly, it could be said of the Sultan that you cannot be more Fulani than a direct descendant of Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio just as you cannot be more Muslim than the President of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs. The Sultan has both identities.
Yet, the Sultan has never been impulsively defensive against the charges of Islamisation and Fulanisation. The whole of the Fulani ethnic group has been unjustifiably profiled as a result of the activities some Fulani elements perpetrating crimes such as killings, kidnappings and rapes. As the traditional ruler of the Sokoto Caliphate, the Sultan has never denied or rationalised this trend in criminality. Instead he has openly denounced criminality regardless of the ethnic origins of the criminals even while not neglecting the material context of poverty and social exclusion that breeds the criminals. He has called for justice to be done. Similarly, he has maintained for years that the Boko Haram terrorists are not fighting for the cause of Islam. He should know what he is saying on these issues.
Imagine on the contrary if from his vantage position as a leading light of the Fulani ethnic group and the religion of Islam, the Sultan had opted to respond to the profiling of the Fulani and the allegations of turning Nigeria into an Islamic theocracy with vitriolic attacks and incendiary rhetoric. Instead of this dangerous step he has devoted his energy, time and resources to promoting inter-religious dialogue. For instance, both the Sultan and the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah, have publicly demonstrated mutual respect and goodwill towards each other as leaders of their respective faiths. They both work for inter-faith dialogue.
More pointedly, the Sultan’s interventions on the state of insecurity have been consistently honest and responsible. As a retired brigadier- general of the Nigerian Army, the Sultan has made constructive criticisms of the government’s approach while offering concrete solutions. For instance, at a security summit in Abuja four months ago, the Sultan said among other things: “Let us not deceive ourselves that things are alright, things are not alright… We know it and we see it.”
The Sultan has accused security agencies of not being pro-active enough. Below is his response a week ago to a viral video of an Islamic cleric calling for reprisals after the killings of 22 travellers in Jos, Plateau state : “What are our security agencies doing that they cannot invite those making these videos and saying nasty and bad things that raise tensions? Nobody should be above the law, whether you are a Christian or Muslim. You cannot incite people to kill innocent people.”
On the perennial claims of security agencies that “unknown gunmen” are responsible for the killings, the Sultan responded as follows: “How can people, who do these things, be unknown? Where are our intelligence agencies? Don’t we have a proactive intelligence agency that will think ahead of the bandits?
“In eastern Sokoto alone, there was a day we buried 76 persons, who were killed in cold blood by criminals who came from ‘nowhere’. There was another day we buried 48 persons in the same Sokoto, but you didn’t hear about it.
“All the people committing such atrocities must be identified. The security agencies must up their game, find them and take action on this kind of carnage. If we start doing so, all this carnage we see in this country will stop.”
The Sultan has also called for a national dialogue to resolve the crisis. Believing that dialogue and not violence would solve the problem, he asked:“What is so difficult in the Presidency leading a national dialogue?”
It is one of the dispiriting contradictions of the present situation that identity politics is at the fore when class struggle should be more intense in view of the burgeoning poverty and misery that unite the overwhelming majority of the people.
As former President Olusegun Obasanjo rightly said recently, it would be costlier for Nigeria to break up than to be united. Leaders at various levels should be conscious of this undeniable reality. Those who are in position to wield influence on the different sides of the fault lines should, therefore, be measured, constructive and sensitive of others in their statements and activities.
On this note, the example of the Sultan of Sokoto is worthy of emulation by other leaders.
Monuments of Impunity
The absolute contempt for accountability in the public sector was unmasked recently by a federal legislator.
It is a sordid story of the chronic violation of rules by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). The MDAs simply shun the queries from the Office of the Auditor – General (OAuGF) of the Federation with impunity.
The occasion was a workshop organised by the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) of the House of Representatives on the following theme: “Auditor – General’s Queries – the ABC of Responses and PAC Technology Innovation and MDAs Compliance.”
According to PAC chairman Hon. Oluwole Oke, the accounts of “12 MDAs (were) never audited from 1993 to 2010; 65 agencies have never been audited since they were created (and) 956 MDAs did not submit their reports to the OAuGF between 2011 and 2016.”
An administration that permits 1,033 MDAs not to submit reports to the auditor can hardly be rated high on any scale of accountability.
A retired civil servant, who served in the first republic, once said that perhaps there would be no need for anti-corruption agencies if only the old General Orders (GO) that governed the public service in the days of yore were scrupulously obeyed. Doubtless, a lot of corrupt acts could have been prevented if the routine auditing of the accounts of the MDAs and other processes had taken place, as a matter of public service culture. In such a culture, the enormous costs of investigations and trials of suspects would be avoided. And the system would be more efficiently run.
The retired civil servant referred to in the foregoing was, of course, talking of the golden age of the Nigerian civil service. That was long before the Murtala/Obasanjo regime destroyed with the jackboot rash of reforms in the mid-1970s the ethos of the public sector which provided the moral fibre for the service.
The scandalous figures of impunity are certainly not a good advertisement for an administration that makes the fight against corruption a cardinal programme. Whatever happened to the war against corruption when management of trillions of naira by these MDAs could escape the definitive audit process?
As the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the state, President Muhammadu Buhari should frown at the fact that this fragrant disregard for rules has not become history six years after he came to power.
More often than not, the focus is on the impunity by officialdom which have political and civic consequences in the society. Attention should also be paid to acts of impunity which impair the efficient and effective delivery of public goods. That is the impunity with socio-economic effects. An efficient and prudent management of limited resources is a sine qua non for the MDAs to deliver public goods – public education, healthcare, social housing, sanitation, potable water, agricultural incentives, infrastructure development etc.
That’s why the public must take interest in this pernicious trend in the public sector and kick against it vigorously. The legitimate advocacy for the proper funding of MDAs to perform their functions in the public interest should be matched with a push to make them fully accountable for the funds. Otherwise, the purpose of common good would not be judiciously served. The centrality of an accountable system to the development process cannot be denied.
The office of the auditor-general of the federal government (wrongly called the office of the auditor-general of the federation) should be strengthened to perform its duty of accountability. The fact is that the auditor-general issuing queries to federal MDAs cannot be that of the whole federation because the ugly picture painted above does not include the situation in the states.
It would be interesting for the public to also know the audit stories in the states.
By failing to answer audit queries, the MDAs are erecting monuments of impunity.
These monuments should not endure.