Crisis is always the test of leadership. That our dear nation is in crisis cannot be disputed. The crisis is already consuming precious lives of Nigerians. Properties and assets of citizens and government are being destroyed. Unfortunately, responses from our political leaders especially at Federal level are below public expectation.
As loyal members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and importantly as patriotic Nigerians, we need to appeal to our leaders, in particular President Muhammadu Buhari, to kindly and urgently hasten intervention through appropriate civic engagement across every parts of the country to ensure restoration of peace in the country. It is now a national imperative for all our political leaders, irrespective of partisan, ethnic, religious, gender or any other demographic affiliation, to forge a strong national unity as a cardinal requirement for restoration of peace in the country. We are faced with emergency situation and every political leader should recognise that, in fact, political contest is only possible under conditions of peaceful atmosphere.
The last few days, since Monday, October 19, 2020, are periods of excruciating pain, and, both as Nigerians but especially as APC members, we watched helplessly how innocent, legitimate and peaceful protest of our children was allowed to be hijacked. It is sad that the unfortunate poor management of the #EndSARS protest has led to the incidence of the night of Tuesday, October 20, 2020 in Lekki, which resulted in the attacked of innocent protesters.
Consequently, Lagos State has come under attack by rampaging and angry lawless crowd, who have targeted and destroy private and government structures, including the Palace of the Oba of Lagos, among many public structures. Our APC leaders, especially Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu are being threatened, resulting in the burning down of the house of the mother of Mr. Sanwo-Olu in Surulere, Lagos.
As it is, Lagos is practically shut down by the crisis. Before Lagos, Benin City was similarly shut down on Monday, October 19, 2020. Earlier, on Saturday, October 17, 2020, there was attack on Mr. Gboyega Oyetola, Governor of Osun State by some criminal elements who penetrated the peaceful protest by our youth in Osogbo. The situation is such that our Governors within their limited capacities are taking every pre-emptive step to avert further outbreak of violence in our states.
The reality however, like other Nigerians, our Governors are at the receiving end of this unfortunate development. Although given their constitutional powers, they also have critically important responsibilities, but the Federal Government has superior responsibility to initiate response to the current crisis. While this is not a period to resort to any blame game, it is however important to recognise that part of the problem weakening Federal initiatives is the inability of many, if not all the mandate ministries and agencies responsible for one form of intervention or the other to competently and effectively initiate needed responses.
For instance, how can we have a Ministry of Police Affairs and the ministry is unable to simulate good engagement strategy with innocent young Nigerians calling for reform of the Nigeria Police? What is the advantage of democracy if a ministry cannot be able to engage the demands of citizens? Where is the Ministry of Disaster Management and Humanitarian Services in all these? Doesn’t the mandate of the ministry include initiatives to prevent disaster? Or, is disaster management limited to attending to human casualties by way of providing palliatives? Where is the Ministry of Youth in all this? How can the ministry absent itself from centres of legitimate protests of our youth for more than a week? Where is the Ministry of Defence? Where is the Ministry of Interior? Where is National Orientation Agency?
If all the agencies of government and political appointees managing these agencies have handle their responsibilities as is expected, this crisis would have been averted. In fact, the pressure on President Buhari’s direct intervention will not have been the case. The crisis produced by the #EndSARS protest highlight the need for the President to urgently take steps to overhaul the machinery of government if our democracy and our government is to be able to meet the expectation of citizens. It is the constitutional prerogative of the President to determine the best strategy and the details of governmental reforms aimed at overhauling the machinery of government to make them more effective in responding to the democratic needs of Nigerians.
Perhaps, it is important to also state that the current crisis is eroding the moral credibility of our party, APC and our political leaders. A situation where lives of our leaders are being threatened and our party and our government demostrate weak responses is quite depressing. What is going on in Lagos State can happen to any state and any leader in an affected state can experience the same attack, if not worse. This must not be condoned and our leaders across all parts of the country must show strong solidarity and rise in defence of our leaders and Government in Lagos State. A threat to one, should be a threat to all, which is the needed reality!
Unless we are able to develop a strong national response and restore peace in the country, APC will appear to be fast losing any moral credibility to present candidates for any election. This means winning elections in the country by APC, especially in the crisis affected areas will just be a daydream. Part of the sad reality is also that many of our political leaders live with the delusion that, if APC’s electoral viability is weakened or destroyed, they can move to other parties. All our political leaders should appreciate that the situation, as much as it is damaging to the APC as a party, it is more politically destructive to every leader of the party.
If care is not taken, we may as well be writing our names as a generation of political leaders into a national black book. The implication of that may not be apparent at the moment. We therefore need to appeal to all our leaders to please treat the current situation with the utmost urgency it requires. This is the time when our claims to selfless service as progressive politicians is being tested, our humanity, nationalism and patriotism are being questioned. There is no doubt that our leaders are up to the task. We just need to strongly convey our appeals coming from our depressed and helpless hearts.
We also need to appeal to all Nigerians, especially our young ones, that we must all rise above our current anger, legitimate as they are. While invoking our inalienable rights to protest and struggle for better conditions in our country, we must also resist attempts by lawless people to take advantages of our actions to create anarchy resulting in the destruction of lives and property. As part of such resistance we must condemn every attempt to reduce legitimate struggles, which have potentials of developing our democracy to make it more responses to demands of citizens into sectional conflicts. Those who reduce national struggles into sectional conflicts don’t mean well for anybody. They are only opportunists, hiding behind so-called sectional interests to promote their personal agenda and therefore they are enemies of the people.
Similarly, we must appeal to Nigerians in diaspora. It is within your right to join the campaign to make Nigeria better and every Nigerian should welcome your contribution, which is expected to come with superior knowledge of best practice across the world. However, it will be very unfortunate, if we all join the campaign to destroy our country by promoting sectional and religious hatred. No doubt, recognising that as Nigerians you also nurse the pains we are going through, your contribution is desirable and welcome but must avoid the opportunistic traps of joining the anarchistic enterprise of promoting hatred and violent conducts. Hate can only lead to destruction and self-destruction.
Initiatives to resolve our national challenges is the responsibility of everyone. At the moment, the weight of responsibility is more on our APC leaders as much as is for all Nigerians. This is the time when for incidence a meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of APC will be urgently required to ensure a coordinated political response to the current crisis. It is possible that this is being considered as I am confident our leaders are working round the clock to ensure immediately restoration of normalcy in every part of the country.
May God enrich the wisdom of all our leaders in the country and guide our political leaders to take all the necessary initiatives to restore normal life in every part of Nigeria! Amin.
This position does not represent the view of any APC Governor or the Progressive Governors Forum
Salihu Moh. Lukman
Progressive Governors Forum