Like all far right political figures, Muhammadu Buhari in both perception and reality is quite divisive. By his body language, speech and actions, Buhari has divided Nigerians against each other in a manner that aptly describes as unprecedented. With his habitual game of blames and buck passing, he has turned the poor against rich, Muslim against Christian, north against south and most recently, petrol buyers against petrol marketers. By refusing to take responsibilities for the good, bad and the ugly situations in the country he is leading, Buhari has left Nigerians confused and turned on each other instead of coming together to hold him accountable.
Out of a divided Nigeria is an emergence of a state of ‘’apartness’’ otherwise known as apartheid. No thanks to Buhari’s unbridled nepotism, which has elevated sectionalism to a state policy thereby making some Nigerians more equal than others. From a disproportionate appointment of key government officials from his Muslim northern section of the country, which has inevitably led to a near northernization of government business to the subsequent deployment of state resources and apparatus to further a vain northern political agenda, Buhari has clearly shown he does not belong to all but belongs to some.
Nowhere is this state of apartheid more profound than in the most fundamental role of government, which is to secure lives and properties of its citizens. The deliberate concentration of top defence and internal security top job in the hands of Nigerians of Muslim northern extraction, have resulted into a security architecture that ensures sectional security but not national security. The Nigerian army was most decisive in crushing Nnamdi Kanu’s IPOB, whose separatist’s agitations, though peaceful, were offensive and irritating to the conservative northern establishment who would rather the status quo remain. That zeal that was displayed by the army was lacking in the police who failed to arrest and prosecute an irate mob of elderly looking youths who issued a quit notice to the entire citizens of south eastern origin, majority of whom are non IPOB members to leave the north.
However, the most glaring apartheid security policy of the Buhari administration is its government’s mishandling of the existential threat posed by armed Fulani herdsmen militia. The marauding activities of killer Fulani herdsmen, which have resulted in thousands of dead or displaced people over a large land area, have assumed a bigger proportion than the Boko Haram insurgency yet the Buhari administration refuses to designate them as terrorists. By failing to admit the activities of killer Fulani herdsmen constitute terrorists acts against the Nigerian state, the Buhari administration have clearly shown that not all lives matter. The official position of the Buhari administration that activities of killer Fulani herdsmen is nothing but ‘’communal clash’’ is not so different from Aung San Su Kyi’s position that denies ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims by Burmese Bhuddists militia but claims its ‘’community clash’’. Similarly, like the Burmese security forces who look away when ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims are taking place but are quick to blame ‘’ Islamist terrorists’’ operating out of Arakhine state for its excessive use of force on civilian population, the Nigerian police went into Benue and came up with a story of presence of a’’ Tiv’’ militia at a time when seventy three people mostly of Tiv ethnicity were slaughtered.
And when the president finally spoke, he sounded so much like Aung San Su Kyi, when she says ‘’ communities must learn to live in peace and accommodation’’ without making a strong statement condemnation. By contrast, the Buhari administration was swift and decisive in confronting the Boko Haram insurgency that is ravaging most part of the Muslim north east. Similarly, the President took seriously the crime of cattle rustling, which affects his own ethnic Fulani cattle breeders’ kinsmen. So serious was this issue dealt with, that Buhari personally launched a military operation in the north western state of Zamfara to combat cattle rustling. Since the terror attack on farmer communities in Benue by killer Fulani herdsmen started, the Buhari administration had not launched a decisive military operation to contain the deadly group and the president has not visited Benue to personally reassure the people of his willingness to secure their lives and properties.
Like most far right leaders, Buhari is an embodiment the ethno-geographic sentiments and aspiration of his own section of the country from whom he drew his greatest political support. Like PW Botha, the leader of the White Nationalist party in Apartheid South Africa, Buhari is not willing to upset his most secure support base by pandering to a unified nationalist ideal over sectional sentiments. Racial or ethnic supremacy is the opium of the far right mob and Buhari has overdosed his core base of supporters with his elevation of sectionalism to unprecedented levels. This has kept his mob of far right supporters drawn largely from his section of the country in line of devotion to his cult of personality. Tragically, his defence and security policy of pacification of Killer Fulani herdsmen has emboldened the terror group to unleash mayhem on helpless citizens because they are of getting away with it. The suggestion of establishing cattle colonies by the federal government after the recent massacre in Benue betrays the complicity of the Buhari administration in the pastoralist war of expansion. Most Nigerians went away with the impression that such terror acts by killer Fulani herdsmen are allowed to take place in order to weaken farmer communities and make them easy to give up portions of their land for unrestrained open grazing.
The killings in Benue have gone beyond an ordinary clash between farmers and herders. The seventy three men, women and children that were slaughtered were defenceless unarmed victims of well-armed Killer Fulani herdsmen terrorists. These innocent Nigerians were slaughtered in their homes, some of whom are too old to even farm. Some others were students who came home for holiday while others are little children who don’t own any farm land. A clash occurs between to equally armed groups with each standing its ground forcefully. A case where defenceless people are massacred in their homes while they sleep is a terror attack that must be declared as such by the state and its recurrence prevented by all legitimate means. Unfortunately, the apartheid state of Buhari’s Nigeria lumps these innocent victims of terror attack under the category of ‘’communal clash’’.