If we should conduct an urgent post-mortem on retired Colonel Dangiwa Umar’s sub-narrative of his epistolary vocalisation – his patriotic headache, his pendulum swing towards disobeying a former General, the echo of his political parables, his imitation of Ciceronian communication devise and his nationalistic prognosis – somewhere in the wreckage, we will discover the spirit of a moral courage. His letter is a document of self-rescue for President Muhammadu Buhari to demobilise from that parochial community of Fulani hegemonists that had infected his administration like COVID-19 virus.
The letter leaves me in no doubt that the stakes for good governance, built on universal tribal participation of all federating nationalities, are high on Umar’s patriotic pulse and that he is ready to wage all his life on redrawing the skewed tribal composition of the president’s appointments so far.
Behind his passionate epistolary mitigation, there is no softening of his spirit of confrontation and rebellious rebuke against a stubborn leader whose obsessive tribal reflex for his Fulani base has been causing loud disquiet.
The subtext of his opening shot aptly summarised his warfare with President Buhari. “One of the swiftest ways of destroying a kingdom is to give a preference to one particular tribe over another or show favour to one group of people rather than another. And to draw near those who should be kept away and keep away those who should be drawn near.” – Sheikh Usman Dan Fodio.
In coming out of his trenches to launch a grenade against his superior, we can assume that Colonel Umar is unafraid to take on the role of a mercenary who has a cause to defend and a battle to win. To him, President Buhari has become a little Daura man who has fallen short of our expectation in terms of naked tribalism and his passive response to redress this huge aberration in his administration.
Hear him: “At this time and in the light of all that have happened since you took office, any conversation with you Mr President cannot gloss over the chaos that has overtaken appointments into government offices in your administration. All those who wish you and country well must mince no words in warning you that Nigeria has become dangerously polarised and risk sliding into crisis on account of your administration’s lopsided appointments which continues to give undue preference to some sections of the country over others. Nowhere is this more glaring than in the leadership cadre of our security services.”
Umar’s patriotic rush is predicated on the notion that as a former soldier, his impulse is national cohesion built on fairness and equal participation. Again, his patriotic flush is anchored on the notion that the manifest destiny of a great Nigeria rests on the input of all Nigerians regardless of tribe, sex, sexual orientation, religion or political leaning. To him President Buhari’s shameless tribal polarisation is capable of dragging Nigeria into a mud that could lead to jealousy, distrust, hatred, suspicion and future tribal bloodbath.
The challenge in his letter goes deeper than the dramatic shock of his intervention. Aside from the rhetoric on tribal polarisation, Umar’s is at pain to conceal Buhari’s failure after five years on the saddle of this nation’s democratic renewal. Where is the change? He seems to be asking. He is at pains to explain that President Buhari has not bail out Nigeria from the raw sewage of political, social, economic and security cul-de-sacs we found ourselves five years on.
His argot of “I regret” is a synonym and plea to a failed leadership to turn the corner and set in motion new imperatives that will catalyse genuine change for the good of his beloved Nigeria. This is Umar’s finest moment and I called this Umarian canon of good governance. This writer did not detect any flight of fancy or populism in his embrace of letter writing as a tool of intervention but the voice of urgent, angry and radical patriot asking for presidential rethink in terms of appointments into public office.
Umar’s epistle poured poison into an overheated polity weighed down by the rampant corruption of COVID-19 palliatives and financial ameliorations meant for the Nigerian people, but diverted into the deep pockets of emergency Covid-19 deal makers. At every street is a new COVID-19 millionaires!!! Umar’s letter is punchy, pushy, punishing and penetrating.
There is no safe haven for President Buhari to dodge Umar’s carpet bombing. Observe another assault. He eases into every line with fistful rage and self-justificatory air: “Mr President I regret to remind you that there are no kind of gentle words to tell you that your skewed appointments into the offices of the federal government, favouring some and frustrating others, shall bring ruin and destruction to this nation.”
Umar belongs to the military elites. He knows the dangers of tribal animosity in a nation of tribes and sub nationalities. His epistolary effusion only highlights the deep fear, nervousness, danger and uncertainty mauling away at our body politics especially with a totally parochial, obdurate and polarising president in power. His mission in this letter is to add his voice to other neutralising voices that had been doubling down on the dangers a Fulani jihadist fundamentalist in Aso Rock pose for this nation.
Line by line Umar’s COVID-19 lockdown corpus clinically disinters President Buhari’s government and leaves reader in no small doubt that we are saddled with a leader who is not ready to repair, protect and remodel a tribally polarised nation that had been sinking deeper and deeper into chasm of Fulani hegemonic superiority for the past five years. Umar is shedding off his Fulani privilege to ruffle delicate political feathers on our behalf. He is unafraid of the ostracism of his Fulani clan and the possible labelling of his stance as the mark of treacherous overreach.
Umar’s desire in this epistolary exchange is not to gain popularity but to warn of a divisive Fulani ideology of racial purity to the exclusion of other tribes in this country. He is out to highlight Buhari’s shame, excesses, moral decay, political irreverence and the tribal provocation he stokes everyday in his appointments.
Umar seems to be suggesting that nation building must be given continued attention and that every citizen must belong and have a stake in this country. He is calibrating a known truth of federal character as espoused in our constitution which is written to guide the leadership and avoid concentration of appointments in a few ethnic hands or geographical locations as we currently have under President Buhari’s government.
Institutions currently established to guard against lopsided appointments are all silent. The National Assembly and the Federal Character Commission both institutions that are meant to raise alarm over skewed appointments have been made useless so far.
Umar’s soldierly intervention, though cocky and bullshitting should be commended. He upholds the tenets of decency, inclusion, fairness and equal opportunity for all Nigerians. He delves into fine examples of detribalised leaders in our history to shame the Abuja matador whose reflex for his Fulani clan is turning into a tragi-comedy.
Umar Dangiwa mentioned old shining lights who modelled Nigeria with fairness and pleasing balance. “Barely nine years after the civil war in 1979, the NPN Presidential candidate, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, picked an Igbo, Dr Alex Ekwueme, as his running mate”. Sadly, the pervasive effect of our political immaturity and blindness now sees tribal solidarity as justification for public appointment. There is one thing though he is currently concerned about. President Buhari the tribal ditherer is currently caught between the deep blue sea and the devil.
His palpable fear is that Buhari may pander, as it is his habit, to irrational Fulani consideration on who becomes the next president of the Court of Appeal. Buhari, to Umar, may want to fabricate another conspiracy theory and ditch the eminently qualified Justice Monica Dongban Mensem, a Northern Christian currently serving her second three-month term in acting capacity. The next in line to Justice Mensem is a Northern Muslim and as the plot of succession thickens, the nation is seized with anxiety over who will get the crown.
On this very case, President Buhari’s government is on a watch list and in intensive unit. Umar’s may have recourse to letter writing after many frustrations with a President who boasted and pledged to belong to everyone and to no one! Would President Buhari go on affirming a government of Fulani, by Fulani for the Fulani after Umar’s cautionary letter? Would he retreat for a junior officer and bow for the interest of the nation than a parochial Fulani clannishness?
When the optics are exposed, President Buhari is a primordial tribalist, Islamic fundamentalist, fanatical Fulani supremacist with a born-to-rule aristocratic hauteur that sees Yoruba and Igbo as third class citizens. This Northern nationalism that constantly wants to re-establish Fulani hegemony on our political landscape has been spreading like Covid-19 under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari and has since morphed into a pandemic.