Former president Olusegun Obasanjo is always on hand to give his opinion on most of the issues plaguing Nigeria. His opinion is sought frequently by the media and he is regularly speaking at events and different forums, making proclamations on governance, the economy and so on.
The main problem with Obasanjo and his speeches is that he was president for eight years and military dictator for three years before then, and either did precious little to alleviate the problems the country faces or contributed immensely to worsening the situation or accelerating the decline.
He was at it again today, mounting his high horse at the Annual Lift Above Poverty Organisation (LAPO) Development Forum in Abuja with the theme “Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture in Nigeria: Challenges and Opportunities”. The former president said on the terror spread by Fulani herdsmen in their clashes with farmers: “Some of the words that have been coming from our leaders, particularly from state governors are not helpful! This issue is not a federal issue and another thing, I don’t like about it is that when you talk of Fulani herdsmen, people talk of the President. Now because the President of Nigeria is a Fulani man, you expect him to solve the problem immediately, that is not his job. And when people make comments like this, it annoys me”.
He continued on this theme: “I need to state that it is the responsibility of local governments to take care of them. Now, states should have even done better, but they haven’t, and then when you have cattle rustling, herdsmen and farmers conflict, you try to make it a national issue. It is not really a national issue.”
This is gravity-defying ignorance. For starters, the herdsmen v farmers issue is a national security issue due to the large scale nature of the deaths and destruction. The Global Terrorism Index described Fulani militants as the fourth deadliest terror group in the world. It is also a national matter since the herdsmen move from state to state and a nationally-coordinated effort is required to deal with the problem. The police and all the security agencies are also controlled by the federal government. Most importantly, the president can’t legally wash his hands off the matter because the constitution states in Chapter 2 section 14(1)(b): “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”.
This means that the “primary purpose” of government at all levels, from president to governor to local government chairman, is the “security and welfare of the people”. Any Nigerian being killed in any part of the country or any Nigerian whose livelihood is being destroyed by Fulani herdsmen in any part of the country, is the responsibility of the president, the governor in that state, and the chairman of the local government area.
What we have witnessed in recent times, with the violence from Fulani herdsmen in epidemic proportions, is an abdication of constitutional responsibility from the president down to local government chairmen. This failure to uphold the constitution is aided and abetted by the ignorance of many Nigerians, including Obasanjo, who should be ensuring that their elected rulers are accountable.