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Healing Nigeria

Published by The Nation on Tue, 04 Aug 2020

GabrielAmaluThose who accuse President Muhammadu Buhari of exhibiting a messianic complex should not blame him. Rather, they should blame the circumstances of his political rebirth. Prior to his fourth presidential contest and eventual victory in 2015, he had been written off by many as too insular and tribal to rule a complex nation like Nigeria. Even religious bigotry was hauled at him. But despite the allegations, the majority saw him as the answer to the nations greatest challengecorrupt practices.So, Nigerians, who voted President Buhari, into power expects him to heal Nigeria of the disease of corrupt practices, and he has been at the war front. How far he has succeeded is out with the jury. But there is the other ailment, which afflicts Nigeria, and perhaps has done as much damage to the corporate existence of Nigeria, as corruption. That is the pestilence of tribalism. When Nigeria was at the cross-roads in 1966, ethnic sentiments trumped the hatred, for corrupt practices, as those celebrated for overthrowing the 10 percenters, soon became alienated and vilified, following the resurgence of ethnic sentiment.To heal Nigeria therefore, the healer must be able and willing to face those twin challenges head-on. On the score of tribal and ethnic favouritism, President Buhari has been bashed from many quarters, especially with respect to the appointment of persons to man the key national security agencies and assets. Some have accused him of damaging the fabric that holds Nigeria together. For this column, while the president has not been fair in the spread of key appointments, he has fared better in addressing the key infrastructure needs of the various parts of the country.But a sticking sore, is the railway programme of his administration, for which the nation is entering into a debt peonage. The president must appreciate that if the entire citizens are to pay for the huge debts the country is accumulating for the railway projects, it is scandalous, and an aberration that while the country is borrowing furiously to modernise the Lagos-Kano rail line, that from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri has been left unattended to. The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, recently acknowledged the depressing pressure he faces, for the neglect of his home front in the railway projects.Interestingly, the immediate past regime of Goodluck Jonathan, also concentrated the nations resources to modernise the Abuja to Kaduna rail line, for which many vilified him as a stooge of the northern power brokers. So, it is fair to ask, why the concentration of energy to modernise the railways, only in one part of the country' If President Buhari, wants to apply some balm to the nations ethnic sore, he must ensure the revamping of the rail line that runs from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri, with a detour to the federal capital, Abuja.After all, the resources that will be used to build the rail lines and to repay the huge debts the nation is accumulating for the projects, will come substantially from the south-south part of the country. Again, to maintain ethnic balance, it is unfair that while people of the northwest are already enjoying a train ride to the federal capital, peoples from other regions have to wait for more rail lines to be built in the northwest, connecting Kano, Kastina and even Niger Republic, before the people from Southeast, South-south and Northeast would be connected to the federal capital, Abuja.You cannot heal a sore, by sprinkling pepper on it. If the rail line from Lagos through Ibadan is developed up to Abuja, it is only fair, that energy be shifted to build the one from Port Harcourt, passing through south-east to Abuja, and the one from Maiduguri, down to Abuja, which is situated in the north-central. The pursuit of even development for all the regions is a sine qua non for peace and national progress. Conversely, the effect of the neglect of some parts of the country, moves from physical underdevelopment, to national insecurity, sabotage and the failure of a nation.Indeed, if President Goodluck Jonathan, from whose ethnic backyard, the resources for the development of the rail lines come from chose to start with the rail line that connects the northwest to the federal capital, President Buhari, from the northwest, should not show excessive ethnic bias in favour of the region he comes from, in the development of that critical national infrastructure. Indeed, those who suggested to him, the extension of the rail line, from his home state of Kastina to Niger Republic, merely wanted to entrench the accusation of ethnic slur.Admittedly, this column has praised President Buhari for the revamping of the Akanu Ibiam International Airports runway and the Second Niger Bridge, which the past regimes made a song and dance of, without turning the sod. But similar infrastructure development, are also going on across the other regions. So, there is no justification for the neglect of the railways in the region, just as there is no justification for the neglect of the region in the nations gas project. At a recent meeting of the Southeast governors, the states in the southeast appealed to the president to include the region in the nations gas pipeline projects, opting to pay for it.An evenly spread development, is the greatest antidote to the agitation for the division of the country. So, the federal government cannot be borrowing to develop the Ajaokuta-Abuja-Kaduna gas pipeline, while the South-south and Southeast where the supply pipeline passes, are not factored in the projects. Again, that is scandalous, and condemnable. Addressing reporters, after the meeting of the Southeast Governors Forum, the chairman, Governor David Umahi, appealed to the federal government thus: since the pipelines are going to come from the south-south and south-east, we feel the states in the region should also benefit.As noted by Alan R Ball, in his book: Modern Politics and Government: economic differences appear to provide a universal source of political disagreement. The author also noted that if politics is the resolution of conflict, the distribution of power within a political community determines how the conflict is to be resolved, and whether the resolution is to be effectively observed by all parties.President Buhari has shown ardour, whenever he is convinced on a course of action. He must wear that armour to heal the nations sore points, as part of his legacy. This column feels vindicated about its last outing, after the president agreed that there are some fake Buharists in government, who have abused his trust as the essay argued. He must tweak his infrastructure programmes to reflect the diversity of Nigeria, if he wants to apply balm to the nations sores.
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