“Every man must decide whether he will walk in light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.
“The qualities of a great man are vision, integrity, courage, understanding, the power of articulation and profundity of character.”
– Dwight David Eisenhower
The mansion was thrown into the end of a closed street, not perfectly tarred. Unless one was actually invited, one would never have imagined such a mansion being ensconced in the middle of such adoring bushes. The bushes surrounding the expansive mansion seemed militant in their posture, refusing to be intimidated by the cold winter.
Lush in greenness, their defiance of the remnants of the whitish snow, making strenuous efforts to emasculate their allure was self – evident. This mansion was choked by spacious grasslands on all sides with the closest bushes being about fifty – five to sixty meters away. The quietude was deafening in its bawling.
Yes, this is winter. But as I stepped down from the Acura SUV to walk towards the doors, I savoured the adulation of the fresh air that caressed my face. My leather jacket, shielding my upper body as an effective bodyguard against the adoring surging breeze ensured the briskness of my majestic pace towards the mansion.
The defiant attitude of the bushes and the expansive environment of this lavish mansion could not have been a better metaphor for the owner and the guest snuggled within its confines. A gentleman, whom I later learnt to be an auditor at the Pentagon, opened the door for me. My host, Ogbeni Lanre Banjo, a former Treasurer to former Mayor Marion Barry of the District of Columbia, came in his heels to warmly welcome me.
Though, we have always communicated on the phone anywhere in the world, we have not seen each other for a while. Ogbeni Banjo, known personally to all the power brokers in Nigeria, from Olusegun Obasanjo to Goodluck Jonathan and Mohammadu Buhari and many others, is a congenital believer in and follower of Chief Gani Fawehinmi. He had contested the governorship position of Ogun State and had escaped organised attack several times.
Without much ado, he ushered me into the presence of Alhaji Buba Galadima, who was very glad to welcome me. There were some guests he was attending to, but he managed to still engage me for few minutes that our introduction had to take. How we missed each other in Abuja during the last Presidential Campaign of the former Vice President, His Excellency, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar was the kernel of our mutual curiosity, before we briefly excused each other to afford him the opportunity to finish with his guests.
Alhaji Galadima is a well known figure in the firmament of the Nigerian politics. In the Second Republic, he was a silent but very big player. In this Republic, he has been a previously powerful player but still innocuous and demurring until he was pissed off by his bosom and close friend, the incumbent President Mohammadu Buhari. He was instrumental to bringing Buhari into politics at the beginning of this Nigeria’s Fourth Republic.
He has been pissed off and he is still pissed off. He is of the view that Buhari has no scintilla of honour. He seemed to be in pain that Buhari was preparing the demise of the Fulani elites, if Nigeria should survive. “Other Nigerians would come for our heads, when Buhari leaves because they think we know about what he is doing when that is not the case,”he explained.
“No matter what, and no matter how long, Buhari would not be there for ever. It is not possible for him to be in Aso Rock for ever. And when he lives, other Nigerians would come after us. They don’t even have to wait for him to be out of Aso Rock before they do so. The rest of us who are Fulani are now seen as accomplices of his evil deeds. We are seen as collaborators. But we are not.”
“This is why we must all speak up. This is why we must act now. We must let the rest of Nigerians know, as well as let the rest of the world be aware, that we are not supportive of his actions. We are not in support of his taking the ancestral lands of other Nigerians. We are not supportive of the murders of fellow Nigerians. We are not supportive of the herdsmen’s actions and impunity. We are not supportive of farms destructions, because it could only lead to famine and hunger.”
“Thirty four of us started with Buhari and formed the kernel of his foray into politics. Everybody already left. I was the last person to leave because I was hoping for a miracle. But Buhari is irredeemable. It is hopeless to expect anything good from him. Nigeria is in serious trouble. I know what I am talking about. I must admit my culpability in this. I apologise to Nigerians. It has turned out not to be what we thought.”
“Many thought I hate Buhari. I can’t say I hate him, because he is my friend, but I am passionately against what he is doing to Nigeria. He is destroying the country. He is not planting landmines, he is planting bombs all over. Any man or woman of good will should stand up now so that we could check this slide. There is not much time left. We are about to fall off the precipice as a country. If you know what I know, you would be scared as I am right now.”
Earlier, Engr. Galadima had appealed to me to reconsider my position on Nigeria and Oòduà Republic. He tried to convince me that if everyone takes the bull by the horn with candour, Nigeria could be brought back on track. He referred me to the observations of the former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku which I had earlier on alluded to that if the country was well governed inclusively, no one would be talking of secession. He insisted that this should be our objective.
I had told him that it seems to be too late right now. I expressed serious doubts if Nigeria could ever be brought back on track and that there have been too many irreversible damages. That Nigeria had become an evil behemoth. People are tired of endless promises that are never realised. They want something different. They believe that there has been culturally influenced philosophical irreconcilable differences. People feel like slaves in their own country. Their dreams and aspirations have consistently been frustrated. They want out.
At the Zion Kitchen in Washington DC, where Engr. Galadima met with a group of Nigerians, he encountered citizens who were very disillusioned, disenchanted, disentranced and disenthralled, at least the overwhelming majority. One after the other, they expressed hopelessness. Some, without saying so explicitly want an end to and of Nigeria. They want a different country. But there were others who still had hope. They also urged it. They tried to discourage despair.
At a point, a gentleman asked those urging hope and faith in Nigeria, “Where do you guys find hope in Nigeria?” It was a rhethorical question, that elicited several sighs. But the stormy petrel, Engr. Galadima had picked the gauntlet, asking us all to remember the coming generation and not to give up on Nigeria. He was ebullient in his faith, insisting that Nigeria could still work.
When we got home, Engr. Galadima was very concerned about the observed mood of those present at the engagement. He noted that Buhari was doing serious damages to the psyche of Nigerians and that it was time he be stopped and things be reversed. He agreed that people seemed afraid of being in Nigeria than to be out of it. He agreed that there is a lot of work to be done to get the country back on track.
A number of options were discussed, what had to be done and what were being done. He also revealed who and who are talking and those who are seriously complaining in the background. He noted that some eminent Nigerians are just waiting for a number of things to happen. He expressed the hope that it would not be too late for whatever they were trying to do. He agreed that it does no good to put all these on the public plate right now.
Engr. Buba Galadima, noted that he was not “electable or appointable.” “I won’t steal for anybody or myself,” he had insisted. “I must tell you, those of us who have strong opinions and operate on principle are not looked upon with any favourability,” adding, “but that is the least of my concerns. In a well governed polity, you won’t need any favour to survive as long as you have some skills.”
Ebullient and exuberant. Effusive and effervescent. Bouncy and buoyant. Zippy and zestful. He is very clear about his mission and vision. He is very determined. He is very consistent on his expectations. His focus is laser guided. He wants the best for the country. Hypocrisy nauseates him and that is one of his grudges with President Buhari. He is disgusted by nepotism. He is irritated by incompetence. He is scared of the possible consequences of Buhari’s acts of commission and omission for the Fulani as a people and the rest of Nigeria.
He was fun to be engaged.
“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it.”
– John F. Kennedy, in his Inaugural Address January 20, 1961