By Sam Eyoboka
FOLLOWING President Muhammadu Buhari’s suspension of the controversial RUGA Settlement project across the country, the Catholic Archbishop Emeritus of Lagos, His Eminence, Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie in a statement titled: “Face-to-face with truth”, described the presidential act as an act of injustice, stressing it amounted to the height of duplicity for the Presidency to tell Nigerians that this is the solution to the problem of violent herdsmen.
According to Okogie, “we are dealing here with a strain of duplicity that is rendered more tragic by the arrogance of government spokespersons. As has become the stock in trade of image makers at the Presidency, whoever disagrees with any policy of this government is treated with disdain. And that is coming from a government that claims to have been democratically elected! The statement that emanated from the Presidency on Sunday, June 30, 2019, rather than offer a credible explanation, served insolence on a plata.”
The Catholic Cleric said: “Nigeria professes to be a representative democracy. As we write, some figures put our population at 200 million. So, we pride ourselves as being among the largest democracies in the world. Since the different arms of government cannot contain 200 million people, we elect some of us to represent us in the legislature and the executive arm of government. These representatives of the people have the obligation to consult and report to the people before they act in government. This is what is termed ‘democracy’ – a government of the people, by the people and for the people.
”But can we find truth in the governance of this country? Is there truth in Aso Rock or in any of the state government houses? Can it be found in any of the local governments? Can it be said that there is truth in our country’s national assembly? Is it not the case that those whom we elect to represent us take us for granted? Those we hired to serve us have become our masters. And they are despotic.
”We are fed with a steady diet of lies. We are told lies during campaigns when candidates who are utterly unpatriotic and lacking in good character are packaged by campaign organizations and presented to Nigerians as God-sent. As soon as they get into governance, they begin to break their campaign promises. We were promised peace and prosperity. But we are offered insecurity and poverty. The length and breadth of our vast country is covered by a thick veil of injustice.
“When you are citizen of a country where government has repeatedly demonstrated its insincerity, its readiness to tell lies and mix duplicity with insolence, it would be reckless to believe pretentious promises. The honesty deficit of government in Nigeria is very high. Promises of change have turned into change of promises. This is a government that tells us Boko Haram is “technically defeated” while Boko Haram continues to kill our poorly equipped soldiers. This is a government that writes off any other report concerning what happens here in Nigeria as false. Take for instance, reports on fulanisation, nepotism, daily blood bath across the country and so on. ”This is a government bedeviled by a self-inflicted credibility crisis that it needs to address before it can accomplish anything meaningful and useful. But its spokespersons prefer to indulge in insolence. That is why this government cannot be engaged in any productive dialogue. A democracy where there is no dialogue, where it is an offence to disagree with government policy, is a democracy that has lost its soul.
“The latest act of injustice is the proposed and now “suspended” project of Ruga settlement. It amounts to the height of duplicity for the Presidency to tell Nigerians that this is the solution to the problem of violent herdsmen. We are dealing here with a strain of duplicity that is rendered more tragic by the arrogance of government spokespersons.
”As has become the stock in trade of image makers at the Presidency, whoever disagrees with any policy of this government is treated with disdain. And that is coming from a government that claims to have been democratically elected! The shjjtatement that emanated from the Presidency on Sunday, June 30, 2019, rather than offer a credible explanation, served insolence on a plata. It amounts to a gratuitous insult on the intelligence of those who know the history of this country to say: “RUGA settlement that seeks to settle migrant pastoral families, simply means rural settlement in which animal farmers, not just cattle herders, will be settled in an organised place with provision of necessary and adequate basic amenities such as schools, hospitals, road networks, vet clinics, markets and manufacturing entities that will process and add value to meats and animal products.”
This statement, widely reported in the dailies, is insensitive to our need to overcome suspicion in this country. Our history, especially in the pre-colonial era, shows how such “settlements” for “migrant pastoral families” have been used to dispossess people of their ancestral land, used to disturb peaceful co-existence in our multi-ethnic country. Have we not been told in recent memory that if we want peace we must give land to violent herdsmen? Why is it that a government that lays claims to democratic credentials would simply refuse to address the concerns of the people of Nigeria? Indeed, there is another name for this policy. It is a “Your land or your life policy”
”The fact that some state governors have accepted this RUGA Settlement proposal does not necessarily mean they are acting in the interest of their people. Who does not know that the political fortune of a state governor in Nigeria is tied to “loyalty” to federal might? And who does not know that, when asked to make a choice between his political fortune and the good of the people of his state many a governor would chose the former?
“When those who speak for a government said to be democratically elected insult those who hold dissenting opinions, it is not those who are insulted who are diminished. It is the government that is diminished. But while we expect insults from government spokespersons for writing this, we are reminded of the immortal words of Uthman dan Fodio: “Conscience is an open wound healed by truth.” When shall truth be spoken by this government?” Okogie asked.