BY Umar Ardo, Ph.D
For President Mohammed Buhari to have any hope of substantially overcoming the gathering political storms of the post-youths protests and stabilize the country once again, he urgently needs a better and more sophisticated line of strategy for the implementation of his government; not just simply making appeals, relying on understanding and, when all fails, resorting to brute force. Things have obviously changed and such inutile methods can no longer work. What is needed now is strategic thinking.
In modern day politics of governance, strategic thinking stands out as the most critical skill for success in the management of human societies. It is all about understanding and distilling constituency politics; about being able to see, predict, and plan ahead of all and sundry, and by taking a broad, long-range approach to problem-solving and decision-making that involve objective analyses. That means being able to think in multiple time frames, deciphering the real material problems and their protagonists, identifying what can be accomplished over time, and what has to happen now, in six months, in a year, etc. It also means thinking systemically, and stimulating certain impacts of certain inputs on certain segments of the society. Some call this as SWAT Analyses. It may well be, but whatever it is for us to succeed as a nation, our leadership must at all times possible, try to promote insight, foresight and long-term thinking. Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that most times intelligence trumps experience. An intelligent candidate can quickly learn a job and frequently ends up doing it better than someone (less intelligent) who has been doing a similar job elsewhere. Experience is certainly valuable, but brains are the horsepower that drives strategy, good leadership and success.
In fact, the president has started on the protests episode on a good note. To the credit of the C-in-C, security forces were not initially unleashed on the peacefully protesting youths. In truth, the government at the beginning took a conciliatory stance and had demonstrated its readiness to make concessions. I want to commend the stance of the government in its initial response to these national protests. I earnestly urge the government to continue on this line and withdraw all forces later deployed. While we all regret the unfortunate incidents of deaths when hoodlums hijacked the process, we must also be gladden by the show of solidarity to the protesting youths displayed by our gallant troops. Against the questionable narrative of ‘security forces mowing down children they were supposed to protect’, I saw several videoclips of officers and troops of our military in accord and unity with the protesters, to the exhilaration of the latter. All citizens of good standing should feel encouraged by this.
What the president also needs to do now is to join millions of good Nigerian citizens to commend our indefatigable youth for taking the initiative of organizing the mass peaceful protests against police brutality and other ills of society in our country. He should take pride particularly in the ability of our youth to have leveraged on the advantages of technology and globalization to make the protests not only go viral globally but also generally very sophisticated. The president must recognize that sophistry in organizing the peaceful protests as an unmistakable dawn of a new era in Nigeria’s democracy, explaining why Nigerian citizens readily lent their support and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the youths.
But it is both unfortunate and regrettable that such well organised and supported peaceful protests have festered, degenerated, deteriorated and even spiraled out of hand into almost a state of anarchy. All of a sudden, the peaceful non-violent protests have turned violent with terrible news reports and video clips of rioting, breaking prison and releasing criminals, fighting, killings, stampede, arson, looting, destruction, etc. across the length and breadth of this country. This is unacceptable, and is what government is working hard to contain.
While we stand for and submit to peaceful protest as basic element of liberal democracy, we must also object and condemn all acts of lawlessness, violence, arson, looting and destruction. We must all therefore not just call on all our youth to uphold, entrench and engender peace and orderliness in all their actions, but also support government to bring this looming anarchy to a complete halt in line with government’s fundamental duty of protecting and securing lives and property of Nigerians.
In addition, President Buhari as a matter of urgency needs to also immediately constitute a committee of inquiry to investigate the unfortunate incidents of peaceful protests hijacked by hoodlums to cause destruction and murder and bring those responsible to book. The president should also urgently summon meetings of constitutionally established consultative bodies such as the National Council of State, National Defence Council, National Security Council, etc. for consultations and advise. This is with a view to establishing a wide and all encompassing by-partisan national committee of academics, youths representatives, business community, civil society, the labour, credible politicians of key political parties, etc. to deliberate and proffer concrete and durable solutions to government on the contentious issues in the country raised by our youths. To be given 3 months to submit its report, the committee should serve as an institutional network and channel of communication for engagement, consultations and dialogue among the apparatuses and leaderships of all the key strata of the Nigerian society including eminent Nigerians, stakeholders, civil society organizations, intelligencia, opposition organs, community, traditional and religious leaders, etc.
It is my sincere belief that if government can act decisively on this, we shall be able to succeed as a nation in overcoming the adverse social and political consequences imbedded in the current situation. Let President Buhari see this protest phase as a window of opportunity to act in stabilizing our great country. I appeal to the president not to fail to seize the opportunity. I also appeal to our elites, not withstanding their political leanings, to give government support to resolve the current national adversity like is done in all civilized democracies. In the meantime, let the protests halt and let government act now. An informed and elaborate engagement at this point, I am confident, will secure, save and preserve our government, our democracy, our country and our future.