In response to Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari’s perspectives to Somalia
Mareeg.com-First of all your excellency, It is with great joy and pride that, on behalf of Somali students in London, and on my own behalf, I extend to you my warm heartedly congratulations on your recent presidential elections. I also do extend my felicitations to the people of Nigeria for peacefully exercising their sovereign and God given rights to elect their leaders. The choices they have made is a tribute to their courage, as well as their commitment to safeguard their dignity and Keep Nigeria firmly on the road to peace, stability, freedom, dignity and prosperity.
Your excellence Mr President, your historic election has a call to greater responsibility of implementing the promised change that Nigerians are yearning to see. I therefore kindly call on you to be magnanimous in victory and use your stature as a statesman to reunite Nigeria which is more prone to balkanisations than Somalia is.
Mr President, I feel obligated to reply to a speech you recently gave to Nigerian diaspora community in South Africa while participating in African Union Summit held in South Africa by the theme of “Year of Women Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063”. In that misplaced speech, you elaborated your fear of Nigeria becoming dysfunctional, derelict and downright like Somalia has been over the last two decades. You were quoted as saying “I was afraid Nigeria might be like Somalia. The Somalis are the same people they are all Muslims but because the elites are self-centered, selfish, they have succeeded to make Somalia a war country for the last 20 years. For that reason I said Nigerians are much more vulnerable, we have so many nationalities no matter how you look at it”
While it is true that my country Somalia, has been without a functional central government that can provide for the essential human needs of its citizens in terms of security, health care, education as well as adequate food and clean water; Nigeria was not a good role model either. The ethnic, cultural and linguistic divisions in your country have been a troubling phenomenon since Nigeria gained its independence from Britain in October 1960. The northern Hausa-Fulani Muslims, the western Yoruba and the south eastern Igbo communities have not been in good terms and their historical differences made your country prone to outbreaks of instability over numerous fault lines.
Your Excellency, Nigeria went through like mine a brutal civil war that caused the death over 1.5 million Nigerians in its 3 year duration. During the Biafra war in 1967-70, an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 people died daily from starvation as a result of the naval blockade and air bombardment. Somalia on the other hand was enjoying peace, stability and held its first peaceful transfer of power after Aden Abdulle Osman gracefully accepted defeat and congratulated his opponent Abdirashid Ali Sharma’arke. That was the first democratic transfer of power in all of Africa and a proud moment in our Somali history.
Mr President, while your country is not quite the most corrupt country on earth to my knowledge, yet according to Transparency International which monitors international financial corruption, it is not far off coming a shameful 172nd worst among the 215 countries surveyed. Your country manages to pay its legislators the highest salaries in the world, with a basic wage of £122,000, nearly double what British MPs earn and many hundreds of times that of your ordinary citizen. It is no wonder therefore, that the ruling elite can afford luxury homes in London or Paris, and top-end cars while 70 per cent of your citizens live below the poverty line of £1.29 a day.
Since your country got its independence from Britain in 1960, your nation received $400 billion in aid which is six times what the U.S. poured into reconstructing the whole of Western Europe after World War II. It is widely accepted that during these 55 years of your nation’s independence, about $380 billion of government money has been embezzled almost the total sum your nation has received in foreign aid. What a disgrace! In spite of the fact that Nigeria has one of Africa’s largest military with an estimated annual budget of $8.86 billion, your defence forces shamefully failed to free the 200 secondary school girls abducted in Chibok, north-eastern part of your country by the Godless terrorist organization Boko Haram.
Your Excellency, as student of history myself, I enormously appreciate your country’s contribution to African literature and Nigerian tremendous reach of writing is both admired but equally envied in our continent. Without a doubt your country produced some of the smartest minds in Africa, the likes of Chinua Achebe, novelist, poet, professor, and critic (1930–2013), Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, novelist, nonfiction writer and short story writer and last but not the least Wole Soyinka, a playwright, poet, writer, and Nobel Prize laureate in Literature. Despite the lack of visionary political leadership coupled with real danger of disintegration in your nationhood, one can still treasure what Nigeria had to offer whether in continental peacekeeping or literary contributions.
After more than 20 years of civil war that saw the death of hundreds of thousands of fellow Somalis and the displacement of over a million people, Somalia is finally emerging from the instability which for too long characterised it. Al- Shabaab is on the verge of a complete collapse, federal institutions are taking shape and for the first time in 20 years, Somali economy grew 3.7% this year. Somalia can no longer be taken as an example of a failed state but rather one emulating the early engagement adapted by Mozambique, Cambodia and Uganda in their post-civil war strategies.
Please accept Excellency, Mr President, the assurances of my highest consideration and deepest respects.
Muhammad Suldaan Said
Said is studying Sociology and History at Kingston University in London, UK