By Sufuyan Ojeifo
Sometimes circa 1985, before he was killed on October 19, 1986 via a parcel bomb, inimitable journalist, prose stylist and glamorous founding editor-in-chief of the Newswatch magazine, the late Dele Giwa, wrote that “one life taken in cold blood is as gruesome as millions lost in a pogrom.”
Indeed, Giwa was only being his own prophet even if he was also reinforcing, in a much more poignant, short and prickly fashion, the assertion by 17th century English metaphysical poet and cleric, John Donne, in his Meditation XVII, that “any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
I am sure these humanistic writers, more especially Giwa, for reasons that are quite understandable, would shudder in their graves at the genocide that the Fulani herdsmen have unleashed, particularly on hapless Nigerians in Christian-dominated states of Benue and Plateau in the north central zone of the country in recent times; and the insensitivity of officialdom in Nigeria to our collective sense of pains and anguish.
If a composite picture of the genocide in Christian-populated Southern Kaduna and pockets of dastardly killings in other states scattered across the southeast and south-south zones perpetrated by these Fulani herdsmen is presented in much bolder relief, there is no doubt that the humanism in God-fearing people would be more than profoundly assaulted, tattooed, battered and shattered.
Yet, President Muhammadu Buhari, himself a Fulani cattle owner and acclaimed life patron of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders’ Association of Nigeria, as well as the elements, especially the ones the Yoruba call “awon oni ijekuje”, meaning “unprincipled, sustenance-seeking individuals” from the south and north central zones that he assembled into his government, does not see these marauding Fulani herdsmen as terrorists.
What a screaming aberration to shield the killer-Fulani herdsmen from the negative stereotype of terrorism whereas Buhari’s administration gleefully and unconscionably classified the intellectually-engaging and non arms-bearing Independent People of Biafra (IPOB), which has not shed the blood of anybody, as a terrorist group!
To have the presence of mind, at all, to give the Fulani herdsmen any iota of consideration and to move against IPoB in such a derogating and denigrating manner is not only ungodly but also wicked and indicative of Buhari and his government’s complicity in the crystalisation of the killing fields into which the Fulani herdsmen have confidently and unrestrainedly turned parts of the nation.
Is it not the height of ethnic bigotry that Buhari, in particular, has found it difficult to classify and declare the Fulani herdsmen as terrorists? Is it not a shame that our president could somewhat justify the wickedness of his stock through his indecent silence and reluctance to move against them? Buhari has never condemned the activities of Fulani herdsmen in his official statements and speeches. Checkout his most recent 2018 New Year speech: he did not mention Fulani herdsmen as terrorists.
By his act of mollycoddling the Fulani herdsmen, Buhari has unraveled as an ethnic jingoist, yes, and a provincial leader who is touched only by the feelings of infirmity of his Fulani stock. His much-celebrated, even if faulted on the grounds of plagiarism, inauguration speech’s quotation: “I belong to everybody, and I belong to nobody” has been confirmed to be mere verbal political exhortations to appeal to the bogus feelings of disparate Nigerians on account of plurality of ethnicities in quest of a united nationhood.
It is a sad reality that in the recent history of this country, the Buhari administration has been the most tolerant of the excesses of the Fulani herdsmen who have taken the laws into their hands, operated freely, and killed innocent Nigerians of other ethnic stocks in a writ large fashion and have so far gone away with the aggravating rash of unacceptable and episodic instances of genocide.
If I may ask, what offence(s) have the other ethnic stocks committed to warrant this kind of ethnic macabre sense of vengeance? Is it all about religious intolerance? Is it about ethnic cleansing? Is it about expansionism of the Fulani Empire as created by the Fulani mystic, philosopher, and revolutionary reformer, Usman dan Fodio, who, in a jihad (holy war) between 1804 and 1808, created a new Muslim state, the Fulani empire, in what is now northern Nigeria?
I submit that whatever the offence(s) that the other stocks might have committed or the prejudices against the rest of us in Nigeria, more than enough blood had been shed by the Fulani herdsmen in needless human vengeance and profane atonement; whereas, vengeance is God’s, according to the Bible, the holy book of the Christians.
It is regrettable that Fulani herdsmen, enjoying the robust sponsorship and backing of their influential leaders in government, royalty and corporate world, have decided to resort to self help by going on fiendish rampage to the consternation of the civilized world. It is equally lugubrious to imagine that fingers of guilt and complicity could be pointed to President Buhari on account of his Fulani ethnic and cattle-rearing pecuniary connection; and, yet, the president would not, as much, act to deflect the commonplace insinuations.
And a few days ago, I received a whatsapp post of five powerful emirs who are members of the Board of Trustees of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders’ Association of Nigeria allegedly lifted from the website of the association before it was purportedly taken down for obvious reasons. If the emirs mentioned as trustees indeed occupy the positions and Fulani herdsmen, who are believed to be helping them to graze their cattle, are shedding the blood of innocent Nigerians of other stocks, then the country is doomed.
One may, therefore, not be off the curve to contemplate a renegotiation of the bases of our nationhood in the face of this lingering bugaboo that sticks out as a sore thumb in the tempestuous relationship between the Fulani herdsmen and the rest of the nation. My position finds anchorage in the eternal submission of the courageous, irrepressible and highly fecund former minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode (FFK) in his series of coordinated and articulated treatises on the state of our nation with particular reference to his two-part series on the “The Sons of Futa Jalon” widely published in the print and online media in March 2016 or thereabout.
I still shudder with righteous indignation at the excerpts of an October 2, 2014 interview by Pointblanknews online news portal with a prominent Fulani leader from Kano, Alhaji Aliyu Gwarzo, which FFK referenced in part 2 of “The Sons of Futa Jalon”. I advise you read the interview to be able to appreciate the import of FFK’s point that “it is time for us to do whatever it is that we must do to save our country and if those that believe that they own it refuse to be reasonable and fair to the rest of us, perhaps we should consider the possibility of redefining her.”
Perhaps, when Gwarzo said; “Every Fulani man that they kill is a debt that will be repaid even if it takes 100 years. The Fulani have very long memories,” he was perhaps giving an insight into the current tragedy that is spiraling out of control in Benue, Plateau and other unfortunate flashpoints. But this madness must stop. President Buhari must act decisively and not pretentiously to show fidelity to his oath of office by securing all sections of the country. It behoves him to put a stop to this ethnic macabre sense of vengeance and it is high time he did so for posterity.