By Femi Orebe
“To eliminate herders’/ farmers clashes, ECOWAS must take drastic steps in curbing foreign herders who are always armed with sophisticated weapons from making incursion into Nigeria just as the federal government must ban open grazing and block grazing routes from the northern to the southern part of the country” – Statesman Abdullahi Ganduje, a Fulani and Governor of Kano state
In tackling insecurity in Nigeria, the place to start is to tell ourselves the truth. And the truth is that to the President must go the blame for the increasingly intractable problem of insecurity in the country. This is obvious, primarily, from his appointments which are deliberately stoked against the South, the same area that bears the brunt of the murderous Fulani herdsmen’s mayhem. The headship of nearly all the intelligence services, ministers of Defence, Police Affairs; Director – Generals of Customs, Immigration and the Chairman of EFCC aside the Inspector- General of police, are all from the North, demonstrating nothing short of an iniquitous system in a multi – ethnic country. Worse is the fact that when it is time for these Northerners to retire, as constitutionally prescribed, President Buhari, almost routinely, extends their appointments as we saw in the cases of Muhammed Babandede, the Comptroller- General of Immigration, and more recently, in the case of the Inspector- General of Police, Muhammed Adamu. Are these mere coincidences or a deliberate intent to simply dominate, and treat others like slaves? How, given all these level of unfairness, can Governor El Rufai be hoping for egalitarianism in a country crawling with barefaced injustice?
Don’t these presidential actions confirm the reckless statement by the Fulani Nationality Movement that “Nigeria is the only inheritance Fulanis have in Africa and that from Sokoto to the banks of the Atlantic Ocean, they own it all? Did the police or the DSS invite them for questioning when they said: “Our men are waiting. We are eager to fight. We are boiling with the zeal to actualize our dream; enough of double dealing and ambivalence by Fulani political leaders who, unfortunately, think the Fulani can only take back what belongs to us through appeasement and elections”?
(I think this should be a grand opportunity to tell, or remind, these people that: “ in 1840 the Ibadan army, (read as Yoruba army), at Osogbo, routed the Ilorin army, ( read as Fulani army) decisively destroying their dreaded calvary, killing or capturing most of their horses and capturing many of their commanders, dislodging their forces, and pushing them all the way beyond Offa …” – Professor Banji Akintoye in A History of The Yoruba People, P. 301).
What is the meaning of the skewed appointments in NNPC, whose minister the President is, and where it is alleged that most, if not all the topmost 20 directors, are all Northerners? What of the people under whose feet, crude oil resides and whose ecosystem have been messed up for decades? Are they lesser Nigerians?
Do all these make for peace or security in a multi – ethnic country?
So what are we expected to believe when herdsmen run riot, spreading mayhem all over the country, without as much as a rebuke by the presidency but all we hear is that Nigerians can stay, and do business, anywhere in the country as if the intendment of the framers of the constitution includes raping, kidnapping and killings? Aren’t Nigerians now seeing action from Abuja only because Fulani herdsmen are beginning to get a taste of what they have been serving others for years?
What did Garba Shehu say when the Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed, said Fulani herdsmen are free to carry AK 47 all over the country as if that wasn’t enough encouragement to Fulanis from Chad, Mali, Niger etc, to come to over run Nigeria with guns? If the President didn’t endorse that statement did he instruct that his objection be made known to Nigerians, as Governor Akeredolu recently posited?
Or what manner of culture revels in needless, unrestrained and unprovoked blood letting?
Truth be told, the place to start fighting insecurity in Nigeria is for President Buhari to rule in good conscience, with malice to no part thereof. He must not only be fair but must, like Caesar’s wife, be seen to be fair which is obviously not the case today. To expect that insecurity will reduce in a system so heavily weighed against some sections of the country, can only amount to day dreaming.
These are the reasons some of us who, in our little corners, campaigned for a General Mohammadu Buhari (rtd) we believed we knew well enough, but whose government, the First Lady told BBC some people have hijacked, are extremely disappointed.
We remember, with nolstagia, all that General Buhari did at his first coming and believed him when he promised to come and fight corruption as well as restore security. We believed him more when unlike before he stretched his hands beyond the River Niger this time around, believing he will rule for all and be a unifying factor.
All that have been in vain
These are the reasons why insecurity got exacerbated, and metastasised, as Fulani herdsmen, super spreaders of insecurity, saw themselves as special beings who can do just about anything. Rein them in today, take away their guns, and see considerable peace return to Nigeria.
If this government truly wants an end to insecurity, justice must be allowed to prevail. Nigeria is a multi- ethnic and multi- religious country and that fact must be reflected in its governance. Not to do so is to continue to do the same thing, over and over, hoping to get a different result which will be a futile hope.
At a particular time in the 2nd Republic, the recently departed Alhaji L.K Jakande, reacting to NPN’s monumental corruption, suggested that President Shehu Shagari should empty the Central Bank of Nigeria, share all the money among its thieving members, and promptly resign. I am sure that Nigerians would not mind if, in order to defeat insecurity , President Buhari would spend every penny in the coffers of the CBN to build ranches, and meat processing factories, all in the North, so that Fulani herdsmen would have no reasons to trek with cows from Kaura Namoda etc, to far flung places in the south, destroying farms, kidnapping and killing all the way. In this way, the fortunes of the North can be dramatically changed by turning it to a massive meat processing zone coupled with the entire industry’s value chain, to serve not only Nigeria but the entire West coast thus, further diversify the country’s economy.
President Buhari must not wait until Nigeria unravels as has been severally predicted. For instance, not many Nigerians believe that “this government is working for the unity and stability of the country”, nor are they convinced that “there is any small number of people with resources and influence constituting a nuisance to the oneness of the country”. What they see, instead, is widespread injustice, right from the top.
The time has also come for the establishment of state police as well as a genuine move towards restructuring the country which, truth be told, many Nigerians now believe is too late in the day to be a panacea to the country’s many problems.
Readers of this column will know how long, and vigorously, the columnist has canvassed restructuring. I still believe it can help, but time is obviously not on our side.
Former Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar, this past week, warned that Nigeria may soon disintegrate. However, I wonder why, like Col Dangiwa Umar, he could not directly tell the President that the responsibility for rescuing Nigeria lies, first and foremost, with him, rather than harranguing state governors, who he knows, control neither the army nor the police and so, cannot disarm the herdsmen carrying AK 47 all over the country.
Banditry is another major problem which should be tackled head on. Thanks to Sheik Gumi, Nigerians now know that the President had, in fact, sent emissaries to the bandits (the Sheik said this in a press interview) thus indicating that government knows their whereabouts. I agree with governor El Rufai that, rather than go into any manner of negotiation with them, the military should be asked to simpl flush them out. I salute the galantry of our fighting forces many of who have made the ultimate sacrifice and verily believe that this is not beyond their capability if there is the political will.
After all, these are ragtag ruffians,whose mainstay is drugs. Sheik Gumi committed a grievous error in comparing them to Niger Delta militants who are rebels with a cause, and did deserve the accommodation a proud son of the North – President Umar Yar Adua- extended to them, unlike aimless bandits who are there only because the North permits several ungoverned swathes of forests, as well as have millions of uneducated, idle youth, who are all too ready to be recruited into criminality.These bandits presently operate in forests, but as we saw this past week in Niger state, they could very soon make Northern cities, Abuja inclusive, completely unliveable.
The time is now for government to act decisively as tomorrow may be too late.