Are we really citizens of the same country?

February 3, 2021
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There are no good tribes or good ethnicities. There are good people and there are bad people. I have close friends all across the nation. The Fulani I knew as a child were good neighbors who were selling fresh congealed milk we call “wara”. Patriotism must be clearly defined within a noble premise and enthusiasm to critically interrogate issues when our sailing ship seems to become rudderless. It is recognising that we do not owe allegiance to a leader, but to the country…Not only to the country, but also to justice and humanity.

It is on this note that I feel compelled to express my candid opinion on the ongoing crisis between the Fulani herdsmen and other tribes in the country, including the Yoruba. I am not speaking as a tribalised Yoruba man who made friends here across the divide and still believes in the beauty of our diversity.   Truth be spoken, if we situate Nigeria within the concept of Thomas Hobbes’ Theory of a nasty, brutish and short life, then it is safe to say Nigeria is already headed in the direction of total chaos and of course, anarchy.

This anarchy and seeming oppression of a people by another set of people within the same nation, in a country already besieged by hunger, unequal distribution of wealth and impoverishment, threw up the symbolism of resistance that Sunday Igboho represents. Sunday Igboho is a systemic creation of anger against the gruesome murder of Mrs Funke Olakunri, the daughter of Yoruba leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, the gunning down of a first class monarch in Yoruba land, the Olufon of Ifon and of late Dr. Fatai Aborode, an accomplished Yoruba man who relocated to Nigeria to create employment for his people in Igangan, Ibarapa Local Government Area of Oyo State, all allegedly by Fulani herdsmen.  I am not unaware that across the federation; many families have lost loved ones to this same domestic terrorism from supposed fellow countrymen. Many families will never recover from the emotional turmoil of untimely death, rape or financial setbacks of those who paid heavy ransom to rescue loved ones. Many families will not recover from the agonizing shock of paying ransom to a relative that will never come back home, because the herdsmen took the money and still slaughtered the victim.

So, how did the crime of kidnapping by herdsmen become a notoriously enduring industry in Nigeria? Each time we hear ransoms have been paid, shouldn’t we ask, “paid to whom? People have paid multi-millions for ransom. Into whose bank accounts do the ransom flow? Is it the same ragtag-looking kidnappers that are paraded that own the kidnapping empire? Why has it been a challenge for security agencies to follow the money? These are begging questions requiring urgent answers.

On October 23, 2011, after ethnic clashes that led to the death of 27 people in Lagos, foreign and local newspapers reported that the then President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo ordered rioters to be shot at sight. Obasanjo was literally ordering the shooting at sight of his own tribesmen, the Oodua People’s Congress who were alleged to be stimulating the riots. Obasanjo was actually quoted as saying “The Police have instructions that anyone who calls himself OPC should be arrested and if he doesn’t agree, he will be shot on sight. We cannot allow this country to be overtaken by hoodlums and criminals.” That was leadership!

The governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, must have been concerned about a possible attack on Ondo State by herdsmen hiding in the forests and as the Chief Security Officer of a state that has recorded countless murders and kidnaps, he issued a quit order on criminal herdsmen to vacate Ondo State on January 18. By January 19, Mallam Garba Shehu, representing the Presidency, countered ‘Aketi’ and rejected the quit order! Are citizens not curious to ask whose purpose is this Presidency serving? Why is Mallam Shehu combining the job of speaking for the President with speaking for herdsmen? And as the President did not disown him and say, “No, I am President for all”, shall we conclude Garba Shehu was playing the tune dictated by the President? Does the President feel gracious to dictate a divisive, ethnic tune?

It will be recollected that on July 15, 2012, the twitter handle of Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, a Fulani leader states that, “We will write this for all to read. Anyone, soldier or not that kills the Fulani takes a loan repayable one day, no matter how long it takes”. El-Rufai, contemptuous as he sounded, stood for something: He sent a signal that he would not cower and watch his people decimated. He spared no words. He was not diplomatic. So, what rights guarantee El Rufai’s words but deny Akeredolu’s frustrated response to the annihilation of his people?

When Miyetti Allah leaders rascally issue threats against their host communities, this Presidency plays deaf. But the moment anyone pokes at the herdsmen, this Presidency abandons everyone that voted it and embarks on vocal hemorrhage. How suddenly did President Buhari forget that for three consecutive times, he contested Nigeria’s Presidency on the CPC platform but lost until he forged an alliance with the South West? Why is the same President now carrying on like a President of the Fulani instead of President of Nigeria? Why does a President that never speaks to the nation except we literally drag him to do so in moments of national crisis, always finds a hasty voice to ward off justified salvos against cow herders who are jeopardising other races’ right to existence and he actually does so characteristically within 24 hours? Are we really citizens of the same country?

This is the reason Igboho is a symbolic depiction of leadership failure in a suggestive and almost deliberate complicity abdication of responsibility! And that is why Igboho now represents many things, part of which is the emboldening of many other community resisters of oppression. This resistance is building and this government does not seem to be aware, or is aware but stranded within its myopic cocoon of ethnic prejudice. There’s a thick dark cloud of calamity around us but we are also being gaslighted into alternative realities. Perhaps we should ask then, that how many of our government leaders can travel to their villages anytime of the day, unescorted and pass nights there? And while they enjoy state protection, what happens to the poor who cannot even go to the farm?

In all of these, where are the South West Leaders? Apart from the governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), and now, Sunday Igboho who is fast becoming a phenomenon of circumstance, many South West leaders have always been reactive than proactive. They must go to the drawing board and work out a strategy of containment; not against herdsmen alone, but also to ensure the South-West youths are gainfully and meaningfully employed through creative unlocking of technological opportunities. The youth in South West are not immune from criminality. During the ENDSARS protest, a notorious group called one million boys terrorised Lagos. Those were not Fulani herdsmen. What have we done to rein in these ones? Or we are keeping them for the next election? The money we are stockpiling for this election, how much of it are we prepared to invest in the youths who are so resilient, so creative, so docile, that they’ve accommodated leadership failure this much?

South West leaders cannot continue to pretend to be protégés of Chief Obafemi Awolowo but lack his integrity. You cannot claim to be an Awolowo Apostle but lack his character and ingenuity. The South west is limping because hijackers of great ideals have become burdensome liabilities of counterfeit morality. South West leaders must recognise that ambition for office must never consume them to such extent they throw this momentum away because if on the altar of ambition, they keep mute while their region burns, by 2023, they would have no nation left to govern. As we continue to embrace unity in diversity, candor must never depart the lips of true patriots. There is a distinct line we must never cross out of misguided love for politicians and that includes the President. Those who call the President “Baba” and lack the temerity to call him out are not doing him any good. Misguided loyalty is cancerous because it gradually eats into the consciousness of the self-acclaimed “loyalist” as he keeps imagining himself a patriot. Patriotism is not reckless imprudence. It is measured by a heart that loves the nation but that also recognises its responsibility and that of other citizens, rich or poor, as rights holders within a social contract that binds leadership as duty bearers that must be held to accountability.

The President must face the fact that there has been a sweeping and systematic liquidation of other people’s territories by unhinged suspected Fulani herdsmen; the president’s own people. The President must ask a question too! How do foreign nations who lead the pack in global cow-ranching business get on with this business without slaughtering their own people? Will he say he has turned the country around and made it safer after power was granted to him from the past six years till date? What is the president making of his legacy? Is he capable of rising over ethnic sentiments now and protect all Nigerians? Good leaders take personal responsibility in crises, no matter how much of these lie outside their control. A good leader will unite this nation and not divide it. President Buhari should jettison his conscious or unconscious bias and demonstrate leadership now, before he goes into history as the last leader to preside over the affairs of a united Nigeria!

  • Fadeyi, the founder of Akin Fadeyi Foundation and initiator of Corruption Not In My Country and FlagIt App, sent in this piece.

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