Sunday 17 April 2016

The Adventures of Fulani Herdsmen and Buhari’s Loud Silence! – By Efe Wanogho

Since flag independence in 1960, and more specifically, since return to Civilian Rule in 1999; no Nigerian leader has taken far-reaching and indelible steps to strengthen national unity. NONE!

If we don’t first tackle the elusive issue of nation building, whatever growth initiatives by successive administrations would be sham, pretentious, and merely peripheral. Today, decades after the physical exit of the colonialists, Nigeria is still an amalgam of strange bedfellows.

In 2000, Ahmed Sani Yerima, that child-bride proponent, practitioner, and aggressive advocate; started his Sharia Rule. Chief Obasanjo posited that it would fizzle out and come to naught. Nay! That was not to be. Nigeria was further divided. Rather than propose what would unite the country, we were advancing political Sharia. The Talakawas were the scapegoats. Pa Jangedi had his arm amputated. Ahmed Sani’s Sharia has proven incapable of checking the thieving elite.

Obasanjo hit hard at Odi and levelled it. The sins of a few were visited on many. The Niger Delta agitation for resource control and possible autonomy, gathered momentum. The shortcoming was that the so-called leaders of Niger Delta struggle – read militancy – were out to feather their own nests. They abducted expatriate staff of IOCs for ransom. Presidents Yar’Adua and Jonathan rewarded criminality in the name of instituting an amnesty programme. Those who had taken up arms against the State and other Nigerians became celebrities. Presidential jets ferried them to Presidential Villas. They were given military escorts. Meanwhile, the issues of desecration of the environment of the Niger Delta and general inequalities were left unaddressed and unresolved.

Before now, Ken Saro-Wiwa was killed by the Nigerian State. MOSOP was suppressed and has been somewhat neutralized. MASSOB and OPC managed to raise fundamental issues but seemed to have lost track. They became money-spinning and influence peddling organizations for their leaders. IPOB is already upon us and there’s no telling where the next movement would spring from.

Boko Haram came on board. Yusuf was illegally executed by agents of the Nigerian State. The group became deadly. Add the divisive religious rhetoric which was it’s stock in trade, and sympathizers were lined up in the North. President Jonathan won an election and Boko Haram got deadlier. He couldn’t definitively tackle the menace. The opposition gained political capital from the infamous “cluelessness” of his administration. For most Southern Nigerians, it was more like, provided the bombings and killings were in the North, they couldn’t be perturbed. Who would cry more than the bereaved, they chorused.

As Boko Haram seems to be taking a decline, being technically defeated and all, apologies to Lai Mohammed, a more deadly, more ubiquitous group, is all over the country. They leave sorrow, tears, and blood – apologies to Fela “Anikulapo” Kuti – in their wake. You are right. They’re the ferocious, farm-destroying and life-terminating Fulani Herdsmen. Their menace is not altogether new. It’s been with us for a while. But they suddenly seem more pronounced and more emboldened.

President Buhari came to power with huge expectations. Lai Mohammed and Femi Adesina said the expectations Nigerians have of President Buhari, is akin to making a magician out of him. One wonders what could be magical about putting a halt to the rampaging savagery of the bloodthirsty herdsmen? Which 21at Century society still has nomadic cattle rearing?

The expectations of Buhari are deeper and much more profound. He has not only been gunning for elective office since 2003, but he also is an ethnic Fulani. There is no way he wouldn’t have a solution to the farmers versus herdsmen imbroglio.

Surprisingly, it’s almost one year into his administration and there is nothing that looks like a proposition to tackle the bloodshed that arises as a result of this crisis. Grazing reserves and importation of Brazilian grass cannot be the only way out. Worse still is the fact that President Buhari and his government are playing the ostrich with this Fulani herdsmen matter. There appears to be a criminal conspiracy of silence regarding the carnage that follows clash of herdsmen and land owners. Conspiracy theories are being woven around this seeming resurgence of hostilities from the Fulani herdsmen. Guess what, the Presidency is loudly silent. It is as though it was a none-issue.
A grave mistake, if you ask me.

This issue is capable of plunging an already fractious and highly polarised society into the abyss of pernicious hostilities and conflagration. President Buhari surely wouldn’t want more daggers plunged into Nigeria’s weakened and tattered fabric. He surely doesn’t want another Civil War in his hands and particularly under his watch. For a man that finally got to office after the fourth attempt, he cannot sit idly by while this monster grows. A wrong decision is better than no decision, but first things first, what is his position on the bloodshed reportedly perpetrated by the daring and monstrous herdsmen?

Nigeria does not need anything that would pitch one part of the country against another. What we need are policies and actions that would promote and strengthen national unity. And the President must be the one to lead that charge.

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