Tuesday, June 4, 2019 5:04 am
By Hope Eghagha
Two weeks ago the bars, offices, classrooms, hallways and I suppose bedrooms across the land exploded in animated discussions after the national irrepressible gadfly Chief Olusegun Obasanjo dropped a bombshell on the vexatious topic of Fulanisation of Nigeria. He said of Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen while delivering a lecture in Oleh: “It is no longer an issue of a lack of education and employment for our youths in Nigeria which it began as, it is now West African Fulanisation, African Islamisation and global organised crimes of human trafficking, money laundering, drug trafficking, gun trafficking, illegal mining and regime change”. Obasanjo the Ebora Owu himself is not known to be flippant or unduly alarmist and I daresay that Obasanjo spoke the minds of millions of Nigerians when he dropped a bomb in the serenity of Isoko country. How and why have these herdsmen become so daring and untouchable to the security forces of Nigeria?
Let us rewind the Nigerian absurd drama a little to May 2018, when former Chief of Army Staff General Theophilus Danjuma had dropped his own bomb: “This ethnic cleansing must stop in Taraba, and it must stop in Nigeria. These killers have been protected by the military, they cover them and you must be watchful to guide and protect yourselves because you have no any other place to go. You must rise to protect yourselves from these people, if you depend on the Armed Forces to protect you, you will all die”. So what exactly is going on? Two generals of the old and authentic stock crying out loud about insecurity! Danjuma has maintained a dignified silence since after his damning attack on the military he once professionally headed.
It is no secret that Nigerians have been deeply anxious about the violent mischief of herdsmen in the southern and other parts of the country. At different spots in the nation’s highways armed Fulani men emerge from the bush and unleash violence on travelers kidnapping some in the process and asking for a ransom to be paid. Some villages have those murderous foes living next door inside their bushes and on their farms. The Abuja-Kaduna road is a death trap for travelers. Suddenly Fulani herdsmen have become synonymous with terror and kidnapping!
‘Fulanisation of Nigeria! Well, what exactly does this mean in modern times? When the former Head of State cried aloud about Fulanisation, did he have the 1957 statement – “We the people of the north will continue our stated intention to conquer the south and to dip the Koran in the Atlantic ocean after the British leave our shores” – credited to the first Northern Premier Sir Ahmadu Bello in mind? I am not sure what to believe. I do not think that the current government is trying to Islamise the country. There is no need for it. It will not work. It will be bloody and will not be worth the effort because the people will resist it and the world will certainly not look the other way!
For the first time in recent memory Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Professor Wole Soyinka came to a confluence on a subject. Observing that the federal government was focusing on Obasanjo’s language instead of absorbing and acting on the message, the respected Nobel Laureate said: “This country is undergoing a horrendous descent into the abyss. The perfect picture of Africa is what we must continue to uphold in view as leaders have used the word ‘unity’ to destroy our people”. It must be very serious and weighty for these two to agree publicly. Indeed Obasanjo has sarcastically quipped that one of the things he finds surprising is that “Wole agreed with me! As expected the ‘federal forces’ led by Lai Mohammed and Sule Lamido have launched a counter attack on Chief Obasanjo. Lamido defended the government by saying that ‘Obasanjo should not allow his displeasure with the current administration make him a religious and ethnic bigot”.
Other prominent citizens have lined up behind Obasanjo. Sadly, loyalty to the APC machine will not allow all the asiwajus of Yoruba politics in the south west and the ogbuefis in the south east and chiefs in the South-south generally to speak for their people. Which is a shame! The people are bigger than political parties and political fortunes of politicians!
The truth is that there is palpable worry in the land about the activities of Fulani herdsmen. They have become terrorists. This is no news. What is baffling is the seeming incapacity of the security forces to rein them in. There have been no arrests, prosecution and jailing of any of them. When they invade farms and destroy crops the federal government promotes the narrative of herdsmen-farmers clash. The victims of these violent encounters know that it is no clash. It is robbery and despoliation. They come to maim, destroy and to kill. They attack commuters, seize travelers and ask for a ransom.
Perhaps they are not herdsmen. They are invaders of the Fulani stock from outside Nigeria. What are they doing between Agbor and Warri? What is their business on the highway between Sagamu and Benin? I can bet that the security agencies have accurate information about these sons of baboon. Why no definite action has been taken is the core of the matter. The theory is that any state in which a particular crime is perpetrated and there is no solution, more often than not it is because the state is complicit.
This is the real issue of concern which Obasanjo raised. Nobody wants to unduly heat up the polity. The federal government is setting up a radio station to reach the murderous herdsmen, yet the radio station which IPOB set up was banned and the organization proscribed. The same government is negotiating with Miyetti Allah and the news in the public domain is that the group has asked for one hundred billion naira to help curb the menace of herdsmen. Has the state failed or is this a deliberate agenda as canvassed by retired generals Obasanjo and Danjuma?
It is my candid view that the president should make a definite reassuring pronouncement on the matter and calm nerves across the country. He must also give definite instructions through his security chiefs to fish out the criminals who are hiding in the bushes across the country no matter who they are. That way, the tension generated by the Obasanjo bombshell can be reduced. The nation needs reassurance and action from the government!