Sunday, February 9, 2020 7:36 am
By Festus Adedayo
All right, you do not know what mistletoe is? It is, according to a dictionary definition of it, a “leathery-leaved parasitic plant which grows on apple, oak, and other broadleaf trees.” Yoruba call mistletoe afomo. What this weed does is stick to trees, either cocoa or kolanut tree. Farmers are always watching out for an afomo on their crash crops because, the moment a tree gets infested with it, it is on its way to barrenness. While the mistletoe has no root of its own, it bores roots inside the trunk of its host and starves the tree of nutrients.
The Yoruba also philosophize the mistletoe in incantations and wise-sayings. While in one breath, they say in incantations that all trees of the forest, including palm trees, have mercy on the parasite plant, the mistletoe, (ti’gi t’ope ni sanu afomo) in another breath, they say that the mistletoe has no roots but claims every tree as its kindred, expressed as, afomo o ni gbongbo, igi gbogbo ni ba tan. This thus means that wherever you see the afomo, it is a bloodsucking leech.
There is also a mistletoe mythology native to the Norse-speaking people. Norse is a Germanic language predecessor of Old Norse. Old Norse is said to be a North Germanic language which is spoken in Scandinavia, as well as areas that are under Scandinavian influence from c. 800AD to c. 1300AD. According to this people, mistletoe plant reminds them of a myth which ended in a violent ending. According to this mythic folklore, a god called Balder got killed by his blind brother, Hoor. He was killed with a mistletoe projectile. Some versions of that tragic myth said that Balder eventually came back to life but before his return, his mother, mourning his death, cried so much that her tears turned into mistletoe berries. Afomo is a plant that kills its host. A juice made from mistletoe, called Birdlime, is used as an adhesive and applied in trapping wild birds. I will skirt the linkage between the North and mistletoe presently.
The rate at which Northern Nigerian elite have literally become activists, telling truth to power, without caring whose ox was gored, in the last couple of weeks, is fascinatingly alarming. Last week in Kaduna, erstwhile Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, speaking at a northern security meeting which was organized by the Arewa Research and Development Project (ARDP) to inaugurate the northern security monitoring committee, confirmed that the north had suffered unprecedented Boko Haram, ISWAP insurgency, farmers/herders conflicts, banditry, kidnapping, ethno-religious conflicts, cattle-rustling, among others in the last few years that it could only keep quiet at its peril. Hitting his bare knuckles on a naked blade of the knife, Dogara had said: “We are confronted with a crisis that is unparalleled in our history. The death spiral appears unstoppable. Increasingly, it is becoming harder and harder to distinguish us from our enemies.”
A day or so after; specifically last Thursday, Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tanbuwal, while receiving in his office the Acting Assistant Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Mohammed Aliyu, who is the Coordinator of the Sector Four National Border Drill operations, towed a similar path to Dogara’s but diametrically opposed to the pacifist, see-no-evil-say-no-evil stand of the Nigerian presidency. While commissioning some 2X Agusta 109P Helicopter Gunship and 1 MI-171 Medium Lift Helicopter in Abuja last week, Buhari was still waxing confident on Boko Haram, yet the blood of Nigerians flow.
According to Tambuwal, Nigeria was at a crossroads of unprecedented security challenges. “The security challenges of the country are monumental. We must not deceive ourselves,” he said. Both former Speakers of the Nigerian House of Representatives seemed to agree that in Nigeria today, there is a feeling of dystopia, hopelessness, fear and apprehension.
Some other leaders of Northern Nigeria have cried out about how crime and violence have literally decimated the erstwhile peace of the North, leaving a caricature in the estimation of the world. As things are right now, virtually the whole 19 states of the North have become a no-go are for any sensible human being, not to talk of an investor. It is home to four most deadly and bloodthirsty terrorist groups: Boko Haram, ISWAP, Fulani herdsmen and bandits which have drained the blood of thousands of Nigerians. Despite making up the bulk of Nigerian security apparatchik, Generals and retired Generals of the Army, many of these people can’t go to their hometowns. Ask the Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of Air Staff, the NSO, DG DSS, DG NIA and others the last time they visited their villages.
Forget the unconscionable propaganda of the Muhammadu Buhari government; there are many towns and villages that are in the firm grip of insurgents as we speak and the IDP camps are bursting at their seams with displaced northerners. Many leaders of the North would go near their homes only at the cost of their lives, with many of the Nigerians towns decimated by the insurgents having the Boko Haram flag flying diffidently. Many so-called big men in the North-east, it was reported, scamper out of their states at weekends to lodge in adjoining countries. Thinking that speaking up approximated attacking the government of their kinsman, Buhari, many of the Northern elders had hitherto suffered the despondency in Nigerian security situation in silence while smiling on the outward.
Down South, there is great apprehension. Many of the young men and women brought up under that Satanic system of Almajiri, have grown up to be national menaces. If you go to any town in the North, you would be confronted by the incubating danger that has now come to our midst, full swing. Humongous and benumbing number of homeless roam-about, with bowls in their hands, escorted by flies and begging for daily living, will confront you. It is said that in Kano State alone, almajiri are about three million. Not long ago, the Kano government said that the number was that huge because the Almajiri of Kano is home to its neighbours’ from Chad and Niger, no thanks to the porous Nigerian borders.
The feudal north, a system that is antithetical to the modern practice of equality and human rights, had allowed the Almajiri to fester, as weapon of its magisterial hold on the talakawa. Today, children sired under that inhuman system have become pains in the neck, not only to the Northern elite but the rest of Nigeria. Not only is the South brimming with many of these untrained youth who, with no training in any art, nor schooling, have resorted to driving motorcycles and constituting the hub of the violence in the South, in them are said to be located the reason why insurgency is still thriving in the North. For a North that parades the richest man in Africa, a President who is obsessed with fixing his people in “juicy” positions, the north as home to the poorest of the poor is a striking equivocation.
Still talking about the pleasantly shocking activism that the seemingly hopeless situation has become, six Nigerian women leaders have come together to cry out on the tragedy that the Almajiri system has become, not only for Northern Nigeria but Nigeria as a whole. Aisha Muhammed-Oyebode,; Fatima Akilu, CEO Neem Foundation; Aisha Waziri-Umar, in collaboration with some Southerners, have sworn to cry to the world to halt the system. They are: Mojúbàolú Olufúnké Okome – Professor of Political Science, African & Women’s Studies, Brooklyn College, City University of New York; Ada Ngozi Maduakoh and Modupe.
The women painted the grim situation thus: “In the last month, social media has been awash with multiple scenes, most from Northern Nigeria, of mile-long queues of hungry young children—Almajirai or Almajiri children as they are now referred to; bowls in hand, waiting for food. These images stand in stark contrast with recent images that have also been circulating for the last year in the same region; of displays of opulent lifestyles and exhibition of immeasurable wealth. These contrasts of extreme wealth and extreme poverty pervade our everyday reality across Nigeria. However, it is haunting when the displays of such opulence are in a region that is in the throes of an interminable insurgency; an ongoing humanitarian crisis, the crux of which is some of the worst development indices in the world, with about 80 % of the population living on less than $2 a day.”
Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, is not loved by the elite because he tells them that they are endangered mistletoe with their libidinous irresponsibility that foists untrained children who later become palls to bear on the shoulders of the rest of Nigeria. It is becoming obvious to all of us now that if we are still together as Nigerians, an evil brook in a neighbourhood will sooner than later swallow the child of the distant neighbor. Chief Obafemi Awolowo – God bless his soul – saw this, almost a century ahead of the calamity that loomed for a united Nigeria. While he committed virtually the whole budget of Western Nigeria training those who rose to become icons in all sectors of Nigeria in less than two decades thereafter, he warned that the war against the looming tragedy that stared Nigeria in the face in the future could not be won if Northern Nigeria continued its feudal system that used paupers and wretched of the earth as instruments for activating its ego. Today, the prophecy has come, full throttle and neither the north nor the south can sleep because the unrestrained libido of Northern elite which they sought to legitimize with Islam, has made that rascality a burden for all of us. It was the unrepentant egotism of that system that made a remnant of it, in the person of Alhassan Ado Daguwa, Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, to have the effrontery to parade his 27 children and four wives in the House a couple of weeks ago. In eulogizing the decadent system that has become a burden on the rest of Nigeria, Doguwa chauvinistically debased womanhood as a piece of commodity for usage. The truth is, but for the collateral damage it is causing the rest of Nigeria, no one would have bothered about such rank naivety and atavism.
As things are now, the North, through its untrained Almajiri, has become the proverbial mistletoe that has clung to the rest of Nigeria. The rate at which brainless commentaries on Nigeria ooze out of the mouths of many of children of this system sickens. Only some days ago, a group which goes by the name Fulani Nationality Movement, (FUNAM) claimed that the Fulani own Nigeria. Thanks to the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, we got to know that this irresponsible statement didn’t represent the Sultanate. However, Nigeria has continued to reap the fruits of irresponsible parenting of the Almajiri and its de-emphasis for national tackle by its forebears. Truckloads of okada riders are leaving Lagos daily and berthing in parts of the South, siring fear and anxiety in those neighbourhoods. Their arrival in Mubi, Maiha, Michika and Madagali areas of Adamawa State was last week said to have caused serious apprehension in the area. These offspring of Almajiri are inflicted on Nigeria like pestilence, with its attendant danger.
The situation, as bad as it is, is not a baby monster that the North must shroud with babanriga and guard indoor. It is clear to all and sundry that Almajiri and the insecurity that it sires are a bull, the collective baby of the whole of Nigeria, which we must cleverly see out of the China shop, in our own interest. The time to do that is now.
What religion is a bomb?
On Sunday last week, a middle-aged man was said to have been caught at the Sabon Tasha branch of the Living Faith Church (Winners Chapel) in Kaduna, Kaduna State, with what initial information claimed was an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). He was said to have made several attempts to detonate the explosives but couldn’t as at the time security operatives present in the church premises got him apprehended. The man, who claimed to bear the name Nathaniel Samuel, has got Nigerians arguing back and forth on the propriety or otherwise of a Christian bombing a church. While the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) claimed that Samuel couldn’t have been a Christian but a disguised name, some faithful of Islam claimed that trying to Islamize the identity of the so-called Samuel was an attempt by Christians to give the religion a bad name so as to hang it.
President Muhammadu Buhari also nailed the conversation last week when he urged Nigerians to come together, stating that 90 percent of people killed in insurgency in Nigeria were of the Islamic faith. This statement has received morbid criticisms from Christians who say that this statement from the president was unconscionable, reminding them of the cadaver comparison made by same Buhari when he went to Taraba state a few years ago, where he claimed that the “so-called” number of people killed by Fulani in the state was not as much as the Fulani killed in Benue State.
What links these two mindsets is dogged and unconscionable attachment to religion, rather than humanity. In the Kaduna bombing, would Christians have been happier that the “Samuel” was a Mohammed and would Moslem have been happier if indeed, the attempted bomber was a Samuel? Does that reduce the severity of the pains? Isn’t a bomber a child of Mephistopheles who deserves our collective harangue and his religion immaterial?
On Buhari’s numerical fixation to the dead, this is another of the no-no that we have to grapple with in our president. Does it make him more satisfied, and thus makes him deserving of a trophy, if his Islamic religion is on the defensive or offensive? The truth is that, we have got to a deplorable point where crime doesn’t matter but the religion of the criminal and their religion defines our totality. Crime should be crime and the perpetrator should be given the back of our tongues.
-Dr. Festus Adedayo, journalist and lawyer, writes from Ibadan