By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
Love at gunpoint. That is the mantra in Nigeria today.
It was Valentine’s Day on the Sunday but the news all over the land was of Fulani herdsmen storming from the forests with AK47, kidnapping, raping and killing.
How can man and woman do love when AK47 is all the rage? It had not always been like this in this country.
Going back in time, to the Book of Genesis in the Bible, man had no AK47 to contend with. It was only the apple of the serpent which Eve gave poor Adam to eat.
That’s how all of mankind got banished from the Garden of Eden, and some of us ended up in this patch called Nigeria.
But black Africa didn’t start badly with the pursuit of love in the early days as can be seen from the tryst of the otherwise tough Okonkwo and Ekwefi in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.
The beautiful damsel, Ekwefi, appeared on Okonkwo’s door, and the no-nonsense Okonkwo settled matters thusly: “Even in those days he was not a man of many words. He just carried her into his bed and in the darkness began to feel around her waist for the loose end of her cloth.”
And in those good old days of yore, well before the coming of the missionaries, the missionary position was the way to love in Africa, as the character Machi in Things Fall Apart states: “You might as well say that the woman lies on top of the man when they are making the babies.”
Call it an abomination for the woman to go tops!
Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka bears me out that there was no need to use AK47 to settle affairs of the heart. In the classic comedy The Lion and the Jewel, the village teacher Lakunle was busy speaking long English grammar in his pursuit of the village belle Sidi only for old Baroka to steal the honey via native guile.
Baroka’s old wife divulged to Sidi that the old man’s powerhouse had collapsed, but when the feisty girl went to make fun of the fallen pillar she ended up being swooned like all the other wives before her!
Cyprian Ekwensi’s steamy Jagua Nana was so hot that it had to be debated in parliament when an Italian film company applied to make a movie out of the novel.
In the love department, Nigeria can never be ranked second to any country from the beginning of time.
That’s why it becomes wacky that love matters are being interfered with in this Valentine season when Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State made bold to say that Fulani herdsmen will perforce continue to carry AK-47.
I understand that the governor has since eaten his words, but it flies in the face of reason for one to make a case that herdsmen would continue to carry weapons because they need protection.
The governor lamented that government and the society had failed to protect Fulani herdsmen in the forest.
Talk of the aggressor playing the victim!
According to Governor Bala Mohammed, “Because the Fulani man is practising the tradition of pastoralism, he has been exposed to the vagaries of the forest; cattle rustlers who carry guns kill him and take away his commonwealth, which is the cows. He has no option than to carry AK47 because the society and the government are not protecting him. What is his fault? It’s the fault of the government and the people. You don’t criminalize all of them, because in every tribe there are criminals.”
It is such a pain that in the season of love, gun-toting Fulani herdsmen armed with AK47 cannot get over the accusation of killing farmers and attacking villages across the country.
Somehow, we must survive this dastardly reign of “With AK47, I thee wed”, and we shall still write greater Valentine poems of love such as this:
(For Amaka Nwakanma)
She was a notch ahead
In the bewildering world,
An angel in flower
Opening up bounteous spaces
Onto genial sunshine.
A gift of the new day,
She wore sunrays
On a rendering visage
And put light at work
In dark and lonesome hoods.
Time draws blood
In the flash of ambush
And night falls on dreams
Yet the sacrificial bird dares
The regime of the hunter.
She lives like sunglow
In the wake of her wake
Beyond a lightning sunset
Made for the cherub of the realm
In lines unknown to poetry.
-Uzor Maxim Uzoatu, journalist and public affairs analyst, writes from Lagos