I’ll no longer announce the deaths of those killed by Fulani herdsmen, rise up and defend yourselves with weapons not prohibited by law, bows and arrows, spears and knives. Get licence for dane guns from local government Chairmen and use them to defend yourselves,” – Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state.
Armageddon beckons – Columnist.
Whether or not Nigeria survives its present daily carnage, and other prevailing circumstances, is now going to be, solely, a function of the trajectory President Muhammadu Buhari decides to take her. As far as most Nigerians can see, the President is committed only to Fulani/ Northern interests. The nation dies if he remains on that path but survives if he changes to become the Nigerian president we all elected.
It is as simple as that.
The very day the president showed his hands most glaringly in support of Fulani herdsmen, “expressing, according to Garba Shehu, a strong resolve to address the conflicts of herders and farmers in a sustained and lasting manner that should lead to a permanent solution to the frequent clashes between them, several Nigerian newspapers, in banner headlines, reported the gory sight of the same Fulani herdsmen killing as many as 124 Nigerians. in Benue, Plateau and Abuja.
These are the people Garba Shehu says our President is rooting for, and was aghast to hear that open grazing, under which they hide to commit these heinous crimes, was banned by governors representing half of the country.
And what is this President’s plan – which is nothing but a rehash of the rejected RUGA? Wrote Garba Shehu as he lectures Nigerians:
“Fortunately, this declaration has been preempted, for whatever it is intended to achieve because Mr. President has rightly been worried about these problems more than any other citizen (indeed) and, in consultation with farmers (which?, and herders alike, has commissioned and approved an actionable plan of rehabilitating grazing reserves in the states with veterinary clinics, water points for animals, and facilities for herders and their families including schooling. Through these reserves, the Federal Government is making far-reaching and practical changes allowing for different communities to co-exist side-by-side, supporting farmers to till their fields, herders to rear their livestock and Nigerians everywhere to be safe”(Really?) Given the pressing urgency of addressing the perennial challenges, the federal funding for the project that has been delayed is now being partly unlocked. (a sop to state governors they hope will jump at the aroma of money?). Actual work for the full actualization of the modern reserve system in a few of the consenting states should take off in June”.
How much of a fool do these people take Nigerians for?
To know all they are trying to do by dubiety, let us hear Mohammed Umar, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, as he introduced RUGA then: “We felt that to do away with herders-farmers’ conflict, we need to settle our nomads and those who breed animals. We want to put them in a place that has been developed as a settlement, where we provide water for their animals, pasture, schools for their children, security, agro-rangers, etc,”. with the presidency adding:
“ Animal farmers – (chicken and goat rearers in Ekiti where are you?), not just cattle herders, will be settled in RUGA settlements with provision for schools, hospitals, road networks, vet clinics, markets etc.
Pray, how many communities in the entire Niger Delta area, where comes the country’s sustainability, have these facilities provided for them by this Federal government? What percentage of the funding will be coming from the North where these private businessmen live in obscene luxury? Yet, the South, supposedly being a “tool in the hands of the North”, must fund these businesses for their owners. Haba!
What equity, then, inheres the presidential plan?
Yet, with its very negligible contribution to national coffers, the North has always provided the sinking holes into which the country’s resources are sunk. Count among them, the over a decade- old Boko Haram war, Banditry, illiteracy, and the trillions, now being programmed to be deliberately funneled to herdsmen, and their private business owners as if herding is an agency of the federal government, whereas, all the President needs do is firm up immigration, not relax it as he did, and ensure that the security agencies rein in all criminals, no matter who they are.
Or can the presidency tell us one single private business it has, or finances in the South? These are not views that should ever have found a place on this column if President Buhari had even as much as pretended to fairness and equity. How is he even able to sleep, sitting over a National Security Council that can effortlessly elect to make Hausa the operative language at its meetings, in a multi – ethnic, multi- religious country like Nigeria, with over 250 ethnic groups?.
As I once wrote on these pages, these unfair acts of his cannot ensure peace and harmony in Nigeria, so all these calls for peace are, at best superficial, and will never amount to anything as there can be no peace without justice.
The time, as I always say, has come for us Nigerians to tell ourselves the truth for only the truth can set us free. If it is understandable that the Fulani Nationality Movement wants to make Nigeria a Fulani territory, being largely the result of ignorance, should the presidency be helping it by working to the answer as this is all aimed at land grab, even by alien Fulanis?
But truth be told, President Buhari does not bear the fault all alone. Indeed, the bulk of it should go to APC leaders, especially those from the South, who, despite working tirelessly to ensure his victory after three futile attempts, immediately all became tongue – tied, as he ruled only in favour of the North; and this was crystal clear especially in his appointments which, till date, are still extremely nepotistic, especially where critical national appointments are concerned.
No, it is not being suggested that they should have been railing publicly at the President. Rather, they should have ensured that party structures, especially its national organs, were constituted in an all-inclusive manner, with each truthfully performing its assigned functions, rather than see its leaders become awe – struck, and forever genuflecting, in the presence of the president. Given what is happening in the party, it is not a surprise that even as of today, the APC, after 6 long years in power, does not have a National Executive Committee worth the name, but one with a full-time state governor, in a state daily being harassed by Boko Haram, in charge. Nor does it have a Board of Trustees, the reason, one would assume, it now says the presidency would not rotate to the South come 2023 after President Buhari would have spent 8 years.
This becomes particularly baffling, when one recalls that governors Abdullahi Ganduje, Nasir El Rufai, Babagana Zulum and Aminu Masari, had all expressed their full support for zoning it to the South, and It is only a closet of Northern governors who are closer to the Villa than to their state capitals, who are opposed to it.
And by the way, why would any political party, especially one in power, not have clear- cut party positions on each of the critical issues tearing at the very heart of the country? Even restructuring, or call it power devolution, which is written into its manifesto, and for which it actually, did set up the EL RUFAI COMMITTEE, a group within the party was still powerful enough to send the committee’s report into the cooler for years. My advice to the party as 2023 draws near, even if some opposition governors are joining it without their people, is that in poor, Third World countries like Nigeria, party membership, as well as followership, are as fluid as could be. APC should, therefore, remember that it came to power on the ruins of a ruling party.
As the Lord liveth, the above was how far I had gone, reacting to the President’s opposition to the ban on open grazing before I went to bed around 12.30 am, Wednesday, 26 May , 2021 only to wake up Thursday, to hear that our dear Mr. Garba Shehu has eaten his words about what he claimed the President said.
That piece of information completely changed the tenor, and the direction of this article, just like the comments of A – G Abubakar Malami on the same subject, did to my article, the previous week.
Garba Shehu’s recant opens up a very serious new dimension to our national discourse. The first question it raises, therefore, is who exactly, does Garba Shehu speak for? It is the highly remarkable First Lady, Aisha Buhari, who had first raised the possibility that Shehu was speaking for an unelected group in the Villa, rather than the President. Is Garba Shehu then merely kowtowing to that group which probably gives him some talking points which he then regurgitates in his rather inelegant, poorly edited, treatises? If this is not the case, could it have so happened, that an unchecked, un – supervised, Garba Shehu has suffered an illusion of grandeur, and seeing himself as Mr. President, dishing out statements which would, sooner than later, be withdrawn, or modified somewhat, when the President finally becomes aware of it as a result of the avalanche of criticisms that would have been directed at him?
Either way, the consequences of this state of affairs can be very deleterious, as it could cause a national crisis.
To under rate this critical question is to underestimate the grave danger that words, when falsely attributed to the President, can cause in a society as volatile as ours.
Garba Shehu must have been giving us his group’s views on the ban on an anachronistic practice which governor Masari described, this past week, as totally un- Islamic.
Another drag on the government, indeed directly on Mr President, given the key role he plays in government, qua government, is Abubakar Malami, the Attorney -General. Malami has this propensity to speak on very important matters of state before he thinks them through . Instances so abound that to begin mentioning them will be a precious waste of time. Who, if not the Attorney-General should have informed the President that open grazing has been legally banned in Nigeria as far back as 17, April 1969? If he is not yet seized of that decision , he should instruct some of his aides to go in search of Chief Gani Fawehinmi’s Law Report series to search, specifically, for Suit no. AB/26/66 of the above date, to be updated with proceedings at the Abeokuta Division of the High Court where the late Mr Justice Adewale Thompson held as follows in a matter before His Lordship:
“I do not accept the contention of Defendants that a custom exists which imposes an obligation on the owner of a farm to fence his farm whilst the owner of cattle allows his cattle to wander like pests and cause damage. Such a custom, if it exists, is unreasonable and I hold that it is repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience, and therefore unenforceable… in that it is highly unreasonable to impose the burden of fencing a farm on the farmer without the corresponding obligation on the cattle owner to fence in his cattle.”
Continuing, he said:
“Sequence to that, I ban open grazing for it is inimical to peace and tranquility and the cattle owners must fence or ranch their animals for peace to reign in these communities.”
That decision remains un- appealed, to date.
Source: The Nation