Back Page Columnist

From the city to the forest

I can understand the sensitive nature of ethnic-based discourse in Nigeria especially at a time when nepotism has become the official creed of the Buhari-led government.


Tempers are generally high and the country is walking the path of self-implosion, self-inflicted malady and national catastrophe, chief of which is caused by broken tongues and leadership incompetence.


The topic of discussion has left the well-cultured lawns of the city, the town halls, the citadel of learning, and moved to the conclave of Nigerian forests.


We have moved away from the city, to embrace life in the forest by those who rejoice in their forest-mentality. Sambisa forest, Katsina forest, Zamfara forest, Oyo forest, Ondo forest, Edo forest, and many other forests that have become safe havens for all manner of criminalities. For an average Fulani herder, he finds the forest much more habitable than the towns and villages.


In a 21st century world, this is not only bizarre, but unimaginative, to say the least. Talking seriously, if the herders in Nigeria were that creative, they can make triple income from their cattle by ranching. All they need do is to create and build a flourishing cattle trade in the North or elsewhere by ranching.


Nigeria is presently on boiling point, no thanks to the cacophony of voices criss-crossing the respective zones. The country is looking like an ungoverned estate, grossly uncared for, with gluttonic security officers issuing weather-beaten rhetorics from the inner comfort of their Abuja offices.


What stops the Inspector-General of Police from paying on-the-spot visit to Igangan, that almost became a tinderbox, to ascertain the facts on the ground? What stops the Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, from visiting the communities that were at issue with Fulani herders, to share in the aspirations of the people?


Rather than issuing terse statement of arrest, words of persuasion to the communities would have been more refreshing than stoking the fire of anger amongst a people that have been at the receiving end of Fulani herders’ criminalities.


When government and its apparatchik failed, the people would naturally resort to self-help to restore the sanity and sanctity of their various communities.


For whatever it is worth, Sunday Adeniyi Adeyemo aka Sunday Igboho, has become a hero in the eyes of those who have been battered by Fulani onslaught through kidnapping, armed robbery and raping. Sunday Igboho has suddenly become an item on the menu list of media platforms and the people of the affected communities are better for it.


To pretend that Nigeria is not in deep-seated crisis is to miss the point outright. To say that President Buhari is not a huge contributor to the broken tongues is to undermine the damage that nepotism has done to the nation’s presidency.


When you listened to the terse statement from the presidency on the quit notice, one is no doubt, chauffeur-driven to the unassailable conclusion, that the presidency aids and abets the activities of the Fulani ethnic stock in Nigeria, especially the herders who have continued to occupy forest reserves for their cattle. I am of the considered opinion that the Buhari presidency is presently in a state of flux in generating ideas that could put paid to all the crises in the country.


The story of the farmers/herders clashes had become an old one in the life of this administration, but because the government relishes in half measures, it often abandons its policy implementation mid-way. When the RUGA initiative was earlier consummated, one had thought that government would follow it through especially against the backdrop of the reported N100 billion gifted the herders in 2018 when a meeting was held in Kebbi State.


A whooping N100 billion was more than enough to build ranches in areas that have been agreed upon. Even if not in the South, then in the North, to promote the business of cattle breeding to make it less forest prone, but more rewarding in line with international best practices.


What has happened to the N100 billion reportedly gifted to the herders and their association ostensibly to stop kidnapping and other criminalities associated with them? It is matter of fact that everyone is feeling the negative impact of the unwholesome activities of the Fulani herders across the country, including the average Fulani man resident in the North.


It does appear the Fulani herders suddenly discovered that people no longer buy cows as they used to, no thanks to the economic downturn in the country.


The only way to make up for the shortfall, is the idea of kidnapping and collection of ransom from their victims. Fulani in the North are also at the receiving end of this flourishing trade that has heavily polarised the region.


From banditry to kidnapping, from rape to killing of their victims, this dastardly act has continued unabated to the point that constituted authority now negotiates with bandits, in the very eyes of supposed security personnel. Such reality confirms the failures of the security agencies in the eyes of the world.


So, when people tend to embark on ethnic profiling of this untoward acts, ascribing everything to the Fulani, it is to call the leaders of this ethnic stock to order, to rein in their army of youths who have taken to crimes and criminalities for profit.


The moment the presidency is apparently seen to be taking sides, the more emboldened the criminal elements become, the more insecure the people.


The point must be made that in a 21st century world, nomadism has become outdated, outlandish and obsolete, but for an average Fulani herder, the forest is his permanent home. So when accusations become rife that the herders have converted the forest to den of kidnapping, the logic becomes apposite.


I have friends and family members who have been victims of this notorious act on several occasions. I have also lost promising members of my family to the activities of herders.


Those who survived the ordeals, come back home with terrifying and deadly tales of how the average Fulani kidnapper operates. First, the proliferation of assault rifles in the hands of these kidnappers is eternally worrisome. Second, is the fact that police rarely get involved in rescue operations, which also goes to confirm the conspiracy theory between the kidnappers and the Nigeria police.


Third, when negotiations are to be consummated between the kidnapper and his superiors elsewhere, Fulani language becomes handy. One of my cousins who fell victim was not that lucky as he was tortured mercilessly and left with troubling wounds once they understood that he could speak Hausa language. Rather than become friendly, they went berserk, resorting to Fulfude, to confuse his comprehension.


He was also told that they have sophisticated weapons to deal with any intruding police officers who tries to encroach in their territories and conquered forests. Some often disclose their links with the Boko Haram hierarchy and tell you without any prompting that they are in the Southern part of the country to raise money for insurgents.


With their AK- 47/49 permanently straddled to their shoulders, the average herder is used as informant and spy to oil the activities of the kidnappers. When the spoils of the illicit trade are received, everyone has his share.


We must all collectively admit that President Buhari and his circle of security chiefs; the Police, Army, Navy, Air Force, Civil Defence, Immigration, DSS, NIA, and DMI have failed woefully in their responsibilities to safeguard the nation and protect lives and property. We also have to admit without equivocation that in search of a solution in 2015, we got a problem in President Buhari who has compounded our woes.


The president has become a specialist in dishing out appointments from the inner recesses of the Villa without taking into account the competence and capacity of those appointees in doing the job for which they were appointed.


The president has grown nepotism like a tree spreading out from its roots to other branches across the country. When we blame him, it is for the simple fact that he alone reserves the right to hire and fire.


If the Fulani do not want a further profiling, they should immediately convoke meetings at various cadres and call their folks to order. No one desires to execute another war, and I doubt if any nation can survive the aftermath of two civil wars.


This is why we all must resolve to find a permanent solution to this perennial crisis. We cannot afford to call a cow big brother, because we desire to eat beef. The life of a cow must not assume primacy over the lives of us all. The Federal Government must wake up from its present slumber to create a platform for engaging these issues.


The conversation must begin urgently. As far as I am yet to reconcile why a man would prefer to operate and habitate in a forest of thousand demons, I am at sea to come to the conclusion about the ownership claim to lands that are outside the domain of anyone’s community.


As lopsided as the 1999 Constitution is, the Land Use Act still reserves certain powers for the states.


And the governors still operate as Chief Security Officers of their respective states. This ownership claim and the air of arrogance exhibited by the Miyetti Allah leadership, can only be rationalised on the basis of the tacit support they enjoy from a nepotistic government under President Buhari.


Trying to force the Fulani pill down the throats of other Nigerians could only lead to crisis of imaginable proportion. It is not just about Sunday Igboho or Gani Adams or Rotimi Akeredolu, it is about the rights of an average Nigerian being infringed upon by the nefarious activities of an outmoded and crude trade promoted by Fulani herders.


The Federal Government must rise above its pettiness and provide leadership for the entire country and not appear to be taking sides with the Fulani herders.


When you replayed the statement credited to President Buhari when he visited former President Donald Trump, that the Fulani herder only parades cutlass with which he cuts foliage to have right of way in the forest, this thinking of tacit support for the Fulani herder becomes tellingly instructive. And that is why the story is unhelpful to everyone.




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