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Election 2011: Shape of things to come (6)

By Dele Sobowale
“You must rise up in anger and crush anybody who wants to bring down the government…You must crush any opposition against this government with fire…”
Author’s name withheld, at least for now.

“Opposing views should always be tolerated and the culture of unfettered national debates should be re-invigorated as we collectively seek solutions to our problems…For our democracy to be virile it must be genuinely competitive and strictly rule-based”.

President Goodluck Jonathan specifying requirements for the nation’s enduring democracy.
Last week, this series ended with a poser, “how can we ever develop when every four years we go through the orgy of election induced violence master-minded by our political leaders?” In 2007, it was “do-or-die” according to someone who, if he were not the occupant of the innermost corridors of power, would have been considered fit for a straight jacket. Now read and read again the first statement.

That message was sent to me by one of the readers of this column while I was in Aba, on the invitation of another reader to come and see for myself how Aba, the second largest commercial centre in the South East and South South had been brought to its knees by kidnappers and armed robbers.

Two nights were enough for me to understand why no investor, except one who has taken leave of his senses, will soon make Aba his investment destination. By 7p.m, everybody was indoors and literally cowering in his  bedrooms. Daylight brought little relief for those owning and driving state-of –the-art luxury cars because the kidnappers operated with impunity –night and day.

To say I was horrified by the first statement quoted above would amount to the greatest under-statement of my column writing career –especially when the statement was credited to one of our leaders and Chief Security Officer of a state. I decided to extend my trip to the governor’s state in the hope of confirming from if he had been quoted right.

I have not heard from the alleged author of the statement; which is an incitement to violence of every sort including murder, arson, kidnapping and rape. I hope the man was misquoted. I have since obtained a copy of the newspaper which carried the story on page 10. I will still try to see the author of that piece.

Meanwhile, President Jonathan, who was quoted next, and his close advisers, if he doesn’t have the time to read papers, needs to be made aware that as the nation’s Chief Security Officer, there  might be some highly placed individuals who have fully subscribed to the lunatic idea of “do-or-die” and who might be arming for war instead of politics.

I made a quick stop over in Cross River and here again the story is not much different. As far as the politicians in that state are concerned, the President might as well be addressing people in Plato’s Republic instead of the most deadly gathering of politicians on this planet – all of them here in Nigeria. Baba’s boys some would say…

Presido, it might just interest you to know dat the near total breakdown in communications on the Plateau is not only between the Beroms and the Hausa/Fulani but between ALL MINORITY TRIBES in northern part of the state and the Hausa/Fulanis as well”.

Not only does it interest me, it should be of interest to all those who want a comprehensive peace in the Plateau. Only a liar would ignore the fact that the problem in Jos is not just between the Beroms and the Hausa and Fulani (who are two distinct ethnic groups; the Hausa are in the majority; the Fulani are actually one of the smallest ethnic groups in Nigeria although people lump them together as if they are one).

For more than 300  years the conflict between the dominant and the subordinate ethnic groups have been a regular feature of life on the Plateau. Creation of states out of the three regions bequeathed to us at independence by the British started with the creation of the Mid-Western Region while agitation was on for the creation of the Middle Belt and Calabar-Ogoja River States in the North and South respectively. Some of the animosities remain with us everywhere in Nigeria till today.

And, it is not just in the North that Hausa and Fulani herdsmen have clashed with farmers; that goes on virtually everyday nationwide. Yet, the nation desperately needs them for meat production. How to balance the requirements of nomads with those of farmers everywhere remains an abiding national problem.

The creation of 12, then 19, then 30 and now 36 states by the military  inadvertently male room for  several northern states in which the Hausa and Fulani now constitute the minority. The transformation from “ruler” to “ruled” is a process which has been both painful and relenting.

Unfortunately, while the well-educated Hausa and Fulani in those states can adjust to the realities, the majority, especially the nomadic people, have  had, and still find  difficulty in adjusting to one of the unintended consequences of states creation which the founding fathers embarked upon in 1963. In many respects, the problem in Jos is similar to that of white South Africans who,  in a life time,  have gone from bosses to equals and now subordinates. It will not be easy to resolve; but we must do it.

One of the most difficult group of stakeholders to bring into the peace process will be the nomadic herdsmen – ever present but of no fixed address. They quite often get involved in conflicts and depart before the dust clears from the field of battle.

They leave to fight another day,  literally,  but they leave behind them lasting animosities between ethnic groups in the area. This is an aspect of the problem which is usually not addressed and the question is: how do you get people who are not permanently resident to partake in a peace process when they are instrumental to the outbreak of violence?…..

“When morality comes up against profit, it is seldom that profit loses”.
Shirley Chisholm, 1970.

Especially when it is personal profit as demonstrated by the Ogas at NPA. Otherwise, it is difficult to imagine why all the Managing Directors and board members of the Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA, considered pillars of society and many awarded National Honours, could have continued to ignore a Supreme Court ruling till today.

At least from the conviction of Bode George and others we know that the NPA has  enough money to pay the 1991 pensioners many times over and still  lot of money left over – for embezzlement.


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