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Your land or your life: That is now policy

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Herdsmen with their cattle

By Dele Sobowale

“Better a declared enemy then a doubtful ally.”

Napoleon Bonaparte, 1769-1815.

The message could not have been more cold-bloodedly delivered to all those in all the thirty six states of Nigeria clinging to ancestral lands to relinquish them or face death than what Pastor Femi Adesina, Special Adviser on Media, said recently in an interview broadcasted to the entire world. Before reaching Aso Rock and after three years in the Rock, confirmed now to be what Reuben Abatti told us about – demons – Femi should have known that a Presidential Spokesperson making statements in public must be presumed to be speaking for the Presidency. A former President of the Guild of Editors cannot plead ignorance regarding what is expected in his exalted position. He speaks for government each time he opens his mouth in public. He must even guard his utterances in private in the age of smart phones and hidden recorders. But, The Aso Rock disease took control and below (after the quote)  is what Adesina said about ancestral lands.

“Where God erects a house of prayer; the Devil always builds a Chapel there; and it will be found upon examination, the latter has the largest congregation.” Daniel Defoe, 1661-1731.

“Ancestral attachment? You can only have ancestral attachment when you are alive. If you are dead , how does the attachment matter? The National Economic Council that recommended ranching didn’t just legislate it; there were recommendations. So if your state does not have land for ranching, it is understandable. Not every state will have land for ranches. But, where you have land and you can do something, please do for peace. What will the land be used for if those who own it are dead at the end of the day?”

No ultimatum, your land or your life, can be more directly and openly delivered. In the modern age of electronics, what Adesina said will live for ever. He cannot even ever deny it; or claim he was misquoted. That is what brings his posture as a “Man of God” into question.

Although born and raised a Christian, and still one, I had more than thirty years ago dismissed most of Nigeria’s so called Men of God as Devil’s disciples out of personal experience which should not delay us here. But what stunned me most about Adesina’s statement was its blatant disregard for the tenth Commandment in the Bible which was explicit in its instructions. “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house….nor anything that is thy neighbour’s”. Obviously, forcing your “neighbour” to surrender his land, on pain of death amounts to coveting in the first instance. Taking the land by force also amounts to a violation of the eighth Commandment. That is even more explicit in its injunctions. It says simply: “Thou shalt not steal.”  But Pastor Adesina was not contented with announcing that the earthly “gods” he worships should go ahead and violate two commandments. He was all in support of disregarding the sixth Commandment as well. That one again simply said “Thou shalt not kill.” But, anybody reading his statement can come to no other conclusion other than he would endorse it if people refusing their lands are killed.  Now we know the nature of the man we are dealing with. And, we will deal with him according to his own words. Unfortunately, he is not alone in Buhari’s government. A few weeks ago, I wrote about another Pastor in Aso Rock under the title YOUR MONEY OR YOUR LIFE. Again sadly, he is also from the South West. These intelligent but unwise officials of the Buhari administration must have forgotten that life in Aso Rock is transient. Sooner or later they will leave and we are waiting to receive them.

“Alas, my lords there’s many a sycophant/and flatter that fill your courts with can’t…” – Geoffrey Chaucer, 1342-1400.

Sycophancy exists in all organizations – public, private, religious, political, social – and millions of people worldwide owe their positions to their ability to flatter the head of the organization better than most. Most leaders regard this as “loyalty” and reward it until it is too late for them to escape the downfall that might result from too much flattery by subordinates. Buhari, like others before him, has created a culture of sycophancy which might consume his presidency. But, that is Buhari’s business; not mine. A leader who cannot occasionally reach out to critics to find out what the flatterers are hiding from him has already dug his own political grave.

There must be a limit to apple polishing. Adesina with his outburst has crossed the red line by literally asking millions of landowners to be ready to surrender them on demand or face annihilation. In fact, he has inadvertently (or was it deliberately) asked most Nigerians to accept modern day slavery or be ready for annihilation. It might not be what he intended to say. But, the unintended consequences of his statement amount to asking the rest of us to get ready for a fight for our lives. In that regard he is labouring under a lot of wrong assumptions. Let me mention a few before his government plunges the nation into hell.

“Anger supplies the arms.” Virgil, 70-19 BC

Femi might be asking “where will the people besieged find the arms to resist the Federal might which might be deployed to enforce the “land or life” edict”? The answer to that has been provided by Virgil above. A more modern version of that answer was provided by G.K Chesterton, when the Nazis invaded Britain during World war II. “In the end it will not matter to us whether we fought with flails or reeds. It will matter to us on what side we fought.” Adesina is already fighting on the side of the land-grabbers. I will enlist on the side of the majority of Nigerians who are unwilling to give up their land – even at the cost of their lives. But, I hope Femi knows that nobody has a monopoly of violence.  If Femi and his principals expect that the unveiled threat to annihilate those refusing to surrender their lands will accelerate the land acquisition programme, he needs to be told that the opposite will happen. Instead of meekly obeying, millions of people clinging to uncertain life through subsistence farming, as well as those with major stakes in ancestral lands will fight for them.  And just in case Femi thinks that it will be a walk-over, let me remind him that the UN estimates that there are about 6 million illegal arms, in private hands, in the ECOWAS region –  sixty per cent in Nigeria.

“Governments are best classified by considering who are the “somebodies” they are in fact endeavouring to satisfy.” (Alfred North Whitehead, 1861-1947).

Fulanis constitute less than five per cent of the 198 million Nigerian population. The herdsmen constitute even less than one per cent. First, the President asked the rest of us “to live in peace with strangers (read herdsmen)”. The Inspector General of Police and Minister of Defence falsely announced that anti-grazing laws were the causes of herdsmen mass homicides even when the pogroms in Enugu State and Agatu occurred long before the laws were enacted. Then their lies blew up in their faces in Plateau State whose Governor had been a traitor to the cause of his people and Nigerians, when he openly attacked his Benue counterpart – though he later apologised to him. We thought it was all error of judgment by the Federal Government. Adesina has opened our eyes to the fact that the killings might have been “politically motivated” by members of the Mayetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN who have several Life Patrons and a Grand Patron. So, the genocide might have been allowed to continue because it is a necessary part of the “land or life” policy. We should thank Adesina for this revelation. He has at least warned us against future attacks – leaving it to us to submit meekly and still die or to die fighting off the invaders. In that regard the words of Sir Winston Churchill, to Britons during WWII is useful. “Try and take at least one down with you.”


“Is it because I look like them?” President Buhari.

President Buhari recently addressed the charge that his government was slow in stopping the killings by herdsmen in Nigeria and bringing the culprits to book. His defence was a very ingenious one but a clever diversion from the truth. Asked the President, “Is it because I look like them [herdsmen] that I am accused?”

It has always been a clever ploy by those under attack for serious dereliction of duty to plead guilty to a ridiculous charge in order to avoid facing the more serious one. Nobody has ever accused Buhari of “looking like them.” What had been said, and which remains true is that he was appointed a Grand Patron and Life Patron of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, a group which has openly acknowledged its sponsorship of herdsmen.

Even a child knows that one cannot be a Grand Patron of an organization without sharing its aims and objectives and without endorsing the methods adopted to achieve them. It is certainly impossible for anybody so involved with a movement to be neutral about its activities and be fair in settling disputes involving his associates. That is the charge which Buhari failed to address.







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