By Dele Sobowale
“Those whom the gods will destroy, first, they make them deaf. Then, they make them mad”. Euripides, 480-406 BC, Greek dramatist. VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ, p 147.
Before former President Obasanjo released his latest letter to President Buhari, I wrote a piece in May this year titled, THE NEXT LEVEL IS PURE ANARCHY. It was designed to warn Nigeria’s political ruling party leadership about the national descent into anarchy – starting with the abdication of control of Zamfara State by former Governor Yari. The man ran to Abuja and left his people at the mercy of heinous criminals. It was well known for more than a year that the state was under siege but the security threat was ignored, just as the Boko Haram insurgency was before it became a mini-war in the North-East. There is another mini-war for the control of Zamfara State and parts of the North-West going on at the moment. That started building up about two and a half years ago.
By comparison with the shooting insurgents in the North-East and North-West, a mere call by the Independent People of Biafra, IPOB, to Igbos in the South-East to stay at home for a day invariably leads to Army Snake and Cobra dances in the zone. Yet, the political leadership asks others to eschew ethnicity when discussing national issues. Why were there no snake dances in Katsina while it developed into the kidnap capital of Nigeria?
Sandwiched between Boko Haram, kidnappers and bandits now holding sway in Borno, Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna and parts of Niger states was the terrorist attack unleashed nationally by suspected herdsmen in the last four years. To be sure, herdsmen had been clashing with farmers for years before May 29, 2015. But, that date marked a watershed in their activities. Until then, their activities were low-key. Body counts in the last four years and two months to date – over 60,000 fellow Nigerians slaughtered by herdsmen all over – would have been a befitting monument to some of history’s worst villains – Attila the Hun, Hitler.
Unlike the activities of bandits, which were merely neglected until they became major conflicts, officialdom, at first, ignored the problem of suspected herdsmen. In this case, they actually later took notice of the genocide committed by suspected herdsmen in ways that smacked of complicity. When over 200 souls were massacred in Agatu in May, 2016, no top Federal Government official visited the people; no relief materials were sent. That same year, the French President cancelled a state visit when terrorists killed only six people in his country. He also personally paid condolence visits to the families of victims. French security forces eventually hunted down the perpetrators and eliminated them. In 2016, the difference was clear between a caring and just national leadership and an openly biased one.
Instead of checking the mindless killers, the leadership first of all turned the blame on the victims – they were accused of not welcoming strangers in their midst. It was a lie. Agatu was home to all ethnic groups for ages before 2016. Then, anti-grazing law passed by the state was offered as the cause of the mayhem. But, Agatu pogrom occurred 16 months before the anti-grazing law was passed. At any rate, suspected herdsmen were also killing people in states without anti-grazing laws – even now. Later we were told that renegades from Gadaffi’s army from Libya were the perpetrators. Absolute lies and excuses were offered without once asking suspected herdsmen to stop killing other ethnic groups and destroying their farms. Obviously, only a dunce and an incorrigible liar can fail to see who is promoting nepotism, sectionalism, and ethnic division in Nigeria today.
The Nigerian political leadership had allowed injustice by a small ethnic group to bring us to the brink of war. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has merely opened up in his letter what other ethnic groups now feel in their hearts. Rightly or wrongly, the Fulani, whether herdsmen or not, had become everybody else’s number one enemy in Nigeria. Just in case their leaders don’t know, below are the ethnic groups known to me in Nigeria at the moment. Fulani’s constitute less than five per cent.
NIGERIAN ETHNIC GROUPS
The list below is not complete by any means. What follows are the ethnic groups the author has been able to confirm exist:
Anang; Afemai; Agatu; Atyap; Agae; Attakar; Awori; Akum; Abonema;
Batta; Bini; Bachama; Borgu; Bajju; Bassa Nge; Bassa Nkomo; Berom; Budang;
Efik; Edo; Egbe; Eggom; Ezaa; Etulo; Egun; Fulani; Farough; Fali; Gwari; Gbagyi; Goemal; Higgis; Hausa; Igbo; Ibibio; Ijaw; Itsekiri; Isoko; Ika; Idoma; Igala; Igbira [Ebira]; Ishan; Ilaje; Ikulu; Ikwere; Ibani; Isobo; Izi; Ikuero; Iyive; Izere; Igede Juguns; Kalabari; Komanton; Kutep; Kubi; Kanuri, Koma,
Lapai; Langtan; Mushere; Nupe; Nkomo; Ngas; Ogoni; Oron;Okun; Okrika; Obigbo Stobe; Tiv; Tappa; Tohan; Tarohk, Uzomba, Wawa; Wuse; Yoruba, Yagba; Zuru.
At least six of those ethnic groups have larger population than Fulani – Hausa, Igbo, Ijaw, Urhobo, Tiv and Yoruba. That fact alone should serve as caution to the Fulani who might be taking this matter lightly. Peace is more in their own interest. Now, let us turn briefly to two issues raised by Obasanjo and examine their implications before we allow the herdsmen/farmers/communities clashes to degenerate into war.
“Spontaneous or planned reprisals against the Fulani which may inadvertently or advertently mushroom into pogrom or Rwanda-type genocide that we did not believe could happen and yet it happened.”
Anyone who imagines that another civil war will resemble the 1967-70 war must go and have his head examined. The rest of Nigeria will not gang up against Igbos this time. Chances are that it will be between the regions perceiving they are being oppressed and their presumed oppressors.
“Very onerous cloud is gathering. And rain of destruction, violence, disaster, and disunity can only be the outcome.”
Obasanjo has summarised the situation perfectly. We might be approaching the point of no return. I was in the US during the civil war; so it is impossible for me to describe how people felt on both sides of that war. But, I have visited 22 states since January this year. Even without a war declared, there is already a sense of disunity which was not there under Balewa, Gowon, Murtala Muhammed, Shagari, Babangida, even murderous Abacha, Abubakar and Yar’Adua – all former Nigerian leaders from the North. Never have many ethnic groups felt the sense of injustice so keenly as to want to revolt.
“There is nothing more dangerous than for a leader to look back and discover there is nobody following.” US President, Lyndon Johnson, 1908-1973.
Two recent events have demonstrated how increasingly isolated the political leadership in Abuja is from the people of Nigeria today. They announced the establishment of a Fulani Radio Station for herdsmen and RUGA. I will touch only RUGA. The introduction of RUGA or Cattle Settlement, which was a bold step in the right direction, had turned into a farcical fiasco because of poor management by Federal Government officials. What should have been a national policy on the establishment of cattle ranches and approved grazing lands in the interim had been allowed to degenerate into a conflict between FG and herdsmen on one side and almost the rest of Nigeria on the other. At the moment, finding a nationally acceptable Public-Private-Partnership, PPP, solution, backed by appropriate laws, is foreclosed while we fight. The problem remains unsolved. That is just plain stupidity. More frightful is the gradual slide from that unfortunate lack of thought to battle cries all over.
THE SHI’ITE THREAT
The Nigerian political leadership is now in the untenable situation of losing most of the people. The South is now solidly against RUGA. Parts of the Middle Belt are not following. We are now witnessing the emergence of another northern dissident group – the Shi’ites – whose increasing militancy could soon rival, if not surpass, Boko Haram in terms of the violence they can unleash. When a group claiming to have 21 million members declare their readiness to die, reasonable people should understand that it is not their intention to die alone without taking others down with them. When Shi’ite shooting, if allowed, starts, peace in the North could be gone for several decades. Stoking the embers of Shi’ite insurgency is what can only be called Executive lawlessness. If El-Zakzaky dies in detention, nobody can prevent trouble in Nigeria.
Intractable under-development of Nigeria is already posing a serious challenge to the nation’s security. Large chunks of the funds we need for education, infrastructure, food supply, power and health is now being thrown away battling Boko Haram, kidnappers and now bandits. Does it require rocket-science intelligence for anybody to understand that we cannot afford another war?
SOUTH WEST APC LEADERSHIP STANDING ON BANANA PEEL
“Ehinkule lóta wa; ile laseni ngbe” (Yoruba adage). Translation: “The enemy is in the backyard; the traitor lives with us inside the house.”
The Presidency advised that the murder of Pa Fasoranti’s daughter, Mrs Olakunrin, should not be politicised. Sensible counsel but likely to be ignored. In fact, the condolence visit of one of the leaders of the APC to the bereaved old man, followed by an interview with reporters, is a clear demonstration that politics without boundaries is now the vogue. South-West political leaders are at risk. The leader had sensibly admonished Nigerians not to “stigmatise” a particular group and hold them responsible for this and all atrocities. If he had made that statement four years ago at the height of his popularity, there would have been no dispute. Today, with the SW up in arms against herdsmen, that utterly sensible suggestion has become proof beyond reasonable doubt that the fellow is not in tune with the Yoruba nation.
To understand how serious the situation is, the person who uttered the Yoruba adage above served beer to everybody when Buhari was re-elected in February and showered praises on the leader. In March this year, suspected herdsmen invaded his father’s farm at Iseyin and destroyed it. Today, the easiest way to get him angry is to mention herdsmen. As far as he is concerned, APC leaders no longer represent his interest. He is ready for battle if it comes.
FG better listen to Obasanjo instead of shooting the messenger because they don’t like the message.