By Muyiwa Adetiba
Last Friday morning found my senior brother and I on the way to Ilesha in Osun state. It was a trip we should have made months ago.
In fact, it was a trip we should be making monthly given the benefits. Two of the benefits are seeing our aged mother and meeting up with the other siblings who also have to go out of their comfort zones to make the rendezvous possible.
I relish those few hours of sheer bliss when we are all together and sometimes go back in time to relive our childhood years. We are very much aware that these are precious moments given the age of our mother who is our rallying point and who is always beside herself with joy whenever we congregate at her place.
What has kept this happening more often is not time—all of us are retired. It is not desire—we all look forward to the meeting. It is the state of our roads and the hazards on them. Until now, the hazards had been limited to accidents, police harassment and sometimes excruciating traffic jams. All of these had been the result of the tunnel vision of our leaders.
It is inconceivable that in the 20 years of our new found democracy, we have not been able to fix the Lagos–Benin expressway. It is the artery of the south. Ideally, we should be talking of a ten-lane highway. Yet we are struggling with six. Lagos to Ilesha used to be a two and half hour journey in the 70s. Even then we had to pass through the ancient town of Ife. Now, you would be lucky to make it in five.
These days, you are deemed lucky to make it at all. There is now, in addition to the hazards which I had earlier stated, a more menacing one. That of kidnap or death. Life, if you believe all the stories flying around, is now brutal and cheap for travellers along the route to Ilesha and Akure. Such is the power of the social media that I couldn’t get the stories out of my head even when I know people who travel that route every week unhurt.
I decided to travel as light as possible and to reduce as much information on my person as possible. I even toyed with dropping my phone until I realised that it would be unfair to those who expected me to allay their own fears by being in regular contact with them. Not hearing from me would throw them into an unimaginable panic.
For once, I enjoyed the heavy traffic whenever we ran into one. After all, it is said that there is safety in numbers. For once, I delighted in seeing police check points. It meant a certain measure of safety. I used to love the lush greenery along the road. But it filled me with apprehension last Friday. Suppose captivity and death were lurking in those bushes?
My heart skipped a beat anytime I couldn’t see a vehicle within 50 meters. Were we getting isolated? My old heart virtually stopped when we neared Ibodi and saw some cattle with a few herdsmen—the story had it that Ibodi had been taken over by Fulani herdsmen. Alas, the ones I saw had nothing but sticks with them. They were typical of the old ‘darandaran’ that I was used to.
We had hot pounded yam waiting for us. We had our siblings waiting for us. We had hot gist waiting for us. We had ‘mama’s special’ waiting for us as take-away. The hours flew. Too soon, it was time to head back. We had decided to leave a full hour earlier so as to be nearer Lagos by dusk. Fortified by mama’s prayers, a more confident me set out for Lagos. We were near Ibadan when a call came through that some Redeemed Pastors had been kidnapped around Ijebu.
Although it wasn’t our route, the news brought some of the fears back. But nothing untoward happened and we got to familiar territory safely. There were speculations that the kidnappers were Fulani herdsmen. These speculations were given credence the following day by one of the freed victims. His assertion that the assailants were definitely Fulani herdsmen almost brought me at odds with a close friend who like many, had become increasingly disillusioned by Buhari’s style of governance and re-posted it. I replied by asking if the victim saw cattle with the kidnappers. Or if he understood Fufulde, the Fulani language.
Apart from spending all my working life in a profession which depends on provable facts before publishing, I have seen what negative profiling does to people’s psyche. To be Nigerian and black for example, are deemed bad news to many people around the world—white or black. Yet majority of Nigerians are decent people who are innately better than those who are putting them down. So much negative narration has been woven around the Fulani race in recent times—from wanting to Islamize the country to seeking to dominate it. Yet every tribe in Nigeria is guilty of trying to position their people in key positions whenever they can get away with it.
An average Fulani is proud of their race; but not anymore than a Yoruba or Igbo or Ijaw. I can understand the angst of people against what looks like the tardiness and incompetence of this administration. I feel the sense of drift too. And not in security matters alone. But it seems unfair to blame it all on a race. Not all the crime is committed by Fulani Herdsmen. I will not be surprised if some sect, or individuals, aided by some foreign powers, are determined to make Nigeria ungovernable for reasons best known to them using the tension in the land as fuel. This is the time to rise up as one against an invasion of any form. For once, Chief Obasanjo’s rallying cry was on song. We need to stop the blame game.
The weekend saw two mass shootings in America. It was sad to see how the establishment initially struggled to classify what happened. If the perpetrators were blacks or Arabs, it would have been easily classified as terrorism. But with a white man, it was seen as ‘mental illness.’ That is the evil in racial profiling. Of course, you have to be mentally ill to be engaged in mass murder.
But it has got to be understood that white supremacy as an ideology is as toxic and as dangerous as ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda and other radical ideologies. Having said this, it will be wrong to classify all white males as supremacists, or Arab males as terrorists, or Ijaw males as militants or Fulani males as bandits.