By Yinka Odumakin
IT’s only those who are too daft to read societies on anomic drifts that would not be able to decode that Nigeria as presently constituted is nearing its last days, the way Yugoslavia, USSR and other once-upon-a-time countries exhausted their possibilities and became history.
If Nigeria fails to restructure as has been strongly canvassed and goes under in the alternative, President Muhahamadu Buhari may have the unenviable record of presiding over the liquidation of the country in its years of “change”.
We pray the words of General Yakubu Gowon in 2011 at the peak of “monkeys and baboons being soaked in blood” by supporters of Mr. President are not fulfilled in the season of madness being foisted over Nigeria at a frenetic speed.
Nothing typifies this end-time warning for Nigeria than the special propelling of the Fulani herdsmen to special anarchy by the Federal Government of Nigeria, the Northern Elders Forum and their ilks who are savouring their group’s seeming conquest of Nigeria and showing total disregard for non-Fulani communities who are majority in the country.
They are daily being told in clear terms that they are not part of their own version and vision of a conquered Nigeria.
All the non-sequitors from Garba Shehu and fellow travellers on the lawful order by Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, that herders should vacate Ondo State reserves in seven days would not have happened if communications have not totally broken down in Nigeria, or if there is still some hearing capacity for those who are nursing all that trouble Nigeria at the moment.
The governor did not ask the criminal herders who have been responsible for serial murderous activities in the state to leave the state yet. All he did was to ask them to vacate the illegal occupation of its forest reserves from where they have continued to perpetrate criminal activities. The state has lost prominent citizens like Mrs. Olufunke Olakunrin, Olufon of Ifon and the Deputy Registrar of FUTA, among several others, in recent time. Their killings have been traced through police interrogations and strong allegations to the herders who have surrounded the state for criminal activities.
All the insensible postulations in support of the siege the indigenous people have been put under for which the Fulani community have never once expressed a regret and which they carry on as a right have been shattered by the brilliant exposition of my friend and brother, Mr. Jiti Ogunye when he wrote “The quit order issued to killer herdsmen”.
“The right to freedom of movement and the right of the citizens of Nigeria to reside in any part of the country guaranteed by the Constitution do not vest in citizens, indigenous or non indigenous, the right to trespass on private, communal or publicly acquired and controlled lands or forest.
Every land in Ondo State (and in virtually all the other states in the “Federation” of Nigeria) is owned by individuals, communities, villages, towns, sub-ethnic groups or the government (Federal and State Government). Indeed, the lands that were acquired and controlled by government, under the old Public Lands Acquisition Act or the extant Land Use Act were acquired from aboriginal and indigenous communities.
Compensation was usually but not always paid by government for such acquisitions. This implies that government itself recognises that there are no “free, unowned, unpossessed lands” within the boundaries of Ondo State.
There are no free forest zones anywhere. For the forest reserves that are owned by the state government, people (including indigenes) may not lawfully hunt for games or carry on logging activities therein without permit. It is criminal to do so.
There is a “Forest Guards Department” in the Agricultural Ministry that enforces restrictions and disallows unauthorised entry! The forests are owned by peoples and government of the state.
This being the case, it is indubitably an act of trespass (criminal or civil ) for any herder or non-herder for that matter, to invade the lands, possess same and carry economic activities thereon; either of a nomadic/ itinerant kind or permanent type. This is why individuals, communities, villages and towns engage in land disputes, including court litigations.
The right to freedom of movement and settlement do not permit a herder to constitutionally migrate from his part of the country but to unlawfully settle on another person’s land temporarily or permanently.
For example, cocoa farmers from Ondo State cannot lawfully, while exercising their right to freedom of movement, go to Katsina State, clear large expanse of lands in any community, and without buying or legally acquiring the lands, start planting cocoa seedlings there (assuming cocoa could be cultivated and plantations could flourish in that state).
The other issue, however, is that of criminality and armed banditry, including kidnapping, ransom harvests and murders of innocent citizens in the forests. In Ondo State, there are people of northern, eastern and southern extractions who are lawfully and legitimately working as farmhands and labourers on the farms and in the forests.
Farmhands and labourers
With the permission of their hosts, they settle in the farms with their families. No order has been made for their “expulsion”.The indisputable fact is that some non- indigenes have taken over or substantially infiltrated the Ondo State forests, including foreigners (Malians and Niger Republic citizens, posing as Fulani herdsmen). Unfortunately, some rogue elements associated with the herders have been found in the past to be amongst the criminals.
The pretext or alibi used in invading the forests and staging violent kidnappings therefrom is that they are herdsmen. To extirpate this excuse, the state has a bounden duty to order these “herdsmen”out of the forests. In any case, cattle breeders look for grazing fields to feed their cows; they do not adamantly insist on a continued occupation of dense, rain forests.
Only recently, when government or military officials were giving reasons why some farmers were killed in Borno State by terrorists, it was alleged that the farmers went to their farms, under the shadow of a raging war, without securing security clearance or permit to return to the farms.
This indicates that for security imperatives, farming may be prohibited or suspended. If this could happen, why, in your “humble view” will a responsible state government not have the power to expel “armed herders” from its forests to protect the lives and property of its people. Doesn’t the Constitution provide in Section 14(2)(b) that the “security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government?”
Only Boko Haram reasoning will fault this reasoned position which should be an endorsed view of all reasonable people in Nigeria. The atrocities of the Fulani in Ondo are repeated in Oyo State and other South West states and non-Fulani communities in Nigeria.
Those of us who have openly appealed to Mr. Sunday Igboho to allow state actors under Governor Seyi Makinde to deal first with the issues in Oyo State have not done so because we do not understand the crimes some of the herders are committing daily, but the Yoruba say we learn how to state our case before we engage in the act of a fight.
Nigeria in a bad shape
We were at the forefront of calling out the Coalition of Northern Group, CNG, when they asked Igbos to vacate the North without committing any crime and we should be consistent by appealing to groups and individuals who are unhappy with the murderous activities of some Fulani herders in Yorubaland to use all the available tact in dealing with the matter even in the face of total irresponsibility of the Federal Government to wanton destruction of lives and property.
I was with General Buhari in 2011 when his supporters went on a killing spree after he lost elections. They killed from morning till night until Gen Yakubu Gowon called the CPC candidate with a strong message to call his supporters to order as it would be on his head if the same Nigeria they both fought to keep together should disintegrate.
Let it not be our lot that this land has become so arid of men of strong stature like him who can make such strong call today and let our leader know he has a duty to Nigeria and all its inhabitants and not only Fulani.
Nigeria is presently in a bad shape and cannot survive for long the way it is being run as a Fulani empire. It’s the beginning of the matter you can predict and not the end. There is always the law of unintended consequences which must make us to run Nigeria differently and avoid disastrous consequences.