Hakeem Baba-Ahmad

February 10, 2021

Losing our heads

Trump: Kickin’ and screamin’ and burnin’ the house down

By Hakeem Baba-Ahmed

Because we focused on the scorpion, we missed the snake —African proverb

LISTENING to elite adopting language and styles of the generally uninformed and more alienated groups in this country, you will not be wrong in assuming that the survival of the country as one with a future has few champions and many enemies.

Just visit circles where Nigerians are engaged in our usually passionate quarrels over everything from football to the president, you will come away with the impression that from top to bottom, there is now a major convergence of opinion that political positions only make sense on the extremes of fringes. To be fair, you could excuse the younger generation here.

This is the stuff it grew up on: bitter and damaging narratives that all the nation’s problems are caused by other Nigerians who have taken up all the room available for some groups, including generations, to develop and flourish. There is a huge vacuum where those who measure how close we are to the abyss and can apply breaks are supposed to exist. We play without rules. Some know it is dangerous. Others think it is worth the danger, even if they do not know what price has to be paid.

The Fulani herder represents strong evidence that we have mountains of problems and very little to deal with them effectively. Ordinarily this should be a text book issue of law and order, or the type of problems Africans have a hundred and one ways of resolving. Part of an identified group has recently become prominent in the public domain as criminals who kidnap, rape and plunder communities and retreat into forests.

Northern communities have cried dry tears in the last few years as they lost thousands of relations, suffered immeasurable humiliations and lost billions to Fulani criminals who lost cattle and  acquired guns, drugs and an outlaw mentality. They took over forests and dared governments who retreated. Their kith and kin held on to a precarious, outmoded and unproductive tradition of  trudging thousands of kilometres trying to feed cattle in an increasingly limiting and hostile space.

The Fulani herder now bears the cross of his kin, in addition to his own store of transgressions which most communities know and dealt with in a routine matter. He pays the price for the lack of vision of leaders who ignored all the signs that ranching or domestication of some sort is the only solution to increasing population of humans and cattle and dwindling space due to climate changes.

In the end, the problem comes to this. The criminal Fulani exploits a weak Nigerian state and acquires for himself a lot more space. The Fulani herder loses the vital co-operation and goodwill of local communities which see him and his criminal brother as one and the same thing and wants him out.Both bear the additional cross of being President Muhammadu Buhari’s kin and, therefore, fair game for anyone with a score to settle with him.

Does anyone stop to think that dealing with the criminal Fulani as the law prescribes, the same way it is supposed to deal with cultists, pirates, yahoo boys, armed robbers and drug merchants is the way to go, and insisting  that those with responsibility to do this should be held to account for their failure to do so?

Where were those who could have made the case that expelling all Fulani from communities because there are criminal elements among the Fulani is not the best solution because it could be counter- productive and play into hands of people who want more than Fulani-free environments?

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Where were voices that will counter outrageous propaganda that the herder represents Buhari’s Islamisation agenda and an advance party for the annexation of lands of all Christians in Nigeria and their forceful convergence to Islam? Apparently, the babble triggered by hysteria and demonisation have scared even the most level-headed opinions. Now we are at a point where neither the puny presence of federal might nor community vigilantes can eliminate the criminal Fulani, wherever he is.

His herding kin now has choices: stay and get harassed and attacked by local communities, leave hostile communities en-mass for safer climes and trigger a dangerous chain of events, or split between leaving and joining kin in forests and highways. This is what happens when leaders with constitutional responsibility abdicate their responsibilities to make and enforce laws and take steps to deal with problems as they arise.

Simple folk have limited options when confronted with social and political problems. They look for those with responsibility to solve the problems, or they attempt to solve them themselves. When leaders cannot, or will not, lead with responsibility, and an elite with stakes in political stability, security and the economy is obliterated or shrinks behind shrieking classes, what you have is anarchy which leaves no one unscathed.

Problems never walk away. In most instances, chasing them away seemingly intact does not solve them either. They mutate or relocate and become other problems.

There is no need to apologise for saying this, but the Fulani problem is a national problem, the same way militancy in the Niger Delta was a national problem and required a strong leadership and national consensus to deal with. The criminal Fulani is not a Buhari problem, except in the sense that he sat on it and allowed it to grow under him. It now has a national dimension, without territory or constituency.

It is not a Northern problem, except in the sense that most Fulani are located in the North and have very deep roots in its history and society. The North has been its biggest victim, and will continue to be its victims as Northern political leaders lament their impotence to deal with it, and quarrel over strategies on dealing with it in the face of the inability or unwillingness of the Federal Government to attempt to deal with it.

Of all the stimuli this problem needs to grow further, mass hysteria, elite opportunism and an indifferent leadership are the most important. It now has them. The more we push it around, the bigger it will grow. Unfortunately, it looks like this is what we will continue to do. Every voice that makes the case for a more rational evaluation of the Fulani challenge is drowned by accusations that it is making excuses for the Fulani criminal.

There are people who find the travails of the innocent Fulani in his country fertile ground to harvest the sentiment that the South is squeezing the North for political reasons over the Fulani, and the North can also hurt the South. There are politicians who see the Fulani issue as a political game. Few among them give thought to the possibility that this is a game that could end in stalemate, which, in real life, means that all  players are losers.

There are Nigerians who have seen it all. They can tell when we push too hard and they apply some breaks, but they appear to have lost their voices and heads. We are handing over another chunk of our lives to criminals.

Vanguard News Nigeria