POLSCOPE BY Eddy Odivwri
Sometime in early January 2019, the presidency, I think, sent some top government officials to meet with the Editors of various Newspaper houses in Lagos. There were two ministers: Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi (Transportation) and Chris Ngige (Labour and Productivity); a serving governor, Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna); and a few other officials.
The meeting was to explain what they described as the “misconceptions” in the public domain. Predictably, the issue of security was one of the major concerns that engaged the meeting that night.
Like many others at the meeting, I was shocked when Gov El-Rufai, in his explanations, declared that the typical Fulani man values his cattle much more than human being. The Fulani cattle rearer, according to him, has nothing else in the world but his cows, and so will defend the welfare and life of the cows with all he’s got, even if it means laying down his own life for the safety and preservation of the cows.
But beyond El-Rufai’s prognosis, I sense some feeling of pride and undue arrogance, predicated on the altar of entitlement, on the part of the Miyetti Allah, who seems to be flaunting the fact that the President is a Fulani man. Thus, they seem to be saying, albeit quietly, that “if the president be for us, who can be against us?” Were it not so, even the association of cattle rearers itself (now upgraded to Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria– MACBAN ) which was little known until the advent of President Muhammadu Buhari, suddenly became a frontline association in Nigeria seizing the headlines most of the time, albeit for the wrong and heinous reasons.
Government concedes so much and too much to the association, which I am not sure even pays tax. I recall that, perhaps in a bid to please his boss, the former Agriculture Minister, Audu Ogbeh, was contemplating importing certain type of ‘special grass’ that can quickly grow the local cows.
There is profound evidence of bias on the part of the presidency in favour of Miyetti Allah and its members. Were it not so, by now, not only would so many members of the Cattle rearers have been arrested, prosecuted and jailed, the association itself would have long been proscribed with a steely seal. We have not forgotten the irredeemable havoc they wreaked in Benue State. The picture of those 73 coffins lined up for mass burial in Benue, January 2018, still rankles me, Nobody was arrested. Nobody was prosecuted. Nobody was jailed. Not even a rebuke. We simply carried on as if nothing happened.
There is hardly any part of the country which has not suffered deadly attacks in the hands of the so-called Fulani herdsmen. It is either they are engaging in banditry in the North west or kidnapping and killing in the south.
But it is gratifying that last Monday, when the Southwest governors met with the leaders of the Miyetti Allah, along with two governors from the north— Mohammed Abubakar (Jigawa) and Abubakar bagudu (Kebbi), the MACBAN was not only declared as a peaceful organisation, both sides agreed to flush out the criminal elements in MACBAN as well as the criminals hiding under the auspices of MACBAN to be committing havoc. And great has the havoc been. Many lives have been lost. Huge sums have been collected as ransom to secure the freedom of those kidnapped by these criminals masquerading as herdsmen.
Indeed, many southern communities have lived with Fulani herdsmen over the years without any clash. In Warri, the Hausa quarter, right in the middle of the city, near Igbudu market, has remained a standing settlement of the Hausa/Fulani men and women, without any tension.
Their (herdsmen) trademark were just the long slim sticks they held, to control their herds and sometimes catapults. Not anymore. These days, herders have AK 47 and other lethal weapons sometimes tied to the back of one of their cows. With these, they have raped, and ripped many lives apart.
The south west “summit” on cows and their owners became an imperative following the expiration of the deadline given by the Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akerodolu to Fulani herdsmen to quit the Ondo forests.
He had asked them to be registered and be known if they wanted to continue to graze their cattle in Ondo State.
But the presidency, too soon, intervened harping on the constitutional provisions that allows any Nigerian to live anywhere within the country to do his/her legitimate business.
The presidency failed to understand that the legitimacy of the business to be done is important. The kidnappers have seen the business of abduction as great business as they harvest millions of Naira every week from their victims who do not want to be killed. Yes, it is business, But how legitimate is it?
Can non-Muslims, in exercise of their constitution-guaranteed freedom, begin to trade openly in alcohol in a state like Zamfara, for instance?
So why would Miyetti Allah refuse to adhere to local guidelines issued by state governments, especially as such guidelines are aimed at securing and protecting human lives?
So, if a governor elected to secure and provide for his people sees that his people are being threatened and killed on a daily basis by certain people, wont such a governor need to take action? That was what prompted Gov Akeredolu to issue the quit order to those who would not come out of the government reserved forests and get registered by government.
It is the failure of some governors (especially in Oyo) to rise to the defense of his people that produced the Yoruba activist called Sunday Igboho, who had led some youths to chase out Fulani men in some parts of Oyo State. That had sent disturbing signals as it was bound to trigger negative and worrisome reprisals from other parts of the country. Thankfully and hopefully, the summit has quenched that ire.
Seye Makinde, the Oyo State governor had denounced the Igboho strategy, stressing that we cannot tackle criminality with another criminality. Perhaps as a measure of the fire he ignited, his (Sunday Igboho’s) house was set ablaze in Ibadan on Tuesday morning. He claimed that he lost properties worth N50 million.
Beyond the understanding reached at the “South west cattle summit”, the Miyetti Allah members must realize that Nigeria does not belong to any particular ethnic group. Nigeria is healthier and stronger when we stay united and tolerant of our various differences, be it cultural or religious. Miyetti Allah must respect the values and lores of their host communities. Any attempt to flex muscle with natives of the land will always lead to tension and trouble. Provocative utterances like the “Fulani owns every land in Nigeria”,, credited to the President of Miyetti Allah, Bello Abdullahi Bodejo, are just what they are: incendiary provocations. We must eschew such utterances to foster unity and peace.
Do the New Service Chiefs Have the Magic Wand?
I told you that Mr President is a listening leader, but some of you will never agree, preferring to always see the bottle as half empty instead of half full
What are you talking about?
What else can it be? Did you not hear the big news?
Big news? Which big news? What happened?
Are you in this country? What has become the subject of serious conversations across board? Did you not see the screaming headlines last Wednesday? Are you not in this country?
Ok, I have not been in the country. Tell me what you are so ecstatic about.
Did you not hear about the change of service chiefs?
(long hiss) Is that what you are doing this skelewu dance for? Nigerians had given up on the appointment of new service chiefs. Nigerians had shouted themselves hoarse over the service chiefs. National Assembly, public commentators, security experts, market women, just everybody has been clamouring for their removal for over two years now. But Mr President stubbornly refused to listen. In his New Year broadcast, he had promised to rejig and revitalize the security architecture. And it took another one month to do that. In fact, many Nigerians think that it is like administering ‘medicine after death’; so much damage has been done. Too many lives have been lost on all fronts.
Can you imagine that Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, the outgone COAS stayed longest by staying in office for 66 months? Not even late Gen Sani Abacha, as COAS stayed as long. Abacha was there for 60 months; Azubuike Ihejirika was there for 40 months, David Ejoor was there for 56 months, and T.Y Danjuma was there for 51 months.
Hardly does any day pass that you don’t hear/see news headlines: Gunmen kill 23 in… , Bandits kill 45 in Zumuje, Gunmen kidnap family of 6 in Southern Kaduna. Gunmen burn 50 houses in Zamfara village; or Gunmen kidnap wife of MD XYZ company. How bad can it get?
So why are you reading from the Book of Lamentation? Nigerians wanted the change of service chiefs. Now it is done, and you are still whining. What is wrong with you?
Nothing is wrong with me. It is probably you that something is wrong with if you are over the moon with this so-called Change of Guards. It was long over due. In military warfare, timing is everything. President Buhari has long lost the momentum by sticking to his so-called principle of not working according to popular clamour.
Everybody has been groaning. Nigeria has been under siege. Not even army generals are bold enough to travel on some of our roads. Women can’t go to farms. Farmers are being beheaded. School children are being herded into forests of captivity, people cant even sleep with both eyes closed in their homes….. and he brings these new service chiefs when the criminals have dug deep into the crevices of the nation. What can they do now? What do they have? Do they have the magic wands to turn the table against the criminals that are almost over running us?
I thought as a patriot, you should be praying for the new service chiefs so they can raise the notch of the battle against terrorists, bandits, kidnappers and regular criminals higher than their predecessors left it. Pray for them. It is not an easy task. Don’t think there is metaphysics to it. It is pure warfare.
They need the co-operation of everybody including the market women and even you to succeed. There is no magic wand anywhere. They are young and energetic. They hold so much promise. The new Chief of Defence Staff, Maj Gen Lucky Irabor is an experienced warlord. He was the theatre Commander of Lafiya Dole. The war recorded huge successes during his time.
The new Chief of Army Staff, Maj Gen Attahiru was also in the frontline some few years ago. They are all vibrant. And with our co-operation, they will achieve much more. They need our prayers and our support.
But those who know, say Maj Gen Irabor should have been the Chief of Army Staff having shone brilliantly at the war front while he commanded the troop. He is believed to have very strong and polished character, and a strong determination to succeed at all tasks he is given. Above all, he is believed to be a very tough military gentleman.
Go and ask those who are saying Gen Irabor should have been the COAS whether they are the President and C-in-C. Mr President has exercised his prerogative by appointing his men into positions he thinks fits them. Let all contestations cease forthwith. All that is left is for them to succeed. And how well they go about their duties, depends on how well we collaborate with them.
(bursts into an old Children Rhyme)
Mr President has changed Service Chiefs
Hum… ha…, changed service Chiefs
Old service chiefs stayed too long
Hum… ha… stayed too long
Many thought they bewitched the president
Hum… ha… bewitched the president
Now all eyes are on the new kids on the bloc
Hum…. Ha…, new kids on the bloc
They are coming at a time so much water has passed under the bridge
Hum…. Ha… , under the bridge
Nigerians are expecting them to be magicians
Hum….. ha…., to be magicians
Who will wave their AK47 and Boko Haram will fall and die
Hum…. Ha…. Fall and Die
And when they launch their rockets from the sky bandits will turn to birds forever
Hum….. ha…. turn to birds forever
They will not spare criminal Fulani herdsmen
Hum…. Ha….. Fulani herdsmen
They will spray special crimi-cide into our forests to chase away all kidnappers
Hum…. ha…. chase away all kidnappers
And Nigerians will at last heave a long sigh of relief.
Hum… ha… long Sigh of relief