Falsus in Uno, Falsus in Omnibus: The Definienda and Scenarios of Nigeria’s Second Civil War
By Bola A. Akinterinwa
Falsus in Uno, Falsus in Omnibus is the Latin expression for ‘false in one, false in everything.’ The foundation of political governance in Nigeria, since the time of her independence on October 1, 1960, has been largely predicated on falsehood. This is why the superstructure built on it has been tainted with false in everything. This is also why indiscipline and corruption, which was first identified by Professor J.S. Cookey in his Political Bureau Report of 1987, was considered the bane of the Nigerian society since 1967, that is, only seven years of Nigeria’s sovereign existence. Corruption is galloping in Nigeria and has been scientificised in approach and institutionalised in manifestation, to the extent that every attempt to combat any fresh act of indiscipline and corruption necessarily also generates new methods of deeper corruption engendering. It is therefore not surprising that a British Prime Minister, David Cameron, described Nigeria and Afghanistan, on May 11, 2016 as ‘fantastically corrupt.’
More interestingly, it is the factor of falsehood in the governance of Nigeria, and particularly the acquiescence of political chicanery as a fashion in political life, that not only makes Nigeria fantastically corrupt, but also explains why it has become very difficult to build a true and united nation-state from the multi-ethnic states of Nigeria of today. In this regard, if the Transparency International perceives Nigeria as the second most corrupt country in West Africa in its most recent corruption barometer and the 149th out of a total of 180 countries surveyed, it simply means that Nigeria is only better than thirty countries in the whole world or less corrupt than only thirty countries in the global corruption perception index.
And perhaps most interestingly, but disturbingly, it is this same factor of falsehood and dishonesty of purpose that clearly points to the making of a second civil war in Nigeria. Many seasoned observers believe that no country engages in a civil war two times and survives in the spirit of another legal principle, ‘ne bis in idem,’ that is,, ”not twice in the same thing.’
But unfortunately, however, with the many cases of unending kidnappings, enforced disappearances, herdsmen-farmers saga, etc, there can be no disputing the fact that a second civil war is in the making in Nigeria, the definienda and scenarios of which are hereinafter discussed.
There are three main definienda of Nigeria’s second war in the making: fear of the unknown, Fulanisation; reckless political chicanery in the governance of Nigeria; and reactive public recourse to legitimate self-defense and self-help. The fear of possible Fulanisation is prompted by the criminal activities of some Nigerian and foreign herders who happen to be Fulani by ethnic origin. The Fulani herders not only kill mercilessly, rape girls, pregnant women and kidnapped women with reckless abandon, but are hardly brought to justice by those specifically charged with the responsibility of maintenance of law and order in Nigeria.
The Fulani herders often recklessly trespassed on titled farm lands in the wrong belief that there is terra nullius (land without title) in Nigeria and that they have the right, and, of course, every right of establishment in any part of the country, but forgetting that the right of establishment, either on the basis of the controversial 1999 Constitution of Nigeria or the plurilateral and supranational agreements done by Nigeria, like the ECOWAS Agreement on Free Movement of Goods and Services and the Protocol on Rights of Establishment of Community Citizens, are all subject to the prevailing law of the host communities. Besides, the herders often criminally forget that the practice of federalism in Nigeria does not in any way give the Federal Government the right to override the rights of the constitutive States of Nigeria. The herders were and are strongly, but wrongly, strengthened by the fact of political remissness and acquiescence of the Federal Government which sees every act of criminality but says and does nothing.
In fact, in the eyes of the general public, the Federal Government is, by keeping quiet, by not showing any keen interest in prosecuting any suspected and arrested Fulani herder, and by always showing nonchalant attitude towards public complaints, President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) is consciously aiding and abetting one ethnic domination of another. In this particular case, former military Head of State and two-time President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR, is on record to have observed that PMB appears to have a Fulanisation agenda.
But whether or not Chief Obasanjo’s observation has any credibility, PMB and his administration has not openly addressed the observation in terms of preventing the general public from believing in the postulation. The general public, in spite of the silence of PMB over the matter, strongly believes in a possible Fulanisation agenda and the reasons cannot be far-fetched. First, the Fulani herders now carry more sophisticated weapons, modern AK-47 guns when grazing. Peaceful grazing to which the people of Nigeria have been used has been militarised and become very aggressive.
Second, and true in this regard, various published complaints against the Fulani herders by the people have shown that policemen bother less about such complaints; that arrested suspects were often released within 24 hours of their arrest to the chagrin of the complainants; and that notable people often come to intercede for the suspects, in spite of knowing well that the suspects had committed crimes. Thus, Nigeria is visibly a country of conscious lawlessness and systemic crisis of contradictions.
In the eyes of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the problem is not simply Fulanisation in terms of territorial occupation per se, but something like an ‘enslavement’ or Fulani hegemony that underscores a supremacist agenda, and against which Chief Awolowo fought tooth and nail, but to no avail before he passed on. The situation also compelled him to note that sooner or later, the time would come when the Yoruba nation would be compelled to learn how to defend and sustain their survival in Nigeria. It appears the time has come to recognise that the long Yoruba patience has now reached its crescendo in the continuum of tolerance.
In fact, PMB has been directly and indirectly accused of having a Fulanisation agenda with the nature of questions being raised in the public: why is it that there was no destabilising mésentente between the Fulanis and their host communities in the South West before 2015. Why were the Fulanis not belligerent before 2015? Why is it that it was in 2015, when PMB first came to power, that the environmental conditionings of the relationship suddenly changed? Why has the relationship been deepening? These are some the issues and questions raised by many observers and particularly by Chief Ayo Adebanjo, a veteran patriot, when he was the Special Guest at the ThisDay Live panel discussions on The Arise Television last week Sunday.
Third, different postulations have also been advanced, beginning with the Boko Haram insurrection. The Boko Haramists want to Islamise Nigeria and they launched their first offensive in the North Eastern part of Nigeria. Wherever they captured, they quickly established their Muslim Caliphate and installed their national flags. The Nigerian military responded by carrying their counter-battle to the doorsteps of the Boko Haramists. They won the battles technically, but not the war. Who will win the war is still best imagined because the war is not stricto sensu civil. It is not a war between two disputing communities in Nigeria. It is a manifestation of the Islamic struggle against western civilisation to which Nigeria is simply playing host. Boko Haram is the local chapter of al Qaeda international, implying that fighting the Boko Haram is also fighting al Qaeda.
It is useful to recall what the late Muammar Gaddafi prescribed as the only solution to the problem: No enduring peace until Nigeria is divided into Muslim North and Christian South. But what really informed this prescription? Why is it that the Boko Haram insurgency has not been weakened by their technical defeat or by the strengthening of the Nigerian military? Will the change of Service Chiefs mean anything, especially that there are many Boko Haram sympathisers even in the government, a fact that former President Goodluck Jonathan publicly acknowledged when he was in power?
In fact, PMB changed his Service Chiefs on Tuesday, January 26 and told them the following day that Nigeria was in a state of emergency and that all the Service Chiefs should be patriotic and serve the country with diligence. In the congratulatory words of PMB, ‘there’s nothing I can tell you about the Service, because you are in it. I was also in it, and I will pray for you. I also assure you that whatever I can do as Commander-in-chief, will be done, so that the people will appreciate your efforts.’
This message, as good and encouraging as it may appear to be, is most unfortunate. It gives impression that PMB, as Commander-in-Chief, had not given the required support to the immediate past Service Chiefs. It gives the impression that PMB had also not prayed for the Service Chiefs that had left. If PMB prayed for them, questions must be raised as to why the prayer had not been answered and sanctioned with divine success or defeat of the enemy. And more interestingly, why should PMB be more concerned about the public appreciation of the success of the new Service Chiefs and not about his own public appreciation, after all, he is the Commander-in-Chief?
Whatever is the case, after the change of guards, The Punch of January 29, 2021 reported that kidnappers and gunmen still held sway, not only abducting 75 people, and wedding guests in Niger and Taraba, but also killing 18 people. According to the Punch report, not less than 50 persons were abducted on Thursday, January 28 in the Bassa community in the Shiroro Local Government Area (LGA) of the State, while 9 people were killed in the Faskari LGA of Katsina State. Additionally, 25 youth coming back from a wedding party were similarly abducted along Wukari-Takum road. In the same vein, 4 persons, including 2 brothers, were killed by bandits in three different LGA of Kaduna, and 5 others in the Warri South LGA.
The point being made here is the omnipresent character of banditry, kidnapping, killing of innocent lives in Nigeria, or to put it grosso modo, of insecurity in various parts of Nigeria. This is not to mention the deadly threats of the first and second variants of COVID-19. This situation simply implies that Nigerians are now permanently living under different fears, especially under Boko Haramism and the prescription of disintegration of Nigeria into Muslim North and Christian South as the only solution to enduring peace in Nigeria. The nagging issue here, however, is that the Fulani herdsmen publicly confessed in 2014 their membership of the Boko Haram (vide the Daily Independent of August 23, 2014).
Fighting Boko Haram is also fighting al Qaeda international that is multi-dimensionally funded and wickedly terroristic. In this regard, the Daily Independent has it that the Nigerian Fulani militants were adjudged to be the deadliest terror group in the global terrorism index in the world after the Boko Haram, the ISIS, and al Shabab
A second definienda is the reckless political chicanery in the governance of Nigeria. The political elite behave as if they are always above the law. PMB once argued that Nigeria’s national security interest takes pre-eminence before the rule of law. And true enough, many times, governments in Nigeria only accept to respect the rule of law when it is convenient to do so. For instance, politicians do live lavishly and are generally portrayed as another god to be worshipped by all. A video of the armoured car of the Governor of Rivers State, reported to have been purchased at a cost of N495 million is a good point of illustration at this juncture: the public is complaining about a government that does not produce toothpick or tissue paper and about a State plagued by mounting unemployment and massive joblessness. Probably having an armoured car is not really the relevant issue.
In a morning live discussion programme on Channels Television on November 28, 2020 the type of life to be lived financially by an ex-governor and paid through tax payers’ sweat was publicly discussed. The discussion was quite thought-provoking: an ex-governor is to have a befitting mansion. What makes it befitting is if it is at least 5-bedroom, built by the State Government in the State capital or in Lagos or Abuja. Apart from accommodation, the ex-governor is to have a befitting furniture for the house to be built and the befitting furniture is to be changed every three-to-four years. The ex-governor is given N100 million as gratuity; 100% of the current basic salary of the incumbent/deputy governor is given for life; 300% of the basic salary is given for car maintenance and 300% of the basic salary is given for utilities.
Besides, the sum of N5 million is given every month to pay the support staff of the ex-governor (steward, personal assistants, drivers, security, cooks, etc). A female security is also provided for the spouses. 100% of basic salary is allocated for entertainment while medical allowances are given to unspecified number of family relations for treatment in Nigeria or abroad. This also applies to governors having more than one wife. The ex-governor is also to have five jeeps and hiluxes which are to be replaced every three years. 300% of the basic salary is given for car maintenance
If truth be told, this type of gubernatorial luxury is nothing more than legitimising and perpetrating institutional corruption. It is a broad daylight extortion of the public and an expression of an extravagant political chicanery for which governors and their various Houses of Assembly have given approval. The legislators should be held liable, because this is one major reason for the increasing public hostility against the system and why many political stakeholders have been calling for restructuring and secession. The political elite is corrupt to the brim and mutually self-protecting to the detriment of national unity, national progress, and national consciousness.
People’s Self-help Measures
The third definienda of Nigeria’s second civil war in the making is the multi-dimensional free expression and reactive measures taken by the people in apparent protests against the attitudinal remissness of the Federal and State Governments to their complaints. The most recent cases include the EndSARS protests and the quit notices order given by the Ondo State Government and by Sunday Adeyemo (alias Igboho), with the active support of his community, to the Fulani herdsmen to leave their communities.
The EndSARs, as a name, originated from the October 11, 2017 twitter campaign slogans, with the hashtag #EndSARS, which demanded the disbanding of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). There were more than 28 million tweets with the hashtag. There were mass demonstrations at the home level and solidarity protests by Nigerians in the Diaspora, at the external level. The protests have led to the death of 51 civilians, 11 policemen and 7 soldiers.
The protests, which were specially renewed on October 8, 2020 to protest against police brutality, were led by young women to fight for change. For this purpose, not less than $385,000 was raised through crowd funding and the protests were quite successful and peaceful until October 20, 2020 when criminals, strongly believed to have been sponsored by the Government, infiltrated the protesters and turned their protests into a very bloody one.
Apart from the people’s protests, there are the calls for secession as represented by the MASSOB (Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra), the MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta), the IPOB (Indigenous People of Biafra), et al. The IPOB, for instance, wants an independent State of Biafra carved out from the former Eastern Region of Nigeria through an independence referendum, but to which the Federal Government has consciously turned deaf ears, a development that has prompted the resort to use of force by the IPOB to make their points.
Without doubt, the IPOB has divided the Ndigbo sharply in design and in focus. Recall that the name ‘Biafra’ is carved out of two Igbo words: ‘bia’ and ‘fra.’ Bia means ‘come’ while ‘fra’ means ‘take.’ In this regard, Biafra has neither been given the opportunity to come to Nigeria, hence the consistent complaint of Igbo marginalisation in the governance of Nigeria. The Igbo people have therefore not had anything coming from Nigeria, because of the same reason of political marginalisation.
The quest for a sovereign State of Biafra is therefore nothing more than a clamour for a land of welcome to all Ndigbo, and where they can take whatever they may be entitled to. This is not different from what a former French Prime Minister, Michel Debré, put forward in justifying French support for the Biafran secessionists during the 1967-1970 first war. Mr Debré said if the Biafrans could not live peacefully or accommodated in a united Nigeria, they must have the right to opt out of Nigeria and be allowed to exist as an independent State.
The proponents of political restructuring, led by the Yoruba people, believe that Nigeria cannot become a true nation-state without first of all accepting to restructure the polity. The thrust of their various arguments is that government in Nigeria is not operated on the basis of a true federal system, that political governance has been more of a unitary system and quite far away from federalism, and that what currently obtains in the country is not consistent with the agreement reached by the founding fathers of independent Nigeria.
The Yoruba people also argue that the 1999 constitution of Nigeria is, at best, very fraudulent, and therefore, as stated earlier, once the foundation is faulty, whatever is built on it cannot but be faulty. If PMB is therefore telling all agitators for restructuring to seek redress at the level of their senators in the National Assembly, the Yoruba people have responded that the National Assembly itself is also a resultant from the 1999 constitution, and therefore, does not qualify to be consulted. A constitution by the people and for the people is required. For this purpose another national conference may be appropriate or the report of the 2014 conference should be revisited.
While the agitation for restructuring is still much on, armed banditry, violent kidnappings and raping, killing of a well-educated traditional ruler and his child became the new order of the day. They were deepened. In response, the Yoruba people decided to adopt the rule of self-defence, self-help, self-reliance and self-determination within the framework of a true federal system or a system of confederation. It was in attempt to contain the Fulani killings that the Àmòtékún Operation was put in place on January 9, 2020 with its headquarters located in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.
Àmòtékún, as a Western Nigeria security network, covers all the six States of South Western Nigeria. Àmòtékún, a Yoruba word for a panther or a leopard, is an embodiment of quick resistance to the perceived Fulani main-mise in Nigeria. While Àmòtékún Operation is still gathering momentum, different leaders or champions of Yoruba cause have emerged. Apart from the nomination and appointment of Gani Adams as the Are Onakankanfo, that is the Generalissimo, of Yoruba land, the emergence of Mr. Sunday Adeyemo, alias Igboho, a youth leader, who does not want to be the commander of the Àmòtékún Operation, because it would be a distraction, but who simply wants the Fulani herders that are terrorising his people to leave their land, is another interesting leadership case. His people were brutalised and he responded in the spirit of legitimate self-defense. Whether or not Government wants to arrest him and how he will be treated will go a long way in determining the extent to which the arrest will serve as a catalyst in the making of the new war
As alias Igboho explained it, ‘we want peace and that is all. I don’t need any political appointment or money from anybody. We only want peace in our area.’ Seeking peace is good enough. The problem with the quest for peace, however, is that ‘if you want peace, you prepare for war,’ according to Von Clausewitz. This is precisely the attitudinal mentality of the peace seekers in Nigeria of today: all are preparing for a war whose time is still ill-defined, but the scenarios are not far-fetched.
The first hypothetical scenario is that the hostile international environmental conditionings will continue to exist and the Fulani herders will be compelled to move from the north to the South for greener pastures. The Southerners are most likely to continue to resist the destruction of their farm lands. This will prompt a situation of order and counter order amounting to disorder. Second, seeking greener pastures in the South raises the issue of Islamisation and Fulanisation agenda which is most likely to be also resisted. Third, there will be much pressure on PMB to find accommodation for the Fulani herders who do not have any titled land. No more free land anywhere. State governors have competence over land under their jurisdiction. Consequently, one easy way to douse the tension and prevent a recourse to another civil war cannot be by manu militari policy by which the influx of Fulani herders into the country is encouraged to the detriment of national security. And more significantly, there is no better option than accepting to restructure and allowing for true federalism to take shape. A war planned for is quite different from a war imposed by force majeure. PMB’s attitude to national questions appears to be killing Nigeria softly.