Truth, as one likes to say, is a pest. It is left for those haunted to device their own coping strategies. As for President Muhammadu Buhari, it does appear that when silence is not deployed fiercely as shield against uncomfortable questions, a few other tactics are improvised with a view to purchasing time or rehabilitating the truth.
The Osinbajo peace panel convoked last week in the wake of the bloodletting by herdsmen would seem the continuation of a familiar theatre of looking for what is not missing. The victims are left to grieve alone. The crime scene is known. The culprits have owned up.
Regardless, the motion would still go on.
But even before the Osinbajo panel’s inaugural sitting, the air would seem fouled up with bad faith already. Miyetti, a key party in the conflict, has pooh-poohed the idea, objecting to the inclusion of governors of Benue and Taraba for “promulgating military decrees” against Fulani in their states.
While accusing the two governors whose states have undoubtedly borne the heaviest casualties in the latest round of carnage, Miyetti yet did not appear to see anything prejudicial in the comment by the Kano governor, another member of the peace panel. Barely concealing sympathy – if not solidarity – with the herders, Governor Ganduje had argued at another forum: “You’ll find a herdsman from a West African country moving about with a herd of cattle of 1,000 which narrow cattle routes cannot contain. Hence he needs to trespass farms in search of fodder, which often led to very dangerous disputes.”
Nor could the rest of the nation find comfort in the memory of an earlier statement in 2016 on NTA by no less a figure than PMB himself which tended to provide blanket rationalization for the herder’s trespass. Apparently drawing from experience as a notable cattle farmer himself, Buhari reportedly said that it is humanly impossible for a man herding 400 cows not to breach someone’s farmland.
At the risk of sounding like a broken vinyl, this writer wishes to restate his conviction that ranching remains the best option for the nation given the grave circumstances we have found ourselves and if we are truly desirous of preserving what is left of public confidence.
Given what the airwaves and cyber space are filled with these days, one wonders the kind of security reports PMB is daily furnished with. Unless his security adviser has been selling him dummies, PMB should by now have become aware of the ratcheting up of rhetoric in the Christian community lately.
The reason is not far-fetched. Christians appear more worsted in the unending bloodshed.
Indeed, at no time in Nigeria’s history has a broad spectrum of Christian leaders been so frontal, so vociferous in denouncing political leadership and invoking thunderous imprecations against those perceived, rightly or wrongly, to be aiding and abetting the persecution of the church.
From the Onaiyekans, the Oyedepos, the Bakares, the Mbakas to the Suleimans and several others, there is a lengthening list of aggrieved Christian leaders.
Waving a PVC, one of them, the leader of Dunamis, Paul Enenche, in fact, pointedly urged congregants to go register and be prepared to vote out “evil leadership”. If the influential Redeemed’s Enoch Adeboye is yet to openly join the growing tumult from the church, it is perhaps only because Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is not just a top member but also his anointed.
So, a responsible and responsive leadership should be seen to be tackling the issue head-on by adopting the option that is sustainable and consistent with global best practice, not acting in a manner that suggests it is not averse to mortgaging or subordinating the dignity of the majority to the commercial interest or convenience of a few.
Had the government found the political courage to adopt ranching, what the Osinbajo panel should be doing now is simply enforcement.
When Agric minister Audu Ogbeh now proudly declares that 16 states already signed up for his much touted “cow colony”, one only wonders if he still has the presence of mind to discern the grotesque picture the graph illustrates.
Of course, all Southern states and the associated socio-cultural organizations have formally foresworn the idea of yielding even an inch in their domains as cow colony. Ogbeh’s 16 states are in the north with the exception of Benue and Taraba. So, what is unwittingly revealed is a nation again dangerously polarized along ethno-religious lines.
By adamantly pressing ahead with the quixotic idea of “cow colony”, Abuja could only be said to either be living in denial or coldly indifferent to fears genuinely harbored in many sections of the country about the future of such “cow colony”.
Such anxieties are nourished by bitter memories. The legend of Othman Dan Fodio is thought to have followed a similar trajectory.
Over two centuries ago, the Fulani pathfinder, we are reminded, had depended on the generosity of host King Yunfa, the Hausa Sarki in Gobir, for a piece of land to settle as camp. Few years later, the settler toppled the king. Thus, began the Sokoto Caliphate and the Fulani suzerainty and the subjugation of what used to be Hausa civilization.
That history was duplicated elsewhere in Ilorin where migrant Alimi double-crossed his host, Afonja. Thus, what ancestrally used to be a Yoruba outpost was added to the Fulani empire.
More contemporaneously, the same undercurrents are at the root of the ethno-religious eruptions we continue to witness in Plateau.
In the 80s, the Babangida administration yielded to powerful lobby by creating Jos North for the minority Fulani lamenting marginalization. Many years later, the Fulani became emboldened enough to insist their own cultural head be treated as a five-star paramount ruler in the state – a proposition the indigenes considered a taboo.
The same way the indigenes of Southern Kaduna woke up one day to find that the migrant Fulani they gave land to sell cattle had taken over and crowned their own head as First-class emir of Jamaa with the entire Southern Kaduna now obliged to pay tribute to the Zazzau emirate.
With such tales of treachery and perfidy now refreshed in public mind and then massively telegraphed with the power of social media, it should have become clear to Ogbeh why, outside the North-West and North-East, most other people only tend to view the notion of “cow colony” as a hidden agenda to spread deep South in foreseeable future what Othman Dan Fodio began in Sokoto in 1804.
Abuja may choose to live in denial, but this precisely is why only 16 states will sign up for Ogbeh’s “cow colony”.
Again, despite the bold handwriting on the wall and the continued deft footworks on the field, the president and his publicists are still evasive over his candidature in 2019. Even in the unlikely event that PMB does not eventually run in 2019, those who truly care should be concerned about how his political epitaph would be worded upon exit.
Already, it is perhaps safe to assume that, with the mounting cadavers across the Middle Belt and the entire south and with the rampaging herders still looking unstoppable in their genocidal foray, a key issue for the 2019 contest is being framed unwittingly.
By the way, when PMB now harps so passionately about his generosity such that the Igbo who offered him miserly votes in 2015 ended up being ravished with four juicy cabinet posts, the puzzle is whether his typology also includes the national security council and other critical power centers whose membership is almost exclusively from a section of the country and one faith.
Such brazen imbalance, let it be restated, is at the heart of the now often stated alienation in the land. So, when such council meets at crunch moments such as this, what gives the other sections of the country the confidence that their cause would be championed?
The limit of sycophancy
Even by the often pathetic standards associated with eye-service in Nigeria, the stunt by a certain Atonte Diete-Spiff on January 15 must rank as simply bizarre. Recall that no sooner had news broken in December that President Buhari’s son Yusuf was involved in a grave bike accident on the Abuja highway than the national airwaves turned a babel.
Almost immediately, career sycophants were stepping on genuine well-wishers to gain the attention of the First Family in the outpouring of sympathy and goodwill. They either caused words to be passed around that they had not recovered a bit from deep shock inflicted by reports of the sad news or directly issued statements detailing the great length they had gone to commission, at huge personal costs, platoons of prayer warriors to conjure Yusuf’s recovery as quickly as divinely possible.
Perhaps not wanting anything abridged or edited in the course of reportage, Diete-Spiff took out a whole full-page in the newspaper with the banner headline, “Yusuf Buhari Will Survive”. The novelty he added was rendering his own prayer points in a four-verse poem and in giant point-size.
Expectedly, as a footnote, he did not forget to indicate his e-mail address.
True, most faiths expressly believe that prayers are answered and that miracles do happen to those who believe. But none of the known holy books has ever told us prayers must be said on the roof-top and amplified with a mega-phone or publicized as newspaper advertorial to get answered.
There is a biblical name for those who act in that manner: the Pharisees.
To be sure, shared humanity would oblige everyone of us to stand with the Buharis in those trying moment. Only the children of Satan would not have rejoiced following reports that the young lad had healed and been discharged from the Abuja hospital.
Let it however be emphasized that God’s evident mercy on Yusuf could only have been triggered by genuine prayers said quietly before many Godly altars in nondescript homes across the land, by true Nigerians without big titles; certainly not by the bare-faced sycophants like Diete-Spiff looking for what to eat.