In the overall interest of his people, Dr Abbas Tafida, the Emir of Muri, Taraba State, recently broke the espirit de corps among his fellow emirs and symbol of occupying powers, by issuing a 30-day ultimatum to Fulani herdsmen, to vacate the forests surrounding the town. Accusing them of betrayal, he had said: “Our Fulani herdsmen in the forests, you came into this state and we accepted you, why then will you be coming to towns and villages to kidnap residents, even up to the extent of raping our women? Because of this unending menace, every Fulani herdsman in this state has been given 30 days ultimatum to vacate the forests…”
Muri sadly shares the fate of other northern towns and villages where mindless killing, raping of women and abduction for ransom by immigrant Fulani herdsmen have become an industry. But for the northern governing political elite, it had been eerie silence until Dr Tafida’s audacious intervention penultimate week. Being only interested in power without responsibility, they have since 1953 swindled the poor masses of the north on whose back they periodically rode to power, preying on their religious and cultural fears.
General Alabi Isama in his contribution to the literature on the Nigerian civil war asserted that the northern political establishment and the Igbo political elite jointly ruled Nigeria between 1959 and 2015 when the Yoruba mainstream political tendency replaced the Igbo as spare tyre. Unfortunately, the north remains the poorest part of Nigeria with over eight million out of school children despite controlling power for that long. The north at independence according to Trevor Clark, the biographer of Tafawa Balewa, “The Right Honourable Gentleman” was 70 years behind the south. But unlike Ahmadu Bello, the North’s first premier who encouraged religious tolerance by allowing Christian missionary schools to co-exist with government schools, sent qualified northern youths to the best universities in the world and established Ahmadu Bello University, beneficiaries of his vision have no vision beyond dragging the south to its level by exporting northern problems to the south.
Instead of a bold drive to enhance school enrolment and eradicate the widespread incidence of street begging, they established JAMB to lower standard of admission and introduced quota system of recruitment into the bureaucracy to trade meritocracy for mediocrity. The result as Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, former CBN governor and deposed Emir of Kano recently observed, was a situation where less qualified northern youths cornered all the jobs in government and parastaltas at the expense of their more qualified southern youths, a development he said was unhealthy for the unity of the nation.
It has now been established that in order to acquire power by all means fair or foul, influx of Fulani herdsmen from Sudan, Niger and Cameroon into the country was encouraged, a development that has emboldened Kaduna’s El-Rufai, one of the leading lights of the northern establishment, to conceitedly remind Nigerians that if democracy is a game of numbers, the north has the population that guarantees ruling in perpetuity.
It was also an eerie silence as the northern establishment played the ostrich when foreign herdsmen first embarked on mindless killing and sacking of local communities in Taraba, Benue and Plateau states. On January 7, 2018, 73 victims of herdsmen mindless killings were given mass burial in Makurdi with Emmanuel Shior, the executive secretary of the Benue Emergency Agency putting the figure of those driven to IDP camps by the rampaging herdsmen at 80,000. When finally, the Arewa Consultative Forum broke its silence through Emmanuel Yawe, its spokesman, it was to declare that: “Many of the people killed in Gwer West were murdered as a result of Benue livestock guards’ rustling of 400 cattle” without providing any proof. Continuing, the body told Nigerians that “others killed by Fulani in reprisal for cattle rustled by Benue livestock guards are three in Tse Jibrin, three at Jimba Saqhew, five at back Imande Abuul; 10 at Zegejir, and 40 in Shikaan vllage where others were also dislodged from their homes”. It was as if ACF, chaired by Audu Ogbe, was saying immigrants Fulani herdsmen were justified to resort to self-help.
Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) followed with a press briefing to say “the killings and attacks on subsistence farmers across the nation by herdsmen were being fuelled by the draconian laws put in place by some state governments bent on flushing out of Fulani herdsmen out of ethnic hatred”. The body however ignored existing records which showed that herdsmen killed over 600 people in 2013, 1,229 in 2014 and 847 in 2015 long before the enactment of anti-grazing laws by Benue and other besieged states betrayed by federal government’s inaction.
While concerned Nigerian patriots and stakes holders including Obasanjo, the Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, Gen David Jemibewon, Col David Bamigboye, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Middle Belt Forum warned that Buhari lopsided appointment in favour of the north and treatment of criminal herdsmen with kid gloves will only consolidate the argument of his political enemies that he was embarking on full ‘Fulanisation’ of Nigeria, the northern establishment saw nothing, heard nothing and said nothing.
And while many well-informed Nigerians see Sunday Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu as mere symptoms of mismanagement of our diversity by President Buhari, members of the northern establishment including Kaduna’s El-Rufai who claimed the “arrest of Nnamdi Kanu who was calling for dissolution of Nigeria from abroad takes priority over the war against Boko Haram insurgents, bandits and herdsmen” and those representing the body in President Buhari’s government believe the two self-actualization campaigners pose more threat to Nigeria than herdsmen and bandits daily visiting violence on Nigerians.
There was similarly no evidence of uneasiness on the part of the northern political elite when killer herdsmen infiltrated southern forests, kidnapped Olu Falae, a former secretary to government, killed 46 people in Ukpabi Nimbo, in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State and massacred 30 residents of Igangan Oyo state before torching the Oba’s palace.
It was perhaps a feeling of déjà vu for the northern political elite as violence spread to the south. One clear evidence of this was the reaction of Abubakar Malami, to the banning of open grazing by the 17 southern governors with his tongue in cheek argument that banning open grazing “is as good as saying may be the Northern governors coming together to say that they prohibit spare parts trading in the North,” a crooked logic that forced Ohaneze Ndigbo to observe: “For the honest patriotic Nigerians, it seems provocative as well as suspicious that the herdsmen in a section of the country that occupies nearly 80 per cent of the country’s landmass want the land to graze cattle from those holding about 20 per cent.”
Drawing a parallel between the silence that has so far greeted Dr Tafida’s fatwa to criminal herdsmen, Garba and Mallami’s scurrilous attack on Ondo’s Governor Akeredolu for issuing similar ultimatum, deliberate efforts through government policy thrust to slow down educational advancement of the south and northern political elite’s opposition to restructuring, fiscal federalism, state and local policing, the discerning cannot but see efforts by the north to nationalise its own self-inflicted afflictions.
But as Professor Yusuf Dankofa of Faculty of Law ABU recently warned, “The north is only interested in power and nothing more. You cannot slow down your own progress and those of others and expect them to clap for you”.
It is perhaps time to return to either the independence or republican constitution which allows nationalities to develop at their own pace without interference from others.