While thousands of citizens were being slaughtered in their homes like chicken by hideous and murderous Fulani herdsmen/Not a whimper was heard from the authorities/But when the long-suffering but exasperated citizens issued a quit notice to the bestial Fulani herdsmen/It was the Presidency that sprang to the defence of the common criminals! – Adapted from William Shakespeare’s “When beggars die/There are no comets seen/The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes (Calpurnia, in Julius Caesar, Act 11, Scene 11, verses 30 & 31).
Shall we then say that the hapless citizens left unprotected, unsung, and un-mourned by the authorities are the “beggars” while the villainous Fulani herdsmen are the princes? In present-day Nigeria, it would appear so! Last Monday Okada riders driving one-way (against traffic) turned the NITEL junction area of Pen Cinema, Agege, Lagos State into a war zone because the police dared to arrest one of them! They attacked the policemen with stones and cudgels and boasted that nothing would happen; that not even the governor of Lagos could do anything to them! They told the police: “Are we Yoruba or Igbo that you would arrest us?”Anarchy is here! This is not a new phenomenon, though. In the past it used to be the educated and scantily-educated Fulani that had the plum and juicy jobs; appointments and posts that matter were – and still are- reserved for them but since the advent of retired Major-General Muhammadu Buhari as president, every Fulani has attained the status of the “untouchable”. Now, they are –all of them – what Adolf Hitler described as the Aryan or superior race. It is like the rest of us are in Dreamland!
Another Frankenstein monster is in the making. Soon, even those turning the blind eye to their atrocities; those encouraging and urging them on by their criminal silence; those giving them the back-up, paving the way and smoothing the path for them to ride roughshod over the polity by their complicity and duplicity, will be unable to control them. That way, Boko Haram was born! True, then, are the words of William Butler Yeats (The Second Coming): Turning and turning in the widening gyre/The falcon cannot hear the falconer/Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold/Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world/The blood-dimmed tide is loosed/And everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned/The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.
My consolation, though, is that no one has a monopoly of violence. And no earthly power is invincible! Reminds me of the battle of Adwa (1896) when the unthinkable happened: The despised and disregarded Ethiopian army defeated an invading Italian force, bringing an end to Italy’s war of conquest in Africa. Pride goes before a fall! Arrogant French emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, met his “waterloo” at the Battle of Waterloo (18 June, 1815).
Paul Unongo added his own twist to the country’s macabre insecurity dance when he asked that Buhari deploy soldiers to protect Northerners in the South! Remember that soldiers were recently reported to have escorted Fulani herders into some troubled areas of Oyo and Ogun states to forcibly feed their cattle. Citizens – including traditional rulers – who protested were reportedly flogged by the soldiers. That being the case, what Unongo asked for is already in force. What he wants is that it be made official with presidential order publicly backing it up. Thus, that which is patently illegal shall then be made legal by presidential pronouncement. Already, everyone knows that the Fulani are above the law. They are hardly arrested even after committing blue murder. And when arrested, they are promptly released on so-called “orders from above” That way, their impunity knows no level or limit. With Unongo asking that this dangerous and unsavoury state of affairs be legalised, whatever remains of caution shall then be thrown to the wind. Welcome to Thomas Hobbes’ state of nature!
If the presidential order desired by Unongo is given today, will it be implemented? Most likely! This is not the USA where generals have balls and institutions have spines! We saw how American generals told the then President Donald Trump to his face that their loyalty was to the Constitution and not to the president. Dare we expect that here? We saw how strong institutions, especially the courts, stood against Trump all the way and protected America’s democracy. Should anyone expect the same here? We saw how many Trump appointees refused to help the embattled president truncate America’s democracy. We saw those who resigned. We also saw those who stayed in their posts and defied Trump, not caring how the president felt. We saw how even the vice-president refused to do Trump’s bidding, despite that he, too, would have been a beneficiary had Trump succeeded in wangling his way through. Can we expect any such thing here in the Nigeria of today? That is the difference between a mature democracy and a shithole or banana republic. Here, everyone kow-tows to the president. Even when he is yet to speak, they sweat to read his so-called body language and run with it – as if a decree had just been promulgated!
Sending soldiers to the South-west to protect the Fulani will be tantamount to an army of occupation – the exact situation Awo and other South-west leaders purportedly ran away from in 1966/67 when they balked at the idea of joining in Ojukwu’s secessionist bid. If the dead have a way of looking back, Yoruba ancestors would turn in their grave. Unongo’s suggestion is a scantily-concealed open declaration of war on the South-west.
Unongo’s demands are atrocious. One: He asked that the president deploy soldiers to protect northerners living in the South-west and other parts of the country so as to shield them from what he called further attacks. So, only Northerners deserve to be shielded from attacks; Southerners do not! Even Unongo’s Middle Belt that has consistently and mercilessly been decimated by Fulani herdsmen does not deserve soldiers to be sent there to protect the people! For Unongo, the life of his people in the Middle Belt may be worth nothing. Why have soldiers not been sent to protect Southerners from Fulani herdsmen’s incessant and horrendous attacks?
Two: Unongo asked Buhari to use his position to focus more attention on the North, saying that “if the North does not get better, the rest of the country will not be any better” Warped and pedantic logic! But it is an admission that the North has held the South down – and it is the reason why cries for restructuring (even self-determination) are strident all over the place. Others are tired of being held down by the North. Come to think of it, upon all the glaring and embarrassing nepotism of Buhari in favour of the North, Unongo’s Oliver Twist is still asking for more! For someone who had held top-level positions in this country, it is a shame for Unongo not to know that pouring resources into the North, like has been done since Independence, has not – and will not – develop the North. Until the North goes to school, gets to work, and competes on favourable terms with the South, it will not develop to the point of catching up with the South.
Three: Unongo justified why he wanted Nigeria’s resources poured exclusively into the North on the basis that they (the North), “owns 70 percent of the entire land mass”; that they have the “administrative acumen” and that they also have power. “We brought him to power. He should not be afraid to develop his own region” Pray, if they have the land mass (70%), why are they rushing to the South that has only 30%? We have seen the North’s “administrative acumen” in all the leaders it has produced for Nigeria, Buhari especially! Northerners have monopolised power since Independence; yet, their part of the country has regressed rather than progressed. Did the North bring Buhari to power? The South-west did – regrettably, though! Thrice in 2003, 2007, and 2011, the North tried to make Buhari president but failed.
Four: That Buhari “should take advantage of the power that he has now” to unite the North. The country as a whole – the North inclusive – has NEVER been this disunited. Buhari seemingly cares only about cattle and the Fulani. It is, therefore, a travesty that Wantaregh Paul Iyorpuu Unongo, from the same Benue state as Gov. Samuel Ortom, should be the one speaking for Fulani herdsmen as it were! The losses suffered by Benue in the hands of Fulani herdsmen have been horrendous. Let Unongo’s charity begin at home. Rather than ask for soldiers to protect Northerners in the South, he should be pleading on his knees for soldiers to protect his Benue people from marauding Fulani herdsmen. Physician, heal thyself!
LAST WORD: The atrocities of Fulani herdsmen have not totally abated in the South-west. The authorities are blind to that. They are saying nothing and doing nothing. But when the people react again – bedlam!