Amid numerous precautionary measures canvassed to contain the dreaded corona virus, the Honourable Commissioner for Environment and Petroleum Resources in Akwa Ibom State, Dr. (Barr.) Ekong Sampson, has called on the people of the state to pay serious attention to personal hygiene and environmental cleanliness, even as the state government is set to clamp down on illegal felling of trees in city centres.
This piece was done sometime not too long ago, and I feel it is still relevant now to bare my mind that ever since the inception of the sitting Buhari Administration in 2015, something has somehow been keeping me away from the tribes of flak merchants of this government. Earnestly, I have always been finding myself not really perturbed, or maybe not taking it seriously, when traducers effortlessly chronicle some hardcore national questions thrown up by the actions or inactions of this government – issues bothersome enough to gravely threaten the peaceful co-existence of this entity called Nigeria.
Methinks this indifference of mine is borne out of the way and manner a good number of Nigerians are wont to adjudge issues, political ones at that: most times their judgements are highly prejudiced by party considerations, ethnic colorations, religious sentiments, and all that. For me, I do not toe those lines, and I hardly find those rare folks who toe my line. But I know that there are those that do, anyway.
Trust me, always my exclusive concern rests on the holistic affairs of this nation, the Niger Delta Region, my state of Akwa Ibom, and, of course, Mkpat Enin LGA, my root. And to that extent, I weigh issues and political actors and draw deductions, whenever the need arises, based largely on their merits and demerits. And what this has done for me over time is afford me a bird-eye view of characters and situations for what they really are. And undoubtedly, we all need this if we have to say things the way they truly are, if you ask me.
Clearly, four issues, for me, have been begging for very serious attention, analysis and query in Buhari’s administration: unending terrorists’ and herders’ killings, open lopsided placements of core Northern and/or Hausa/Fulani muslims in the nation’s top and strategic security/military positions such as service chiefs, open skewed federal appointments, and non-formal declaration and utilization of recovered funds, and now bandits’ attacks and wanton kidnappings.
It is quite glaring that beginning from his first tenure in 2015, Buhari has not veiled his resolve to strictly appoint his minority Fulani tribesmen into various positions of sensitive and national import in a multi-ethnic setting such as Nigeria, and has not relented till now. Aside from the Baro Water Port for the North, Mr. President has begun to leave an enduring legacy for his people by building an oil refinery in his hometown in Katsina State where there is no barrel of crude oil.
Today, many strategic and very lucrative government parastatals and agencies, such as NNPC, CBN, NPA, etc. are all dominated by the Fulanis. As if this was not enough, the nation has just been lulled by the recent suspension of a very bizarre government venture to bring succour to a single tribe of Fulani out of over-300 others in the country, that was set to gulp chunk of our commonwealth, and tagged it Ruga Settlement Policy.
Again, we hear of staggering sums of money (in local and foreign currencies) being recovered virtually on daily basis which have remained immaterial as far as our present economic situation has to do with it. This is because it has, since 2015 till this day, not translated into anything close to improving the lot of an ordinary Nigerian.
Talking about recovered funds, one is quickly reminded of our most depraved and villainous elements in positions of power who at one time or the other stashed away our commonwealth in the first place. And, honestly, I shudder whenever I hear Nigerians cry wolf about who to hunt or not to hunt by the Buhari Administration in the bid to recover pocketed funds. My response to such gripe is always simple: stay away from sharp practices and grafts and the long arms of the law will not locate you. Frankly speaking, any rogue that exhibits his crooked tendencies in office cannot have the slightest of my sympathy.
So, in this regard Buhari and his graft hunters have my kudos!
Now, that apart, I have been withdrawn for so long in order to do justice to my unwholesome thought pattern issuing from my mind. My wits have been constrained to go the way of pessimists who have been conjecturing cruel doom as an end from today’s sustained wave of bloodbaths taking toll in hitherto peaceful terrains across the six geo-political zones of this nation, especially the Northern part.
Let us begin with the question about the so-called herdsmen/farmers clashes. For me, gross injustice in this issue starts with pro-government effort to always create the impression that the matter is actually about two belligerent groups drawing a battle line and then coming at each other. But in reality, the situation we do have on ground every time is about herdsmen’s targeted and coordinated killings of local farmers in various parts of the country.
This, undeniably, is the real situation here. When this is the case in our today’s Nigeria, it sets our minds wondering why this has become our lot as a nation.
Permit me to relate here that I have lived a better part of my life in the North Central state of Kaduna. The twenty-four years of my sojourn in the area, with intermittent breaks into other parts of the North, like Kano, Katsina, Bauchi, Jos, Yagba East and Yagba West in Kogi State, Suleja and Minna in Niger State, Ilorin in Kwara State, and then Abuja, as much as I can recall, puts me in a vantage position where I can say, with some air of authority, that I know that land, the people, their culture, their pastimes and their norms.
The strangest thing I ever heard was when, in the wake of the herders’ bizarre killings (though in 2013 during the Goodluck Jonathan administration), it was reported that no fewer than nine cases of herdsmen attacks were recorded in Benue State alone, with more than 190 people killed. In 2014 there were no fewer than 16 recorded attacks in Benue, which claimed more than 230 victims. And between January and May, 2015, six attacks left more than 300 people dead, again in Benue State alone.
Records of many other attacks and killings abound in the northern states of Kaduna, Taraba, Adamawa, Nasarawa, etc.; then it crossed over to the South West, South East and South South. At a point I sat back and thought: a typical Fulani cattle rearer whose minimalism of life makes him care next to nothing about life’s concerns, than wandering along with his sanda (long wooden staff) and propping himself with it whenever it is necessary, as he shepherds his herds, now takes engagement of killing spree as his pastime!
He now turns a sharp shooter and a marksman with deadly weapon as sophisticated as AK-47!
In those good old days, you could go into their enclave in the woods and talk yourself into getting some by-products of nunun shaanu (fresh cow milk) and main shaanu (fresh fat derived from the fresh cow milk) for free, with cheerful heart; and if you must buy some of these things, it would be highly cost
effective. They were a people as unfussy as can be in their generic outlook. That is the stock I always knew as Fulani herdsmen.
My misgiving about the present administration was engendered when the attacks and killings did not only continue but heightened exponentially. And today, other jeopardous dimensions of banditry and kidnap have been added. By this, the lexicon of woes of our nation has been augmenting from militancy to religious crises, to terrorism, to insurgency, to abduction and kidnapping, and now to banditry.
There have been slants as to why this wave of felonious assaults on hapless citizens have found their way into our national life at this time of our nationhood. Some say that in some Northern states like Zamfara, there have been some rich natural soil endowments that were randomly mined by the people in the past, until state government authorities came in to control the activities in those mines.
This position has it that some powerful individuals who have been dispossessed of the mining activities had to take their protest to the extreme by veering into abductions and banditry.
Yet, other angles have it that other nationals from across the borders of the affected Northern states make incursions into those states in order to terrorize the locales and then have their way as far as the illegal mining business is concerned.
This angle is reinforced by the fact that as we speak, there are about 1,571 footpaths in the North-East region, therefore betraying the gross porous state of the North of Nigeria.
Others, however, tie the entire situation to the conspicuously ostentatious lifestyle of our politicians who must flaunt their affluence in the face of abject lack and poverty in the land.
But whatever it is, all we can see is that the government clearly lacks what it takes to stem the tide of the well-coordinated abductions and killings across the country, or bring to book liable perpetrators as compared to the number of arrests so far.
That is not all. When we were all so hot and bothered about who these bunch of killers could be, due to the seeming facelessness of the perpetrators and the attitude of the government then, human faces surfaced, had the name of Miyetti Allah Cattle Rearers Association, with their helmsman and scribe publicly known, to their group of men and women, and spoke boldly to the defence of their bloodletting.
Ah, now that these people have boldly come to surface, the government can now make mass arrests of these barbaric killers and bring them to book, we thought with our faces gnarled and grimaced with grim sullenness. But that was not to be.
Today, our state of mind has gone far beyond mere suspicion to a compulsion to making a choice between going ahead to worry about the so-called oneness of the contraption of Nigeria and wait for their worst, or think fast of what to do to ensure that our heads and those of our children remain intact on our necks, so that they can tell the story of how a people traversed the deserts and the woods from God-knows-where, then found their way to our farmlands in order to take our lands through whatever guise and means.
As we speak, an umbrella Fulani body is said to have since issued a strong-worded release, which everything about it smacked of nothing short of sworn extension of Othman Danfodio Islamic agenda and grand bloodshed. And too, there are specific evidences that here in Akwa Ibom State, the storm is also gathering. A writer raised concern over our sons and daughters studying in UNIUYO where their central mosque in Uyo is located, quite unfortunately and oddly.
It is equally very worrisome, as earlier mentioned, is the fact that each time one takes a cursory peep at what is playing out in what constitutes the body of service chiefs, the federal executive council, boards, commissions and all other parastatals of government, the Hausa/Fulani Muslim officials top the bulk and the most critical of the posts against all others; and all we are saying is: it’s their turn. How about that!
In all this, the federal government has been busy keeping mum and looking the other way, or at most playing the blame game and engaging in pointless politicking, while the heinous killings go on unabated. We are waiting and watching!
As a country, it is grossly blindfolding to continue to make believe that nothing sinister is portending, so long as it is viewed from a subjective angle, and it gradually piles up time bombs, which will eventually blow up with a slight strike of a match, maybe soon!