By Dons Eze, PhD
Gradually, but steadily, the storm begins to gather. The firmament becomes misty and cloudy. The ship begins to drift, moving to no particular direction. People no longer see beyond their nose. No one trusts the other. Anxiety begins to mount, Tension grips the land. Uncertainty envelopes the atmosphere. Everybody begins to fear. The fate of the country hangs in the balance.
From East to West, and from North to South, nobody trusts the other. Each of the ethnic groups in the country begins to see the others as strangers, as strange bedfellows. They begin to clamour to go their separate ways, and to carry their destiny in their hands. The people no longer have trust on their government, on those whose responsibility it is, to protect lives and properties. This is appalling. This is disappointing.
But the captain of the ship appears to be unconcerned, appears not worried. He seems not to be aware of what is happening around him, the looming danger in the land. He appears not to have proper grips of the state of affairs in the country. He appears not to be bothered; to be unperturbed. He will not say anything. He keeps his mouth shut. He keeps mum, even when there are compelling issues for him to talk.
Many people are worried. How long will our President continue to keep mute? How long will he be silent? Why is he turning a blind eye on what is happening in the country? Why does our President keep his ears shut, or looking the other way, while the country is on the edge, sinking? Why is he behaving like Ceasar, fiddling while Rome is burning?
There are times when silence is golden, but under the present situation in the country, it is no longer so. We want our President to talk, else his silence may be construed to mean acquiescence, that he is complicit to what is happening in the country.
The background to the story is that most parts of the country are divided between the farmers and the pastoralists, or the herders. While the farmers grow crops like maize, millet, beans, casssva, yams, etc., the herders or the pastoralists rear cattle.
In the past, the two groups had coexisted in peacefulness, and respected their separate turfs. None interfered with the business of the other, nor tampered with their progress, nor disturbed their peace, their existence.
The herders used to move about with their cattle into green vegitations, clutching only their sticks, and sometimes, bows and arrows, in case there was danger. They never ventured nor led their cattle into people’s farms, nor disturbed, nor harassed people in their farmlands.
But within the past few years, everything has changed. The herders begin to grow wings. They become powerful, audacious and atrocious. They assume larger than life postures. They drop their sticks, their bows and arrows, and carry AK-47 automatic rifles and begin to spray them at will. They lead their cattle into people’s farms, destroy their farmlands and their crops.
They equally invade towns and villages across the country, and raze many houses to the ground. They kidnap, maim, kill and rape women in their farmlands and make life very miserable to the people. This is not peculiar to any particular part of the country, but in many areas in the middle belt and the southern parts of the country, in places like Benue, Taraba, Kogi, Kaduna, Niger, Kwara, Nasarawa, Plateau, Enugu, Ebonyi, Abia, Imo, Anambra, Edo, Delta, Ondo, Oyo, Ogun, Ekiti, Osun, etc.
The people cry, weep and mourn, but nobody listens to them, nor come to their rescue. They look towards the security agencies to defend and come to their protection, but they look the other way. They appeal to the President for intervention, but the man does not hear them, nor say anything. Only his attack dogs – Lai Mohammed, Femi Adesina, and Garba Shehu, are on hand to do the hatchets’ job.
The fact that the herders and our President belong to the same language group, the Fulani tribe, seems to have emboldened and reinvigorated the herders, as they begin to see themselves as special people, with some powerful people behind them, and an Abraham as their father. That is why the herders are doing everything with impunity and nobody disturbs them. The Fulani people are the only group in the country that go about with AK-47 rifles, while every other group is told to surrender their guns.
This makes the current situation in the country both worrisome and pathetic. When Governors Samuel Ortom of Benue State and Darius Ishaku of Taraba State begin to advocate that all Nigerians be allowed to carry AK-47 rifle, it is due to frustration arising from a government that appears sympathetic to Fulani herdsmen who wield AK-47 rifles, which they use to kill, maim, kidnap and rape their unarmed subjects, burn down their houses and farmlands, while the criminals are not apprehended, nor punished.
The much the government always did was to issue incohorent statements, condemning these dastardly acts and promising to deal decisively with the criminals. But there, it ended. The next day, the criminals would be on prowl, perpetrating the same acts, even with greater intensity.
The argument by these two governors is that since the federal government has failed in its duty to defend and protect the lives of Nigerians and their properties, then, let every Nigerian be allowed to carry AK-47 rifle, as the Fulani people are privileged to be carrying, so that each person will be able to defend himself, or test his strength against the criminals, since no ethnic group in the country has the monopoly of violence.
But such a state of affair is an invitation to chaos, anarchy and lawlessness, which, unfortunately, is where the country is currently heading towards.
Several times and over, some well meaning Nigerians have called on our President to rise to his responsibility, defend and protect those he took an oath to protect, but he will not do anything. Many a time, they have suggested that the country jettison the aichaic system of herders wandering in the bush and in the streets, with their cattle, so that they should embrace ranching, but our President will not hear or keep a deaf ear.
Rather, what we keep on hearing is the provocative statement by the Fulani, that they own all the lands in Nigeria, and therefore, that nobody can stop them from entering into any place they wish, with their cattle.
True to type, the Fulani herders have been leading their cows into people’s homes, on major roads and streets in urban centres, into towns and villages, destroying farmlands, burning down houses, kidnapping, killing some of them, and raping their women.
But since every action attracts a corresponding reaction, different states and groups, in response to this descent into armageddon or anarchy by the country, have started to organize their own security outfits and to issue quit notices to the murderous Fulani herders, telling them to vacate their forests.
This appears to be in consonance with the advice recently given by the Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi (rtd), that Nigerians should not be cowardly, but be on the alert to defend themselves. In a video clip currently on circulation on the social media, the Defence Minister said Nigerians should show that they are not cowards by defending themselves.
According to the Minister, “it is the responsibility of everybody to keep alert and to find safety when necessary. But we shouldn’t be cowards. At times, the bandits will only come with about three rounds of ammunition, when they fire shots everybody runs. In our younger days, we stand to fight any aggression coming for us.
“I don’t know why people are running from minor things like that. They should stand and let these people know that even the villagers have the competency and capabilities to defend themselves”.
In other words, what the Defence Minister is telling Nigerians is that the government is tired, is powerless in defending those entrusted into their care. Therefore, they should take their destiny in their hands, and begin to defend themselves.
This is an open admission of incompetence and failure of the administration. We now wait for the President to finally nail the coffin on the head, by telling us that the game is over. Then, it will be to your tents, Oh Israel. Mr. President Sir, please talk to us. Come and dismiss the class.