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Leah Sharibu: The Prisoner of Conscience

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Anikulapo Macmillan

 

Her story has been like the story of Daniel in the den of terror. In the face of captivity her captors kept her just because she refused to call another faith. She is the mercurial of her own conscience. One of the first in the history that never denies her religion and She is Leah; but powerful than her co-mate in the scripture.

Leah Sharibu is our daughter. One of the girls that have brought our country to her kneels. Not just a martyr of faith but a girl whose spirit has driven us all to her struggle since she was abducted in Dapchi. And that abduction was historic.

It is seemingly a thought of a cohesive expression to the government. I see her than the way Nigerians see her. She is the girl that has made us to understand that religion is fate and faith is faith— in time of obstacle. Someone who doesn’t compromise her principle rather beseech in the spirit of prayer. That voice of Leah begins to come to us than it echoes to her captors. Meanwhile, she is supposed to be in school.

While some of her colleagues are intensely studying for the school certificate exam but she is here dying to be rescued. And Prof. Wole Soyinka has compared her to the late apartheid fighter, Nelson Mandela. In Soyinka’s poem titled: ‘’ Mandela’s Earth’’ the poem has a conjectural meaning that Mandela reverted to those who jailed him. ‘’ NO! He said’’

These particular words came out to Leah Sharibu as well. When she said— No! And perhaps in Wole Soyinka’s poem: ‘’ I am the rock, this Island. I toiled’’ this is what our own Leah stands for. However, the poem says: ‘’ in and out of time wrap, I am that rock/ in the black hole of the sky’’ truly, Sharibu has become the rock of human.

She has made us to understand that her release is important to us. That her struggle is to end bigotry and fanaticism in our country and perhaps to let everybody has the right to believe in faith. To have been in captivity for this time is terribly bad for a sixteen years old girl in her own country.

Recently, she celebrated her sixteen years birthday. In the den of terror, just because she is not ready to deny her own faith— meanwhile, if Jesus were to be alive he would have seen that Leah Sharibu loves him than her own life. And this means a lot for sacrifice. To a girl who has hope for her beloved country.

Probably, had it been her mother knew that such would happen, she would have been like the character in Toni Morrison’s novel: ‘’ Beloved’’ where the mother kills her own daughter because she doesn’t want her to face racism. Is this not a religion manhunt? — For Leah’s mother to cry helplessly for her beloved daughter to be released.

And I believed that the day she was abducted in her school with her other abductors, she would have recited the national anthem and pledge. That she was serving Nigeria with all her strength and now; is Nigeria serving her back? Or has the government forgotten that Leah is a citizen?

This means her life matters to every single Nigeria. And it is the duty of President Buhari to let her come back to her parent. Still, her life is not enmeshed, with wrong faith rather she has been the quintessential girl that knows how to identify her own right. Her life means a lot to all of us. Not that she is just a mere girl child, she is our daughter.

Therefore, it is the ability of the government to provide for her needs in captivity. To rescue her is even the major concern of all Nigerians. What is the point to the military if she can’t be rescued? Is it that our military are scared to fight the insurgency? All I know is that if Leah Sharibu is not being rescued that means her parent will lose hope in Buhari’s Administration.

However, she is the prisoner of conscience. She is the prisoner that has not failed to know her God.  She has indeed believed in her faith like one of the character in James Joyce’s short story, Dubliners. And, still her colleagues were released but she was held back because she refused to deny her faith. This is a simple meaning of a cultured girl. And she strongly believes in the article of faith.

Leah is an affable girl that knows that her right is to be freed from the thraldom of dooms. In a society of ours, because what she has done do not deserve this kind of maltreatment she is receiving. If truly, we have a government that understands the people— the Leah Sharibu of our time won’t spend these hours and days in captivity.

To make the system function, let us all know that, what happens to Leah Sharibu, could affect anybody. And prior to her abduction, we knew the Chibok girls’ story. Yet, the government has not found measure to liaise with the insurgent. And what I expect the government should have done is to take the military serious than ever. And the military needs to deploy tactics and strategy because this is like a fratricide.

For every life, it matters to us that, we should never forget to know that Leah Sharibu is still a piquant subject that can never be forgotten. Thus, her abduction is cumbersome. Perhaps, I expect the government to know that Nigerians want Leah Sharibu alive.

Her parent has cried for too long; to the extent that, they talked like the English poet, Andrew Marvel, in his poem: To His Coy Mistress, which says: ‘’Had we but world enough and time/ this coyness, lady, were no crime.’’ With truism, she has no crime. But, if Buhari forgets to do the needful, Leah Sharibu’s spirit won’t make Nigeria rest just because she is innocent.

Let us know that a sixteen years old girl has decided to hold on to her faith; and this makes her to be the prisoner of conscience. Even with a conscience heart, we pray for release.

@Babatunde_Mac

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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COLUMNISTS

Ilorin and the crisis of identity by Dare Babarinsa

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Source: THE GUARDIAN

Ilorin, the capital of Kwara State, is a Yoruba city. It is now in the throes of a self-inflicted crisis caused by the hijab, the head covering favoured by Muslim laity for their women folks. It is also loved by some Christians, especially the Catholics. It originated from the Middle-East where women are subjected to strict code of fashion. But in Yorubaland, fashion has never been a matter of contention. Now this. The case, I am told, is in the court. Some of the Muslims in Ilorin, apparently with the sympathy of the Governor, do not want to wait for the court. They would rather put the matter in their own hands.

What is surprising is that a Muslim parent, knowingly sending his daughter to a Christian school, still wants his daughter to wear the hijab. The corollary is a Christian parent sending his daughter to a Muslim school and yet does not want his daughter to wear the hijab. Luckily, there is no Orunmila High School in Ilorin. If there is one, I can assure you that no Muslim parent would insist that his daughter wears the hijab in Orunmila High School if it is not part of the prescribed uniform. But Christianity and Islam are both imported religions and we Africans we tend to be more catholic than the Pope.

What we are witnessing in Ilorin is the attempt by the government to take all powers from school authorities. Uniforms are parts of the tradition of each school. It seldom changes and when any principal tries to change it, he or she usually faces hostilities from the Alumni Association. In Kwara, the government claims to derive its power to prescribe uniform and enforce the hijab in all public schools because it is funding those schools.

When Alhaji Ahmadu Bello became the Leader of Government Business in Northern Nigeria in 1952, the government decided to support all mission schools; both Christians and Muslims. Those schools were referred to as grant-aided schools. However, there were also private schools established by individual proprietors who were excluded from this generosity. In the 1970s, all private secondary schools, including the mission schools, were taking over by the government. The government did not pay compensations for these schools. There was the understanding that though the schools had been taken over by the government, the original owners would still have proprietary interest in those schools. That understanding subsists until Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq decided to have interest in the hijab.

Governor Abdulrazaq represents a new kind of change in Kwara State. Before his ascension to power, the dominant force in Kwara politics was the enduring patriarchy of Dr Olusola Saraki and his son, Bukola. The Sarakis were supposed to represent the continuing dominance of the descendants of the Fulani in Ilorin over the Yoruba majority. The coming of Abdulrazaq was a seen as a credible challenge to the old Saraki hegemony. He came in with the Otoge (Enough!) battle cry and was swept to power on the ticket of All Progressives Congress, APC, the party of President Muhammadu Buhari.

In September 2018, a seminar was held at the Ikeja Airport Hotel, Lagos, in honour of the late Chief Bola Ige. Some Abdulrazaq partisans were present in large number at that seminar. I had tackled one of his partisans that this man who claims to represent the Yoruba of Kwara State does not have a single Yoruba name. Why should a fully-grown Yoruba person bears only foreign names? He said it was because of Abdulrazaq Islamic background. I pointed out to him that bearing your native names does not make you less religious. I gave the examples of Ayatollah Rhohollar Khomeini of Iran, Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt, Iyanda Folawiyo of Lagos, Arisekola Alao of Ibadan, Ibrahim Dasuki of Sokoto and many others.

The truth is that many Ilorin people, especially those who are Muslims, are struggling with their Yoruba heritage. They believe wrongly that the less Yoruba they become, the more acceptable they are to what they perceived to be the power-centres of Nigeria. Yet bearing their normal Yoruba names have not deprived the Ilorin people of the ability to rise. We have the illustrious examples of the Sarakis, Major-General Abdul Kareem Adisa, Major General Babatunde Idiagbon and many others.

Ilorin is an old city with an historical burden. It was founded in the 15th Century and by 18th Century it has become a thriving commercial centre. It was one of the provincial towns of the old Oyo Empire and it belonged to the Ekun Osi District where the Onikoyi of Ikoyi was the supervising sovereign under the Alaafin. Other towns in that district include; Irawo, Ogbomoso and Iwere. As Oyo Empire waxed stronger, it annexed some of the Igbomina settlements like Oro into its fold. The Igbomina sovereign was (and still is), the Orangun of Ila. The Orangun and the Alaafin are both sons of Oduduwa in Ile-Ife and therefore co-eval under the old Yoruba traditional constitutional arrangement.
Ilorin was to change all that. Early in the 19th Century, the Alaafin appointed Afonja, a well-respected general, as the new Aare Ona-Kakanfo (the generalissimo of Oyo Imperial Army).

 

The constitution forbade the Aare to live in the capital and share the same domicile with his overlord, the Alaafin. Therefore, Afonja stayed in Ilorin and with his new appointment, he had become senior to other generals like the Onikoyi, the Olugbon and the Aresa. Instead of keeping to his oath of office, Afonja decided to rebel against his overlord. In other to strengthen his hands, he invited a peripatetic Islamic preacher, Malam Alimi, to join him with his band of young converts called ogo were.

The ogo were, claiming to operate under the authority of the Aare, became a law to themselves. With unpalatable news coming from everywhere on the activities of this unruly band, the Aare decided to move against them. When Alimi got wind of this, he staged a pre-emptive coup and the Alimi forces were able to stage a surprise attack against Afonja in his house. The battle lasted for almost two weeks as Afonja, surrounded by his sons and other commanders gave a good account of himself. Note that none of the Yoruba top generals; Onikoyi, Olugbon, Aresa and others came to the aid of Afonja. Even Solagberu, Afonja’s old friend and the leader of Ilorin Muslims at Okesuna, refused to offer help.

The coup against Afonja had grave consequences in Yorubaland. It was that coup that led inexorably to the collapse of old Oyo Empire and the evacuation of its capital city, Oyo. Many important towns like Ikoyi and Iresa were destroyed. Owu was destroyed. When Ilorin forces finally captured Offa in 1887, they destroyed most of the town and decreed that male citizens must grow beards and convert to Islam under the pain of death. The taken over of Ilorin by a foreign power was bitter pill for the Yoruba ruling class to swallow. When the British signed the treaty of peace with Ibadan in 1888, that insisted that war must end. One of the Ibadan generals, dissatisfied, asked the interpreter: “Tell the white man to let us finish the Ilorin campaign first. Then peace!”

In 1897, the Royal Niger Company pacified Ilorin and by 1900, it became part of Northern Nigeria. All attempts by the leadership of the Western Region especially under Chief Obafemi Awolowo, to get Ilorin and Kabba Provinces transferred to the West failed at the different constitutional conferences leading to Nigeria’s independence. The agitation gave birth to the party, Egbe Talaka Parapo, which won all the seats in the Ilorin District Council elections prior to independence. Ahmadu Bello dissolved the council and clamped down on the Egbe. Respite came in 1967 when General Yakubu Gowon created the West Central State (later to be known as Kwara State) as part of the new 12 states federal structure.

It is significant that Dr Olusola Saraki’s dream was for Kwara State to be in the same political camp with the South West in 1998. He and Chief Ige had been friends since their student days in the United Kingdom. Therefore, the two of them were involved in the formation of the All Peoples Party, APP, during the final days of military rule in 1998. When Afenifere pulled out of APP, Saraki blamed Ige for it. I am not sure whether they ever reconcile on this matter. It is interesting now that it is the same party, the APC, that is ruling in most of the Yoruba States and also in Kwara and Kogi State.

This places a special burden on Governor Abdulrasaq. He has to remember his state is said to be the State of Harmony. He should allow the court to decide this case of hijab instead of him allowing an unnecessary crisis to derail his government. After all, as a child, his father sent him to Bishop Smith Memorial School, Ilorin, a Christian School, and his uniform did not affect his school certificate results. This is one storm in a teacup that should never be allowed to become a real storm. After all, Ilorin is a Yoruba city and in Yorubaland we learn to tolerate each other no matter the differences. It is time Ilorin comes to term with its identity.

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COLUMNISTS

PENDULUM: Why President Buhari May be A Blessing in Disguise

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Fellow Nigerians, I’m sure, just like me, you’ve been wondering what could be driving the Federal Government of Nigeria towards pushing the country into perdition and collapse. I’m very convinced that President Muhammadu Buhari has no plans of succeeding in the governance of the country as a whole, or indeed of his beloved Northern part of the country, otherwise how can any serious leader not see the dangers and peril ahead. Practically every section of the country is in one turmoil or the other. And the lamentations are getting louder by the day.

At the end of the day, on greater reflection and rumination, as I travelled back from Port Harcourt to join in celebrating and felicitating with the dynamic and resourceful young female entrepreneur, Oyindamola Samira Lami Adeyemi as she celebrated her birthday yesterday, my conclusion is that Nigeria actually needed to have a leader as standoffish as Buhari to push our country to the brink of disintegration and it is now looking like a matter of time, seriously. It is not by coincidence that my hurried flight to join a small group of other close friends, including my great friend and brother, Damola Aderemi, Dr Deolu Akande and Dr Tunde Ayeni, in rejoicing with Oyindamola Adeyemi on her birthday, prompted me to ponder about wither Nigeria with Buhari in the saddle?

The beautiful, brainy, bright, classy Oyinda (as she is fondly called by friends) is the new face of Nigeria’s future. She is a cross between Northern Nigeria and Southern Nigeria. Her mother is from Gombe State whilst her father is from Ondo State. She is an entrepreneur par excellence who having conquered the male dominated world of Heavy Construction with her company, Still Earth Construction and Realty Limited, has delved into another male oriented space, that of upstream Oil and Gas services, with her exponentially developing company, Tirex Petroleum and Energy Limited. For young entrepreneurs and visionaries like Oyinda, with the background of both local and imperious Ivy League academic credentials that she possesses, the future of Nigeria lies in its cohesiveness and unity, which allows its citizens to enjoy its size and might as its strength, not only in Africa but also globally.

A unified Nigeria is feared by all for the giant leap that its young leaders like, Oyinda in the business world and Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu, Burna Boy and Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun, Wizkid, David Adeleke, Davido, and others in the entertainment industry and Medical Doctor, Dr Onyema Ogbuagu, a leading contributor to the breakthrough in the Pfizer/Biontech COVID-19 vaccine, can deploy in bringing Nigeria to global focus and attention. Similarly, Nigeria can be the subject of dread for the international community, because of what its balkanisation and being split will mean to the world, as there will be large number of displaced persons that would be victims of the tragedy that would unfold, if the country is to break up into small ethnic nationalities that the prophets of doom are foretelling with their drums of war and warmongering.

I soliloquised and thought about how President Buhari and his aides and acolytes seem impervious to the ruination that Nigeria is being propelled headlong into at breakneck speed. Indeed, it seems that they are enjoying the giddy ride, as they justify all the monumental aberration that the Government has foisted on the people in the name of carrying on with Fulani hegemonistic propaganda and mantra. If we continue with this administration’s mad pursuit of imposing one tribe over others, and violently suppressing the yearnings and aspirations of the others, we will soon come to the cataclysmic end. We will all dance and partake in the macabre orgy of wanton destruction and death that will be unleashed on the country and its poor uncomprehending citizens. To me on sober, sombre contemplation and cogitation it seems this doom is what the President and some of the people closest to him wish for and desire. Perhaps there is an element of truth in what I previously considered to be the Niger Republic agenda!

Unfortunately, there seems to be no ambitious or vigorous opposition on ground to stand fast and firm and, insist that the country must return to the basic founding principles of true Federalism, where each Federating unit is free to chart its own course.

The biggest opposition Party, PDP, is already misbehaving like a victim of proper African jazz. It is sad that the Party that should naturally find it easy to pay the APC back with its own poison is talking plenty nonsense. How on earth can PDP leaders that should urgently cash in on the dwindling popularity and fortunes of APC be talking of zoning the 2023 Presidential slot to the North East after eight years of monumental disaster brought upon us by the APC? Sadly, the other younger political parties and politicians are simply not formidable enough, either individually or collectively, to challenge and defeat the status quo. This is my candid view.

My prediction is that Buhari may force Nigeria to break up violently if care is not taken. His I-don’t-care attitude is just extremely dangerous and bodes ill for the country’s future existence.

In case he has not read the communique issued at the end of the Pan-Yorùbá Meeting, on March 17, 2021, at Mapo Hall, Ìbàdàn, Oyo State, I hereby forward it to him in full. I’m yet to see a more powerfully worded summary, from one of the largest Nigeria ethnic nationalities, of the pestilence, superintended by Mr President, that is desperately trying to finally crush and exterminate Nigeria as a nation:

“We, the Yorùbá Leaders of Thought, comprising Ọbas, Chiefs, policy shapers, politicians, technocrats, intelligentsia, security-related groups, and socio-cultural groups, have met and decided for the Greater and Common Good of the Yorùbá, as follows:

1) The Yorùbá are resolute in their determination not to stand idle and watch our space and land desecrated. Only an arsonist allows a fire to burn and destroy. We will not permit strangers to abuse our hospitality and desecrate our hallowed land and our sacred spaces. Indeed, we invoke the ancient maledictions reserved for such malefactors. Our forests need no permission to swallow them.

2) The Yorùbá, are confronted by the realization that we are living in a time of bad metaphors. A time when dogs do not hearken unto the whistle of the hunter and the rivers which have forgotten their sources, still continue to flow. The world is turned inside out, and the socio-political fabric of Nigeria is ripped into shreds. Today in Buhari’s Nigeria, the ship of state has veered dangerously off course, and heads almost irreversibly towards jagged rocks of destruction. Insecurity has reached such an abyss that hundreds of people are kidnapped in broad daylight with impunity.

3) The Yorùbá are convinced that Nigeria is on the verge of a catastrophic calamity, of potentially greater magnitude than either the internecine conflict of 1967 to 1970 or the brazen disenfranchisement of 1993! Nigeria as we know it, has embarked on uncharted seas, with nihilists as crewmen. We are a country divided along distrusting ethnic lines, exhausted by its failures, cynical about its own future, authoritarian by reflex and controlled as a personality cult by a section of the country. The relentless pursuit of power by a group of self-servers, the ruthless cabal that respects neither Equity nor Equality, with an entrenched sense of entitlement, has taken away any sense of belonging to this union, by the Yorùbá. When injustice becomes law, resistance will be a duty!

4) The Yorùbá announce their exhaustion with this Government’s obsession with Lies and Denials of truths and facts. Farmers-Herders clashes are denied despite photographic evidence of massacres and eye-witness reports of mayhem. Terrorists roam the land in the garb of herdsmen, killing, raping, kidnapping and maiming, with little or no reaction from constituted authority. A high-ranking Government official declares that bandits are not criminals.

5) The Yorùbá are perplexed by the fact that the Nigerian state is bombing the Eastern Security Network (ESN). Yet, the same Government is embracing and romancing terrorists. It is now safe to say this is a Government that panders to terrorists, protects terrorists, pays ransoms to terrorists, and prevaricates Terrorism, with absolutely no sanction by the Northern dominated security apparatus of Nigeria. How exactly can such a Government continue to seek the support of the Yorùbá going forward!?!

6) The Yorùbá hereby make known their opposition to Sheikh Gumi’s interaction with these dreaded terrorists. A video circulating on social media that shows the Sheikh trying to divide the Nigerian Army along religious lines is an abominable wake-up call. The Sheikh is guilty of incitement, when he claims that it is Christian soldiers who attack bandits to sow religious tension. To encourage bandits to be selective in their reprisal attacks and avoid women and children is tantamount to aiding and abetting Terrorism and sabotage. The Sheikh has forgotten that thousands of Christian soldiers have lost their lives battling Boko Haram and other Terrorists. The Nigerian Military is one of the few institutions that have resisted division along religious lines. By condoning Sheikh Gumi’s felonious pronouncements, the Government is allowing him to fan the embers of crisis, while hiding under the cloak of mediation.

7) The Yorùbá are convinced that the North is already at war with itself. Rather than face that situation squarely, the Northern-controlled Federal Government keeps trying to divert attention by teasing out conflicts in some areas and exporting crisis to other locations. The Yorùbá call it, “da bi mo se da”. It will not work. The Yorùbá will not swallow the bait and allow our hard-won inheritance to be consumed in the consequent conflagration.

Cognizant of the foregoing, it has become imperative that the territory that was known as Western Region under the 1963 Constitution, along with other peoples having affinities with the Yoruba Nation in Edo, Delta, Kogi and Kwara be organised in pursuit of our political identity and socio-economic welfare of all. Notwithstanding any politically correct labels, our quest is to think through and fashion out the pathway for the progress of our peoples at the homeland and across the world.

The Yorùbá hereby resolve as follows:

i) The Yorùbá have decided to embark on a venture of massive resistance to the issue of insecurity. Àmòtékún and other support systems, fully incorporating both Traditional and Modern security measures and systems have been integrated to form the South West Security and Stakeholders Group (SWSSG) which is presented to the Yorùbá and the world today. The role of SWSSG is the protection of our patrimony, our physical and human assets, our forests and our intangible legacies which have been inviolate and inviolable for over a millennium.

ii) The forests of the Yorùbá are sacred, untouchable, and out-of-bounds to terrorists. May the curses of all our forefathers hold to account all who attempt to cede even one inch of our forests to any ranch or settlement for the use of foreigners, despoilers, ruiners, ravagers and desecraters of our forests. Our forests house our spirituality, our Essence. Our Egungun, our Oro, our spirit, our food security, our culture, our Being!

iii) The Yorùbá distance themselves from the oft-repeated untruth that “Nigeria’s unity is non-negotiable”. This is nothing but a falsehood. Be it known, now and ever — “The unity of Nigeria is highly negotiable!” If we cannot be happy together, then let us find peace and joy, apart. Nigeria can only remain Nigeria if all parties agree to deal equitably with each other.

iv) The Yorùbá are resolute in their fierce determination to pursue vigorously our own chosen destiny to be FREE men and women, and never to be 2nd class citizens in our own land and space…”

A big thanks to my childhood friend, MOGAJI GBOYEGA ADEJUMO for this wonderful rendition of what is heartfelt by many diverse nationalities in Nigeria. He may have been speaking on behalf of any one of them.

This course, presently being pursued by President Buhari and his cronies, may well be a blessing in disguise because it is forcing leaders of thought, different from politicians, to stake their claim to this country and say it will not be destroyed by the pervasive insanity that appears to have afflicted a few people. Instead, there will be orderliness and method to how Nigeria survives as a fair organised and structured society or how it is dismembered into separate smaller but viable recognisable nations.

It is left to the President to decide which way the die will be cast and what his legacy will be, survival or ruin, continuation or cessation! God bless Nigeria always!!

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TINUBU’S STATEMENT ON THE HERDER CRISIS

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The herder-farmer dispute has taken on acute and violent dimensions. It has cost too many innocent lives while destroying the property and livelihoods of many others. It has also aggravated ethnic sentiment and political tension. Despite the efforts of some of those in positions of high responsibility and public trust, the crisis has not significantly abated. Sadly, others who should know better have incited matters by tossing about hate-tainted statements that fall dangerously short of the leadership these people claim to provide. We all must get hold of our better selves to treat this matter with the sobriety it requires.

Because of the violence that has ensued and the fretful consequences of such violence if left unabated, we must move in unison but decisively to end the spiral of death and destruction. Only when the violence and the illogic of it are halted can logic and reason prevail. Until the violence is rolled back, we cannot resolve the deep problems that underlie this conflict. We will neither be able to uplift the farmer from his impoverished toil nor move the herder toward the historic transformation which he must make.

Yet, as vital as security is to the resolution of this matter, we must realize security measures alone will not suffice. Enhanced security may be the necessary first step, but it cannot be the only step. Nor do we resolve this by hitching ourselves to emotional, one-dimensional answers. More to the point, those who cast this as exclusively a matter of ethnic confrontation are mistaken. This is no time for reckless chauvinism of any kind, on either side of this dispute. This matter is not ethnic in factual origin or actual causation although in the minds and hearts of too many it has become ethnic in recrimination and impulsive action.

There have been sporadic disputes in the past but this one is more severe. The reasons for the greater violence of this current dispute are myriad. Economic hardship and its resultant dislocation, proliferation of weapons, generalized increase in criminality, and weakening of social institutions all play a role. Desertification, increased severity and length of the dry season, diminution of water resources, impairment of land fertility and population growth also contribute in no small measure. Thus, any durable solution must get at most, if not all, of these issues.

Farmers have a right to farm their land unmolested. Herders have a right to raise their livestock without undue interference. However, when conflict between these groups arises to such an extent, we must set forth clear principles and policies to remove the tension, in order to allow both to proceed toward their stated goals and to live in harmony and according to their respective rights. Just as I cannot go into your house and take your shirt because I do not have one of like colour, no one can destroy the crops of a farmer or seize the cattle of a herder simply because such destruction sates their anger or their selfish, short-term interests. If such a condition were to hold, then all would turn into chaos; all would be in jeopardy of being lost. To destroy the crops or seize the property of the innocent farmer or herder is nothing if not an act of criminality.

Here, I must state two fundamental realities. One has been previously mentioned by me and others as part of the solution. The other reality is hardly discussed.
First, the situation of the herder is becoming untenable. Their nomadic ways fall increasingly in conflict with the dictates of modern society. This way of life is centuries old and steeped in tradition. We can never condone or accept violence as a valid response to any hardship. However, we all must recognize and understand the sense of dislocation caused by the sudden passing of such a longstanding social institution.

I mention their dislocation not to excuse violence and other excesses. I raise it to underscore that we must realize the true complexity of this crisis. What is happening has been terrible, but it is not due to any intrinsic evil in either the herder or the farmer. The calamity now being faced is borne of situational exigencies. It is but the tragic outcome when often desperate, alienated people are left too long unattended and when their understanding of the modern socio-economic and environmental forces affecting the very terms of their existence is incomplete. An ethnically fuelled response will be to vociferously defend the nomadic way believing this tack will somehow protect the herder and cast the speaker as an ethnic champion. However, careless words cannot shield the herder from relentless reality. Such talk will only delude him into believing that he can somehow escape the inevitable. We do both herder and farmer grave injustice by allowing the herder to continue as he is – fighting a losing battle against modernity and climate change. In that fight, desperation causes him to flail and fight the farmer, who too is a victim of these impersonal forces.

Second, to help the herder and leave the farmer unattended is unfair and will only trigger a resentment that tracks already heated ethnic fault lines. The times have also been perilous for the hardscrabble farmer. He needs help to survive and to be more productive in ways that increases national food security. Farm productivity and incomes must be enhanced. Soil enrichment, better irrigation and water retention as well as provision of better rural roads, equipment and access to modern machinery are required to lift him above bare subsistence.

Both innocent and law-abiding farmer and herder need to be recompensed for the losses they have suffered. Both need further assistance to break the current cycle of violence and poverty. In short, the continued progressive reform of many of our rural socio-economic relationships is called for.

Based on these strategic observations, I recommend the federal government convene a meeting of state governors, senior security officials, herder and farmer representatives, along with traditional rulers and religious leaders. The purpose of this meeting would be to hammer out a set of working principles to resolve the crisis.

After this meeting, governors of each state should convene follow-up meetings in their states to refine and add flesh to the universal principles by adjusting them to the particular circumstances of their states. In addition to religious and traditional leaders and local farmer and herder representatives, these meetings shall include the state’s best security minds along with experts in agriculture (livestock and farming), land use and water management to draw specific plans for their states.

To accomplish this goal, wise policy must include the following elements:
1. Maintain reasonable and effective law enforcement presence in affected areas. The proposed reform of the Nigerian law enforcement apparatus towards state and community policing can help in this regard. The legislative and administrative measures required to make this a reality should be expedited. In addition to alleviating the present farmer-herder crisis, this reform will also bolster efforts against the banditry, kidnapping and robbery plaguing communities across the country. Governments need to employ new technology and equipment to enhance the information gathering/surveillance and response capabilities of law enforcement.

  1. Help the herders’ transition to more sedentary but more profitable methods of cattle-rearing. Unoccupied public land can be fenced into grazing areas or ranches and leased to herders on a very low-cost, nominal basis. The leasing is not intended to penalize herders. Rather, the nominal fee is intended to ensure the herders are invested in the project and incentivized (by reason of their investment) to use the land provided. This aspect will also mitigate any resentment over herders being given land for free. Government, in turn, being a responsible lessor, must help with supplemental feed and water in these areas. This will enable herders to better maintain and care for their livestock thus enhancing their incomes. Herders can augment income by becoming suppliers to the leather goods industry. Additionally, herders can also develop a more symbiotic relationship with farmers by, for example, trading animal compost to the farmer in exchange for animal feed.

  2. Assist farmers increase productivity by supporting or providing subvention for their acquisition of fertilizer, equipment and machinery and, also, by establishing commodity boards to guarantee minimum prices for important crops. In the medium to long term, resources must be dedicated to establishing better irrigation and water catchment systems to further improve farm productivity and mitigate the dire impact of flood and drought cycles brought about by extreme climatic conditions.

  3. Establish a permanent panel in each state as a forum for farmers, herders, security officials and senior state officials to discuss their concerns, mitigate contention and identify trouble and douse it before it erupts.

We are a populous nation of diverse ethnic groups. We are a people of potential richness, yet to escape present poverty. We have resources but not wealth. Often, our words speak of hope and fear in the same breath. While we all hope and strive for the best, many fear that there is not enough of what is needed to go around and that they will be left out. In such a situation, harsh competition and contest are fated to occur. In the unfolding of this social dynamic, one group of actors has been pitted against another over dwindling water and fertile ground. The confrontation has resulted in the needless loss of life and destruction of property. If left to itself, this situation may spread and threaten the progress of the nation. It could call into proximate question the utility of the social compact that holds government and governed in positive bond, one to the other. We have a decision to make. Do we attempt the hard things that decency requires of us to right the situation? Or do we allow ourselves to be slave to short term motives that appeal to base instinct that run afoul of the democratic principles upon which this republic is founded and for which so many have already sacrificed so much? In the question itself, lies the answer.

SIGNED
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
March 13, 2021.

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