From colonial times till date, it is difficult to rate any Nigerian election as successful. An overview of Nigerian elections would confirm this. What can be called the first national election to form a government of an independent Nigeria was held on December 12, 1959. The outcome was tragic as acid and other corrosive substances were poured into ballot boxes to distort the results of the election.
In the Eastern and Northern Regional elections of 1961, the dominant regional political parties used political intimidation including imprisonment of opposition leaders to achieve sweeping victories.
In 1964, more than half of the candidates in the elections into the Federal House of Representatives got elected unopposed as electoral officers disappeared after receiving the nomination papers of only the candidates of the ruling party. In 1965, elections in the Western Region ended with houses of political opponents set ablaze killing several people and destroying countless property in what has become known in history as “operation we tie” – the spraying operation. This was repeated during the 1983 elections in which incumbent state governors announced their own re-election even before the Federal Electoral Commission could conclude the collation of votes cast at the election.
The 1979 and 1999 elections conducted by the military were relatively more peaceful but they produced unacceptable controversies showing that peace and success are not necessarily coterminous. For example, international monitors led by former American President, Jimmy Carter observed ample disparity between the number of voters seen at the polling stations and the final results. Regrettably, the June 12 1993 Presidential election acclaimed world-wide as the nation’s best was annulled. Till date, there is no substantial evidence that Nigeria’s unwholesome political culture since democracy was reintroduced in 1999 is ready for change. We still have among other things, the announcements of results from centres where elections did not hold. In the words of international observers, the 2007 elections did not “measure up to those observed by them in other countries whether in Africa, Asia, Europe or the Western Hemisphere.” In short, the pattern of post-election violence in some places immediately after the 2011 elections showed that the main causes of failed elections in Nigeria are yet to be addressed more than four decades later. The rancorous party primaries to select candidates for the 2015 general elections, the hate campaigns which followed and which have been replicated in the last one month of electioneering for the governorship elections in Edo State next Saturday appear to confirm that one problem Nigeria is yet to overcome is compromised elections. Against this backdrop, why do politicians always attack commentators who draw attention to our unending ominous political scenario?
As one politician opined the other day, people like Tonnie Iredia who do not belong to any political party should stop dabbling into politics. However, such a viewpoint that I have no ‘locus standi’ in politics and elections in the country is myopic because I have more than enough insurable interest in the Nigerian project. Indeed, my diversified academic disciplines and wide practical experiences on the subject are pertinent. As a broadcast journalist, I have been an active actor in political broadcasts in Nigeria since the 70s. During the 1979 and 1983 elections I was the Manager, News and Current Affairs at the NTA Benin and thus led the coverage team of the elections in the then Bendel State.
For all the elections held between 1987 and 1993, I was in charge of the management of electoral information for the defunct National Electoral Commission. During the period, I had to ferret, analyze and interpret for the media, data concerning elections and politics. In 1997, I was seconded to the Independent Election Commission of Liberia to serve as technical expert on the management of electoral information. While there, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) appointed me as Coordinator of Political broadcasts for the first post-civil war election in that country with a mandate to evolve guidelines that would create a level playing field for electioneering campaigns as well as an enabling environment for the attainment of balance and objectivity in media coverage of the elections. From 2003 to 2007, I insisted at the risk of losing my job as Director-General of the NTA that in line with the electoral act, all political parties were entitled to equal airtime prompting the This Day Newspapers to declare my station, the best government agency of the year. When added to the fact that one of my two doctorates, is anchored on political broadcasts, it is easy to see that I have been, not just a moderator of the activities of my time but also a participant observer with an eye on history and its verdict. I therefore owe the public and indeed posterity, the duty to consummate my inclination for adversarial journalism by continuously drawing attention to societal ills with a view to influencing their redress. Those who are uncomfortable with this posture which can help educate our people on their political rights have spent ample time and public funds attacking my person rather than my message.
Those attacks are to be expected from self centred individuals who gain from appropriating our commonwealth and who turn our people into objects rather than the main subject of democracy. When in January this year, I described “uncommon governance” as the bane of Akwa Ibom which spends millions of naira organizing Christmas carols while owing doctors several months salaries, they organized a number of defamatory articles on me. When a month earlier, I drew attention to an alarm by workers in Enugu state that their legislators had coerced their state government to buy them expensive Prado jeeps in the midst of recession, mercenary writers were invoked on me.
When I called on the outgoing governors of two states-Edo (APC) and Ondo (PDP) to create a level playing field for all contestants in the forthcoming governorship elections in both states and not to impose preferred aspirants but to allow all candidates free and equal access to state facilities and institutions, a mob of paid writers of “right of reply” emerged with all of them singing discordant tunes. The truth however is that ours is a developing society which is begging for visionary leaders that can reverse our stunted growth. Such leaders can best be known if candidates are allowed to emerge from free party primaries and thereafter allowed to freely canvass for votes. Media professionals should ignore all the smart moves to fabricate and make defamatory statements to divert attention from the substance of politics. I for one will respond shortly to all allegations leveled against me. But before then, this is the best time for the media to beam their searchlights on individual competences because all our politicians belong to the same political ideology.
In Edo for instance, the two leading contestants are from the same political family. While Godwin Obaseki has served as Governor Oshiomhole’s Economic Adviser, his main opponent, Osagie Ize-Iyamu was the Director-General of Oshiomhole’s campaign in 2012 making their current contrived differences a façade. The way out is for Edo people to use the next 5 days before the elections to weigh the candidates as individuals using not slogans or commercial endorsements to determine how to vote but relying essentially on the persuasive capacities of each of them.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia, “The National Union of Road Transport Workers is a Nigerian organisation which functions as a mixture of a public transport company, street gang, and a transport worker's union. The organisation raises fund through several methods, but the largest of these is charging fees - of approximately 20 Nigerian Naira at illegal checkpoints, and from local shop owners. A large number of the NURTW have been arrested in recent months after a government crackdown on these unregulated fees, after the government embarked on a plan to stop people from collecting dues outside motor parks. These people are known as “agberos”.
To be honest with ourselves in this country, the NURTW can best bedefined as a bunch of illiterate thugs, extortionists, murderers and highway robbers. I say this at the risk of their members in Ibadan attacking me. I wouldn’t put it past them, that is if they manage to read this article.
It has now become an accepted thing to see full grown able-bodied man collecting money by force (from owo union (union due), owo load (loading fee), owo olopa (police money), owo task force (task force money), owo aaro (morning, afternoon and evening money), owo agbero (tout fee), owo council (LG council fee) and sometimes traffic officers’ fee, etc.) under the guise of National Union of Road Transport Workers from operators of individually owned public vehicles (taxis, buses, danfos, molue) and motor bikes (okada and NAPEP tricycles).
All the fees are collectible in most of the major cities in Nigeria, sometimes under different names, but the police fee is not debatable. Although the police have at different times denied that its members collect any fee, but the reality is that the police collect fees at most bus stops, especially in Lagos. The OPS Messa, RRS, and other police units visit all motorcycle and motor parks at intervals to collect the fees every morning, afternoon and evening on daily basis. Any park that refuses to respond quickly would be maltreated and branded as illegal parks, while members would be arrested and sometimes tagged armed robbers.
According to their own website (the national one, I would guess, since I don’t see the notorious and illiterates bosses in Oyo and Lagos States ever thinking of a website) which is idealist and at least sounds people-oriented, “the NATIONAL UNION OF ROAD TRANSPORT WORKER (NURTW) Union is an organization that represents employees’ interests to management on such issues as wages, work hours, and working conditions”. When you read something like this, and know what actually obtains, the absurdity of the statement is disheartening.
Again, according to themselves, NURTW was formed to “Protect, defend & promote the rights, well-being and the interests of all workers in the union against discrimination and unfair labour practices”.
Service rendered by the Union to it Members:
(i) Militant functions
•To achieve higher wages and better working conditions
•To raise the status of workers as a part of industry
•To protect labours against victimization and injustice
(ii) Fraternal functions
• To take up welfare measures for improving the morale of workers
• To generate self confidence among workers
• To encourage sincerity and discipline among workers
• To provide opportunities for promotion and growth
• To protect women workers against discrimination.
Compatriots, if you are familiar with these obnoxious and vicious people and how they operate, the above “services” that they claim to render to their so-called “members” are risible.
The notorious and demeaning indiscipline and rowdiness in the City of Ibadan is a direct result of the unruliness and lawlessness of this bunch of overrated thuggish illiterates parading themselves as “union people”. They jump into the road, stopping their “members” – taxi drivers and the commercial motorcyclists, okada” extorting money from them; they often fight for control of the government-built motor parks and taxi-stands, and nobody know what the forcefully generated money is used for by this organization (but we know their vicious bosses take home a large part of the money, which they may or may not share with their political hirers and police). The fact is, their members, the real road transport workers do not benefit in any form from this massive revenue, and our governments at all levels keep their arms crossed looking at this menace to society and the peace and security of the public. We all know why, of course, successive politicians and governors, especially in most of the southern states are complicit in the use of these thugs while campaigning for elections and other unreasonable vices they commit, all in the “do-or-die” battle to get to power. The governors use them; the senators and members of the House of Representatives use them; the members of the states’ House of Assembly use them; local government Chairmen use them and even ward councillors use these road transport workers as thugs and enforcers to intimidate and even murder opponents, disrupt political rallies, intimidate electors at polling booths on election days, rig elections by outright hijacking of ballot boxes, and generally fomenting trouble during elections.
This is one area of our politics that the government of our beloved country must look into, and check the functioning of this forcefully generated revenue collected by men of the NURTW as it causes so much problems on our roads; sometimes, the “agbero” would delay the movement of the vehicle because of the money he wants to collect, so many times they will forcefully remove items like fuel tank cover, engine cover, wiper etc.; there are times when the agbero would fight the conductor and the driver so as to get money. We know the authorities – governments, police, etc. - would have at one time or the other seen or heard about this continuing incidence but they prefer to look on at the sides while mayhem is being committed. The “agbero” can aptly be described as the “foot-soldiers” of the top bosses of the union.
The NURTW has at various times claimed that it derived its functions and actions from its registration and an Act of Parliament during President Shehu Shagari’s National Party of Nigeria (NPN) government in the Second Republic. But the question is: does the Act stipulate the gangsterism and brigandage members of the union often manifest in carrying out their business?
According to an analyst who reacted to reasons why the government cannot take a proactive measure in curbing activities of these groups, “governments across the country are not unaware of the infamous activities of agberos. In some instances, some state governments have had to proscribe the various bodies they represent.”
Another analyst contends that it may be impossible for any democratic government to proscribe or condemn the unions’ activities, because all the political parties enjoy their patronage, as well as seek their support to win elections, especially in this era of the politics of ‘capturing states’.
It is a known fact that the partisanship of the law enforcement agencies had always been a serious issue in tackling the menace of agberos in our society, and it has indeed been alleged that the leadership of the police, as well as the politicians in and out of government, are the leading sponsors of this menace in the country.
There is obviously government’s lack of political will as being responsible for the persistent unacceptable acts of violence by the groups. Activities of the various security agencies in the state have also become a clog in the wheel of progress for commercial transportation in the country.
It is important that government at various levels need to take firm steps to curb the lawlessness of the NURTW (read agberos) in the country. They need to evolve tough policies in order to ensure that no group or individual in the society continues to act above the law.
The police and other security agencies must stop their unholy relationship with the lawless agberos so as to be able to hunt down, arrest and bring to book anybody involved in anti-social activities. Nobody, no matter how highly placed or connected, should be allowed to go scot-free after inflicting pains on other members of the society in carrying out their legitimate business.
Since it is claimed that the union was created by an Act of Parliament, then the National Assembly can review its activities and bring succour to the various cries of innocent Nigerians who are daily being terrorized by NURTW members. Everybody should be free to associate with any union he/she wants and not forced to pay fees under duress to any association, while the union should evolve another way of collecting its dues instead of constituting themselves into a nuisance on the roads, as not all the drivers are interested in being members of their association. And all activities of the union should be limited to its members.
We also need to go down hard on politicians to stop using the group as political thugs to win elections as it had always been difficult to call them to order after the election had been won, or rather rigged, as is often the case.
Recently in Ibadan, the capital city of Oyo State, a group of thugs, wielding cutlasses, dane guns and cudgels, said to be under the control of the “chieftain” of the NURTW in the state, overran a large piece of land belonging to members of Ibadan Progressive Union (IPU) at Bota Village, and “boned” all undeveloped plots, uprooting survey pillars and threatening anybody that came near them. My late father, being a member of the IPU, had bought some plots since the early 70’s, all paid for, with Certificates of Occupancy. The NURTW chieftain is said to enjoy the patronage and protection of the sitting governor and when their action was reported to the Police Command, the police advised the owners of the illegally-claimed land to “settle” with the thugs, because their (the police) hands are tied.
That is impunity and injustice for you! A society where a police force cannot tackle common thugs!
Hours after he died, David Remnick, Editor of the New Yorker Magazine, penned what will definitely be the most eloquent and elegant obituary of the greatest and the prettiest titled, The Outsized Life of Mohammed Ali. He said Ali was; arguably the most famous person on the planet, known as a supreme athlete, an uncanny blend of power, improvisation, and velocity; a master of rhyming prediction and derision; an exemplar and symbol of racial pride; a fighter, a draft resister, an acolyte, a preacher, a separatist, an integrationist, a comedian, an actor, a dancer, a butterfly, a bee, a figure of immense courage.
He quoted Ali’s mother, Ma Odessa, who confessed that she was actually the first victim of her son’s jabs. At aged six months, while stretching on the bed, she said, his little muscle would hit me in the mouth and it loosened my front tooth; it affected my other front tooth and I had to have both of them pulled out. So I always say his first knockout punch was in my mouth. When he started talking, she confessed, I don’t know how anybody could talk so fast, just like lightening.
For such a stupendously famous, likeable and endlessly charming man, who would not treasure any minute or memory of him and even brag about it? I believe by sheer chance and luck, I fortunately earned my own bragging rights. Who would miss a chance to add his voice to the millions of mourners of the passing away of the most handsome and prettiest sports man of all time, the late Mohammed Ali, formerly, Cassius Clay?
In November, 2000, I was on my way from New York to South Bend, Indiana, and had to connect a flight in Chicago. My flight from New York had been slightly delayed and I was therefore one of the last to board the plane. It was a rather small plane and by the time I boarded, almost everyone was already seated. As I struggled with my hand luggage, my eyes were fixed on locating my seat which was in the middle of the plane. As I walked on, a hand blocked my way. Not bothering to look, I just pushed it away, but somehow, the hand was stiff, apparently resisting me. At that point, I decided look right to see who was up to these pranks. Behold, in all his majesty, sat the prettiest, the best and the greatest. My jaw dropped in shock. As our eyes met, he smiled and shook his clenched fist in acknowledgement, literally saying, yes, you guessed right, it is I, the greatest, the prettiest and the best. It turned out the he had apparently noticed me as I boarded the plane. I later realized that we were the only two black faces in the entire plane! My assigned seat was still some two rows ahead but he motioned for me to seat next to him. I was literally star struck.
Quite unlike me, I was tongue-tied. His face was still handsome and smooth, but looked weak yet joyful. He was the face we had all gotten used to. How could Ali be flying in a commercial plane and not even be seated in business class or given a front seat? Now, what was I to say? Ask what he had for breakfast or lunch? Ask where he was going, why he was not in his own private plane, or ask what he was going to do in South Bend? As I tried to get over the excitement, I prayed and prayed that whoever had this vacant seat on which I was temporarily seated should either miss the plane or not show up at all. I had already made up my mind that should any attempt be made to move me from this seat, I would create a scene and move only in handcuffs. I was prepared for a fight. I was already rehearsing my lines of resistance; preparing to invoke the racist Niger- hating clauses if the need arose. Happily, there was no need for that.
He saw my clerical collar and with difficulty, asked, You are a priest? But before I could answer, he followed up with another question, Catholic or Protestant? I told him I was a Catholic priest and was from Nigeria. Do you live in South Bend or just visiting, he asked. He was determined for a conversation. No, I told him, I am a Fellow at St. Antony’s College, Oxford, England. Oxford? He asked, tilting his head as if he was dodging a Joe Frazier punch. I nodded. Then the Airhostess began the usual departure ritual. He pointed ahead as if to say, now let us listen to instructions. I watched as his shaking hands tried to buckle his seat belt. As he struggled, I leaned over to help him with the belt. As it clicked, he said, thank you very much. I felt some kind of extra adrenalin race inside me. I was delighted by what I had just accomplished. I felt great that these hands which had blown away many jaws, broken chins and teeth were now so weak and under my control. Here I was helping the greatest, the prettiest and the best get his seat belt around him. It was a great feeling but I felt a bit guilty entertaining such thoughts.
After the plane gained altitude and the seat belt sign was turned off, he leaned over and said to me, Let me out, I gotta show you guys something. I went over the ritual of helping him unbuckle the seat belt. I was quite surprise at his determination, despite his health. He got up haltingly and stood right in front of me and in the middle of the main passage. All eyes turned to him as he struggled to pull out something from his pocket. Hi, everybody, I gatta do some magic for you guys, just watch me, he said with his slurred speech. Literally everyone nearby turned with excitement but no one really knew what he wanted to do especially as he was visibly shaking a bit. Seeing him standing drew applause from the passengers.
He took out a red silky handkerchief, waived it to everyone and then raising his hands, clasped them and did as if he was washing his hands. Then, again, he raised up his hands, opened his fingers fully and lo, the handkerchief had disappeared. The passengers burst into applause and those who did not know what was happening behind them turned around. He was not done yet. He went through a second ritual of clasping his hands, kept playing around with them again and behold, he literally pulled out the handkerchief from his empty hands!! Again, there was applause as he waived the handkerchief to the passengers. As he acknowledged the cheers, he smiled with some childlike affectionate innocence. As he returned to his seat, I rose up, feeling as if I was the sorcerer’s apprentice.
I turned down the Airhostess’s offer of coffee because I was anxious for her to move on. I turned to Ali and asked, I don’t think the world knows that you retired from boxing only to become a magician. Again, he smiled and said: You wanna know how I did it? I nodded with excitement especially at the prospects of being an emergency apprentice Magician seemed exciting. Then he pulled out the tools of the trade and showed me. There was the red handkerchief and a thimble, the little metal cap that tailors often use. As if sharing a little secret to a black brother, he leaned over and said, You see, while your hands are clasped, you push this little handkerchief into the thimble. Being silk and small, it snugged into the thimble. He then put the thimble on his thumb and with an innocent smile, he said, See, it is that simple. But he was not done yet.
He decided to decode it: When you have got it right inside the thimble, then, you push your thumb into the thimble. You see, the handkerchief is right inside the thimble and your thumb is in the little space left, but you turn your empty fingers to the crowd but make sure that your thumb is facing you. Your audience is not interested in the thumb because they can see your fingers as you spread them out and are empty. Make sure the thimble is of the same colour as your skin, so no one will notice. You got it, Father, he said again, with calm innocence and childlikeness. Now, I have made you a magician! But can a priest be a magician? He said, again haltingly, I nodded with pride at my sudden induction into the occult world of magic by no other than the prettiest and the best.
Suddenly, the Pilot announced that we were starting a descent into South Bend. I turned to the greatest, the prettiest and the best and said: Now that I do not have a certificate to prove that I am now a magician, can I please have an autograph? No one will believe my story. He pulled out a little flier for a charity he was involved with and I watched as he struggled to write, To Fr. Matthew painfully scrolling his name. I smiled as I collected it but I said, Champion, I need two more for my friends who adore you, I ventured. He nodded and I wrote out the two names, Tony and Chuka. One was Tony Nnachetta my friend and Chuka Momah whom I had never met, but knew him to be the best boxing analyst. I had also read a piece he did on Ali for Newswatch. I needed this to show off to both Tony and Chuka.
As the plane touched down, the greatest, the prettiest and the best and I had to part. Good luck with Oxford, Father. As a black man, you are privileged to be in Oxford, he muttered, struggling with his speech. I looked at him and some pall of sadness hung over me. We all stepped aside and let him walk haltingly through to the waiting hands of his hosts. I had been with the greatest, the prettiest and the best. As he struggled to walk, I felt so sad that he looked so vulnerable, would no longer dance like a butterfly and sting like a bee. I knew I would never see him again, but it felt like I had been part of some miniature, human epiphany.
His death has stung the world like a bee, but his beautiful memories will remain like the multiple colours of a butterfly seduced by the aroma of the petals of a beautiful rose. Rest in peace, Champ. You will always be a champion in our hearts. Forever, the greatest, prettiest and the best.
– Kukah is the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese.
Preoccupied with everyday living, unruffled politicking, unrestricted worship, busy days and quiet nights, Southern Nigerians have been paying little or no attention to the fact that two of Earth’s top 4 deadliest terrorist groups are at home and active in Nigeria. Popular Boko Haram have been constrained to the North East but the other are nomadic unchecked. Now, having restricted their operations to regions that separate North from South, they’ve finally announced their planned ubiquity beginning with an audacious assault on South Eastern State of Enugu on Monday 25th April. They are the Fulani militants.
They’ve ransacked communities that lie on their grazing routes since 2010 (actually for decades), leaving thousands dead, more injured, tens of thousands displaced, with assets worth millions of naira destroyed on their exit. The ascension to power of Muhammadu Buhari, a Fulani, suspiciously coincides with the stepping up of their degree of deadliness.
But The Igbos Are Not United
For centuries, the Fulanis have traversed the breadth of West Africa unimpeded, not by pre-modern hostile cultures; and not by modern day immigration. The trend of slaughtering owners of farms is however a 20th craving they developed. While they pounded Middle Belt states again and again, other Southerners wondered why the Federal Government would not as little as release a statement to condemn the attacks; and the indigenes would not stop them. But now, the militants are through with the intervening region and are at the door steps of the interior South. They are going closer to the Atlantic coast and this advancement will surely evoke a different kind of response.
South East Nigeria, occupied by the Igbo ethnic group, is the epicenter of calls for the breakup of the country. And their primary reason can be summarized as hatred from and for the Northerners consisting of the Hausa/Fulani tribes. Having endured and survived pogroms in Northern Nigeria leading to the Nigerian civil war of 1967, and several perceived follow-up acts of persecution – well documented – the Igbos were nearly unanimous in rejecting the presidency of Muhammadu Buhari in the March 2015 elections. As a result, odium between Hausa/Fulani and the Igbos is still very high.
Already, many southern Nigerians on Social media are calling for self-defence, citing the silence of the Buhari administration, his spokesperson’s admittance of “working in silence”, and the well established inability of the nation’s security forces to contain the daring Fulani marauders – especially as Boko Haram in the extreme north and Niger Delta militant threats have stretched them thin. We must keep in mind that the generations of Igbos who suffered the perils of the Civil War are long past. The present generation of young Igbos neither listen to their elders nor possess deference for chilling history. Unfortunately for them, and fortunately for Nigeria, they are not united too.
No Logistic Problem
But the Hausa/Fulani are everywhere inside Nigeria. In every state, they have their community. In cities further south where there have been little or no inter-ethnic tensions, these communities exist. In Calabar, they call it Bogobiri. In Uyo, Nasarawa; and in Port Harcourt they call it simply Slaughter. In fact, in PH, at Slaughter, they have their own ‘agberos’, their mosques are built there, and if there’s any ethnic clash, they mobilize and protect themselves. Imagine that these brazen Fulani militants decide to advance till they can see the Ocean; these settlements will automatically serve as bases and barracks. What other logistic problem have they?
What a Global Terrorism Index publication of 2015 designates as Fulani militants was responsible, according to the report, for the death of 1229 in 2014r. Hundreds more have been added to that figure in 2015 and 2016. In Nigeria, victims and survivors alike no longer separate Fulani militants from Fulani herdsmen. They’re now one and the same. How else can one explain countless herdsmen armed with assault rifles captured on camera?
According to Secretary to the Government of Benue State - which is a frequent target region of the militants - Barrister Targema Takema, speaking on a national radio interview, natives of the State had cohabited with the nomads for ages until recently when a different set of Fulani began to arrive. The farming communities started complaining of herdsmen leading their cow herds into crop farms and destroying agricultural assets worth millions of naira. As they began to take measures to prevent further occurrence of these widely confirmed incidences, the herdsmen began to arrive closely followed by the dreaded Fulani militants.
They Will Head To The Atlantic If…
It is not unhealthy to imagine these Fulani herdsmen taking their militants all the way through Southern Nigeria, to the ocean coast in the future, for four reasons.
1. The Sahara desert is expanding. The country is presently losing about 350,000 square meters of its land mass to desertification, which is advancing southward at an estimated rate of 0.6 kilometers a year. This is according to www.fadeafrica.org. The website also records that the activities of Fulani herdsmen is greatly responsible for desertification in the north; and they’re heading south.
“In some areas, Nomads moving to less arid areas disrupt the local ecosystem and increase the rate of erosion of the land. Ironically, Nomads try to escape the desert, but with their land use practices, ignorantly set off another process of desertification in their new settlement. They will have to move soon taking with them their land use practices, leaving a trail of desert behind, and the chain goes on.”
The desert is driving them down south. They need more land to graze in.
2. The return to agriculture. Crash in global oil prices has driven more Nigerians back to farms. In most Southern states, governments and private sector industry heads are not only advocating a return to commercial agriculture, but are investing too. And that means, more people are going back from cities to rural areas to reclaim their farmlands for expansion from subsistent to commercial agriculture. Governments, like in Akwa Ibom and Cross River, are packaging even more robust supports for the re-emerging venture. But don’t Fulani herdsmen have destructive objectives?
3. Fulani herdsmen are respecters of no man. Nothing is beyond their imagination. Inherently, a Fulani man is forthright, blunt and fearless – even the policies and communication style of the President of Nigeria are proofs of this – to a fault. Their fearlessness frequently transforms into thoughtlessness. This is why they can attack different regions of ‘enemy territory’, on different fronts - thousands of miles apart - simultaneously. They can breach the security of a former Presidential aspirant, surrounded by his own tribesmen, and kidnap the man, demanding for ransom. They can poison the source of drinking water of an entire community, carrying out wanton crimes against humanity without thinking twice. They can attack the convoy of an ex-military chief and former Senate president of the nation without fearing his military escorts. They have achieved all these already and there is no carnage too unthinkable for their conscience.
The Goodluck Jonathan administration, according to a House of Representatives member from Taraba state, and one time BBC correspondent in Jos, Nigeria, Rima Shawulu, did rebuild several dams to enhance irrigation and reduce desertification in the North. Yet the Fulani ignore their green grass, to head south.
4. According to Max Gbanite, a security consultant, speaking on an AIT programme, Focus Nigeria recently, the Fulanis do not understand that in southern Nigeria, unlike in the North, “every inch of land belongs to an individual, a family or a community.” And you can’t just move into someone’s land and graze. Hence, if they keep encroaching into the south, which they will due to 1, 2 and 3, more land owners will kick against them and, without desiring to sound like a prophet of doom, more Fulani militants will attack more towns and the rest is left for the mind's eye.
Fulani Herdsmen already have settlements close to the Atlantic shore, I’ve earlier mentioned. Southern Nigerians can expect their militant sons in the near future, unless [emphasized] the leadership of Nigeria come up with a solution for the nomadic culture.
The solution, I believe, that would come closest to preventing the prediction of more Fulani herdsmen attacks is borrowed from Gbanite. And that is a combination of creating cattle ranches across the nation and providing a reorientation to Fulanis aiming to make them embrace cultural changes; in effect, strategically abolishing ‘nomadism’ -“the way of life of a nomad” according to my dictionary. For, creating grazing routes for them will most certainly not be welcomed by those who stand to lose their property and the temptation to graze beyond the created routes will dominate the minds of the nomads.
Obudu Cattle Ranch, For Example
Besides, the herdsmen themselves would admit that they lose hundreds of livestock subjecting them to those strenuous trips on foot. Next, the animals can hardly be made to birth up to a calf per year, wandering as they do. It also exposes the animals to all manner of diseases that end up in the stomach of human beings. Whereas in a ranch, several scientific rounds of research can be carried out to try to improve the breed of the cattle; the country can now benefit from Cattle farming in monetary terms by managing a more controlled farming system. Obudu cattle ranch was established by late Sir Michael Okpara decades ago to cater to serve as a model for the rest of the country.
The Igbos are not as easily forgiving. They are still licking wounds of humiliation - reopened by frequent friction with their Hausa/Fulani countrymen - from the 1967 war that claimed over 1 million of them; and from several ethnic killings suffered by their brothers in northern Nigeria. The agitation for their own country has been heating up lately, with increased debates amongst them on continuing with Nigeria or not. With the Fulani herdsmen invasion of Igboland, and taking into consideration the thoughtlessness of their militants – prospecting that they will surely return; more reasons to remain with Nigeria are getting eliminated. This is yet another implication of the nagging Fulani herdsmen crusades.
If the tiers of Nigeria’s Government keep foot-dragging in containing the Fulani herdsmen, they may prepare for anarchy. Once people are forced to defend themselves; and none of the parties accepts to be the defeated foe, the situation could degenerate so dreadfully that Boko Haram would be child’s-play; Gbanite believes it can lead to a civil war. Senator Godwill Akpabio too. And there are more who believe same.
Uduak Umo is a Lagos/Uyo based PR consultant and Public interest researcher. Follow him on Twitter @umo2013;
They now say I am fantastically corrupt. Is this true or not? Fantastically corrupt! I know I am corrupt but am I fantastically corrupt? Are they right to say I am fantastically corrupt? Even if I am fantastically corrupt, is it right for my eldest son to agree with them? Is it right for my ducky son to go to Igilandi (na wood we dey gather together) to shame me to the world?
Corrupt yes, my children at the helm of my affairs are corrupt, but fantastically corrupt? I think Muhammadu my son shouldn’t have agreed – to David’s choice of word. Does Muhammadu hate me that much? Whose interest is he serving? Is this not the same Muhammadu who once said that Sani, my other lunatic son did not steal my wealth? Double talk?
Common, I do know about what they call diplomacy. Why did he choose not to be diplomatic! How can a thief call you a thief and all you could say is yes, it is true. Why should someone who assist you in thieving call you a thief in front of the world and all you could do is accept his fantastically corrupt verdict.
Muhammadu should have replied David: No be your great-great grandfathers taught us how to be fantastically corrupt! No be Igilandi we dey carry all the corrupt money go? So who be fantastically corrupt?
This Muhammadu is not smart at all. If na my other ducky son – Hum, if na Segun, my only Sege. Baba Iyabo fun ra e. Omo buruku fun ra e. Brutal as he is, arrogant as Segun is, even dishonest and cocky as Segun is, he won’t be so silly. No, Segun won’t be so devoid of wisdom and good sense as not to know the effective way of protecting my image in the comity of nations.
Does Muhammadu love himself more than the family? What is he trying to portray? What is he trying to prove? That he is the only righteous Nigerian around? Otherwise he should have reminded David or what is he call again. He should have reminded them that it is they that started corruption – whether fantastically or not.
This is a lesson to all my children around the globe. You don’t need to prove anything to anybody. You don’t need to defend anything. Let them say whatever they want. But never feel guilty. Anytime they come as righteous, just tell them the history of corruption. Because it actually comes and starts from them. Fantastically corrupt, hehe.
Muhammadu should have known better than let David got away with such loud and confused and empty talk. Because that is what it is. Honestly, my son shouldn’t have said much. All he should have done is remind David about his antecedent. How it all began.
Oh Muhammadu, why do you hate me so much because you want to prove self righteousness? I wouldn’t even mind if “fantastically corrupt” is said by an upright fellow and not hypocrite like David and his antecedent.
Muhammadu, were you not managing my affairs when Umaru Dikko and other prodigal children took and squandered my wealth in the same Igilandi? Were you not the one who wanted to smuggle them home before the yeye David’s blood family foiled the attempt? You should have known better. And you should have reminded David. And that’s where you goofed. You should have talked true to that yeye David. But instead you allowed your hatred to cloud your reasoning. Muhammadu, do you really love me? Do you really love your siblings?
Muhammadu, have you changed? What are you afraid of? Why did you allow little David to define your mother? Why do you allow your enemy to be your spokesperson? Why do you allow the wish of the enemy to be your wish?
Another lesson for all my children around the globe is this: Never let anyone define you. How could you allow someone who is as guilty as you proclaim you guilty and all you could say is yes? No, don’t let them define you.
Muhammadu, what was in your mind when that good-for -nothing reporter asked you this question: Is your mama fantastically corrupt and you answered yes. What exactly was in your mind? Honestly it was a perfect opportunity for you to talk true to the world. It was a Divined moment to tell the world the hypocrisy of the British government.
But your self-hatred, your self-righteousness took hold of you and you missed the opportunity to tell it as it is. You want them to see you as Mr. Clean to the detriment of your siblings. And so you left the truth out.
When that Iya Agba reporter asked your reaction about David calling your mama fantastically corrupt and you said “Well, he’s been honest about it. He’s talking about what he knows. I can’t fault him about it”
No, he was not being honest but ridiculing you and your people – unnecessarily. How many times have you or your siblings talk about Briatain like that? And let me tell you this: The yeye man will soon apologise, but I tell you, his apology won’t be a sincere one. Take it from me. I know his type.
Muhammadu listen to me. Britain is as corrupt as Nigeria. Well, may be in different ways. The different perhaps is the legal system. And I am not here defending myself. It is just the way it is. Muhammadu, am I really fantastically corrupt?
Oh, Muhammadu, you should have told that cackling David the truth nothing but the truth. Mr. David Elenugboro (basket mouth) why is it that it is Igilandi which received all the corrupt money? Oh I see. You’re being diplomatic! Abi? How I wished you talked true to this David Basketmouth. Muhammadu, were you timid?
You should have told them that they looted Nigeria dry. All our money was taken to Igilandi. So why did they allow Nigerian thieves in their country? Yes Nigeria is corrupt, but they must stop abetting Nigerian criminals who keep banking our money with them.
Ah Muhammadu, abi you don forget say the way you call your calabash na so dem go help you call am. Fantastically corrupt? Yes Britain is fantastically corrupt. Na me talk am.
Bottom line: don’t let them define you. Period
“The apprentice burglar whose father instigates to burgle a house, does not bother with the niceties of gingerly inserting himself. Out of zeal to make a good impression, he smashes down the front door with his bare feet.” A local proverb
(Writer’s warning: Readers’ discretion is advised as this piece may contain some graphic content.)
It was easily the biggest congregation of cattle ever seen by many in Negera. Even according to some herdsmen themselves, they had never quite seen anything like it in all their years of cattle herding.
From all the corners of Africa they came. From the slopes of the Futa Jallon Mountain they came. From the southernmost tips of Burundi and Rwanda they came. From the western shores of the Congo River they came. From the southernmost fringes of the Sahara desert they came. They all converged at a certain remote location in the Middle Belt of the country. They were gathered for the 1st All Africa Convention of Herdsmen hosted rather triumphantly by the Negeran Chapter.
Some onlookers said they counted thousands of cattle. Other onlookers said they were wrong and that they counted tens of thousands of cattle. Many others were ready to swear on their ancestors’ graves that there were hundreds of thousands of cattle. A few bold ones said there must have been several million heads of cattle. Indeed it was a great spectacle to behold.
Although the herdsmen’s convention, was to last for one week, by the end of the first day all the grass and farmlands in the convention area had been wiped out. Panic seized some of the foreign herdsmen as they wondered if their cattle were going to chew their curds for a whole week. They approached the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) members en masse to express their fears. But the (LOC) herdsmen laughed away their fears.
“Brothers fret not yourselves nor let your hearts be wearied about grass,” they reassured their foreign cousins. “Look we have in our possession some wonder grass seeds which our country Negera recently imported from Brazil. In fact one of the prime reasons why we decided to host this first ever continental convention of herdsmen is to demonstrate and show-off the latest advances in nomadic cattle herding in which we are the worldwide leaders.”
“Our government encouraged us to demonstrate to you our cousins from far and near the potentials of this wonder grass called the ‘All Persons for Cattle - Wonder Grass’ or ‘APC-Wonder Grass’ for short. Look when we scatter the seeds of this grass in our fields this night, by tomorrow morning, they would have germinated and grown taller than your cattle. That is why the pay-off slogan for this Continental Convention is ‘Wonder Grass, Happy Cattle!’ “
“So brothers, eat, drink, dance, relax and be merry. Please enjoy our government’s hospitality. But please tell those of our brethren who are armed not to forget to ensure that the safety catches of their AK-47 rifles are well applied. We do not want to see uncontrolled rifles going off rather indiscriminately and killing our beloved cattle while we make merry.”
“Look we have lined up a rich program of activities to make this Convention a memorable one. We shall have some technical presentations by some accomplished resource persons. Topics to be presented include “How to resist cattle rustlers deep inside the bush” to be presented by one of the brethren who is a renowned defender. Also we have “How to protect your cattle from wild animals like lions and hyenas.” We also have other interesting topics like “How to treat snake bites inside the bush” and “How to graze upon native girls and women so that they would leave their families and husbands behind and elope with you.”
“To round up the Convention we shall have a ‘Miss Cow Pageant Competition’ for the most beautiful cow in this convention and a ‘Mr. Bull Fighting Competition’ for the strongest bull around. Needless to say there are many prizes lined up for the cattle crowned respectively as Miss Cow - 2016 and Mr. Bull - 2016 as well as their owners. In fact one of the prizes for them is that Mr. Bull - 2016 will have the opportunity of climbing atop Miss Cow – 2016 several times during this Convention.”
“I do not think it will be out of place to expect that the first product of the tangle between Mr. Bull - 2016 and Miss Cow - 2016 shall be presented to our Grand Patron, Sir Ali Banza as a token of appreciation for all the support we have received from him till date.”
“Also we propose with the support and approval of all the brethren here present to crown our own Sir Ali Banza as the Grand Patron of all African Herdsmen. I hope you will be in support of this great gesture?”
There was a thunderous roar of approval from the thousands of Herdsmen present. The clapping was even more deafening and prolonged. Immediately afterwards the intensity and tempo of the dancing and merriment increased without restraint. Under the cover of the stampeding cattle as well as the chanting of the dancing herdsmen and the universally hilarious commotion that night, nobody noticed or paid any attention to a shadowy group of 40 herdsmen holding a secret meeting inside a large tent. The leader of the Gang of 40 Herdsmen was addressing his comrades.
“Brothers, remember we are being invited to expand into the South and Middle belt of this country by our own Sir Ali Banza. Unlike the ancient Arab, Ali Baba who battled against 40 thieves in the 1001 Arabian Nights, Sir Ali Banza is fully on our side. Yes Sir Ali Banza is solidly behind us, the Gang of 40 Herdsmen. Just as the head thief in the 1001 Arabian Nights hid his comrades inside large oil jars, Sir Ali Banza has agreed to hide all of us right inside the grazing bill already winging its way speedily through the Parliament.”
“Now so that there will not be much debate about the merits or demerits of the grazing bill, you herdsmen must command your respective foot soldiers to intensify the violent attacks against peasants and natives in the middle and southern parts of this country immediately. Do not worry, the head of the Negeren Informants Service is an open sympathizer of our cause. The Head of the Criminal Investigating Force is fighting for tenure elongation so he will take instructions from us to preserve his position. As for the Head of the Negeren Fighting Force, he has been given his standing instructions and rules of engagement by Sir Ali Banza. Needless to say it is 100% in our favor.”
“The current roadmap now is to create enough violence in the interim while the grazing bill is in the Parliament so that it may be passed quickly in a state of panic and without much scrutiny by the Parliamentarians. Our task has been made easier by the fact that most Parliamentarians from our target areas are criminals with a rich dossier of fraudulent activities. If they prove too stubborn Sir Ali Banza shall threaten them with immediate prosecution for being in possession of stolen goods.”
“Our greatest danger however is the alternate idea of setting up cattle ranches which is currently floating around in the media. We must stop this silly idea which will nullify our expansionist plans by ensuring that the grazing bill is passed ever more quickly before people realize what they are into. Always remember that Sir Ali Banza himself has promised to hide each one of you inside the grazing bill which is to be passed shortly by the Parliament for the 36 regions and the Federal Capital Region. Once the bill is passed and the grazing bill casket has been opened and implemented in your respective States, you are to emerge from your hiding place and assume your rightful position. Yes each one of you shall become the Amir (Ruler) of his own territory.”
“Herdsman Number 1 you,” he said pointing to one herdsman “shall be the Amir Lagosa. Number 2 you shall be the Amir Ibadana, Number 3 you shall be the Amir Benin-Cita, Number 4 you shall be the Amir Asabana, Number 5 you shall be the Amir Porta-Courta, Number 6 you shall be the Amir Enuga, Number 7 you shall be the Amir Owerra, Number 8 you shall be the Amir Sokota, Number 9 you shall be the Amir Makurda, Number 10 you shall be the Amir Lafiana.”
“Number 11 you shall be the Amir Kanowa, Number 12 you shall be the Amir Maidugoro, Number 13 you shall be the Amir Yenagora, Number 14 you shall be the Amir Akura, Number 15 you shall be the Amir Abeokuto, Number 16 you shall be the Amir Osogba, Number 17 you shall be the Amir Lokojo, Number 18 you shall be the Amir Gusawu, Number 19 you shall be the Amir Baucha, Number 20 you shall be the Amir Yole.”
“Number 21 you shall be the Amir Damatura. Number 22 you shall be the Amir Katsino, Number 23 you shall be the Amir Illoran, Number 24 you shall be the Amir Minno, Number 25 you shall be the Amir Dutso, Number 26 you shall be the Amir Kaduno, Number 27 you shall be the Amir Abakaliko, Number 28 you shall be the Amir Jalingwa, Number 29 you shall be the Amir Umuaho, Number 30 you shall be the Amir Awko.”
“Number 31 you shall be the Amir Uya, Number 32 you shall be the Amir Calabo, Number 33 you shall be the Amir Ado-Ekito, Number 34 you shall be the Amir Gombo, Number 35 you shall be the Amir of Birnin Kebbo, Number 36 you shall be you the Amir Jusa. Numbers 37, 38 and 39 you shall be the Amirs of the special commercial cities of Abo, Onitsho and Warro respectively.”
“I as your leader shall be the Amir of Abujo, while I hereby nominate Sir Ali Banza himself to be the Grand Patron of all of us the Gang of Forty Herdsmen. In my capacity as the Amir Abujo, I shall remain in close contact with Sir Ali Banza in order to ensure that everything is going on smoothly.”
“For the first 6 months after your installation, all you herdsmen must lie low and study your respective terrains and localities. Please if you need more manpower, feel free to send for the brethren in such far flung areas as Central African Republic, Camerooun, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, etc to reinforce your positions. In fact that is one of the reasons why we are holding this Convention for all African Herdsmen so that you get to know them personally”
“Do not worry about passport or entry visa into Negera. The Principal of Internal Business who is our sympathizer says our external cousins shall not be molested at the borders and shall be granted free passage into the country with all the assorted tools that they can conceivably bring along with them.”
“After one year of peace following the approval of the grazing reserves, please you are instructed to start encroaching into the neighboring farms beyond your specially allotted grazing areas under the bill. In fact you are advised to resume your openly hostile acts once more with increasing violence. A second bill for the extension of our grazing areas shall then be presented to the Parliament consequent upon your acts of extreme violence.”
“This second bill shall increase the grazing area five-fold. Once this is achieved, please cease all hostilities for another period of 1 year before resuming your violence once more. We shall incrementally increase our grazing areas until we drive all our enemies into the Lagosa Lagoon or into the Atlantic Ocean whichever is the nearer. I hope I am well understood?” “Yes, yes, yes Grand Amir of Abujo,” all the 39 herdsmen echoed in approval.
At this time the Amir Designate Abo, raised his hands. “Grand Amir Abujo, I have a question.” “Yes go ahead,” replied the Herdsman-in-Chief.”
“How do we counter the antics and ideas of Sir Ali Banza’s busybody maid called Social Media who is vehemently opposed to the passage of this grazing bill and is suggesting that in addition to wealthy citizens establishing ranches, each local government should establish at least one livestock market where indigent herdsmen and pastoralists may keep their cattle and then buy grass cut from the surrounding fields by the indigenous youths and natives.”
“Thank you for that question Amir Designate Abo,” replied the herdsman-in-chief.”
“I can tell you that maid Social Media’s ideas are giving us sleepless nights. That is why we want to rush the passage of the grazing bill quickly through the Parliament and that is also partly why I am asking you herdsmen to increase your violence until the bill is passed.”
“We do not want to encourage debate into all these Social Media’s useless ideas as people may begin to see some merit in them and thereby foil our plans. Unlike the people who just say that ranching is the answer to the Herdsmen vs Natives conflict which by the way we can easily counter by the counter-argument that it is elitist since ordinary herdsmen do not have the resources to acquire ranches, this foolish maid Social Media is further suggesting that each local government be encouraged to open livestock markets.”
“Note that Social Media calls it ‘livestock market’ and under the constitution, markets majorly fall under the jurisdiction of local governments. So our members can never claim possession of those markets in the future since they will be paying rent for the use of the markets to the Local Government. Moreover this ‘livestock markets’ idea deflates our argument about the marginalization of the ordinary herdsmen since the livestock markets shall be open to all.”
“In addition our members shall be forced to pay tax to the local government, pay for overnight security men for their livestock and be forced to rent houses from the natives. No we do not want this.”
“Our way forward is to use the Members of Parliament to achieve our goals. When these native peoples sell their votes and consciences and elect people without conscience or scruples as their representatives they fail to realize the magnitude of the harm and damage they are doing to their own interests.”
“You should all note that unscrupulous elected representatives are vulnerable to either their own greed or to blackmail over their past misdeeds. Either way the native peoples’ interests must suffer. Unlike us herdsmen who are always loyal to our own group interests and are invulnerable to blackmail, these infidels are loyal only to their pockets and therefore always vulnerable to blackmail.”
“That is why Sir Ali Banza is unperturbed. He knows we have all these people where we want them and that is by their balls. Their representatives will either vote for the grazing bill or be prepared to go to jail because of their past corrupt and criminal offences.”
“But we must do our own part to hasten the process without interference from extraneous ideas such as ranching and livestock markets. This we can only do through secrecy. Note that not all of our herdsmen brothers are as crooked as us. You know many foolish herdsmen are just simple, naïve and innocent. So do not disclose our plans to anyone outside our group and never to the ordinary law abiding and simple herdsmen you see dancing outside.”
“Regarding secrecy, another major problem we have is this Ali Baba’s maid, sorry I beg your pardon, I actually meant to say Sir Ali Banza’s maid Social Media. Sir Ali Banza says this woman Social Media is uncontrollable. All it takes to expose our plans is one lunatic friend of Social Media armed with a computer or cell phone plus internet connection and a few hundred words of Turenchi (English Language).”
“Like I said we have the members of Parliament under our control. Through the brethren in office, we can control the regular media with padded envelopes. In fact the brethren in position have already padded the 2016 monetary allocations for this very purpose. But how can we control this stubborn maid called Social Media who exposes all our plans?”
One of the herdsmen raised his hands. The Chief Herdsman nodded to him. “Yes Number 32, what is your suggestion regarding this dilemma?”
“My suggestion is that since the friends of Social Media need electricity to operate computers as well as to charge phones, we should ensure that electricity supply across the nation falls to 0 MW and that there is no fuel (gas) at the pump stations. That way friends of Social Media cannot post new articles and even they do, the people will not be able to read their posts. This will solve the problem once and for all.”
“Excellent idea Number 32. I must commend your ingenuity. You see this is one of the reasons why Negerans must never see the light. We shall tell them that we intend to provide 10,000 MW of electricity but we shall deliver 0 MW. We must ‘almajirize’ the nation and turn Negera into a nation of nomadic migrants who have to beg for food to survive. Almajiris do what they are told provided they are given a little food to eat.”
“That is why we have a major problem with the Red Eboes. Unlike most other Negerans, the Red Eboes are hardly organized. Each one of them is a law unto himself. They do not have recognized leaders that we can deal with to ensure their obedience. It is no wonder their ancestors gave the British colonialists so much problem. So much so that their women were married out to Ashanti slaves in Jamaican sugar plantations by the British to dilute their rebellious spirit.”
“And this brings me to the grazing policy when we undertake aggressive actions.”
“For the women you encounter in the bush, you are enjoined to graze them below their belts so that they may yield fruit for us. For the men you are to graze-off their necks. So the standing policy of the action is ‘graze upon the women and graze away the men.’ You may also kidnap the women and export them into your harem at home.”
One herdsman whose romantic preference was for men however complained loudly that he was being marginalized by the new grazing policy since he would have no ‘organically conscious’ male captive to graze upon. Having contemplated the matter intently and realizing that this particular herdsman despite his awkward romantic orientation was a man of valor, proven in battle, the Leader of the gang decided to make an exception.
“Okay, okay Number 13,” he said. “Those of you who have reverse romantic orientation are allowed to graze upon the male captives on their abutments. But you must immediately afterwards graze-off their necks. Remember the policy, no hostages caught in the bush may be seized while organically conscious, except those with visibly protruding breasts who might bear our fruit in future and help to dilute the bloodline and resistance of the infidels.”
“Very good. Brethren I also want to notify you that I have arranged special syndicated break-out sessions meant exclusively for our gang during this convention. Topics to be covered include ‘How to organize a successful kidnap’ to be presented by one of our international brethren who is a renowned practitioner of kidnapping with many years of experience with Al Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM). Apart from the hard skills of carrying out a kidnap we shall also be learning from him about the soft skills of negotiating successfully for higher ransom payments from the victim’s families.”
We also have a special syndicated break-out session exclusively for our gang titled ‘How to graze-off people’s neck without attracting attention’ to be presented by a well-qualified resource person who worked for many years as an operative with Boko Haram and later graduated into ISIS. Do you have any other questions? I see there is none.”
“Okay great herdsmen – the gang of 40. The battle cry has been sounded. The conquest is on. Go back to your respective territories and practice extreme violence while awaiting the signal to come forward for embedment in the grazing bill at the ripe time.”
With that admonition from their leader, the 40 herdsmen hugged one another exuberantly and melted away into the dark recesses of the night to join in the ongoing festive celebrations of the Herdsmen Convention.
Regarding the Convention itself, it was a huge success and a great spectacle. There was plenty of talking points ranging from the hillocks of cattle dung dotting the landscape, to the impressive performance of the APC-Wonder Grass which ensured that no cattle went hungry throughout the 1 week long convention. There was also an orgy of climbing up and climbing down going on among the hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic and well fed cattle present.
However what puzzled international observers most was how the herdsmen would be able to identify their individual cattle herds at the end of the Convention since hundreds of thousands of cattle had mingled thoroughly among themselves.
To the amazement of the observers at the end of the convention however, once each Herdsman packed his belongings and made a whistling sound, all his cattle separated themselves from the huge mass of cattle and followed him, their rightful owner.
At the end of the 1st All-African Herdsmen Convention, there was not an iota of confusion arising from distraught herdsmen searching for their cattle. In fact not one single head of cattle got missing. Talk of the wonders of nomadic cattle herding.
• THE END -
Disclaimer: - This is a pure work of fiction meant solely for common entertainment. The characters in this piece do not bear and are not intended to have any resemblance to any person or persons living or dead. Any observed similarity is purely coincidental.
Anthony Chuka Konwea, Ph.D., P.E., M.ASCE, MNSE, FNIStructE, MNICE.
President John Dramani Mahama, in a State of the Nation address to mark Ghana’s 59th independence anniversary on March 6, 2016, made two important pronouncements with foreign relations implications. The first was his government’s plan to improve the knowledge and usage of French language in Anglophone Ghana, which is surrounded by French speaking nations. The advantages of this strategic initiative, if effectively implemented, are many.
The second policy statement of international import, but which almost escaped media attention is that, starting next July, citizens of the other 53 member States of the African Union (AU) can “obtain visas on arrival (in Ghana) with the option of staying for up to 30 days.” President Mahama expects this measure to stimulate air travel, trade, investment and tourism in Ghana which, like many other African countries, is going through a difficult economic patch.
Historically, this should not be a big deal in Africa that prides itself as the land of hospitality, where the people are their brother’s and sister’s keepers. In fact, Ghana’s independence President, Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah, had boasted on March 6, 1957 when the then Gold Coast became independent Ghana that “…our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of the African continent.”
To his credit, under Nkrumah and until his overthrow in the coup of 24 February 1966, Ghana granted visa exemptions to “persons of African descent” born in the neighbouring West African countries, and members of the Casablanca Group – Guinea, Tunisia, Mali, United Arab Republic, Morocco and Algeria – which along with the Liberia Group, formed the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1963, with the Pan-Africanist Ghanaian leader playing a leading role. In his 1961 book, I Speak of Freedom, Nkrumah had also expressed the hope that: …the African race, united under one federal government, will emerge not as just another world bloc to flaunt its wealth and strength, but as a Great Power whose greatness is indestructible because it is built not on fear, envy and suspicion, nor won at the expense of others, but founded on hope, trust, friendship and directed to the good of all mankind.”
But so much has happened with the concept of a United States of Africa, which took its origin from the 1924 poem “Hail, United States of Africa” by Marcus Garvey, American civil rights activist and great Pan-Africanist. The late Libyan leader Muoamar Gaddafi had romanced with the same idea in his relentless push for the formation of the AU, which succeeded the OAU in 2002, and many still talk with passion about the African Renaissance.
As expected, the AU Commission Chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, has lauded Ghana’s visa-on-arrival plan, expressing the hope that “many other African countries will follow suit, in the interest of achieving an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa.”
Modern Africa owes a debt of eternal gratitude to Pan-Africanists and independent leaders such as Nkrumah, for their sacrificial struggles, so any initiative that seeks to rekindle the dreams of those founding fathers must be welcome by all true Africans and friends of Africa. But it is a strong indictment on the continent’s post-independent leadership that almost 60 years after many of the countries gained political freedom, Africans are more divided than ever. Africa is not zero-poor, but with the mismanagement of its rich human and natural resources, bad governance, corruption and the vicious circle of social strife, poverty and unemployment, there are today more skilled Africans in Europe, and the Americas than are in their home countries. And almost on a daily basis thousands of disillusioned, hopeless and desperate African youths risk their lives on perilous journeys to Europe.
It is no longer news that Africa and Africans are fast losing their unique identity if they have not already done so, with Pan-Africanism now at best a slogan to the inattentive ears of present generation of Africans. Not a few African leaders have proclaimed or still proclaim Africa as the centre piece of their national foreign policy. But the reality today is that while they continue to pay lip service to African unity, most of these leaders, under the guise of solving domestic problems, many of which are self-inflicted any way, steal their countries dry to build personal castles at home and abroad.
Ghana’s visa-on-arrival plan for AU citizens may also be viewed against the deafening complaints by African citizens about the difficulties and humiliations they suffer to obtain visas to Europe and the United States of America. But the truth is that the process of obtaining visas to African countries is no less laborious and frustrating. For many Africans, travelling in the continent whether by road or by air is a nightmarish experience. In some cases air fares cost more than elsewhere while immigration and check points punctuate the trans – national roads, some of which are in terrible conditions, with the attendant extortion of travellers by the border security personnel. The travel delays and the lack of deliberate pan-African national policies have ensured that intra-African trade hovers between 10 per cent and 12 per cent compared to 40 per cent in North America and 60 per cent in Western Europe.
The 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) founded in 1975 deserves commendation for its 1979 flagship Protocol on Free Movement of persons, goods and services, rights to Establishment and Residence, which guarantees community citizens, a free-visa entry and stay in countries other than their own for 90 days at first instance. In spite of its imperfections, the implementation of this protocol is a major stride towards regional integration and makes ECOWAS the only Regional Economic Community (REC) with a free-visa regime. In fact, in the whole of Africa, it is only the Seychelles, an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean off East Africa, with a population of less than 90,000 people, which grants visa free access to all foreign nationals.
Time was when Africans took refuge and were even provided the national passports of their host African countries during the independence struggles. Hundreds even received free education in their host countries during the Anti-Apartheid era. But with globalization and world economic crisis, African migrants who once constituted the bulwark of economic development on the continent, have become targets of violent xenophobic attacks by fellow Africans who accuse them of stealing their jobs.
If Europe is accused of erecting walls/fences to stop immigrants, African countries are no less guilty for the erection of invisible walls against fellow Africans even in their times of need.
With their ill-gotten wealth and multiple foreign visas, many African leaders and members of their families flaunt their ostentatious life styles abroad, while the majority of Africans are stranded and condemned to abject poverty at home. The same leaders bemoan capital flight and brain-drain from Africa but do very little or nothing to incentivise or create the enabling environment to retain local capital or manpower. Instead, they encourage the mass exodus of Africa’s best brains; discourage foreign investment and incite social crisis that cause death, destruction and render citizens, refugees in their own countries. With their dual/multiple nationalities, these unpatriotic leaders easily disappear with their families to enjoy their ill-gotten wealth abroad. And unsatisfied with presiding over comatose or non-existent local health systems, these selfish leaders are now promoting medical tourism at the expense of their own countries.
As things stand, every African must undertake a serious reality check to determine their Africanness and how they have derailed the lofty dreams of African founding fathers, for the purpose of damage control/limitation. Symbolic as Ghana’s visa-on-arrival initiative may seem, it is a reminder to Africans in general about where they are coming from. The AU and various Pan-Africanist groups/institutions and policy think-tanks must wake up from their slumber. It is bad enough that through slavery, colonial and neo-colonial exploitations and plundering, Africa’s sweat, blood and wealth were used to lay the foundations for the industrialisation and transformation of many countries in Europe and the Americas. For Africans themselves to now become champions of Africa’s disunity/disintegration, and the continued siphoning of the continent’s resources, is an unpardonable crime against humanity.
—Ejime wrote in from Abuja
THE All Progressives Congress (APC) Federal Government led by President Muhammadu Buhari appears hell-bent on imposing the establishment of grazing reserves across Nigeria in spite of the many unpalatable implications it will unleash on unsuspecting Nigerians. On Thursday, 31st March 2016, I wrote an article on this column entitled: “Ranching, yes; grazing reserves, no!”
The article called attention to what was then speculated as intentions of the Federal Government to launch this obnoxious policy aimed at handing over lands belonging to indigenous communities to Fulani cattle owners in the guise of establishing “grazing reserves”. Now, the masquerade has been unmasked: the Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Audu Ogbeh, has disclosed that President Buhari has directed him to implement the programme. According to him, he will start it from the North, where he will establish 50,000 hectares of grazing reserves.
Then, he will import his beloved Brazil grass to feed the cattle. When he is done with that, he will, in his own words: “move South”. With the Fulani herdsmen now settled in their newly-acquired grazing lands, perhaps without paying a kobo or even negotiating with landowners and obtaining their express permission to use their land, the herdsmen will stop invading communities, destroying the farms of poor villagers, killing, maiming, kidnapping, raping and dehumanising innocent Nigerians.
Nigeria will become self-sufficient in animal and dairy products, and everybody will live happily ever after. That is the picture Ogbeh and his paymasters are painting for us. However, we have very strong reasons to suspect that the establishment of grazing reserves is an ancient agenda of ethnic imperialism which dates back to the Fulani Jihads that Islamised the North about two hundred years ago. I read an interesting article by one Dr. Gundu of the Department of Archaeology, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He gave a useful insight into the grazing reserves phenomenon, which should jolt our complacently ignorant countrymen, especially those from the Southern parts of the country. Gundu’s article is entitled: History Class On Grazing Reserves: “Why Fulani Herdsmen Want Your Land”. It traces the historical experiments in the North to impose this policy and an outcome of it in some parts which you will not want repeated in your local community.
According to Gundu: “Grazing reserves and stock routes are known to dominate Fulani demands on the country and all leading presidential candidates in previous elections in the country since 1999 have committed themselves in writing to the Fulani on the issue of grazing reserves”. Gundu also observes that the idea dates back to colonial times. The British colonial masters, who handed over power to the Fulani (the overlords of the North) had toyed with the idea of granting them this wish but did not have enough time to do so. So, when the Sardauna of Sokoto, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, became the Premier of the Northern Region, he established the first grazing reserves and “”stock routes” in Sokoto, Katsina, Zaria and Bauchi Provinces in 1965. An angle of it will interest (and warn) you.
Today’s Southern Kaduna was part of Zaria Province, so Ahmadu Bello sited a grazing reserve in Kachia (a Christian part of old Zaria Province which the Usman Dan Fodio Jihadists were unable to Islamise). He settled his ethnic Fulani herdsmen there. They became known as Kachechari (or Fulani’s of Kachia). Though the indigenes still regard them as “visitors”, these Fulani’s who have been settled in this territory for 50 years now demand a chiefdom, which will officially confirm their ownership of the land that belongs to Kachia people. Till date, it is a source of tension between the two sides, and the “herdsmen” have been armed to assert their “ownership rights”. President Buhari is, by posture and disposition, first of all Fulani/Muslim before any other thing. He essentially models himself as the modern-day Ahmadu Bello, a prince of the Sokoto Caliphate (though Buhari is no prince). Gundu notes that when General Sani Abacha was the Head of State and Buhari was his highly privileged cohort and the Executive Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), he put pressure on Abacha to revive Ahmadu Bello’s grazing reserves scheme.
This, however, could not take off before Abacha died. It is also on record that President Buhari, a well-known cattle business owner, was (and maybe still is) the Grand Patron of the association Fulani cattle owners and herdsmen, the Minyeti Allah. In fact, he once led a delegation of his members to former Governor Lam Adesina of Oyo State when clashes between Fulani’s and indigenes in Oyo state to loss of many Fulani lives. He is quoted to have asked Governor Adesina: “why are your people killing my people?” So, it should not come to anyone as a surprise that, as President of Nigeria, Buhari will be pushing this policy in this day and age when nomadic pastoralism has gone out of fashion except in backward climes in Africa and Asia where some elements among the Mongols, Fulanis and Masais are still tightly clinging to their ancient cultural lifestyle. It is also not surprising that some state governors in the North, like Kano and Plateau, have already offered to participate in the grazing reserves project. Kano, in fact, boasts that it was the one that revived the idea.
If Kano and other Northern states where Fulani herdsmen have ancestral homes and legitimate titles to land prefer to establish reserves rather than encourage cattle owners to set up modern ranches, so be it. If Plateau has opted for it after herdsmen slaughtered men, women and children (especially babies) in isolated communities for more than ten years, I hope Governor Simon Lalong has consulted his people and secured their approval to do so. I know, for sure, that Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, has vowed his state will not be part of it, but politicians are like chameleons. Whatever he does, he must implement the wishes of his people.
That is the bottom line of this matter. Every state governor, whether they are of the APC or PDP or any other party, must consider the implications of creating and handing over lands for grazing reserves to Fulani cattle businessmen and their armed militias. It simply means you have converted them to automatic indigenes of your state. If that is what the people of your state want then go ahead. Otherwise, you will be setting the perfect scenario for future wars between the children of the indigenes and the Fulani “visitors” in years to come. Fulani herdsmen will not always be allowed to continue to terrorise other Nigerians unchecked.
A time will come when people could take matters into their hands, even if it means confronting the law enforcement agencies which are reluctant to enforce the law and protect those being attacked in their communal lands. Buhari will not always be there to guarantee the safety of those he wishes to foist on indigenous communities through this ethnic expansionist policy. The only sensible alternative, I restate, is to create a national policy to covert herdsmen into ranchers. Ranching is a business – big business. Modernised animal agriculture is an essential part of our drive for employment, economic diversification and self-sufficiency in food. We must plan big for it and make it attractive for as many Nigerians as possible to venture into it. Animal agriculture does not have to be an exclusive ethnic occupation or preoccupation. Ogbeh and his paymasters are blundering into a foolish and explosively risky national policy which consequences they may not be around to shoulder. They must be stopped by well-meaning Nigerians and people of good will before they plunge this country into another Sudan Darfur. A word is enough for the wise!
The buzz “Globalization” has redefined socio economic affairs in many developing and underdeveloped countries. Many countries are relishing robust trade deals in lieu of more liberal international economic laws, promoting less barriers and reduced tariffs in an effort to create real and valuable assets-based-opportunities, tailored towards growing economic and social wealth, particularly in the emerging markets. Many emerging market economies, including Nigeria have struggled to simulate the dynamics of the global concept, resulting in some cases - repressive and damaging socio economic policies. Below expectation economic performances from the BRIC countries, per their last 5years economic metrics, have provided deep insight into two different economic models that may have been employed by many other emerging markets – Nigeria, a case study.
On one part is the economy system driven solely on natural resources. And the other is the economy structure that is aligned with human capital.
On a consistent note, Nigeria has been measured by experts as a country with enormous potentials, similar to some of the BRICs. But Nigeria economic growth deterrence lies in her inability to align its powerful human capital with its massive natural resources.
The crash in the oil market becomes a wrench in many oil producing nation’s policies and economic strategies, making a long term fiscal and economic projections a notoriously delicate endeavor. The unprecedented situation complicates economic trajectory for emerging economies that rely heavily on petrodollar, creating a sense of urgency for oil nation managers to exert their leadership skills in resource management.
At the height of commodities boom, the emerging market economies ushered in various power brokers or political juggernauts, and they were, and still very close to the helms of their respective government affairs. They have steadily upended their influence in channeling state resources to meeting unguarded goals and objectives. In Nigeria, mafia-like groups took over key institutions, and run the systems with little or zero ethics. The Oligarchies are the gun powders of day to day business activities in Russia’s most lucrative markets, and the Odebrecht and Petrobras decides what goes into Brazil fiscal policies. Just as the promising emerging markets got clobbered with market uncertainties, the power brokers in Indian and China pulled together their think-tanks and unconventionally began to develop a workforce that is turning Asia market a force to reckon with. The Chinese stake holders spread their risks across all economic sectors – strong manufacturing sector, promotes financial prudency, introduce competitive educational systems, reinvigorate its service industry, and spend years constructing roads, bridges and residential houses for their middle class. Strategically, it also encourages disruptive technology in the area of Intellectual Property, and has maintained an era of trade surplus, helping its economy to continue to build a middle class workforce. Over the years, the smartest of the Indians have come together to reinvent India’s education system, building a competitive high-tech workforce and a branded medical service. India professionals in IT have reshaped global service industries, attracting more than 500 US off shore corporations. The West corporate inversions to China and India have helped both nations’ major stock indexes in positive territory. And both countries have performed far better than Brazil and Russia, whose economic growth model relied heavily on natural resources just like Nigeria.
Assessing the efforts of Nigeria think-tanks or the smartest guys that found themselves at the corridor of affairs, it is appalling what seems to be on Nigerians score sheet. My research found that, unlike the Oligarchies, the Odebrecht and Petrobras who to some extent invested in other sectors of their respective local economies, Nigerian smartest politicians are predominantly found in off shore business activities, siphoning the little earned petrodollar premium back to the Western economy.
Many of Nigeria mafias have invested their stolen monies in personal homes abroad (USA, Britain, Dubai, South Africa and a host of other countries). Why should a Nigerian based politician maintain a residential home in the USA? I honestly cannot find a reasonable answer to this question. For my readers who do not understand USA real estate market, here is a hypothetical case – A Nigerian based politician who owns a $1,000,000 house in America is expected to pay at least 2% of $1,000,000 in property taxes and between 1.5% and 2% of $1,000,000 for maintenance on a yearly bases. So, what sense does it make for a Nigeria politician to pull an average of $35,000 from the local economy every year and send it to America to help develop America cities and counties?
Unlike the Chinese and Indian stake holders, Nigeria mafias are notorious of importing high end luxury cars and even private jets for recreational purposes. A personal friend calls his luxurious car “my toy”. Again, the question is, does this toy fit an environment where roads are very bad and unsafe? Remember, they will need hard earned community dollars to fix the slightest hiccup in the engineering of the car or private jet.
I personally expected Nigerian high rollers to be loyal to their economy where returns on equity could be higher. But Nigeria mafias favors stocking their monies in the Western economies where equity returns has been very low. Investment in Bonds and Treasury instruments performed even worse in the West.
Understandably, celebration of life and occasions are part of Nigerian culture, but the culture may be at stretch when our smart leaders are seen throwing scarce $$ bills in the air at parties. Interestingly, the new trend is even more worrisome - the urge for privately brewed imported drinks at ceremonies. This indicates another way of redefining the class structure in Nigeria society. It is imperative to note that this is happening in a country where unemployment has ballooned through the roof and middle class is pretty much on its knees.
In consideration of Nigeria numerous challenges and the enormous opportunities within reach, I was hoping the smart politicians will show some sense of creativity by recycling the stolen money in Nigeria emerging economy such that, it at least add values to the system they have looted. May be a good way to begin to seek forgiveness for their deeds!
It cost China 4years and a sum of $1.5b to build a 26 mile bridge that is warranted for 100 years by Chinese workers. How about Nigeria politicians emulating such a fit by using the stolen monies to construct a toll-based highway from Lagos to Port Harcourt or from Port Harcourt to Kano? Not only will the concept provide them and their families a stream of perpetual income, it will also give an average motorist on these roads some sense of traffic relief.
Recently, a group of international investors submitted a proposal for a massive solar energy power base in the desert of North Africa - an area that covers the borders of Algeria and Egypt. The financial outlay has not been officially finalized but I don’t think the project is beyond what our smart looters can join hands and execute in the interest of Nigeria economy. Nigerians will skip meals to pay for electricity – it will result in a win win endeavor.
Nigerian mafias will rather travel to India or the West for medical issues than to find solutions to our hospital problems in Nigeria. They prefer to rush their children to universities abroad than to upgrade our educational systems. They will rather look for ways to weaken naira than to give the Nigeria economy a boost. In spite of these anomalies, we still treat them like semi-god.
Recent shortages in petroleum products and nation-wide electricity blackout have proven to the investment world that Nigeria is not ready to be a formidable player in the emerging economies. This is particularly sad because the economy situation in the country now is dire, and there is urgent need for a turn around. The government seems to show some calmness at time of desperation, where life of an average Nigerian is getting eroded by the day. Business is stagnant; manufacturers are either relocating outside the country or closing shops. The naira is losing value, inflation is off chat and the government is yet to demonstrate a path to resurrection. Nigerians home and abroad have banked a little hope on the news of recovered looted money, but what is been done with the money can only be imagined. According to JP Morgan, more than $1billion has been moved from Nigeria equity market in 12 months to other emerging economies including Mexico, Indonesia and Turkey.
The world has become so small and every country is looking for a piece of the pie. The challenges are real and its time for our big guys to measure up. A focused based emerging economy should be directing its resources to creating opportunities for its people, especially where the demographic is favorable and the people are determined.
The last time I sighted a cross-over carrier politician in his egoistic opulence, and his wife well decorated with a leash-like necklace, I questioned his smartness and why the political class have no respect for Nigerian lives, his answers were resentful – Nigerians don’t complain. He may be right; otherwise we will not have some of the governors out there running shows for their states.
It is important to note that, the West cares and love Nigeria. They will never desert us, knowing a failed Nigeria is their headache. They will however continue to allow our corrupt politicians to launder petrol money into their systems. They will target, and attract our young and the brightest if we choose to ignore them. They will equip them and embrace their knowledge. They will listen to their plights and suave them into changing allegiance. They will stay afar and watch as we continue to write and rewrite our depressing history. They will remain peace keepers through their numerous charity organizations and ensure no dissidents are allowed to disrupt the fragile tact between all the different ethnic groups. They pray one day, we learn from our mistakes and begin to explore our potentials. As the hope and aspiration lingers in the land of milk and honey, so is suffering and smiling.
Femi Fabiyi is based in Connecticut, USA