Between Gumi, Bala Mohammed and El-Rufai

Except for the political elite driven by greed for power, most Nigerians believe we have been ordained by God or nature to live together. Our multi-ethnic groups are inter-dependent. Besides the physical features such as the drainage system and vegetation zones, which cut Nigeria out as an economic unit, other social forces apart from British imperialism would have forced us to live together.

A few days back, I was exchanging banters with a colleague who has now retired into fish farming in his native Delta State. He was complaining about the price of millet and sorghum which he said was hitting the roof because of the general insecurity occasioned by activities of herdsmen, bandits and kidnappers. He kept on wondering if those currently mishandling our crisis of nation building actually appreciate how interdependent we are as a people.

The truth is that even the aggrieved and much abused oil-rich Niger Delta that lost their illustrious sons including Isaac Boro and Ken Saro Wiwa to the struggle for the survival of Ogoni land and the Ijaw people in general, understand we cannot do without each other. That perhaps explains why in their struggle for truth, justice and fairness, they have never visited violence on other innocent Nigerians, the Fulani or any other ethnic group for that matter.

The myth of our ethnic division has only been strengthened by greed for power by our self-serving political elite who laid the foundation for politics of falsehood, injustice and opportunism.

When Ahmadu Bello and the northern leaders in 1953 insisted on 50% of the member of House of Representatives and non-negotiation of boundaries as precondition for remaining part of Nigeria, Awo, according to Trevor Clark, had said the north should have been allowed to secede so that they could experience the consequences of secession. Awo, although an unrepentant federalist, nonetheless suggested we retain a secession clause in our constitution. At the 1957 independence constitutional debate in London, Awo who the British press claimed was the only one who spoke as statesman, insisted that for Nigerians to be truly free, regions must be created for minority groups seeking self- actualization and the issue of boundary adjustment must be resolved. Unfortunately our political elite chose falsehood, injustice and opportunism.

Since we sowed the wind, it followed naturally that we would not escape reaping the whirlwind. The chicken finally came home to roost with the outcome of the December 1959 federal election. The 1952/53 British supervised census exercise had awarded 16.5m to the north, seven million to the Easts and six million to the West minus Lagos. But in the December 12, 1959 election, the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) despite intimidation and blackmailing of voters, came a distant third with 1.9million votes to Action Group’s (AG) two million and NCNC National Council of Nigeria and Cameroon’s (NCNC) 2.5million.

To sustain the 1952 fraud, many have alleged infiltration of Fulani herdsmen across our porous borders during census exercises and elections were often encouraged by the hegemonic power in the north. But it boils down to the metaphor of those who foolishly sought power by riding on the back of a tiger. The fear of immigrant Fulani herdsmen has today become the beginning of wisdom for most northern state governors.

Governor Nasir El-Rufai who once attributed North’s invincibility during election to its numerical strength not too long ago admitted paying ransom to foreign Fulani herdsmen and bandits in an effort to stop mindless killing of the people of Southern Kaduna. He was to admit later to the futility of trying to negotiate with bandits or herdsmen who make N100,000 selling a cow but now make a million kidnapping one person for ransom. His Katsina counterpart, Governor Bello Masari who had paid ransom to bandits a number of times in the past must have since also come to the same sad conclusion.

If the outcome of 1959 election results was not sufficient proof that the British supervised census return of 1952/3 for the north was dubious, the recent admission of a former stalwart of PDP and now a leading light of APC that Fulani were invited in during the 2019 election from other parts of West Africa only but confirmed what most people have always suspected-

Following last week’s abduction of about 42 persons, including students, staff and their families from the Government Science College Kagara in Niger State, Sheikh Gumi visited Tagina forest where he met with bandits’ group leader, Dogo Gide and his fighters. He also visited Birnin Gwari forest in Kaduna State to confer with bandits and herdsmen. He revealed the bandits were invited by aggrieved Nigerian Fulani seeking vengeance. It was not made clear whether it was vengeance against those who resisted the take-over of their farmlands as they did in Benue State or over their alleged arrest and prosecution by the military as also claimed by Sheikh Gumi. His recommendation after conferring with killer herdsmen that the military and the police told us were invincible was that government should give blanket amnesty to those bandits willing to make peace.

On his part, Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi who argued against a blanket amnesty however agreed with Gumi when he declared that “Nigeria was experiencing infiltration of criminals from neighbouring Benin Republic, adding: “The bandits are Fulani that has no one to control them, even their parents”.

But this admission has not stopped Governor Bala Mohammed from playing a game of mischief as long as it guarantees his clinging to power as he has done since 1984, serving at different times as Director of Nigerian Railway Corporation, Nigerian Meteorological Agency, Federal Ministry of Solid Minerals, senator, and as Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Minister of Aviation and Minister of Power and Steel, with little or no impact on the people he claims to serve,

Attacking Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State over enforcement of his state’s 2006 Forestry Law forbidding farming, logging or pasturing of cattle in any part of Ondo reserve forest, he had said: ‘no one owns Nigeria forest’. Defending his support for illegal occupation of southwest reserve forest by herdsmen who move around with AK-47 assault guns, his press secretary said: “To interpret such a temporary stay as a form of ‘land grab’ by the Fulani herdsmen is completely incorrect; adding, “in actual fact, neither does such temporary habitation of the forest inconvenience anyone …”

If Governor Mohammed is unaware of herdsmen’s siege on his neighbouring Benue State where sacking and confiscation of villages have forced displaced farmers to take refuge in IDP camps, oblivious of Gumi’s narrative of his encounter with killer herdsmen inside Birnin Gwari forest, reprisal killings in southern Kaduna and the tale of woes by victims of herdsmen and bandits assault elsewhere in the north, it is most unlikely he would have heard about the mindless killing, kidnapping and raping of women in the southwest farms, forest and roads in the last three years.

Unfortunately, it is this type of hypocrisy, mischief and disdain for truth, which Bala Mohammed, like his forbears, driven only by greed for power, exhibited last week that continue to prolong the nightmare of ordinary Nigerian victims of our elite’s conspiracy.

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