Of northern governors and abdication

It is the view of not a few Nigerians that the Nigerian political class that has since independence shortchanged the masses on whose back its members rode to power, is the scourge of the nation. The only time the ordinary Nigerians featured in the calculation of the political class after attaining power was the brief period between 1952 and 1959 when the fear of the imperial powers kept the then aspiring new inheritors of power on their toes.

If anyone is in doubt, all he needs to do is to take a look at the 1963 Republican Constitution midwifed by our political class. There was nothing in that superstructure about the masses of Nigerians. It was all about acquisition of additional powers by the leading actors of the ruling coalition NPC/NCNC. Government policy thrusts including creation of Mid-West Region were driven by self-interest of actors without consideration for the future of the nation.

When they finally pulled down the whole edifice over sharing of political offices after the 1962/63 census crisis and 1964 disputed election, the military that came in 1966 only followed in their footsteps. Instead of the new self-proclaiming messiahs fighting ‘ten percenters’, they institutionalised corruption through self-serving government policy thrusts including the 1978 Land Use Decree which allowed military governors on posting to share state priceless land to strangers and Babangida’s commercialization policy which allowed military men and their fronts to share the nation’s public enterprises.

The emergence of military-bred ‘new breed politicians’ that breed only corruption in 1999 only increased the nightmare of ordinary Nigerians. In the name of privatization, the political class sold Nigeria’s total investment of over $100b for a little over $1b to themselves, leading to the collapse of our budding manufacturing sector and turning of the country into importer of labour of other societies while our young graduates roam the streets for job. Following in their fathers’ footsteps, their children, according to a house probe, forged papers to steal N1.6trillion from government under the government’s fuel subsidy scam.

That the political class often unleash armed thugs on the people during election has gone beyond the realm of speculation. We have it on the authority of President Jonathan’s former National Security Adviser, General Owoye Andrew Azazi that Boko Haram was a creation of North-eastern politicians. We also have it on the authority of Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje, former chairman of PDP that Fulanis from Mali, Sierra Leone, Senegal and others were imported into the country to win the 2015 elections just as we have it on the authority of Dr Abubakar Gumi that most of the bandits terrorising Nigerians are aggrieved Fulani herdsmen seeking vengeance over government unfulfilled promises.

Unarguably, the Nigerian political class is tarred with the same brush. But in terms of greed for power and impoverishment of the masses of Nigerians, the northern political class has no rival. Unfortunately, the preoccupation of northern leaders since the end of the civil war has been to bring the south down to the same level with the north through various government policy thrusts including JAMB and now attempts at exporting self-inflicted social problems of the north to the south.

Government has become a science. State and local policing have been found to be the answer to insecurity. But majority of northern governors with the exception of Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna, for fear of losing grip on the poor masses of the north, are opposed to state and local policing.

Last week’s belated decision to embrace ranching and the decision of the Northeast governors to join their counterparts in the South to demand for state and community police after all the killings, cattle rustling kidnapping and seizure of farm lands can at best be described as actions of rulers who are not answerable to the people.

For instance, a 2017 study titled ‘Conflict and Insecurity in Northern Nigeria’ by Mike Shand/International Crisis Group revealed the following facts.

That in 2016, over 2,000 people were killed and tens of thousands displaced in Benue and Kaduna states alone. Incidents involving herders accounted for 44 per cent of all fatalities in the country in 2016.

While northern governors opposed state and community policing, the study also pointed out that “large bandit groups operate with mounting audacity throughout the north, with the main theatres as the Kamuku forest in Kaduna, Falgore forest in Kano, Dansadau forest in Zamfara and Davin Rugu forest stretching through Kaduna, Katsina and Zamfara states”.

The study quoted another report which estimated that in 2013, more than 64,750 cattle were stolen and at least 2,991 herders killed in states across the north-central zone. From 2011 to 2015, bandits, cattle rustlers and other criminals killed 1,135 people in Zamfara state alone, according to the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) quoted by the study.

The economic toll was also said to be huge with a 2015 study, indicating the federal government was losing $13.7 billion in revenue annually because of herder-farmer conflicts in Benue, Kaduna, Nasarawa and Plateau states with the four states also losing 47 per cent of their internally-generated revenues. In fact, in March 2017, Governor Samuel Ortom claimed that attacks by herders coming possibly from Cameroon and Niger, had cost his state N95 billion between 2012 and 2014.

The report called attention to creeping desert which is fast turning 50-75 per cent of the land area of Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara states, to a desert. Most of the youths armed with motorcycles and unleashed on southern cities especially Lagos could have been deployed to embark on the process of reforestation of the affected area.

While one minister of defence was defending mindless killing of subsistence farmers on the excuse that grazing routes were taken over by farmers in the Middle Belt and the south, while Governor Mohammed of Bauchi was defending the incursion into Ondo State’s reserved forests, and while Defence Minister Bashir Salihi Magashi was ordering federating states to abrogate their state’s anti-grazing laws to forestall further herdsmen violence, they were silent on the 415 grazing reserves established by the northern regional government in the 1960s “which have succumbed to pressure from rapid population growth and the associated demand for farmland, overrun by urban and other infrastructure, or appropriated by private commercial interests”.

The northern governors since 1999 rejected the idea of state and local policing of the thinly-policed areas identified by the study – “the main theatres of banditry…the Kamuku forest in Kaduna, Falgore forest in Kano, Dansadau forest in Zamfara and Davin Rugu forest stretching through Kaduna, Katsina and Zamfara states”.

The northern governors have failed the masses. The federal government has failed it its core responsibility of protecting lives and properties of Nigerians. Federating states are therefore adopting self-help strategies in form of anti-grazing laws and ridding their reserved forest of illegal intruders and criminal herdsmen in order to fill the gap created by the federal government and compromised security apparatus. Attempt to read ethnic meaning to these efforts can only be interpreted as calculated attempt to export northern social problems to the south.

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