Playing ostrich while kidnappers, bandits and rapist play the victim

Long after the declaration of Fulani herdsmen as the fourth deadliest terrorists’ group in the world by the World Terrorist Index, those Nigerians who often play the ostrich and whose narrative is often promoted by the media are the same people who today assault our ears with talk of ethnic profiling. The identity of those who killed, maimed, confiscated farmlands and kidnap for ransom even before Sheik Gumi’s recent declaration that “government know them, monitors them by air view”, has never been in dispute. President Buhari’s appeal to the people of Benue to tolerate the settlers in their midst during some of his condolence visits to the state after periodic massacres of farmers, women and children was but a confirmation the president knows those who have continued to make his job of nation building more arduous.

Both governors El Rufai of Kaduna and Massari of neighbouring Katsina that had at different occasions negotiated and paid ransom to bandits admitted many of them are Fulani immigrants from neigbouring countries. Those that were indicted for the attack on Olu Falae were Fulani. Those arrested for the killing Chief Executive Officer, Kunfayakun Green Treasures Limited, Fatai Aborode, near his farm along Apodun village in Oyo State, were herdsmen also belong to the same ethnic group.

When Akeredolu issued a fatwa for those AK-47-wielding herdsmen who illegally took over Ondo forest reserve, Shehu Garba and Bauchi’s Bala Mohammed came out not on behalf of Niger Delta militants but to defend Fulani herdsmen who they said are protected by the constitution to operate anywhere in Nigeria’s forests. Jigawa and Kebbi state governors with large herdsmen population in January joined their six southwest governors to resolve the crisis.

When elder statesman, Theophilus Danjuma fingered Fulani herdsmen as those killing and confiscating land in Adamawa State, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, then Emir of Kano and one the patrons of Miyyetti Allah, rather than deny the herdsmen’s involvement, claimed hundreds of Fulani herdsmen killed earlier by their host communities were never reported by the newspapers.

In any case, nearly every harvest of deaths that accompany herdsmen attacks on communities, has been defended by Miyetti Allah spokesmen who have always described them as retaliatory attacks to avenge the killing of their men or rustling of their cattle.

But if ethnic profiling accusation will not wash, we can make a saint of killers and bandits by playing the ostrich. Speaking in Bauchi on Thursday, February 11, to Justify bearing of AK-47 rifles by herdsmen, Bauchi’s Mohammed who condemned the treatment of Fulani herdsmen in the southern region, said herdsmen “have inalienable right to defend themselves from cattle rustlers and other challenges encountered on the road” adding “it is not his fault, it is the fault of government and the people, the Fulani tribe is a constant target for eviction from local communities.”

Gumi who revealed “the herdsmen-bandits are engaged in an ethnic war against other peoples and sedentary Fulani in the country” was to complain that “Fulani are being profiled, killed by the military, lynched in town,” adding. “Do you know that there are situations where any man with this Fulani physique – slim, light-complexioned, even dark ones – on a motorbike is automatically arrested and incarcerated?”

For their pains, Gumi wants herdsmen who he admitted are killers and kidnappers who are at war with Nigeria, provided with “reasonable means of livelihood including jobs, working capital, entrepreneurship training as well as clinics and school”.

Not left out are the governor of Zamfara State, Bello Matawalle, who wants “repentant bandits” to be granted amnesty by the federal government and Katsina State governor, Aminu Masari who with his policy of Dialogue and Amnesty Programme paid criminals millions only to visit more suffering on poor people of Katsina who were being forced to pay ransom to harvest their farm products.

They all chose to play the ostrich instead of telling immigrants and imported Fulani herdsmen that Nigeria is not owned by Fulani in spite of the current constitution, rigged against Nigerians by Nigerian military. Instead what we got was Bala Mohammed’s arrogant assertion that “we cannot close border against Fulani, he is a global man, Fulani from Senegal to Nigeria, Cameroon, are Nigerians” and Gumi’s claim that “Fulani are in all Nigerian states, we cannot drive them away because they speak local Nigerian languages” And living in denial, they tried to present those who engage in mindless killings, kidnapping of school children and other crimes against humanity as victims that deserve amnesty and resettlement like the Niger Delta militants of the Yar’Adua era.

However, history tells us that long before the current wave of immigrant and imported Fulani herdsmen who today daily visit terror on Nigerians, Fulani herdsmen had hardly been good guests. As proof, King Yunfa (1801-1808) of Gobir who hosted Uthman dan Fodio who later helped him into the throne, ended up losing his life and kingdom. The respected cleric and reformer followed up with the conquest of all the Hausa states installing only but one non-Fulani Emir in over a dozen Emirates he created for his fellow Fulani. It is instructive that not more than one pious Muslim could be found in the Hausa states that had embraced the Islamic faith about 400 years before the revered Jihadist and reformer came to Gobir.

The story of Afonja was not different. He lost his Ilorin throne and his life to Alimi, his Fulani guest that had earlier supported him in his revolt against Alafin of Oyo. Tafawa Balewa’s biographer, Trevor Clark, in his A right Honourable Gentleman recorded Balewa’s story of his grandmother who had wanted Fulani settlers expelled from their land or killed if they refused to relocate.

This is not to say other ethnic groups do not have their own demons. Yoruba talk of her superior culture and is held in disdain by Fulani for her overweening pride which makes her think the feudal lords need free education or egalitarian society. The Igbo think the god of Africa has ordained them to lead Africa, which forced Ahamadu Bello to observe that if you employ an Igbo man a labourer, he will aspire to become head of labourers and of course the Hausas are fatalistic which makes them see nothing wrong in becoming beggars in urban centres of the country while their Fulani overlords control their political economy and the Igbo buy up their lands all over the north.

But all is not lost in spite of our thousand demons. Our visionary founding fathers adopted a federal arrangement, the social system that allows each group to battle its own demon without a threat to other members of the federating nationalities. As Chinua Achebe puts in his No Longer At Ease, “we are strangers in this land, when calamity befalls the owners of the land, we move away leaving the owners of the land who know how to appease their own gods”. The curse of our nation are our current political leaders. As the major beneficiaries of our current nightmare, there is neither political will nor incentive to go back to “the path to Nigerian freedom” they rejected because of greed.

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