EVIL, truly, has a very small beginning. That is one of the lessons that any perceptive reader of William Golding’s novel, LORD OF THE FLIES, must take away. Golding, British writer and 1983 Nobel Prize winner for Literature, was reputed for his allegorical narratives of man’s barbaric qualities tempered by civilization.
Golding may have written about the English society of the 1950s in which children marooned in an island grew up to visit bestiality on one another. But his 1954 novel seems to mirror Nigeria of our time and age. If Nigeria was ever a dream world where life was considered sacred, the country as we know it today appears caught in a cesspit in which man’s innate depravity has found bold expression.In recent years, we have had to grapple with the deadly menace called Boko Haram. Until the advent of this horrendous monster, little did we know that human life is a worthless commodity that can be dispensed with without batting an eyelid. Boko Haram’s unending concert of blood has toughened Nigerians.
Bloodbath and carnage do not shock them any longer. But if the effect of Boko Haram’s terrorist pastimes have not driven Nigeria to the precipice, it is because the menace is restricted to one region of the country. Boko Haram is essentially a northern phenomenon. The south is watching with baited breath as parts of the north go up in flames almost on daily basis. But it is obvious that the southern response to Boko Haram menace will take a different dimension the moment the horror creeps into the south.
The peoples of southern Nigeria are not likely to tolerate a religion-induced insurgency that is targeted at exterminating them.However, whatever Boko Haram has failed to achieve in the south, the Fulani herdsmen are making up for it. Going by the ugly stories that emanate from the covens of Fulani herdsmen in today’s Nigeria, you would think that cattle rearing has just begun in Nigeria. The Fulani cattle rearer of today is no longer what he used to be. Unlike before, he is armed to the teeth.
He parades the most sophisticated weapons of war that you can find on these shores, yet nobody accuses or charges him for illegal possession of firearms. He is free to carry and use them at will. He is the only Nigerian that enjoys that privilege.Today, the entire country is on edge because of the unwholesome activities of the herdsmen.
They kill and maim freely. They invade their host communities, rape their women, kidnap priests and traditional rulers and by so doing instill fear into their host communities. In recent weeks, their menace has become so telling that we can make an effortless but painful reference to Agatu, a Benue community where the herdsmen killed scores and displaced the rest.Not too long ago, the herdsmen kidnapped elder statesman, Olu Falae. His family had to pay ransom to secure his release. Yet, they have not left the man alone. His farm in Ondo state remains a target of the herdsmen invasion. Governor Olusegun Mimiko has had to express frustration over this.
In Delta state, the traditional ruler of Ubulu Uku was recently kidnapped and murdered by Fulani herdsmen. And in Edo State, Governor Adams Oshiomhole is brokering peace between farmers and Fulani herdsmen, owing to rising cases of kidnapping, rape, armed robbery and cattle rustling. Indeed, almost every state of Nigeria has one ugly story or another to tell about the rampaging herdsmen. An urgent and workable solution is required to deal with this situation. Unfortunately, the wrong steps are being taken. One such pig-headed step is “The Fulani National Grazing Reserve” Bill before the National Assembly
Those who have peeped into the bill say that it proposes to establish a National Grazing Reserve Commission, which will be charged with the responsibility of using funds received from the Federal Government to forcefully acquire farmlands from Nigerians in all the 36 states of the federation and develop same at government expense through the provision of boreholes, water reservoirs, and so on for the exclusive use of nomadic cattle rearers.I do not want to believe that a bill as obnoxious as this is receiving attention in both chambers of the National Assembly. But if it is, then the legislators concerned cannot say that they wish this country well. Those of them who are sleeping should wake up before their slumbering inaction sets Nigeria ablaze.
It is, indeed, a huge irony that those who appear to be so protective of the notion of One Nigeria are its worst wreckers. That is why I usually get amused whenever I see prominent Nigerians cringe any time a casual reference is made to the possibility or desirability of dissolving the Nigerian state. They usually appear holier than thou. They act as if some blasphemy has been uttered. They shudder at the assumed lack of patriotism inherent in such posturing.But all that show is for the unwary. It is rooted in pretence and hypocrisy. The fact of the matter is that beyond such public appearances lie a deep but unspoken desire for the opposite. The pretenders actually yearn for a dissolved Nigeria. But their pretensions will not permit them to be seen in that light. That is the stock in trade of old breed Nigerians.
The younger generation of Nigerians are not quite fixated about all the talk about the indissolubility of Nigeria. For them, it sounds inchoate. They do not understand where such audacity derives from. They have searched for parallels everywhere in the world and they cannot find one. What they see are liberal constitutional demands, as opposed to the rigid and inviolable provisions that our constitution is known for. In civilised climes, people who willingly go into a union are free to renegotiate the basis for their coexistence.
Those who feel uncomfortable with the arrangement are free to opt out whenever they so wish. The only thing the constitution demands of them is to go through a referendum. But the Nigerian situation is the obverse of all this. In the Nigerian union, no component unit is allowed to opt out. It does not matter whether you like the union or not. Belongingness to the union is compulsory and not negotiable. To entertain the faintest idea of negotiation is considered a crime against the state. This absolute lack of choice makes the people see their environment as a dungeon.
They feel claustrophobic within it. This regimentation breeds discontent. Ironically, the country, which loathes separatism so much has been doing so little to preserve its oneness. The country, which guards its indissolubility most jealously is most notorious for breaking all the rules that make for peaceful coexistence. Maybe, the country is over stretching its resilience. Someone should please tell Nigeria that it cannot be lucky all the time. The insurgency of Fulani herdsmen may be the jinx that Nigeria may not be able to kick out.