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Reflecting on the apt topic for today’s Reflection, my thoughts flash on Sam Omatseye’s ‘Man of the Year’ for 2016—the Herdsman. What this resonates for me immediately is the echo of the real, effable but seemingly anonymous character of that prize winner—the ubiquitous, highly lethal and composite personage in the Man of the Year that our Editorial Board chose n the year 1998 I believe, of the defunct Newspaper, The Post Express. I believe Chidi Amuta, Fred Onyeoziri, Wole Adejare, Obaro Ikime, and Mma– the other members of the Board under the Managing Director / Board member/ship of Chidi Amuta– will remember quite vividly. We had chosen the Jerry Can as the Newspaper’s Man of the Year. This was a year in which fuel shortage in the country was at its most acute with is ramifying mortality. Then it was the reign of the Jerry Can at the fuel stations across the country. They dominated the queue, well in transcendence of the cars or even the growing ubiquitous okada/motor-cycle which was yet to seize the hegemonic imperialism that it commands on our roads nowadays—well ahead, in numerical strength, of the trailers. Such was the superiority of the Jerry-can above all other fuel-fetching ‘agencies’ as well as its symbolization of the acute scarcity of fuel in the nation that we were unanimous on the Editorial Board on that fateful Wednesday that we had to crown the Jerry can as our Man of the Year.
I am thus persuaded, beyond any reasonable doubt, that if Sam, as the Chairman of the Editorial Board of The Nation were to subject the choice of the Newspaper’s Man of the Year to the acid test of the Board, the Herdsman, with its lethal rage across the country, and its veritable capacity for mass provocation for violence, would have won, hands and legs down! The ubiquity of the herdsman’s identity—as non-herdsman (a ravaging terrorist or common criminal), a non-Fulani, non-indigenous herdsman, a Fulani herdsman, whose non-definable identity is a soul factor in his non-prosecution—‘a crisis of identity that has erupted into a crisis of death, destruction and disunity—to deploy the phrases f Sam directly—qualified him as a choice of Sam’s ‘Man of the Year.’
Today, in our recession-marooned nation, the fear of the Herdsman—even without reference to its identity, its nationality and citizenship, which many have taken as a curious distraction from the real issue of quelling its might in our country before it seizes our national initiative from peace and conflict management—is the beginning and probably the endgame of wisdom .If you are in any doubt, visit Benue State, go to the South East, and if you dare, go near fire-bombs detonating Southern Kaduna, where in spite of the existing curfew in the State and the heavy presence of soldiers, villages are being ravaged and sacked.
As we enter the New Year, security matters are of utmost import to any thoughts of our national survival, economic recovery and political stability. The initiative, happily, if happily, is not being left to the religious bodies who have threatened to embark on national mourning or find their own ways to help secure the lives of Christians in Kaduna State. The Army has pronounced its massive mobilization and deployment to Southern Kaduna, ahead of establishing a permanent military formation in the area as part of a Nigeria military battle ready strategy ‘to stop attack by unknown gunmen.’ It is holding military-civilian talks on the matter. The military is additionally relating to other security agencies, including ‘traditional and religious leaders to terminate the crisis. This is as the Minister of Interior denounces attempt to classify the crisis as religious in nature and connotation. In the throes of the crisis of identity of perpetrators or insurgent criminal violence, especially that which has been largely identified with the raging unconventional farmers-cattle rearers’ conflict, the Minister has raised the critical issue of economic revival as a key solution to our national obsolescence as a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation. As Kaduna State is said to be handling the matter, a major reason, according to media handlers of the President, why the President retrains himself from meddling with the boiling and highly explosive matter in the southern part of Kaduna, Senate has jolted itself awake by announcing its plan to investigate the crisis in Southern Kaduna. This is after the statistics supplied by the Vicar General of the Catholic Archdiocese of Kafanchan, Ibrahim Yakubu (quoted by Palladium on new year day, following its being released to the press)), 53 villages have been attacked; 4 Local Government Areas have come under attack; 808 people have been killed; 1,422 houses, 16 churches, 19 shops and one primary school have been destroyed in Southern Kaduna!!
There is no questioning the fact that the Buhari government’s highly laudable effort to frontally tackle the security emergency in our country has made tremendous impact on the state of our nation’s security as we enter the New Year. The routing of the Boko Haram mortal menace in the North-East of the country, culminating in the recent sacking of the Sambisa forest (even though the Chibok girls at still at large!), along with the massive rehabilitation effort to rehabilitate millions of internally displaced persons (in spite of the strong rumour of sleazing going on by highly-placed handlers of relief funds), indicate that the security problem of this nation is receiving priority attention from the government. Unfortunately, the present success recorded is being tainted by the inadequate strategy being deployed in handling security issues in other areas of the nation, especially with regards to the elusively handled herdsmen core matter, insurgent risings in the South East, pipe-line vandalizing militants in the South-South, ceaseless kidnapping across the country and unattended ritual killings.
The year 2017 must be a year in which national confidence and trust is in the leadership in its declared political will to rid this country of the nebulous, incessant and mortal security crisis that hen-pecks growth and stability in our nation—part of which is responsible for the economic recession that rages on our land. Leadership—structured, committed and envisioned– is crucial in this regard. A few suggestions for urgent reflections to our leaders and followers alike:
a) We must lift our nation beyond sectarianism—religious or ethnic- and take our nation as a nation. In this matter, our leaders must lead us as our national leaders—not as Christian, Muslim, Yoruba, Hausa, and Igbo leaders. Apparent and obvious non-inclusive pattern of addressing security and other boiling national ailments must be jettisoned for unequivocal and frontal inclusive leadership. A situation where our President is being seen as overtly expressive and dynamic in handling Boko Haram and allegedly equivocal or taciturn in addressing other security flashpoints are unacceptable. Ditto for other leaders at the sub-national levels. There is rife suspicion that El Rufai of Kaduna is partisan or complicit in the Southern Kaduna issue, just as he was alleged to have been in the Shiites imbroglio.
b) The passivity of Nigerians, especially labour and civil society organizations in critical areas of national security, the state of the nation’s economy and in finding apposite solutions to national problems is unhelpful for national development. No part or class of the nation is a comfort zone as long as other parts are in turmoil or in a state of dystopia.
c) We must address the causes of our national malaise, be it economic, political and security. Mass poverty, mass illiteracy, unemployment, massive alienation and disorientation unstructured governance strategy and the entire polity.
This nation can work if we make it work with patriotism, commitment and determination. 2017 is rather late to begin this process but it must begin it. The New Year can and should be happy.