“The new nation called Nigeria should be an estate of our grandfather, Othman Danfodio. We must ruthlessly prevent a change of power. We must use the minorities in the North as willing tools and South as conquered territories and never allow their future.’’ – Ahmadu Bello, October 12, 1960.
I want to believe that the foregoing frightful statement is wrongly attributed. However, judging by recurrent developments in the land, one has every reason to fear that a prophecy foretold is playing out before our very eyes.
By accident of destiny, this country was carelessly cobbled together by bigoted colonialists without regard to basic facts of consanguinity, tongue and thought. Nonetheless, having come to be, all that needed to be done was for us to manage our common disease but, no, we chose the way of tears and sorrow. So much innocent blood has been wasted on the altar of violence almost always prosecuted by a particular section while the pacifist remainder remains docile and whining for salvation that is long in coming.
For a very long time now, cows have been let loose to graze upon human lives and property. The matter accentuated lately but the government seems unconcerned or incapable of reining in the hoodlums, masquerading as herdsmen. This latest affront of placing more value on cows over human lives is insensitive and unnatural.
Nigerians were not strangers to herdsmen; those simple folk tramping the wild with their cattle with their staff and often receiving hospitality from host communities. But not anymore. What we now have are deadly men, armed with dangerous weapons, whose approach bodes nothing but evil and fear, as they graze their herds on people’s farmlands and relish killing the owners and raping their wives and daughters with gusto.
There is hardly any community in the South and Middle Belt that has not tasted the bitterness these men leave on their trail. It is disheartening that, instead of descending on the killers, government wants to appease them. Instead of unmasking their sponsors and bringing them to justice, government is playing the ostrich. Instead of adopting acceptable policies, government wants to seize people’s farmlands by force for the establishment of cattle colonies. This gives credence to fears of official connivance for the realisation of Ahmadu Bello’s avowals in 1960.
We are going back to Berlin, where, in 1884/1885, Europe sat at a conference to determine the partition of West Africa into colonies. Now, the Federal Government of Nigeria (some say Federal Government of North), having snatched control of the security apparatchik of the country, is sitting in Abuja to determine the partition of the rest of the country into cattle colonies.
It is improbable that a government would be so disposed without ulterior motives. They have consistently told us that the herdsmen were foreigners that come all the way from Niger, Chad or Mali to wreak havoc on our sovereign land. And yet our government is incapable of protecting its people? Is it not imprudent for the government to now forcefully appropriate people’s lands for these ‘foreigners’ at the expense of its own people? C’mon, this baloney is stillborn!
This brings one to trending posers: Is cattle business government’s business? How much does cattle business contribute to the nation’s GDP? Should men, women and children continue to lay down their lives for cattle? How many heads of cattle does a Fulani cattle herdsman need to sell to purchase an AK-47 rifle? In a country where there are no natural disasters, should there be mass burials happening all the time? Judging by the technicalities of these killings, can we not see that this is beyond Fulani cattle herdsmen’s initiative?
After we create the cattle colonies, when are we going to create the motor spare parts colonies to cater for the Igbo traders? Would it not be a good idea to also have aso-oke and batik colonies for Yoruba tradesmen? What about the ‘ogogoro’ traders; don’t they deserve colonies? And our sisters going to Libya and Italy to hustle, would it be unwise to give them their own ‘flesh colonies’ and prevent them from dying on the Mediterranean Sea or being parceled home in crates or cradling infants of questionable paternity?
The Middle Belt is worst hit by this madness. I have heard it said that this is retributive justice for the role the region played during the Nigeria-Biafra civil war when they teamed up with their present-day nemesis to commit even worse atrocities against the Igbo. This is not the time to reason backward because it is self-evident that a mistake was made when Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu was misunderstood and maligned. Now, the Ikemba is laughing in his grave, saying “I told you so; I warned you, didn’t I?”
Indeed, Ojukwu foresaw the present calamities and wanted it resolved but the rest of Nigeria was inveigled into evil alliance and here we are today. Even then collaborating South West that also connived and brought the present government to be has been given the wrong end of the stick. The Igbo are not exactly simpering but only amused, even with the courts confirmation of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), which bears no arms, a terrorist group. Yet, the Nigerian government says the Fulani herdsmen that the World Terrorism Index classified as the fourth deadliest terrorist organistaion are saints that require understanding and support through forceful appropriation of people’s land. Poor Nigeria!
However, much as this may not be entirely about Christians and Muslims but the entire Nigerian people, one cannot help but ask why all the killings are taking place in predominantly Christian communities, including Chibok in Borno State. Sometimes, I wonder why men pay lip obeisance to God when in actual fact they have callously burnt their consciences and are playing god themselves.
All hope is not lost though. The ‘Handshake across the Niger’ should be sustained and given momentum. NEVER must any state in the South and Middle Belt release even a dot of land for the cattle colonies. Once this is done, Ahmadu Bello triumphs and the Othman Danfodio estate is completed.
The structure bearing this nebulous monolith is weak and MUST be restructured before it eventually disintegrates. That is why I appeal to our leaders to restrain their steps from straying into dangerous zones. They should give us some credit. The rest of the country is not that stupid and, judging by the goings on in the country, these are indeed ominous times and Nigeria could well be heading for collapse and the noise of that crash would shock the a world that appears bemused and unfeeling while atrocities go on.
Of course, the world is waiting, as new markets for their weaponry spring up. A word, they say, is enough for the wise.