By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, I know how easy it is for men and women in politics, particularly those in the hallowed corridors of power, to readily dismiss important warnings by well-meaning citizens as rantings of enemies of government, but I’m the last person anyone could ever label as such. Without being immodest, my credentials as a patriotic Nigerian are definitely unassailable. Even if I am labelled as one of such Nigerians, I know my duty as a responsible, proudly Nigerian patriot, and I will never be deterred by such negativity. It is for this reason that I am sending out another warning this week borne out of my love and concern for the wellbeing of our dear beloved country. I don’t really mind if this selfless service is ignored like many before it. This is a duty that I must discharge, otherwise I will not be true to myself.
But let me start on a happy note. I do not know if President Muhammadu Buhari was pressured into dropping his former military chieftains this week by events that played out in the forests of Ibarapa spearheaded by Sunday Igboho, and the advice and admonition of truly non-partisan nationalistic Nigerians, but I’m happy that for whatever reasons, he eventually succumbed and did what was long overdue. I had only last week described the erstwhile military chiefs as being an incompetent security team, and that was putting it mildly. The Nigerian military that was once the toast and darling of the United Nations peacekeepers everywhere has been virtually reduced to a ragtag force in the last five years. Yet the big Generals in the Army, Navy and Air Force carried on in a business-as-usual manner, as if everything was well. They appeared more interested in other activities like operation python dance or crocodile dance, jumping against innocent, defenceless civilians than the primary tasks they were assigned to do of providing security against external and domestic insurgency and terrorists.
I hope that the President realises that his job is not done. Our security, safety and protection are not merely in the hands of the military. There are internal law enforcement agencies like the Police, Department of State Security, Civil Defence Corps and similar domestic organisations that need a similar severe and drastic shake up. We are being ceaselessly attacked from both without and within and our security apparatus and architecture needs complete overhauling and remodelling.
I pray the new Service Chiefs will learn from the mistakes of their predecessors and restore glory to our armed forces. This can be achieved if they resist the temptations of getting deeply involved and too enmeshed in the murky waters of Nigerian politics. Their loyalty should always be to the country and not to any leader or individual. We all witnessed what happened recently in America, how the military stood firm in defence of democracy. In this clime, the story would have been different. I wish them the best of luck.
I do not know how many of our young impetuous, temerarious friends are aware of the theory that no country can survive two civil wars, but it seems that’s what we are toying with and inviting unto ourselves, so recklessly. Let me inform my young and old friends beating the tamtam drums of war, that war is not a tea party. It is not disco or clubbing. War is a serious business. The Civil war of 1967-1970 will pale into insignificance in comparison with any war that may occur now. This is not a war that will be fought with mere guns or even machine guns. We will have more sophisticated armoured tanks and shells, but of more concern is that there will be bombings, missiles and such similar arsenal deployed. I don’t even want to think of chemical warfare which is the norm in those countries foolish enough to bringing war into their land. Unlike the civil war of 1967, millions, not hundreds of thousands will perish in no time! Nobody will be spared. The destruction and devastation will be complete and this doomsday scenario is scary and eerie. Perish the thought, there will be no Yoruba nation or Biafra, just some balkanised desertified and desecrated entities. The only beneficiaries will be the warmongers and their agents as they will profit from the sales of arms and ammunitions. If that is what is desired, very unfortunate, but I have sounded the alarm and speak the language of peace because I know the horrendous price of war.
Why is it so difficult for us to know what we need to do but refuse to do it so stubbornly and stoically? I will now go ahead to give a breakdown of what we urgently need to do in order to avert what seems like an impending war to me.
The ball is in the President’s court. And this is not a tough game at all. Let the President free his heart and soul and love every Nigerian the way I’m sure he loves his own family. The President should see himself as the father of the nation. That is essentially what he claimed he would be when he delivered his maiden Presidential speech to the nation on 29 May 2015. We’ve virtually wasted close to six years fighting a fractious war of attrition. Our nation has never been this divided since the last civil war and it is absolutely unnecessary.
Why do I think war is impending? No one needs the gift of clairvoyance to see what’s ahead. The temperature of bitterness in Nigeria at the moment can boil a stone into pulp. It is sad that a country as endowed as Nigeria has been reduced to a nation of cows. The beautiful Fulani race has also been demoted and is now synonymous with herdsmen. That’s so disgraceful and unfortunate. I have a lot of well-educated, cultured and hardworking Fulani friends. I’ve been asking some of them how come they mismanaged their brand to the extent that cows and livestock now define everything they represent?
President Buhari’s emergence is believed to have energised the herdsmen who now feel adequately protected and untouchable. Until the President disowns the criminals and bandits and encourage and empower our security agents to treat them like the irritants and nuisance that they are, the present crisis will persist and escalate for the worse. The President needs to be told without mincing words that cattle rearing is a private business. It is none of government’s business. And certainly none of our own business. The cattle rearers should register their businesses like other Nigerians, buy land or rent their own farmlands and keep their herds within the confines of their own ranches or farms. No businessperson has the right or freedom to destroy the farm or premises of another person, eat up, burn or destroy his crops, defile and rape the other person’s family, in short literally and figuratively defecate shamelessly everywhere. As if that is not bad enough, they now brandish unregistered and extremely dangerous weapons, so confidently. In which abnormal country is that allowed and condoned except Buhari’s Nigeria!
If the cattle rearers have been allowed to roam the streets and our forests for decades and centuries, the time has now come to put a stop and an end to such backwardness. The world has since moved on. We are in the 21st century and not in the Stone Age. Farming and livestock breeding are now more industrialised and revolutionised. Technology has taken over. Let us upgrade how we breed and rear our cattle and other livestock. Can chicken farmers go to different parts of Nigeria and just erect their poultry on people’s private properties, even peacefully, not to talk of carrying AK-47s to browbeat and assault their generous landlords. I don’t even want to mention Piggeries and Fisheries.
I wish to say emphatically that the Governors of the States affected by this cow conundrum should never allow any form of wandering again. Those who want to continue to do the business should go and buy huge tracts of farmland and build modern farms under strict and stringent regulations! If the Governors succumb to pressure and allow this madness, of a dangerous misadventure to continue, they will have the spilled blood of their people in their hands, and they will never be able to wash them off like the Biblical Pontius Pilate. There is nothing so special about cattle rearing that should warrant this over-pampering and preferential treatment. And if the herdsmen insist that this is their culture and the only way they know how to ply their trade, they should then be restrained, restricted and banished to their Fulani territories. They cannot supplant their culture and custom on those gracious enough to welcome them to their farmlands and homes.
If care is not taking, this controversial cow business may easily trigger the civil war, most especially, if the Federal Government decides to acquire people’s land by force. I’m certain the South East and South West people have virtually declared the herdsmen persona non grata and they should respect the wishes of the people. The heated tension this is generating is totally reprehensible.
I hope the President remembers that most Southerners rejected him repeatedly between 2003 and 2011 because of the widespread belief that he’s a religious zealot and Fulani irredentist until he somehow managed to persuade Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki and others that he’s a reformed and born-again Democrat. I vividly recollect how many Nigerians warned us fervently not to make the mistake of bringing Buhari back to power. It is not true that we hated President Goodluck Jonathan. No. Most people were simply tired of the 16 years of PDP in power and the obvious profligacy and rape of our commonwealth.
Many Nigerians wanted a disciplined and simple leader who would not steal our treasury and treasures dry. No doubt, Buhari looked like that near-perfect candidate. No one ever envisaged the level of suppression, repression and unprecedented oppression that would soon engulf the whole country.
President Buhari should please spare a moment to remember and pity all the innocent people who vouched for him and not let them regret that they ever did. Nigeria is just too close to the precipice and anything can happen. He should encourage the cattle men to take strategic positions in the Northern forests. I understand that Sambisa forest is so massive that we can create many new cities and towns out of it. Let them go to the banks and raise funds to start industrial parks dedicated to livestock breeding and its offshoots and since they already possess their own guns, these might be the solution and deterrent to the Boko Haram menace as well. They will keep the bushes and forests occupied and make it difficult for terrorists to stroll in and out of the country like they currently do.
The second time bomb in Nigeria is the issue of religion. The President must know and understand that Nigeria is a secular country, and he must totally downplay religion and allow everyone to deal directly with his/her God. It is again not the business of government to intervene or be involved in religion. If we can curb religious bigotry and intolerance, a lot of our problems would have been resolved and eliminated. The government will save the huge sums of money we spend on sending pilgrims to Mecca and Jerusalem. A country as broke and impoverished as Nigeria can no longer afford that kind of reckless spending. No religion is superior or inferior to the other. Every Nigerian should be free to practice his religion anywhere without any fear of harassment.
I have said it many times. The Nigerian police should be very well equipped and upgraded. We do not need soldiers on the streets in peace time. All we need is identify very bright officers like the Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, Hakeem Odumosu, who has demonstrated professionalism all the way and has reduced crime to the barest minimum in Lagos State. This achievement is possible because he is conversant with the territory and he is a hands-on officer. I read about how he goes out every night to personally monitor what’s going on and he does not suffer fools gladly. I remember a friend who wanted to influence a matter, but everyone told him not to bother because “Odumosu will not bend the rules!” He desisted. I’m sure, the force can identify other competent officers and replicate what he is doing in Lagos in other States. It is all about putting those who understand certain terrains in places they understand very well. Police officers are like journalists and we are as good as the sources and resources available to us.
The third issue that can ignite trouble is the attempt to completely marginalize the Igbo people 51 years after the supposed end of the Civil War. Despite coming out of the ruins and ashes of the civil war, the Igbo have amply demonstrated their uncommon brilliance and resilience. They’ve been performing spectacular feats locally and globally. There is no country in the world you won’t meet Igbo people doing great things. Why can’t we then take advantage of their mega talents to create our own Silicon Valley in the South East, for example? Given the necessary support, the Igbo will compete favourably against the Chinese, Indians, Koreans, Japanese and others, if not surpass them. The Igbo have become so tired of the country called Nigeria and any sincere person cannot fault them. It is the reason Mazi Nnamdi Kanu has become a folk hero and cult figure. Any little provocation may trigger an explosion in the South East which may snowball into the South West and become a veritable unquenchable fireball! I will plead with President Buhari to do everything possible not to let this happen and that instead he will do everything to bring all Nigerians together.
However, if the President insists and decides that he can use bullying tactics, intimidation and force to suppress the visible, palpable agitations in Yorubaland and Igboland, may God help and rescue us all…
*Read original copy in Thisday.