By Magnus Onyibe.
Miyetti Allah, the Fulani cattle breeders association has joined the ranks of those antagonizing the senate president, Bukola Saraki and railing against his presidential ambition, which is both curious and unbecoming.
Hear what the herdsmen umbrella body coordinator in Benue State, Garus Gololo reportedly stated in the Punch newspaper recently:
“Nigerians are in dire need of people that have the interest of the masses. Miyetti Allah is looking for a leader that would preside over the affairs of the Senate with ultimate respect for the executive and the judiciary, not someone like Senator Saraki that would always scheme to outdo the Presidency.
“We are now tired of Saraki’s style of leadership at the National Assembly. Therefore, we are now warning him to honourably resign his position as president of the Senate or we will force him out”.
Although, the leadership of the Miyetti Allah represented by its national secretary Othman Ngelzarma has disowned the treasonous statement, l’m curious to know how the threat of “…we will force him out” could have been converted into action.
Would it have been done by locking down the National Assembly,NASS like the Directorate of State Security Services,DSS did on the 7th of August which would be tantamount to a civilian coup or a kidnap of the senate president?
We may never know as the presidency must have spotted the unguarded statement as another threat to democracy of the hue of the DSS invasion of NASS that generated unprecedented public opprobrium. Being more circumspect in order to prevent avoidable tension in the polity, the presidency, through relevant security agencies might have prevailed on Miyetti Allah leadership to disown Galolo’s highly audacious comment and brazen attack on democracy.
In any case, the venting by the hitherto unknown Miyetti Allah which has become famous for the wrong reasons by admitting in press conferences that it engaged in the dastardly killing of farmers in the Sahel and middle belt region in retaliation for the stealing of their cows; and also as a counter action against the introduction of anti grazing laws in some states, has persisted and tolerated for too long .
And the unfortunate attack on the very symbol of democracy by the herders association is taking the reign of impunity in our country to a very deplorable level and therefore a cause for alarm and deserving of the ensuing public outrage.
It is also worth pointing out that impunity under the current dispensation ranges from the impetuous act of arewa youths issuing a quit notice to the lgbos living in the northern part of Nigeria by giving them ultimatum to relocate within a specific time period or face dire consequences, to the snatching of the Mace by yet to be apprehended hoodlums during plenary session in the hallowed chambers of the senate.
It took the grace of God and dexterity of cultural and religious leaders from both faiths in the north and south of Nigeria(including sultan of sokoto,Saad Abubakar lll and Primate Nicholas Okoh and other clergymen ) for the tension created by the strange declaration in a country comprising of three major ethnic groups (Hausa, Yoruba and lgbo) and two distinctive religions, (Islam and Christianity) to douse the tension generated by the counter ultimatums from other sections of the country to arewa youths.
As if that threat from the misguided youths was not bad enough, the security agencies continued from where the youths stopped in the reign of impunity by allowing themselves to be used by politicians to pursue selfish interests. The lock down of NASS by hooded and armed to the hilt SSS operatives on August 7th violating the sanctity of the NASS , which is the symbol of democracy brought the growing act of impunity to a climax.
That’s on top of past ugly incident of barricading the residences of the senate president and the deputy, one week earlier by the police and EFCC as well as the arrest and detention of top members of the judiciary in gestapo style , (including Supreme Court justices)for alleged complicity in corruption cases.
While the dust thrown up by the aforementioned anti democracy practices highlighted above (comparable to navigating very dangerous minefields) is yet to settle, it is disheartening that the acts of impunity have now assumed a new dimension in the form of a threat by cattle breeders to forcefully remove the senate president.
Whereas the dreaded Boko Haram violence is driven by religious fundamentalism, the killings by herdsmen is fueled by the desire to grab land for livestock gracing, what’s the driving force behind the threat to remove the senate president by force ?
Enquiring minds would like to know.
The current dangerous state of fragility of democracy in Nigeria is occasioned by the innocuous but steady growth of impunity.
Perhaps, a chronology of acts of impunity since the advent of this administration would help put things in proper perspective. It started with the lack of respect for the rule of law and due process as evidenced by the disdain for court orders such as the flouting of bail order for Ahmed Dasuki former NSA detained for over three years and El Zarzarky, a Muslim cleric also in DSS custody for nearly three years after his followers clashed with the army resulting in a death toll numbering hundreds as well as the detention of the journalist, Chris Abiri in underground gulag for about two years by the secret police .
As Miyetti Allah members are now practically taking the laws into their hands by ignoring the legal system and indulging in self help via the slaughtering of defenseless Nigerians in their farms and setting them ablaze in their homes while also threatening states that introduced anti grazing laws with fire and fury without repercussion, has Miyetti Allah not become a significant political force to be reckoned with in Nigeria, albeit in clandestine manner?
Although it is supposed to be an umbrella body of herdsmen, and not a registered political party, yet it is acting as if it is above the law, Is it not about time it is registered as a political party so that it may be compelled to play by the rule like all the other known political parties?
Let me be clear .
There’s nothing wrong with the youths or any interest group registering their dissatisfaction against policies of govt.
In fact dissent or protest is a fundamental part of democracy, as it reflects freedom of speech and expression of opinion freely.
But it becomes a treasonable felony if the protesters are threatening the institution of governance, which in this instance, is the senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
That the ascension of Miyetti Allah has happened under the watch of President Buhari in the past three years, fuels the speculation and feeds into the narrative that Mr president, who is also a Fulani and a cattle breeder is giving the herders a sort of Dutch courage and effrontery to dabble into the affairs of the senate.
And the fact that no herdsmen killers are known to have been apprehended or brought to book even when they leave tell tale signs that link them to the gruesome killings in the communities that they are accused of destroying ,lends credence to the allegation that Aso Rock may be complicit in the matter.
That’s a toga which Mr president has personally rejected while on a condolence visit to victims of herdsmen killings in Benue State where he reportedly spoke out loudly that some people are accusing him of being complicit in herdsmen killing because he looks like them.
Whether the allegations are true or false , the fact that Miyetti Allah is now openly taking sides with president Buhari in a feud between the executive and the legislative arms of govt tend to validate the long held suspicions that the nefarious cattle herdsmen enjoy the tacit support of the govt in power which is a new low in the practice of democracy in Nigeria.
The allegation had gathered so much currency that David Young, the United States of America, USA, charge-de-affairs in Nigeria, alluded to it in a public comment at a few days ago in a gathering in Benue State where he advised the federal govt to strengthen its laws that would deter killers.
“It is so important that there should be very strong efforts to make sure that people are brought to justice for these terrible crimes. It is also important to address the drivers of conflicts, address opportunity, fight poverty and provide jobs and hope for young people because definitely young people are getting into terrible groups. They really need to be part of the future and as such need mentoring and parenting.”
The USA envoy probably saw tomorrow because it is barely a few days after the advise that our laws must be strengthened so that killers can be brought to book was issued, that the Benue state Miyetti Allah coordinator, Gololo made the open threat to democracy which is probably borne out of the fact that there had not been any consequences for previous egregious behaviors of the killer herdsmen.
Why would Mr president allow Nigeria descend to such a decadent and abysmal level of banana republic status associated with the war torn South Sudan and Libya where multiple war lords tussle for control of power as opposed to operating a stable and thriving democracy where respect for rule of law and due process reign supreme?
Perhaps Mr President and his handlers may take away a lesson or two from the experience of the immediate past president of the USA, Barack Obama on how he handheld a similar situation referenced below:
Back in 2008 when the presiding pastor of a church in Chicago,Jeremiah Wright (where then presidential candidate, Barack Obama worshipped)cited terrorism in America and govt’s complicity,became an impediment to Obama’s quest for the presidency of the USA, the campaign quickly dissociated itself from the cleric by distancing the candidate from the comment and Obama promptly resigned from the church.
That’s quite unlike the case of incumbent President Donald Trump, whose ascension to power triggered the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, kKK,an anti black cult and neo-Nazi groups with supremacist sentiments.As President Donald Trump’s campaign never openly denounced and condemned the groups that promote violence which violates the constitution of the USA, Trump has been stigmatized .
Based on the experiences cited above, is it not in the best interest of President Buhari to detach himself from any sectional, ethnic or religious groups with anti democratic tendencies trying to attach themselves to him?
In my view aligning with such groups that have anti democracy credentials can only do more damage than good to the Buhari brand which by virtue of his winning the presidency in 2015 had become national.
To be more direct, by allowing himself to be claimed or ‘owned’ by narrow interest groups like Miyetti Allah is president Buhari no more standing by his most famous quotable quite “l belong to no one, l belong to everyone”?
As l observed in the article titled “.Nigerian Development Tragedy, The Affliction of Image Deficit And The Way Out” published on both mainstream and social media platforms about two week ago, amongst other factors, the core reason for Boko Haram insurgency is poverty.
And one of the best ways of getting out of poverty is acquisition of Western education which is a guaranteed ticket to paid employment or self employment as a skilled artisan or trader.
Ironically , Western education is what Boko Haram sect , literarily translated as -Western education is taboo- is opposed to.
So the sect members may remain in poverty trap forever except they renounce the unprogressive doctrine and learn a trade or go to school in order to secure a job to earn a living like many others that share similar birth circumstances and who have become successful in their various endeavors both in public service as well as in commerce and industry.
Correct me if l’m wrong.
l have heard narratives of public servants, professionals and businessmen from the north who became billionaires. But l’m yet to hear of herdsmen who became super rich from cattle herdsman-ship. In the Western world ranchers are billionaires. So our herdsmen need to learn and understand that by operating ranches, their stories would change from poverty to immense wealth .
As most experts have posited and even President Buhari has acknowledged, ranching remains the most feasible solution to the issue of herdsmen constant migration in search of green pasture for their cattle which is the cause of the unfortunate and avoidable armed conflicts with catastrophic consequences on both farmers and herdsmen .
Not accepting to change the nomadic culture of animal husbandry by Miyetti Allah is comparable to the Talibans in Pakistan not accepting modern ways of life and instead insisting on the application of sharia laws in the strictest sense of it, which is responsible for the decadence and misery in the society in which they are currently operating.
I’m convinced that Miyetti Allah does not share the nihilist ideology of Boko Haram or Taliban, hence it is an open association with known address to the public. The cattle breeders association might have even embraced the dynamics of modernity by being registered with the corporate affairs commission, CAC, so why is it sticking to primordial practice of animal husbandry like the Talibans and Boko Haram whose philosophy it does not share ?
The answer may lie in the lack of or insufficient enlightenment on the need to adapt to change.
About five years ago, l was on a flight from Lagos to Abuja.
Seated next to me was a distinguished northerner with whom l struck up a conversation on nomadic cattle herdsmen and the challenges of educating them in light of their itinerant nature compelled by their trade.
I tried to convince the highly educated co traveler on why enlightened people like him should assist herdsmen back home in understanding why they should change to ranching to enable them remain stable in a location so that their children could acquire education and can be accomplished like him.
The distinguished gentleman then proceeded to lecture me on the reasons the herdsmen itinerant nature of life is unchangeable because they have become accustomed to it and the culture is already too ingrained in their DNA. He told me how the herdsmen are are content with watching their cows graze in the bushes while they enjoy their interaction with nature in the most undiluted form.
According to him, he tried without luck to extract one of his brother’s sons from being a herder with a view to enrolling him in a school to acquire Western education. But both his brother and the son resisted his gesture.
He agreed with me that ignorance has a lot to do with resistance to change, but disagreed that the deployment of mass communication tools to drive the change would cut the ice.
The dialogue ended when our flight terminated in Abuja.
To my surprise , when we disembarked from the airplane, the distinguished man handed me his calling card, and it turned out that he was a top class traditional ruler from a domain in Bauchi state.
Now, if herdsmen can accept and change their weapons of self protection from the bow and arrow which were their traditional weapons of defense to Ak 47 rifles which they are allegedly wielding these days, why can’t they change from being nomadic herdsmen to cattle ranchers?
I’m not unaware of the potency of the aphorism old habits die hard, but these same nomads also use mobile phones and dress up in clothes from textile mills instead of being clothe in the animal hides/ skin worn by their forbears who they want to continue to honor or imitate by preferring the nomadic culture to ranching.
To achieve the desired change, our cultural and religious leaders in the north have a great deal of work to do in the effort to enlighten the herdsmen. In fact, the change should begin with the elite because l understand that they are actually the owners of the herds of cattle, and those tending them are mostly employees.The enlightenment should commence from reminding the herdsmen of the risks and hardship associated with nomadic herdsman-ship to opening their minds to the concept of ranching with the array of advantages and benefits accruable.
SAMANJA, a television drama with a military theme in the days of yore was a very popular program in the north and therefore a great influencer. So also was Magana De Dariche which was also a powerful tv series that made high impact in the north.A drama radio and tv program promoting ranching should be developed to stimulate the needed change in mindset.
In these regard, media houses in the north from radio and tv stations to newspapers houses, must make the change from nomadic herdsman-ship to cattle ranching a clarion call.
By the same token, govt must also lead by example and establish pilot ranches for skeptics to see.
The wealthy and enlightened from president Buhari, Aliko Dangote, Samad Rabiu, Sayyu Dantata to all the successful northerners in public and private sectors too numerous to list here must also invest in ranches.
Not only for profit, but as a sort of corporate social responsibility. If you like, you can call it Africapitalism of sorts.
That would ignite the interest of the ordinary folks who would witness first hand the advantages and enormous benefits that could accrue from ranching .
As a nation confronted with the monster of herdsmen farmers clashes threatening the Peace and unity of our people , we must think out of the box to find sustainable solutions that would enable us avert a clear and present danger.
Ranching as a solution to the senseless killings by herdsmen is the lowest hanging fruit and l see no reason why a change from old to new ways of animal husbandry can not be achieved with all hands on deck to achieve success.
Check out the Maasai of Kenya and see how much progress they have made by adapting to change.
After all it was not too difficult for hunters to be converted into park rangers in a country like South Africa where tourism developed around game reserves is major sustainer of the economy.
Also in some South American and Asian countries, cash crops were successfully substituted for opium crops to discourage farmers from the cultivation of the plants used in producing the dangerous and addictive substance , opium.
Except there are hidden agendas as victims of the herdsmen killings in Nigeria allege, l see no reason why diligent application of the prescriptions for changing the ancient mindset of nomadic herdsmen as detailed above can not be efficacious.
Magnus Onyibe, a development strategist, alumnus of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy , Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA and former commissioner in delta state govt sent this piece from Abuja.