By Festus Adedayo
When the news filtered in that the Muhammadu Buhari government, embarrassed into a scamper by the spate of killings of innocent Nigerians in Zamfara State and other parts of the North West of Nigeria, had sent a delegation to meet with the national leaders of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, (MACBAN) in Birnin-Kebbi, capital of Kebbi State last week, Alagba Adebayo Faleti’s 1965 Yoruba classic, a 48-page short novel entitled Ogun Awitele (A War Foreseen/Foretold) immediately leapt on my mind. Faleti, who died recently, lived between December 26, 1921 and July 23, 2017. He also carved a renown for himself by writing the famous movie, Basorun Gaa, which roundly trounced modern governmental despotism. He was one of Africa’s first broadcasters, stage plays Director and first film editor with Africa’s first television station (WNTV/WNBS). If you read Ogun Awitele, you would imagine that the fabled Faleti, way back 54 years ago, had Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, his Chief of Army Staff and the whole Nigerian security architecture in mind while writing it. These men are today running from pillar to post to stem the tide of banditry in the northern states..
Though details of that meeting were shrouded from view, Abdurahman Bello Dambazzau, the Minister of Interior, who led the meeting, had told journalists that the “dialogue” was “with leaders of herdsmen as part of (a) process,’’ while Acting Inspector General of Police, Muhammad Adamu, who was also at the meeting, said “criminals have infiltrated the crisis, and we should cooperate and deal decisively with the culprits, hence we called for this interaction.” Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State was also part of the curious “dialogue.” Excited by the whole exercise, Alhaji Muhammad Kiruwa, MACBAN leader, had said “This is the first of its kind in the history of this country, for the President to direct his security aides to interact with an aggrieved party to air its views.”
As usual, the presidency, in the bid to stave off the harvest of attacks that this ill-advised decision bred, went on a junket of inanities. Garba Shehu, who must have substantially contributed to the deconstruction of the Buhari presidency in the estimation of the world in the last four years, travelled on his usual journey of cants. MACBAN, according to him, is like Afenifere and Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo socio-cultural groups and should thus not be criminalized.
“There are criminals within the Yoruba race and you cannot say because of that, Afenifere is a group of criminals. The Nigerian government is speaking with the leadership of the Fulani herders association, Miyetti Allah. All of the issues were about the involvement of the leadership of Miyetti Allah and getting them to prevail upon its members and they are many (italics mine). We asked them to assist the administration to recover weapons which were owned by a lot of these elements,” Shehu said.
No sooner had they finished this curious tete-a-tete than rumour mills went on their trail. N100 billion was alleged to have been offered to this amorphous group for this weird assignment. You will recall that MACBAN’s Life Patron is President Buhari himself and whose splinter leaders had openly acknowledged being the brains behind several killings of farmers in Benue State in the first couple of years of the Buhari government.
Then Faleti crept in to dissolve the inexplicable riddle with his Ogun Awitele. A Yoruba town in the pre-colony was being ravaged by bandits, just like Nigeria under Muhammadu Buhari. Like Buhari, the Baale (village head) was worried stiff. Zamfara and the North West in general have amassed the notoriety of the Boko Haram and raised red flag of concern in the West African sub-region. Life of man had become of less worth than that of the Agama lizard. With billions pocketed by Buhari and his minions in the security who co-incidentally hail from that troubled region, coupled with the bravado of their Air Force fighter jets hovering in subdued pomposity in the sky, the apparently untrained bandits have been ravaging non-stop, even extending their suzerainty to other parts of the North.
One day, the Baale received a very audacious letter from the leader of bandits in the province telling him of the particular time and day they would come to rout the town. Troubled the more, the Baale summoned the Oluode, his own Chief of Army Staff, his own Tukur Buratai. No, not to surreptitiously haggle over peace with the bandits as Buhari is doing with his macabre MACBAN. Nor to hand them the purse of state as ransom for peace. His decree was to cut the bandits to size.
Thus, the gathering of armaments and weaponry began. Oluode also summoned his war Generals, the Ikolaba, Balogun and others. Phials and amulets were sourced from all frontiers. Their weaponry was multiplied. Those who needed to make propitiations to their gods were given money for sacrifices. And on the D-day, they had become super-human. Their eyes were dilating like pellets of ice soaked into oil, even as they perfected their war strategies. Faleti painted a scary picture of the 30-man bandits’ appearance when they eventually filed into the town at the wee hours of the morning. Four women led the rampaging army of bandits in a single file of appearance, two of whom carried a heavy phial-laced pounded yam mortal on the head and the other backing a carved effigy. After a titanic battle waged with metaphysical armaments, guns and cutlasses, the hunters won, to retain the dignity of their fatherland. Faleti concluded this novel by stating that a foretold war should ordinarily not capture a wise cripple.
Rather than yield to the wise counsel of Faleti’s Baale who chose not to negotiate peace with bandits, our own Baale, Muhammadu Buhari, chose to engage acquaintances – and I dare say – accomplices, of those selfsame people who have made the shedding of same people’s blood their sworn credo. They are Buhari’s weird choice as those who would find solution to the bloodshed. We need to ask the President where in the books of war he found this reversed and inverted logic, other than a quest to benefit his Fulani brothers.
All of the issues were about the involvement of the leadership of Miyetti Allah and getting them to prevail upon its members and they are many. What does the presidential spokesman mean by this? First, this is an acknowledgment we have sought all this while from the presidency to authenticate the fact that MACBAN is indeed what the world says it is. You will recall that Fulani herdsmen had earlier been declared as one of the deadliest terrorist groups in the world by the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) which, in a survey, had said that the herdsmen, mainly of the Fula ethnic group, were terrorist organizations. Prevail on its members terrorizing Zamfara and other northern states? With due respect, this is tantamount to the presidency finally acknowledging that Fulani herdsmen are indeed notorious criminals. This is same set of people Shehu unconscionably referred to as variants of the very noble southern socio-political groups whose activities led to the democracy which pot of honey Garba and his likes are feeding fat on. Who canvassed this wonky logic to the presidency, to wit that criminals should be allowed to benefit from their own wrongdoing which this action of the presidency indicates?
The presidency, especially the dramatis personae empowered by Buhari to enter into agreement with the Fula descendants, have disclaimed the viral claim across the country that presidency indeed offered the terrorist group N100 billion to stop this bloodshed. Fine. No government should be caught in a blood-caked deal like this. But, if we may ask, what was the consideration – I mean payment – that was the core of this negotiation? What was on offer by the Federal Government? Or were the MACBAN disciples ordered to bring about this elusive peace pro-bono? If not, how much was on offer and was there an acceptance? When these characters called government leg-men talk, they apparently assume that the people they talk to have their brains fastened to the soles of their feet. Because, their defence of no payment to Miyetti Allah is, please pardon my usage of the word, idiotic. Also, when Kiruwa, MACBAN leader, commended Buhari for sending his security aides to interact with “an aggrieved party to air its views,” what did he mean? If the purpose was to dialogue with aggrieved party to a crisis, why were farmers in Benue whom MACBAN has almost decimated, not party to this “dialogue”?
The ostensible mode of operation of this pleading with MACBAN by government was either to use counter force against their fellow bandits, which will require government releasing arms and ammunition to them to engage these accursed blood shedding felons in the forest; or arm them with cash with which to persuade the herder terrorists to abandon their pursuit. Whichever path government chooses to tread has deleterious consequences for Nigeria. In the first, those arms will someday come back home to roost and be used against ordinary Nigerians; second, arming apparent enemies of state with state fund is a recipe for total destruction, apology to Bob Marley, and more chaotic banditry.
The most painful implication of this negotiation with Miyetti Allah is that Buhari is openly raising his arms in the sky in surrender as affirmation of his inability or incapability to ensure peace in the country. It is also an affirmation that he is, by that very fact, ceding the power to maintain peace to some unorthodox and amorphous group of criminals. Since the foundation of every government is said to be security, deductive reasoning concludes that Buhari can as well outsource governance to his kinsmen, the notorious killer group from Foutajallon Island.
Ganduje and his Mandarin powers
Kano State is at the moment witnessing a needless turmoil. Though not totally restricted to Kano, it is the predilection of those who hold the suzerainty of power in Third World countries which they unleash on victims of their imperial governmental power. It is a political flexing of muscles between a governmental head and head of a monarchy, the result of which will likely confirm Lord Acton the historian and moralist’s age long quip made in 1887, to wit, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” Acton had made this imperishable statement in a letter he wrote to Bishop Mandell Creighton.
The two gladiators at the centre of this show of brawn are the governor of the state, Abdullahi Ganduje and the Emir of Kano, Lamido Sanusi Lamido. Even if you didn’t know where the Emir belonged in the electoral pendulum of February, 2019, you would know that Sanusi didn’t want Ganduje to return to office. His disdain for the re-emergence of the governor, famous for the viral video of his shameless pocketing of foreign currency bribe money, was very noticeable. At diverse public fora, Sanusi was said to have ensured that he didn’t spare the rod in denouncing the reign of Gamduje as rascally and worthless. Ganduje was also said to hold on to the belief that, but for Sanusi’s abetment of the candidature of his rival in the election, he would not have gone through the mill of anxiety he went through before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) eventually thumbed up his gubernatorial contest.
Brilliant banker and blessed with a mesmerizing gift of the garb, Sanusi has also nevertheless turned this gift into a needle with which he pierced the stillness of power politics at both state and national levels. His interventions, however, sometimes border on blue blood pomposity and arrogance. He severally dismissed the government of Goodluck Jonathan as narrow-minded and inept, with rumours circulating that Jonathan would have rid himself of this Central Bank Governor of his but for Sanusi’s quit dive into the Emir robe.
In January, 2012, Sanusi’s tongue was again on a roller-coaster. In a submission of his which instantly went viral, he lambasted the Yoruba as having shown self over the years as incapable of rising above narrow tribal interests and “reciprocating goodwill from other sections of the country by treating other groups with respect. Practically every crisis in Nigeria since independence has its roots in this attitude.” Not for once did Sanusi let the world know that the feudal system of the North, from the days of the Sardauna till now, the subservience of her people and the vermin-like dependence on government by Northern elite, are some of the retrogressive indices that have kept Nigeria down since the people found themselves in the forced assemblage of 1914.
Anyway, this time around, Sanusi’s tongue stung a venal character of vengeance. The two of them sequestered in the boxing ring, the Emir is right now squaring up with a man who has no elementary scruple and whose definition of power is imperial and despotic in all material particular. Thus, immediately after the vexed election, Ganduje bore his fangs like a tempestuous rattlesnake. He first announced his desire to break Sanusi’s haughty back. Pronto, as the Americans say, he began the process and got the House of Assembly to pass a bill dividing Sanusi’s single emirate in a Rehoboamic fashion, into five emirates, within the twinkle of an eye. This the legislature did in under a few days, a palpable mockery of process and order which are the livewire of democracy.
Yes, Sanusi can be said to be stewing in his own broth of arrogance, indiscretion and the limitless province of his irritable tongue but the Ganduje manipulation of state power for venal vendetta is dangerous for the polity and is a sure dis-advertisement for those canvassing for the legislation of state police as part of Nigeria’s quest for restructuring. In virtually all states of the federation, state governors have demonstrated their drunkenness with the wine of the limitless power conferred on them by statutes and constitution. The acts of those among them who are consumed by childlike vindictive disposition like Ganduje’s should point a finger at the danger of the borderless power at their disposal. The other day, Nasir el-Rufai woke up from the other side of his bed and ordered that the house of his traducer at the Senate be demolished. The constitution gives these men, who have urchin-like disposition to power, the power of life and death.
Nigeria should be bothered about the extent of these powers in the hands of governors who erroneously call themselves Executive. If we don’t shout out and mobilize to whittle these Mandarin powers in their possession, someday, they will use it on us all. By then, it will be too late to cry over the spilt milk of the little emperors we sire in our backyards.