By Lasisi Olagunju
Herdsmen are the new vultures of Nigeria. Everyday they flap down south to eat intestines of surprised cassava farmers. They are the terror eagle daily gliding down to feed on the liver of the one planting the village maize. When relations in their sorrow cry and weep, the herdsmen’s hawk pounces down to eat the crying eyes of the bereaved. Everyone is worried, terrified. Everything has its assigned place in life. Maize has its ridges, cow its ranch. There is a problem when rapacious vulture leaves its place on the baobab tree to feed in the easy nest of the dove. That is what Fulani herdsmen are doing to farmers and the government says the aggrieved should not shout. The killed should accommodate their killers. The herders in power also want to kill the gong and its voice. The government calls it hate speech. They say it must stop or those who spew it get frozen like eja oku Eko, fish of the poor.
The Buhari government enjoys digging its own grave everyday. Everything it does progressively drops its signal from 4G to No service. And many of us feel really sorry that we have to write against the spirit of esprit de corps. That is the spirit we’ve always had for our own Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu. These are gentlemen who don’t deserve the Sisyphean job they do for Muhammadu Buhari. King Sisyphus in Greek mythology did well for his people but he was crafty, deceitful and wicked. Authors of the myth say he “promoted navigation and commerce but was avaricious and deceitful. He also killed travellers and guests…He took pleasure in these killings because they allowed him to maintain his iron-fisted rule.”
For doing these horrible things, Sisyphus was condemned to roll, for eternity, a massive rock up a hill. His eternal task is simple. He rolls the rock uphill, gets almost to the top only for the rock to roll back. He starts again almost to the top and the rock rolls back to the bottom. He is still there as you read this, rolling, sweating, swearing, as the rock, for eternity, rolls back to the base of the hill. That is what I see in our colleagues trying to spin things for this government. It is a fruitless labour. I’m not even sure it is not a sin against God looking away or defending killings and lies repeatedly.
I have seen the very many efforts being made to decimate Olusegun Obasanjo for daring to write the tenant he helped put in Aso Rock. Many Nigerians don’t like Obasanjo. I’m not very sure I am not one of them. The reasons (sins) are as many as our population-180 million. Some don’t like his Machiavellian politics; some loathe his guts. Some don’t like the fact that he loves women and flaunts it. Some loathe him because of his claim to being not a Yoruba but a Nigerian nationalist. The reasons are sometimes fundamental, sometimes very banal. I don’t like him because he is never there to defend the Yoruba when his weight is needed. Then, is he a warm person? We are taught to respectfully greet elders anywhere we meet them. A colleague once did just that for Ebora Owu. He said the old man simply looked away. Some other time, one of his senior aides introduced my friend to the former president at the Lagos airport. The old man cast a furtive glance at him and walked away to his aircraft. Wetin you do am? I asked the gentleman who said he honestly didn’t know. But really some friends said he was lucky. They congratulated him for escaping Obasanjo’s verbal shots. They said he can talk down anyone, especially journalists. But why? People offend big men for several reasons. Sometimes, it is money or women, daughters of eve.
Years ago, Obasanjo banned journalists and dogs from his Ota farm. Why dogs and journalists? I hope to ask him one day why he grouped journalists with dogs. But should anyone’s opinion of the Obasanjo person play any role in the appreciation of his latest intervention? It shouldn’t and it will not. And so, I say that he has done very well reminding birds of prey of their expiring tenancy on the branch of the market tree. Obasanjo’s statement was tonic for a tired, despondent citizenry. He spoke about everything that is wrong with the government we have. Herdsmen, crass nepotism, all. He spoke at a time everyone up there had gone dumb. He is a patriot despite his warts.
But there is Obasanjo’s suggestion of a third force as cure for the current politics of herders. Nigeria’s ailment is resistant to all existing drugs. The remedy has been worse than the disease. The sick is not improving. He is, in fact, deteriorating fast. If the patient is not improving, let his relations get him another physician. Should there really be any argument about that? But changing hospitals and doctors will be meaningless if the old therapy is all the new caregiver has to offer. Every knowledgeable doctor should know that patients with drug-resistant illnesses are at “increased risk of worse clinical outcomes and death.” That is the current situation of Nigeria. We must discharge (rescue) our country from its current diseased hospital even against doctors’ advice. But the third force will work only if it is not coming with the usualness that landed us here. Whatever it is coming with must include a comprehensive restructuring plan for what we call Nigeria. That is the mood of the nation, even the APC is playing the game. I hope the new force listens.
The privileged in the Villa don’t like what Obasanjo said. It is their job not to like it. But are they proud of what their minister of defence said on muzzling the media? And on herdsmen and the mass murders in Benue? There must be something very fundamentally wrong with a 21st century government that endorses trekking from Maiduguri to Lagos. They say grazing cattle from the deserts of northern Nigeria to the southern forest is a valued culture that must be preserved. That was the tragic logic of our Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan Alli after the National Security Council meeting last week. And herders had to kill because their ancestral grazing routes were blocked by farmers. The wages of sin is death. The punishment for farming on privileged routes of the Fulani is summary execution? I shuddered as I listened to the man who swore to defend all of us. Who did we offend for us to merit this punishment?
No one hates the Fulani as human beings. Many have lived in peace down south since the beginning of their lineage. But no one likes having an enemy as a roommate. Your host can’t be drinking water and you drink blood. The new strain of Fulani is riding roughshod over others outside that ethnic belt. These ones plant heads when the farmers who are housing them plant yams. Farmers look forward to harvesting corn, our herders look forward to harvesting human heads. Everyday, the news is about blood, death and sorrow wherever they pass. The tragic reality of the trekking Fulani’s case is the consistency in the reaction the victims get from their elite. A Fulani member of the House of Representatives proudly said cows had more values than humans. Then this Fulani Defence Minister added his own defence of the carnage. Then there is the silence of conspiracy from the boss of them all. And they want all of us to also press the mute button. They want the market of grief to be still and quiet. But will Onikoyi stop going to war when Aroni, the medicine man, has refused to stay at home? And we are all casualties of this raging Fulani war. When the farmer is scared away from the field of today’s crops, what will the hungry eat tomorrow morning? The way to shut victims up is to stop hurting them.