If we did not know our President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), better, we would think he actually enjoys seeing Nigerians suffer. But the truth is, he just doesn’t care!
There is a difference, and perhaps it bears being pointed out. President Buhari would not go out of his way to make life hard for his people. But if what he is doing or not doing happens to make life hard for you, so be it. He does not care.
To the adherents of the religion practised in the innermost recess of our rocky state fortress, this view is blasphemy, deserving of prime-time insult and creative name-calling.
However, creative name-calling should be the least of anyone’s worries when the corporate existence of Nigeria is threatened. Everyone with a modicum of love for their motherland should speak up now.
The South-East and South-West regions are erupting in a rash of self-help efforts, the sort that manifests in the absence of government; the sort that can tip the country over in a paroxysm of violence.
In the face of relentless assault on the people of Oke Ogun in Oyo State by bandits mainly from the North who rape, kill and kidnap for ransom, a certain Sunday Igboho has stepped up, trumpeting a mandate to protect the defenceless. That actually is the job description of a government.
The ingredients are all there for a complete breakdown of law and order. This should alarm the President and those charged with the duty of securing Nigeria.
It has taken long years of inactivity by the elected leaders to get to this point; years of continuously passing over great opportunities to turn things around for the country.
Nigeria has a knack for missing the bus when the world is finding solutions to life’s challenges. Perhaps, it is not so much of missing the bus as deliberately ignoring it, opting for trekking instead!
Consequently, we battle with problems for which effective solutions have been around for years and sometimes centuries.
The reason is not difficult to comprehend. When Nigerians gather at the table ostensibly to find solutions to a problem, there are always options that are not even up for discussion at all, because bringing them up will offend the sensibilities of an ethnic group, a religion, vested interest, power bloc, governor or President.
However, the solution being excluded from discussion for prebendal reasons may be the only antidote to the malaise being discussed.
Take this latest cattle-herding related crisis, for instance; is it not obvious that migratory cattle-herding is outdated? Which other progressive country still allows cows to roam its cities and destroy farm harvests? None.
Is it not obvious to everyone that stopping pastoralism and assisting cattle herders to migrate to modern ways of doing their business is a sure-fire solution to the current crisis? Yet, that is the option not on the table as people on the corridors of power try to outdo each other to impress the President.
Migratory herding and open grazing of cattle ought to have been stopped decades ago if we had shame. To the embarrassment of the nation, an Air France plane ran into a herd of cows on touchdown at our so called international airport runway in Port Harcourt some years ago, compromising the lives of 196 passengers and crew on board.
Over 20 years ago, herders drew daggers on me because I almost ran my Volkswagen Beetle into their flock smack in the middle of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway.
I had picked up my sister in-law whose flight was delayed past midnight and we were returning to FESTAC Town when we saw two people flashing torchlights beside the road around Ijesha Bus Stop. At that ungodly hour, my thought was that they were robbers and I moved towards the fast lane and decided to make a dash for it.
I was only metres away when I saw that it was a herd of cattle blocking the entire expressway. I slammed the brakes and was able to stop at the nick of time. The herders were not impressed. They came towards us menacingly with drawn daggers telling us they would have slaughtered us if we had killed any of their cows. Many compatriots have been so killed for cows.
More worrisome is the fact that many of the herders who have had to get firearms to protect themselves and their cattle against rustlers are discovering that it is far more lucrative to use those weapons to perpetrate criminality than to fend off rustlers.
And if we were to study it, the rate at which honest herders are converting to renegades must be geometric in the last one or two years.
There is a video online showing a young Fulani cattle herder who was arrested while his gang was attempting to kidnap a motorist somewhere in Auchi, Edo State. He claimed he was invited from his village by his ‘brother’ to ‘follow cows’ (herd cattle) but got to the forest of Auchi to discover they were into kidnapping. By that time, it was too late for him to go back.
So either we like it or not, there is an army of erstwhile herders who have gone rogue all over our forests. Their brand of kidnapping is different from Evans’. They do not have the luxury of keeping their victims in a room in town, and there is no sophistication beyond their arms and ammunition. No flashy cars to draw suspicion, no girlfriend in town you can track them through.
This brand of outlaws is ascetic. Their operation is more ruthless. They are especially more difficult to track down because of their wide knowledge of the forests. From years of migratory herding, they know the forests more than many indigenes. They are always on the move forcing their victims to trek for miles, sleeping in open camps, drinking from the same water sources as cattle and feeding on what they harvest from people’s farms.
This brand of criminality needs to be understood in order to combat it, which is why it is not a good idea to stick to political correctness and shy away from correctly identifying the crime with renegade herders. There are genuine herdsmen who are carrying out their business lawfully. But we must recognise also that there are now renegade herdsmen who have taken to a life of crime.
Their activities will make life more difficult for their law-abiding kinsmen. But more importantly, their activities are capable of pitting ethnic groups against each other.
It is already happening. Figures such as Sunday Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu are all we need to enthrone the government of mobs. A wise man once said that the IQ of a mob can be determined by taking the IQ of the dumbest member and dividing it by the number of members. In the end, more harm will be done than good.
This is why the President needs to stop playing Emperor Nero now and take this raging bull by the horns in the urgent interest of this country.
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- Awe, a PR professional, wrote in from Lagos.