I wonder how it is for Nigerians who don’t read and are not aware of the woes and tragedies in different parts of the country overrun by kidnappers, murderers, bandits and terrorists and who are deaf and cannot hear the news and cannot be told about what’s going on but who can see with their eyes people running in different directions. Will such handicapped persons not know war has broken out?
I am told that there is an Igbo proverb that says you don’t have to tell a dumb and deaf man that war has broken out because he will see it with his own eyes when people start running helter-skelter. No day passes in Nigeria without news of some gruesome murders committed by either so called bandits, kidnappers, terrorists and herders. Some government’s spokesmen have even tried to define these groups and Sheikh Abubakar Gumi who seems to know more about these people have told us the differences between them. We are told the bandits are just unemployed, hungry and angry young men who can be redeemed if government can find something for them to do or to eat. Some even unfairly compare them with militants in the Niger Delta protesting about poverty in the midst of wealth. Some even suggest sending them abroad to be trained as artisans!
I think the same Sheikh said the terrorists like Boko Haram and their affiliates are irredeemable and have to be confronted and in Nigerian army parlance “neutralized”. The herders are of two types. There are the local ones and the foreign ones from Mali, Niger and Chad. We are told the foreign ones are very dangerous and cannot be easily placated. The local ones are our own Fulani who in medical terms are benign but how to separate the wheat from the chaff is a problem. In Nigeria, the term Fulani is carelessly used to depict anyone carrying a stick and now an AK-47 and following herds of cattle. The real Fulani must either be laughing or furious about how their ethnic group is being used to describe just any cowhand in Nigeria. The herders have also become the kidnappers either when they have sold their cattle or rustlers have stolen their cattle they then try to recoup their losses by kidnapping people and asking for ransom. These local herders are not the owners of the cattle they follow from Maiduguri, Yola, Sokoto or Kano to the south. They are hired by the owners of the cattle who have agents to sell the cattle and repatriate the money to the maigida up north. These herders are from the underclass who merely survives on the measly and poor remuneration they make after their arduous journeys of over a thousand kilometres. When they see how much money they can make from successful kidnapping, they become addicted to the business and overtime their masters may find it difficult to find herders unless they go outside the country which of course they can easily do and recruit new herders from the millions of jobless and aimless young men in our neighbouring countries.
People have always asked why the poor animals are not ferried in trucks to their slaughter. Some are but the ones who need to be fattened along the route from the labour of equally suffering poor farmers are the ones who do the long trek accompanied by the poor herdsmen who may later become kidnappers. These kidnappers, I must say, are then joined by local criminals who want a piece of the action and who also want their share of the blood money. Because of arduous work they do some of these herders are addicted to hallucinogenic drugs. This is why they kill without any sentiment or emotions. Some of the so-called Fulani, especially the bororo are pagans and not Muslims so appealing to them in the name of Allah would fall on deaf ears. This is the only way one can see understand what happened in the case of the Greenfield University episode in Kaduna. The kidnappers demanded for N800 million to release the victims and when they felt they were not being taken seriously they slaughtered five of the young boys and girls and threw their bodies near the university where they were seen by passers-by. Eventually after 40 days of total absence of government, the parents recovered the remaining children after selling their homes and other properties to pay a ransom of N180 million as claimed by the parents. While the drama was going on, Sheikh Abubakar Gumi pleaded with the Kaduna and federal governments to pay the kidnappers N100 million and he suggested they would take the money even though vastly less than N800 million they demanded and that they would have freed the students.
I can understand Governor Nasir El- Rufai saying paying ransom would encourage the spate of kidnapping and because he had burnt his fingers before when he paid some terrorists to leave his state alone, they apparently took the money and continued in their terrorists attack on the farmers.
The Kaduna story can be replicated in several parts of Nigeria. It is even more serious in Zamfara, Benue, Plateau and Taraba states. The full scale war in the Northeast particularly in Borno, Yobe, Gombe and Adamawa are better known because of the deadly onslaught of Boko Haram and the forces of ISIS in the West African Province (ISWAP). People are afraid to travel by road anymore. Even Abuja to Kaduna, one of the most strategic roads in the country is now a no-go area. Even military convoys are shying away from it and officers now either fly or go by train on the relatively short distance which in good times would have been a pleasurable trip to see the countryside.
Initially the incendiary rebellion, because that is what it looked like, was restricted to the North but now it has metastasized to cover the whole country. The Niger Delta which seems to have seen some respite has again joined in the orgy of violence of their own or in resistance to herders’ onslaught on their area.
The Southeast is completely different case rooted in the deep and underlying feelings of marginalization by the Buhari regime with regards to appointments particularly security appointments. The old shadow of the Biafran war of the 1960s seems to hang dangerously in the Southeast. The herders’ invasions and killings in the southwest and rampant kidnappings and the destabilization of the economic activities of the place because of the fear of intercity travel have upset a critical mass of the people.
All these problems have been compounded by the economic effect and the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic. We are even very lucky for its less than severe mortality and morbidity in our country. I shudder to think of what would have happened to Nigeria if we were to suffer from the kind of the experience of India. With our primitive medical infrastructure, no one would be left standing! As I write not up to one per cent of Nigerians have gotten one or two shots of the coronavirus vaccines. Unless a miracle happens we will be sitting ducks when the serious wave of this terrible pandemic breaks out here
While we are faced with this twilight in our country, it does not seem the powers-that-be understand the existential nature of the problems. We are at the precipice and a little push may plunge the country into chaos if not war of all against all. If this happens, the war front may not be easily identified because while some may want to fight an ethnic war; others may fight a war of spoils and while others may want a war of the poor against the not too poor. In essence, we stand to lose the little we have achieved in the 20th and the two decades of the 21st centuries. Weapons merchants would be too glad to ply their trade here and the racist white world would enjoy blacks slaughtering blacks. One white politician cynically suggested that Africa would have been the best continent if not for the blacks. In other words, remove the blacks and Africa would be perfect for white colonization. Instead of facing the fundamental issues of our existence, we spend all our time on disputes over cows. We fight where they should forage, and where they should drink water. The rest of the world is even moving away from eating beef. Ireland is reducing the population of its cows by 50 per cent because cows emit too much methane which is causing global warming. It is common knowledge that beef is not good for our health.
Soon we will find out that the world is moving away from hydrocarbon dependency. Then, where will we find money to sustain our deep state of huge bureaucracy and a myriad of ministries, agencies and other paraphernalia of state that add nothing to the welfare of our people? If all this does not constitute the twilight of a country that used to lead Africa but now finds its voice muffled and is hardly consulted in decent international circles, then what does?
But after twilight comes a glorious dawn. If our leaders listen to wise counsel and to the cries of the suffering humanity in Nigeria, we may yet turn from the precipice and walk our way back chastened by the experience of this period, do an analysis of what is wrong with the present structure of our country and try to make amends. If we don’t do this then the answer is blowing in the wind