By Fani Femi Kayode
The callous response of the northern governors to the horrendous events in Enugu has compelled me to write this contribution. These are difficult and troubling times and these are times that the truth needs to be spoken. I appreciate those that publish my contributions in my various columns because, in a country that hates to hear the truth and that finds it difficult to comprehend and grasp reality, that in itself takes courage. I also appreciate the increasingly large number of Nigerians from all over the world that take the time to read my contributions because without them, there would be no point in writing.
On April 30, 2016, Mr. George Akinola wrote the following words on Facebook: “When the Fulani exploded on the geographic space later christened Nigeria in 1804, they did not negotiate power with the Hausas; they seized it from them on the battlefield. When the same Fulani appeared in Ilorin in 1823, purportedly to assist Afonja, the Are-ona-kakanfo of Oyo and the ruler of Ilorin, in revolt against his sovereign, Alafin Aole, the Alafin of Oyo, it was to gain his confidence for a while and a vantage position to murder him. Ilorin has been under Fulani rule since then and up until today. When the British colonised all these empires, kingdoms and fiefdoms in the 19th century, it was not out of love for the black man. It was an imperialistic push for more land, more territories to exploit minerals and other resources from. If you did not agree by subtle pressure, they simply applied the brute force. To hell with you and all you cared for!
“When the Fulani attacked Yorubaland in 1825, they gave all our ancestors notice that they intended to bury the Quran in the sea at the backyard of the Yoruba empire and kingdoms. Meaning? They will kill, destroy, maim, trample on men, women, children and all that we hold dear to achieve this goal. This was not by negotiation or a bargaining deal. Blood was on the cards and red was its colour. Thank God for the fierce resistance of the Yoruba, rallying at Ibadan. If not, maybe we will be doing ‘ranka dede’ for one clown Emir of Ado-Ekiti or another comedian Emir of Abeokuta today. Power does not give way to persuasion. Power only succumbs to superior power.
“Fast forward to 1960. The new nation had just gained independence. But the drums of drunken power was already pulsating with madness in the heart of Ahmadu Bello, the leader of NPC, the party that won the 1959 elections, and which assumed the reins of power to lead Nigeria at independence. Note that this was the great grandson of Uthman Dan Fodio, the leader of the 1804 Fulani Jihad. He made his intention, and the intention of the Fulani clear in this now infamous statement. Hear Ahmadu Bello in the Parrot Newspaper of October 12, 1960:
‘The new nation called Nigeria should be an estate of our great grandfather Uthman Dan Fodio. We must ruthlessly prevent a change of power. We use the minorities in the North as willing tools and the south as a conquered territory and never allow them to rule over us and never allow them to have control over their future.’
“I am sure you did not read any entreaties of love, affection and camaraderie disposition in that statement. It was harsh, callous, wicked, sadistic, exploitative, intimidating and wholesomely damning.
That is drunken power talking with inspiration from the lunatic fringe.
When he eventually died, his inheritors found a way to re-invent their stranglehold on Nigeria. They came in through the military and continued, in a more draconian fashion, the bleeding exploitation of Nigeria. What we inherited from the British was ‘self-governing Regions of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.’
“Now we are forcibly united by an un-feeling centre. What we inherited was a revenue allocation formula that was largely derivative. Now it is almost ‘allocative.’
At a point, Muhammadu Buhari reduced the 50 per cent derivation formula to one per cent. These parasites are barracudas and Shylocks of the highest order. The only language these savages understand is the one that brought them there in the first case: Force. This may be subtle through the use of the instrumentality of guerrilla journalism, protests, occupation, civil resistance, civil disobedience, referendum, United Nations appeal, international coalition of forces, etc.
“On the other hand, it may boom through the barrel of the gun in a violent uprising or revolt, civil or guerrilla warfare. Either way, force is force. The irreducible decimal is that the Yoruba reject enslavement, the appropriation of their resources without their approval and illegal occupation of their God-given land with all iota of their soul and with all the power in their being. Whether for one second or for 200 years the enemy shall not feel comfortable until they leave. With reference to how they will leave, however, the choice remains theirs: Either on foot, running helter-skelter, on stretchers, in trailers, buses or straddled on horses. But, leave, they shall, when superior power speaks!”
These are harsh and frightful words yet Mr. Akinola’s historical analysis and assessment is first class. He has spoken nothing but the truth, no matter how bitter that truth may be. This takes courage and I commend him for it. I deplore violence and I do not advocate or condone it in any shape or form. I do not want anyone to leave our land “loaded in coffins” or in body bags and neither do I believe that violence and bloodshed leads to anything but even more violence and bloodshed. It is nothing but a vicious cycle.
However, the type of rhetoric that is now being expressed by our southern youth and intellectuals about the situation in Nigeria and particularly about the excesses of the Fulani cannot be ignored or downplayed. We ignore the words of people like Mr. George Akinola, Mr. Babatunde Gbadamosi, Mr. Grandson Soyemi and so many others at our own peril.
Clearly, there is tension and anger in the land. The spirit of division is rife and it is getting stronger by the day. Things are getting hotter and tempers are flaring. Nigeria is beginning to unravel at the seams. We must all be very careful not to set a match to the tinderbox.
Thankfully, there are still a number of Fulani and non-Fulani voices in the North, who represent a moderate and sane disposition and who have nothing to do with the hegemonist or religious agenda of the bigots and the hardliners.
I am talking about men like Colonel Abubakar ‘Dangiwa’ Umar, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, Alhaji Kashim Ibrahim Imam, Alhaji Ibrahim Turaki (SAN) and so many others. I know every single one of these individuals and I can vouch for them. These are the sort of people that are still holding the country together by giving southerners hope that the voice of moderation, reason and restraint still exists in the North and that, that voice may eventually prevail. Yet the fire continues to burn on the mountain and tempers are still rising.
The insulting warning to the South from the 19 northern governors just the other day made matters worse. This contribution did not help to calm the storm but instead it has further frayed nerves. Simply put, the northern governors have rubbed raw salt into our southern wounds.
They said that southerners should “not insult the Fulani again” and that even though they deplored what their kinsmen, the Fulani herdsmen, did in Enugu the other day, that does not mean that “their people” ought to be insulted. This is all they had to say after thousands of southerners have been killed, maimed, raped, abducted and tortured in the sanctity of their own homes and land by the Fulani militants and herdsmen over the last one year alone and after over one hundred Igbo were slaughtered in Enugu State just a few days ago. They even went a step further by saying that they intend to take the cue from Kaduna State and introduce the licensing of all churches and preachers in all the states of the North.
This is a deep insult to every Christian worth his salt, to the clergy and to the Church. It is also a surreptitious attempt to curb the spreading of the gospel in northern Nigeria. If ever the northern governors had an all-time low, this is it. Instead of them burying their heads in shame and appealing to the rest of Nigeria to forgive them and their kith and kin for their collective and historical sins, the Fulani leaders are still issuing threats to the rest of us through their surrogates, leaders and governors. This is unacceptable. Such reckless arrogance and callous insensitivity does not serve them well and neither does it engender peace and reconciliation in our country. Instead it is provocative and insulting and it can only lead to a greater degree of alienation and more misunderstanding.
Sadly, the 17 southern governors could not even muster the resolve to organise their own meeting and respond to the slur in a virile and responsible manner. Instead they all ran for cover and chose to dwell in the safety and comfort of a cowardly and conspiratorial silence.
How I wish that men like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the leader of the Yoruba, Dim Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the Ikenga of Igboland, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, the former Senate President, Chief Alfred Rewane, one of the greatest and most fearless southern elders that ever lived and Chief Harold Dappa Biriye, the leader of the Ijaw nation were still with us. How I wish that men like Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Orji Uzor Kalu and Chimaroke Nnamani were still governors. How I wish that people like Ojo Maduekwe and Ebenezer Babatope were still ministers.
Meanwhile, the people of the South are still grieving and suffering immeasurable pain, as a consequence of the gratuitous violence and evil that we have been subjected to at the hands of these murderous Fulani herdsmen over the last ten months. We are still mourning our dead and, indeed, all the innocent and defenceless souls, including women and children, that were murdered in cold blood in Enugu State just a few days ago. The truth is that as long as those that represent the Fulani militants and herdsmen continue to try to justify or rationalise their beastly behaviour and threaten the South, there will be people like Mr. George Akinola, who will respond with the sort of rhetoric that he has expressed in this contribution. There would also be far more than mere rhetoric and this, more than anything else, saddens me because I am a man of peace and I deplore violence.
Yet you cannot expect people to sit by silently and watch their loved ones and kith and kin being slaughtered like Christmas turkeys and Sallah rams on a daily basis by a bunch of uncouth, vulgar and unlettered barbaric beasts, who are suffering from some kind of vampiric blood lust and who are plagued and afflicted with a cult-like Janjaweed syndrome. It would be most unwise for the Fulani leaders and, indeed, the leaders of the North to ignore such sentiments and dismiss them with the usual contempt.
It is important that the Fulani militants and herdsmen are reigned in and that they stop killing southerners and occupying our land. It is important that the Buhari administration stops encouraging and covertly supporting them in their mass murder and savage butchery.
It is important that the greater and wider agenda to conquer the South, to take our lands, to dominate and islamise our people and to discredit, destroy, jail and kill all vocal and credible southern leaders that have opted to stand up against them be brought to a halt.
It is important that the master plan to subjugate the people of the South to perpetual bondage and slavery at the hands of the Fulani be stopped. It is only when that happens that we can guarantee lasting peace in our nation. It is only when this is done that people like Mr. George Akinola and all the other young rising southern stars will stop saying the sort of things that they are saying. It is only when that happens that they will stop speaking and reflecting the minds of millions of southerners, who are fed up with what is going on in our country and who are prepared to stand up, challenge the powers that be, break the yoke of bondage and slavery and fight for their freedom.
Permit me to end this contribution with the reaction of Afenifere, the leading Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, to the insults of the 19 northern governors. On May 1, 2016, the Sunday Vanguard Newspaper reported as follows: “The Yoruba group, which spoke through their National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, told Sunday Vanguard: “It (the northern governors’ position) is a sign of unfeeling, uncaring for any group today to come out and say that those who have been causing problems and killing people in the Middle Belt and the South are not Fulani herdsmen. They have killed in Agatu land, Enugu; a traditional ruler was killed in Delta State; they killed Chief Olu Falae’s guard and also kidnapped Chief Falae himself. For some people to gather and call themselves northern governors, and have no sympathy for lives than to be defending the Fulani herdsmen, shows clearly that it is a tragedy of monumental proportion to be in the same country with these elements. You also begin to wonder if the blood of human beings runs in their veins because anybody that has human blood running in his veins will not come and say that Fulani herdsmen are not responsible. What nonsense.”
The Afenifere spokesperson went on: “I think the northern governors should bury their heads in shame. I do not think they are fit to be in the comity of civilised human beings. If the attackers are not Fulani herdsmen, where have they struck in the North-West? Why are their activities only in the Middle Belt and in the South? That is the question these northern governors should answer. When militants were blowing up pipelines in the South-South, were they not called Niger Delta militants? Do they want us to call them Yoruba herdsmen?”
As always, Afenifere has done the Yoruba, and by extension the entire South, proud with their courageous and timely intervention. They have spoken for every single one of us that still has his dignity and self-respect intact. Let us hope that the northern governors and the murderers that they seek to defend get the message. Let us hope that they can purge themselves of the unwholesome and denigrating contempt that they clearly have for the people of the South before it is too late and before the whole damn nation explodes and breaks into a thousand pieces.