Take a fresh look at your lifestyle.


By Steve Nwosu

For the first time in recent memory, I, this week, found myself agreeing with the position of Information Minister Lai Mohammed on a burning national issue.
I agree with Alhaji on the fact that much of what is currently going on about ‘quit notices’ and ‘Fulani kidnappers’ is the result of the politicization of a purely security matter.
Hear him:
“Yes, we have challenges in the South-West, but I can assure you it is being taken very good care of …(but) please, lower the temperature… We should stop politicizing security matters. We should stop reading ethnicity or religion to purely security issues.”
I can’t agree more. Stripped of politics, there is absolutely nothing to the crimes and the South West response to them that should cause either the presidency, its agents in the South West, or any sincere Nigerian anywhere, a sleepless night.
My point of divergence, with the Honourable Minister, however, is this insinuation that it is the opposition that is behind this politicization. It is not. At least, not entirely.
I’ve long realized that a major leadership style of our governments in this country is state-sponsored distraction.
Because we inevitably elect, or have imposed on us, some of the most clueless set of human beings on God’s earth as leaders, we end up with governments that haven’t the foggiest idea about running a country – outside of commandeering the nation’s resources and squandering same.
Everything else they do is directly geared towards protecting that national pot of soup they have appropriated to themselves.

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They then create all manner of distractions to keep the rest of us busy and divert our attention from what they’re really doing with our treasure pot.
Who, for instance  still remembers that our government still has no clear-cut plan on how to procure Covid-19 vaccine for us, let alone think of local production? Who amongst us still remembers to ask what became of all the funds raised by the private sector to support the fight against Covid-19? And the palliatives? The cash transfers? To lockdown or not to lockdown? Low testing rate? The new strains of the Pandemic? The refineries? The high-profile corruption cases which case files were allegedly recalled by the office of the attorney-general?

They play up religion and ethnicity – which they know are always a hit with us.
If Bishop Matthew Kukah tells truth to power, it is the federal government that would remind unsuspecting Muslim clerics that what the bishop said could be interpreted along ethnic and religious lines. Those ones then begin to reason along the lines of the Presidency script. And trust them, by the time a few cleric-for-hire faithful take up the gauntlet, threats and outright felony begin to freely fly about.
Of course, the original message is deliberately lost in the cacophony – which was the deliberate design of government to avoid addressing the issues raised. That is why we’re today asking Kukah to apologise for insulting religious sensibilities. The issues he raised have since been swept under the carpet, unaddressed.

When Benue, Ondo, Ekiti or Rivers enact any laws to regulate open grazing, it is often the Presidency that blindly leads the campaign to frustrate such laws. Yes, the same presidency that stubbornly insists that the annihilation of farming communities by armed bandits and mercenaries is just mere skirmishes between herders and crop farmers – and refuses to do anything to seriously address the situation. How can you fail to protect your citizen and then still forbid him from protecting himself? It beats my imagination!

If you raise the issue of police brutality or question the (mis)handling of both the war against insurgency and the general security challenge in the country today, we reduce it to the usually unrelated question of what ethnic group dominates the police, and who would lose job, or control, if we attempt to fix the system. Rather than address the problem, it then becomes a case of fighting to stave off reform, so our tribesmen can keep their jobs. Of course this creates the false impression that the present occupants of such key positions do not merit their positions, or may never get there if the slightest consideration is given for merit. But this may not be true.

When we go after criminals, we first profile them along ethnic lines before we decide what level of force we can bring to bear on them.
And when we catch them, the Presidency then hand-picks the ones who can face trial where they were arrested and those who should be flown to Abuja, to have their cases deliberately bungled.

Of course, we wouldn’t be telling ourselves the whole truth if we say we do not suspect that many Fulani are running kidnap rings in the South west, nor that those calling for total vacation of the forest reserves do not, mischievously, have these Fulanis at the back of their mind. Even if there were any doubts, the recent actions and utterances of the famed Sunday Igboho, have laid everything bare.
However, the questions to ask are: Is it within the powers of Ondo State government to seek to take control of its Forest Reserves, which it never gave out to anybody in the first place? The answer is yes. Are there criminals using the forests as hideouts? The answer again is yes.
How then would the state government achieve this without first asking those illegally occupying the forests to leave peaceably and have their status regularized?
How did we come to the conclusion that it’s only Fulanis camping in those forests?
Most kidnappers – whether they’re Igbo, Yoruba, Ijaw, Ikwerre, Hausa or Fulani, use one forest hideout or the other, how come the presidency is particularly touchy about these ones in Ondo and Oyo?
Why wasn’t there so much noise when we unleashed Python Dance and Crocodile Smile into the forests and swamps of Ikorodu, Arepo, Abia, Imo and the Niger Delta to flush out kidnappers, pipeline vandals, illegal refineries and even pro-Biafra agitators?
Where was the presidency when many governors in the South were enacting all manner of harsh legislations against kidnapping and pulling down private buildings used to warehouse kidnap victims? Or maybe the governors were allowed to do so for as long as there was no chance of a Fulani being among the criminals?

The real problem is that, for some inexplicable reason, we are bent on living in denial of the fact that kidnapping has recently gained currency among our Fulani brothers. So, the establishment is doing everything to suppress reportage of this development.
And, like the proverbial old woman who feels uneasy every time dry bones are mentioned  in a proverb, we jump to defend the indefensible and respond to even the issues nobody has raised.
But that doesn’t change the fact that the menace of kidnapping has virtually gone round the country. It was once in the Niger Delta, where foreigners and oil workers were targeted. Then, my Igbo brothers took over, and turned it into a huge moneymaker. They took it to the south east, brought it to Lagos, where they were joined by the Yoruba, especially from the Ikorodu and Ondo areas. Then, Boko Haram took over. We immediately rechristened it abduction. But we still paid ransom. And as things got muddled up, the nomenclature kept changing. Now, it’s all over the North West, North Central, South West and of course, the South East and South South zones. Almost every ethnic group is represented in that evil club. And, I should know.
In the last six years, yours truly, has had to negotiate ransom on three occasions with kidnappers. Either for my wife, daughter or friend’s wife. And I can, without fear of contradiction, confirm that none of the groups was Fulani. Even when one of the hoodlums boasted that I would have to come to his Sokoto base for my wife, I knew he had no links with Sokoto. If he did,  he wouldn’t be calling it “Shokoto”, as his accent gave away.
One of the groups, I learnt, was co-ordinated by the late Ossy Ibori, who would later be killed by security operatives in some Delta State village. The group had Ijaws, Ilajes, Igbos etc.
The other gang, said to have had links with the now equally late TK, also had Ilajes, a handful of Ikorodu boys etc. Even, one notorious neighbourhood royalty was mentioned among them. The only Hausa person linked to any of the groups is the still-at-large Okada rider on my street, who was suspected to be their informant. It was his foiled arrest that almost cost the life of a senior police officer. Ironically, the other Okada riders, in blind solidarity with someone they thought was one of their own, attacked the police team, severally stabbed the police chief, and thus paviled the way for the felon to escape. Many of them thought it was actually the usual police extortion case. They never knew they had a snake amongst them.
Till this day, the celebrated billionaire kidnap kingpin of Lagos, Evans, is still in prison, battling to ward off a punishment worse than imprisonment. Evans is Igbo.

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In many of the kidnappings before now, ethnicity was never really an issue, eventhough we always knew the tribes of the criminals, and always reported it. But there was never undue mention of ethnicity as is the case now with the Fulani new kids on the block.
In fact, the only time ethnicity became an issue was when Engineer Joe Igbokwe, an Igbo man who has made his mark as a Lagos politician, Tinubu loyalists, APC chieftain and official of the Lagos State government, alleged that Igbos were behind armed robberies and kidnappings in Lagos. Of course, he was roundly, and rightly, bashed for it.
However, if ethnicity was not attached to kidnappers before now, it was probably because, we didn’t have this coincidence of the same kind of people turning up so regularly. If the kidnappers speak in a certain way, it is only natural that freed victims remember what their captors looked like. And what language they spoke.
Secondly, it is coming up at a time when there is so much influx of undesirable elements of the Fulani stock into the country from across our northerly borders. And they are becoming a recurring decimal in just about every of these crimes,  as they stroll almost unmolested across the Nigerian landscape – from abduction of school children to cattle rustling, banditry, armed robbery, kidnapping and, of course, the mother of all; Boko Haram insurgency.
And finally, the ethnic characterization seems to be gaining traction because there is this misplaced desperation to stop the narrative. Unfortunately,  those of us who left secondary  school with uncomplimentary nicknames would recall that it was often the names we resisted the most that ended up sticking to us.
While we condemn the stereotyping, truth remains that some of them are not worth the huge price we pay fighting them. They, on their own, will fizzle away with time.
In the ’70s, despite the presence of such monsters as “Dr. Oyenusi”, many of the robberies of the time were blamed on Igbos desperate to bounce back after the civil war. I don’t think the story is the same today. Armed robbery has since been “democratized”.
What ethnic group’s names inevitably come up when drug trafficking, or even manufacture of substandard drugs, is on the issue?
Why wouldn’t many Yoruba landlords rent out their houses to Igbo tenants?
Today, what do we think when we hear Edo girls going to Italy? Prostitution, right? But is it only prostitution they do there? Is it only Edo girls? Is it only in Italy that Nigerians engage in prostitution? What do Yoruba girls and single mothers do in the UK? What do Igbo boys do in South Africa? Which Nigerian tribes lead in cybercrime in US, Dubai, Uk etc. Aren’t there Nigerian prostitutes in Saudi and the Arab world? What ethnic groups dominate the trade there?
Some of these characterizations will stick, but most of them will fizzle away. And even when they don’t, they would just serve to enrich the rich repertoire of jokes with which we have always been known to laugh at ourselves. Happiest people on earth!
So, I think we should just ignore the itch (ethnicity and politicization)and treat the leprosy (kidnapping and banditry).
Unfortunately, since we are more concerned with muzzling the reportage than addressing the malaise, we end up with foggy and ineffective political prescriptions, as opposed to dispassionate professional antidotes, to a clearly security problem. We end up deodorizing the rot and running in circles. And whoever points our attention to this deliberate systemic goof is then branded enemy of state, Fulani hater, wailer, and accused of politicising security. We forget that we started the politicization by deliberately shutting out robust contributions to our security template,  simply because we’ve reduced national security to regime security. And to make matters worse, we further narrowed even that regime security to a clanish band of self-serving cronies.
I stand to be corrected that since we began this our current romance with democracy in 1999, Dr. Umaru Yar’Adua, a Fulani like President Muhammadu Buhari, remains our most loved president. And it was neither because he died in office nor that he didn’t preside long enough to make enemies. PMB did not need all of three years to make all the ‘enemies’ he has today. President Obasanjo needed even less.
With his education, exposure and world view, there could have been no pigeonholing Yar’Adua into a Fulani cast. This is also true of most Fulanis I have interacted with, either in my seven years at Federal Government College,  Ilorin (the best UNITY SCHOOL of all time), or in my nearly 30 years of journalism practice.
We only become conscious of these differences when dubious politicians,  magnify, and exploit, the faintest of faultlines for their narrow interests. They hoist a system that pitches us against one another. Religion and region soon take centre stage, as they awaken that innate, desire of every human being to get ahead of his peers. We’re soon sucked into the rat race. Those of us who stand our ground are either, blackmailed, ostracized or even brought into direct physical harm. They turn round to accuse of bringing politics into everything.
But it is the PMB system that actually politicizes things when it is seen as treating the criminality of one set of people with kid gloves, while unleashing disproportionate state force on the misdemeanours of others.
If a presidency that turns a deaf ear to cries of Fulani banditry in the South West suddenly wakes up, after the victims take constitutional steps to address the situation, and begins to quote a Kamuzu-Banda-type constitution on how nobody can quit herders from a state government’s forest reserve, then that’s politicization on all fours.
Eventhough we are quick to point to the fact that the future of livestock production is ranching (in fact it is a future that is already 100 years old), we should not lose sight of the fact that we need to bend over backwards to help our local herders get the hang of it. America, Australia, Brazil and the major global livestock producers did not just transit from open grazing to ranching overnight. It usually takes years of deliberate, but sincere, governmental support. However, the operative word here is ‘sincerity’. Everybody has to be on the same page, convinced that there isn’t more to this unbridled quest for land. That this all-important land cannot be procured in the North, which has less pressure on land than the South. That the forests of the south, which used to harbour tsetse fly and other cattle-killing pests are now truly a haven for livestock. That there cannot be a more mutually acceptable way of acquiring land for a purely private livestock business. That communities in the South cannot be a little more receptive, and less finicky about land. That cassava and yam farms cannot survive side by side, down South, with livestock production, in the same way rice, beans, corn, ground nut and vegetable farms are surviving up North.
And finally, that there is no hidden agenda of artificial demographic reengineering. We may also need to know where these Fulani who have suddenly found themselves landless and in urgent need of resettlement, been staying before Buhari came to power. If they had been roaming the wild with their cattle, these past hundreds of years, why the sudden need to settle down permanently? And, before we finally say YES, there are two more harmless questions: where are the cows? How come we are seeing more guns and herders than cattle?
Yes, there would be questions as to what support, and protection, we have given to those engaged in other forms of agriculture, and why we should lavish so much on herders and their cattle, but that would be foolhardy at this point of this national security emergency. For we need to do all we can to douse the current tensions, and the bloodletting across the country.

If truth must be said, this government is actually doing the Fulani more harm than good with its Fulanization of just every national discourse. It is unwittingly setting up this otherwise peaceful people for national hatred and opprobrium. The PMB government is daily incurring huge IOUs of hatred for the present and unborn generation of the Fulani, from virtually every corner of the country. Unfortunately, not many of the key drivers of this divisive agenda of today would be around by payback time.