Stoning our own devils
The unfortunate stampede that led to the death of over 1,000 pilgrims at 2015 Hajj during the ritual of casting pebbles at the Devil, caused worldwide grief. The least we can demand of the Saudi authorities is a thorough investigation into the incident, compensation for the families of the deceased and a review of the procedures to ensure that such a tragedy does not occur again. Once again, condolences to all those affected, especially the Nigerian contingent.
There has recently been talk about stoning the devils in our midst - those devils that have been holding this country down. They abound at every stage of governance. There are devils who operate at the local government level; some are active at state level and yet others can be found at the federal level. The fourth category is fearsome: those veteran devils who bestride every level of governance and whose fingerprint can be seen on every cookie jar from ward to local government to tribe through state all the way up to the federal level.
The genie of ethnic suspicion which had been lying dormant in the South-West was let loose the other day when Chief Olu Falae was abducted from his farm by hoodlums suspected to be Fulani herdsmen. The criminals extracted a ransom from the family of the illustrious technocrat before releasing him with a warning that they would be back if he told the world the full story of his ordeal.
Elsewhere in the world, the condemnable abduction of a 77-year-old statesman and community leader would have brought everyone in the community together in one united force against evil. But in Nigeria, we easily allow such incidents to tear us apart. Both Afenifere (the Yoruba cultural group) and Miyeti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, which represents the interests of the Fulani started lobbing threats at each other across the borders.
Miyetti Allah and another group of northern chiefs in the South-West issued a statement which, while condemning the crime of Falae’s abductors, tried to explain away the perennial encroachment of cattle on farmlands; they attribute the development to the absence of governmentbuilt ranches for herdsmen. The press release also reiterated the ECOWAS charter on freedom of movement, free migration , etc. When you juxtapose this with the earlier release of Afenifere which threatened to resort to self-help if the federal government could not protect Yorubaland from invaders, the stage was set for the usual pastime of tribal kickboxing and wholesale vending of ethnic plots, sub-plots and agendas.
I thought that was very unfortunate. Neither Afenifere nor Miyetti Allah has ever come out to endorse terrorism or abduction. A more constructive outcome of the unfortunate abduction of Chief Falae would have been a joint press conference by both Afenifere and Miyetti Allah condemning the abduction and calling on the abductors to release their hostage immediately or face the joint force of both the Afenifere and Miyetti Allah.
We have seen over the years that when evil is not condemned outright, the devils in our midst find ways of hiding in the cracks and unleashing more havoc. No one can be proud of Falae’s abductors, even if they were the abductors’ blood brothers. I suspect that no honest Fulani man would stand on the side of Falae’s abductors, otherwise that would be a direct assault on our shared brotherhood and peaceful coexistence.
When arguments are reduced to micronationalistic terms, we have to be really careful so as not to fall into the same trap as those who accused Obasanjo of being an Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) sponsor about a decade ago when that Yoruba cultural group did some things that others deemed wrong. The fixation with tribe and ethnicity instead of calling a crime by its name is what has made some squint-eyed cyber-warriors suggest that the fact that President Buhari is Fulani is responsible for the attack on Falae. You see how low people can descend when they succumb to intellectual laziness?
Wasn’t that the reason, for example, why Chief Edwin Clark, later day anti-corruption crusader, could not see anything wrong with the late Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha and Diezani K. AlisonMadueke when the going was good? And suddenly, the octogenarian is now waxing lyrical on Goodluck Jonathan’s incompetence? Sorry, I digress.
With the rumblings in the South-South and South-East and the Boko Haram terrorism in the North-East, who wants to add the South-West to the cauldron?
Solomon Arase, the Inspector-General of Police, together with his colleagues in the civil defence and DSS ought to put their heads together and fish out Falae’s abductors so that they can pay for their crime. That is what we should all be advocating. It is time to sheath sectional swords.
Meanwhile the federal government should show leadership in this matter by stating unequivocally that cattle herders must change with the times and embrace ranching. The ministry of agriculture can work with the herders and state governments to create ranches. But the herders must be told that no government owes them ranching infrastructure as some of them have been demanding. Government can facilitate the process via soft loans, but government cannot subsidise what is essentially a private business. The cattle breeders should feel free to factor the cost of ranching to their prices; consumers would have no option but to pay.
In this era of change, it behoves the citizenry to also embrace a change of attitude instead of heading for the barricades each time there’s a provocation. We have no business throwing stones across ethnic borders when the real devils at the root of our stagnation walk free with hands akimbo.
It is bad enough that we rely on foreign countries to help us cage our looters and other devils. It’s about time we acted in concert to stone the devils of terrorism, abduction, corruption, tribalism, religious chauvinism and the sundry other littledevils that nibble at our collective humanity. It’s the only viable option going forward.