Ston­ing our own devils

Daily Trust - - OPINION -

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.

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