When my wife was brutally murdered between Okene and Lokoja while on her way to Abuja about two years ago, i had the misfortune of delivering an oration at her burial ceremonies. The good lady was on a short trip to Abuja to honour and grace the swearing in ceremonies of a friend and colleague who had been appointed a judge of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) when tragedy struck. In my speech, back then, I had stated that my wife was a victim of the “dysfunctional Nigerian state”. I also told the gathering of how i went to Chief Bola Ige to prevail on him to use his good offices to ensure that those who killed the Asipa of Oyo were brought to book because the killing was an evil omen that should not be tolorated in Yoruba land and how the illustrious Chief had promised to do his best. Furthermore, of how Chief Bola Ige later became a victim of contract killings and the mysteries still surrounding the passage of both the Asipa and Chief Ige in these age and times. Of course, i mentioned that massive unemployment was fuelling these kind of dastardly crimes in Nigeria.
To be sure, this phrase “dysfunctional Nigerian state” was not my coinage. It came from Learned Silk, Comrade Femi Falana, who when I informed him how my wife was killed and while commisserating with me, told me to take heart and stated that my wife was a victim of the dysfunctional Nigerian state.
Even though I never had the luxury of time and the presence of mind to ask Comrade Femi Falana why my wife was a victim of the dysfunctional Nigerian state, what he said became poignant and clearer to me when I visited my wife’s driver in the hospital and he narrated to me what happened at the scene of the crime. According to the driver, the murderers accosted them at a portion of the road that was terribly bad and where a driver had no option other than to move at a snail speed. The driver equally informed me that the people who attacked them looked like Fulanis. That in fact when he saw some Fulanis drivng their cattle within the premises of the hospital where he was being treated he became hysterical and demanded to be relocated from there immediately as he had the feelings that the Fulanis might have come to finish him off. Before and since after my wife’s incidents, so many other people have been brutally murdered along this particular high way of death.
Now, of what relevance is the dysfunctional Nigerian state? The phrase is relevant because if the road had been smooth, the driver would not have required to slow down. Given the notoriety of that route too, one would also have expected the Nigerian state to provide security along that corridor and engage in round the clock surveillance so as to be able to apprehend the notorious criminals plying their trade around there. More importantly, if the state had had the political will to burst those who killed the Asipa of Oyo; Chief Bola Ige; Funsho Williams and Harry Marshal; among others, these would probably have served as sufficient deterrents and disincentives for contract killings and kidnapping for ransom in Nigeria.
I equally seized the occasion of the funeral to appeal to the three tiers of government to strive to create jobs. That you cannot be churning out one million and seven hundred thousand people out of school on an annual basis and not provide jobs for them when the devil is always there to find preoccupations for idle hands. Furthermore, I expressed my doubts with respects to whether any sane human being would want to work as a contract killer and kidnapper if he could be gainfully and meaningfully employed. I dwelled on the ostentatious lives that our elites; across the divides, were living. That these ostentatious lives were an invitation to criminality among the youths in the shape of “yahoo, yahoo”; “blood or ritual wealth” and kidnapping and admonished the elites to turn a new leaf.
More importantly, I argued that the menace of the Fulanis; just like Boko Haram, was a creation of our unconscionable elites. But how and why did I arrive at this conclusion? Very simple. I come from a village called Agbeku in Kwara State. About three kilometers from my village, there is a Fulani settlement. When I was growing up and in primary school, I recollect how our parents would send us to this Gaa (Fulani camp) to fetch “boto” (cow dung) which our mothers; back then, used to decorate or pave the floors of our homes; buy “wara” or congealed milk; meat and other groceries. On market days too; which was usually five days interval, the Fulanis will come to the market to trade side by side with the Yorubas without any incident. My maternal grandmother that I lived with and who happened to have died at the age of about one hundred and thirty told me she met those Fulanis living in that camp while a child. The relationship between the people of my village and these Fulanis have also over the years transcended commercial activities. We now inter marry. Interestingly, those Fulanis are still there till today without any ugly incident happening between the two races or communities.
Consequent upon this, I challenged my audience to search their minds and ruminate on how and why the Fulanis have suddenly become monsters all over Nigeria? I further stated that if they were sincere with themselves, they will find that the Nigerian nation has not been fair to the Fulanis and that we were all responsible for the monsters that the Fulanis have become all over Nigeria for some of these reasons:
One, it was long predicted that deserts would encroach; the lakes and rivers would dry up and that we would require to fight desertification for the Fulanis to be able to graze their cattle; farmers do their farming and for us as a people to be able to preserve our environments. But which of the states now ravaged by deserts is rolling back the scourge like Israel had done and Libya under Mohamar Gadaffi? None. Our elites simply embezzle ecological funds and expect that grasses will grow without any effort. Former Governor of Plateau State is presently in prison for some of these reasons.
Two, we knew that population will grow and that sooner than later there will be hunger for land for human settlements; farming and grazing of animals For these reasons, the legislature as far back as the 1800 had passed edicts and laws designating or earmarking certain places or areas as grazing routes and camps; provision of bore holes; artificial lakes and dams. But where are these landmarks today? They are gone. Our elites have turned them to Governments Reservation Areas where they have built their mansions and living in opulence. Samonda; in Sango Area of Ibadan, readily comes to mind here. When reasonable people talk about providing incentives to the Fulanis for them to be able to embrace modern animal farming, we are told that animal husbandry is a private business that should not be subsidized. We often forget that banking is equally a private business that the Nigerian state has been subsidizing very heavily. Is there even any country in the world today that does not subsidizing agriculture in one form or the other so as to guarantee food security?
Three, what efforts have we made to motivate; encourage and assist the Fulanis to embrace modern animal husbandry? People rear animals in New Zealand; Germany and America, without clashes between pastoralists and farmers. This is possible because ranch agriculture are in practice. All we require to do to get the Fulanis to embrace modernity is to send some of their leaders abroad to see how animal husbandry is done over there. I dont know why some Nigerians think that the Fulanis are not human beings who derive pleasure from walking their animals; day in day out, from Sokoto to Calabar and from Maiduguri to Port Harcourt.
Four, what enduring programmes have we put in place to ensure that Fulani children go to school? Very feeble efforts. Professor Jubril Aminu; as Minister of Education, started the nomadic education for Fulani children which was ferociously attacked by southern Nigerian. As soon as he left office that program was jettisoned. For God’s sake, the Kwankwasos; Atiku Abubakars and Buharis of this world are Fulanis, who presently engage in animal farming but would not be seen following their animals all over the country? And why would they not? Because they are educated.
Five, what about the lethal weapons that the Fulanis carry! Where do they get them? AK 47 riffles; one is told, don’t come cheap. The Fulanis are also mostly in landlocked areas, so, how do these weapons reach them so easily? There are three possibilities. It’s either that those who own the cattle that the ordinary poor Fulani man roam around with are supplying them these weapons to protect their animals against cattle rustlers; thieves and dangerous animals or that some of our elites who want to make money at all costs are selling these cargo of death to the Fulanis without minding the consequences of their actions. On the other hand, the weapons may be coming from official armouries in form of rentals; leases and sales by unscrupulous security operatives who are in charge of the nation’s arsenals of war. After all, we have in the past seen how some renegade elements of the Nigerian security were selling weapons to Niger Delta Militants and a dismissed SARS operatives sourcing weapons for bank robbers.
Six, the question could also be asked: is it only the Fulanis that are engaged in banditry; kidnapping for ransom and armed robbery? The answer is no. Unconsciousable people from different ethnic backgrounds are on a daily basis being arrested in different parts of the country for these heinous crimes. Mr. Evans is still in court. A soldier in the special unit of the Nigerian Army has just been arrested for kidnapping. A graduate who claimed to have made a second class upper in economics from one of the southern universities was once arrested for kidnapping. So, who says high crime is the preserve of Fulanis?
Seven, all over the world research has shown that it’s dangerous to reward crimes. When governments; families and even security agents, begin to pay or give ransoms, the criminals will be emboldened and further encouraged to commit more crimes. Is it therefore not logical for the crimes we are now inundated with to mushroomm simply because we reward criminals? Will it not be better for Nigerians to stop paying ransoms; no matter how desperate the situation may be, if they want these crimes to abate? If there is no reward for crimes, there is the possibility if not certainty, that criminals will think twice and curtail their nefarious activities.
Eight, the ostentatious life of the Nigerian elites; which is very worrisome, is also there. Our elites live in mansions with state of the art gadgets and comforts. They drive bullet proof Jeeps and limousines in the midst of famished herders. When the Fulani man is driving his animals around does he not see all these things and look at our elites with envy. Will the lost for the good life not also grip him? And since the Nigerian nation does not make provisions for the Fulani man to be able to acquire these comforts lawfully and easily, will the temptation not be there to indulge in crime so as to be able to have a taste of the good life? These are things we need to ponder about.
Nine, are we even sure that what we have in our hands is not another jihadist or guerrilla movement or the Boko Haram engaging in banditry so as to overwhelm the security forces; spread them tin and turn the entire country into a battle field? Is it also impossible for the Boko Haram to be doing these things as means of raising funds for the procurement of arms and ammunition? This point is being emphasised because guerilla armies; around the world, are not known to shy away from banditry with view to raise funds; divert attention; dilute the amphitheatre of war; wear the opponents out and make the war more cumbersome.
Ten, is there any justification for the furious manner certain Nigerians have reacted to the proposals for the establishment of a dedicated Fulani Radio Station? One doesn’t think so. The attack is borne out of selfishness and lack of regards for the fringe languages by the dominant ones. All public media in Nigeria have since about 1959 been broadcasting Hausa; Ibo and Yoruba. So, why not fulfulde or Fulani. Fulfulde is a language rapidly going into extinction. For it not die, it will require to be popularised; encouraged and put in practical use. One of the ways by wich this could be done is to start broadcasting it. What we can quarrel with is the proposals to establish a radio station that will be speaking only fulfulde. Rather, existing public media should be encouraged to have programmes in Fulfulde just like they do have in Hausa; Ibo and Yoruba. Lets remember that the BBC and VOA have Hausa services, I can’t recollect whether they also have Yoruba services. I hold the belief that Fulfulde programmes on our mass media can be used as means of education; entertainment; mobilisation and information.
Given the forgoing and when crimes are as prevalent as these, the best to do is to tackle them from the roots and not superficially. And one thinks that this is not beyond us if we could mass produce jobs; block arms flow; curb elites ostentations. We could also provide incentives for the Fulanis to go to school and embrace modern animal husbandry. More fundamentally, there will also be the need to muster necessary political will; technological know how and intelligence, without which heinous crimes are difficult to unravel and successfully prosecuted. There must be the singular goal of bringing all perpetrators of heinous crimes to justice no matter how highly placed they may be in the society so as to serve as deterrents to all and sundry.
It’s hoped that my prognosis will not be misunderstood; misinterpreted and taken out of context just like my funeral homilies were twisted by those who murdered my wife and furiously worked to divert attention from themselves.