But last week on this platform (Back Page, Daily Sun), Dr Amanze Obi came with a piece that was riddled with inexactitudes, and sweeping generalizations. And that is the reason for this rejoinder, lest the reading public be force-fed with an unwholesome meal, which may cause indigestion, or worse still, food poisoning.
Crises such as we contend with must be interrogated from all perspectives. What are the root causes? What has made it intractable, transcending many administrations? What are the likely solutions, that will bring enduring amity?
That is the prism from which we should view the opinion of the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, when he proffered that the extant carnage was caused by the overtaking of former cattle grazing routes by development, and the enactment of anti-open grazing laws by some states. It was at best a contribution to the ongoing debate, and a search for enduring solution. It was by no means the gospel, or the laws of Medes and Persia, which are immutable. But to Dr Obi, the opinion by the Minister, “placed the stamp of approval on the massacre on behalf of the government of President Muhammadu Buhari.” How far from the truth.
Which sensible democratic government anywhere in the world would approve the massacre of its own people? Definitely, not this one led by President Buhari, which I know derived its legitimacy from the overwhelming mandate of the people. And not a government, which seeks to do justice to all the people, whether they are ethnic majority or minority. No matter the unjust labels being stamped on the administration by people who remain marooned in pre-2015 elections mode, this is one government that is doing well for Nigeria and Nigerians, and if only people would purge themselves of long held biases, they would then see better. “I can see clearly now the rain is gone. I can see all obstacles on my way,” sang Ken Lazarus. But some Nigerians who choose to be soused in primordial prejudices won’t be able to see clearly. Not possible.
Dr Obi talked of the “business and expansionist interest of the Fulani.” That is a major cause of the problem in the country. Suspicion of one ethnic group by the other. What are the details of that expansionist interest, if it exists beyond the fecund imagination of those who harbour the suspicion? To the best of my knowledge, Fulanis are in the minority, even in most states of the north, except in places like Adamawa and Gombe. They only constitute the ruling elite in some other states, due to conquests during the era of jihad. So, how can the so-called “expansionist interest” succeed today, except in the imagination of those in the throes and gall of perpetual suspicion? That is why it remains difficult for Nigeria to be forged into a nation-state, 57 years after flag independence. Too much suspicion.
Again, Obi posited that “Buhari’s security agencies, peopled almost exclusively by the Fulani, are not perturbed by the national outrage over Benue.” True? False. We need to know our country more. How many Fulanis do we have in the leadership of the security agencies? Maybe one or two. The National Security Adviser is Kanuri. The Chief of Army Staff is a Borno minority. The Inspector General of Police is a Nupe man from Niger State. Same for the Comptroller-General of the Civil Defence. DG, State Security Services is not Fulani. Nor the Chief of Defence Staff, or the Chief of Naval Staff. The new DG of the National Intelligence Agency is not Fulani. So, where are the Fulanis, who according to the columnist, are exclusively in charge of the security agencies? Facts are stubborn things, but the assertion by Dr Obi is by no means factual. He calls the Defence Minister, Dan-Ali, a “dyed-in-the-wool Fulani irredentist who places trade over and above human life.” Dan-Ali a Fulani? The Hausa man from Zamfara State must be wondering when he got ‘born again’ to Fulani parents.
See this again: “Their principal, President Muhammadu Buhari, was the first to endorse the Benue massacre. He did so through his actions and inactions. His silence in the face of the killings was very suggestive. His refusal to visit Benue and see things for himself was much more so. It spoke volumes.”
The columnist has a right to his opinion. But was he right? Don’t think so. The very day the killings in Benue took place, the President condemned it in strong terms, and directed the security agencies not only to move in, but to also arrest the perpetrators, and bring them to justice. As at yesterday, the police disclosed that 145 people had been arrested, and 120 being prosecuted. In a letter to the Senate made public last week, the President also detailed all the other steps taken. In Nasarawa on Tuesday, he equally reiterated his earlier directive that any herdsman found with illegal weapon be arrested, and prosecuted. But to perpetually suspicious people, all these were not enough. The President is Fulani, so he must be in cahoots with violent herdsmen. How unkind!
And talking of visits, in the latter part of last year, there were massive killings in Mambilla, Taraba State, in Numan, Adamawa State, in Zamfara, in southern part of Kaduna, and Omoku, in Rivers State. The loss of one soul is bad enough, particularly when done in cold blood. But where does the President start from? He sympathized with all those who lost loved ones. Nobody can call that ‘inaction,’ except when mischief is involved.
“President Buhari’s silent sentiments were shared by Fulani governors, led by Mallam Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State and Alhaji Kashim Shettima of Borno State…” Haba! Dr Obi seems to be paranoid about the Fulani. Kashim Shettima, a Fulani? These things must have a limit.
Let me repeat what I’ve said before. The killings by herdsmen should never be brooked by any government. And this administration is working for an enduring solution. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo heads a committee of nine governors saddled with that responsibility. Our newspaper columnists should strive to be part of the solution, rather than exacerbate the problem.
Adesina is Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity. He contributed this piece to Daily Sun Newspaper of February 8, 2018.