It’s testy, grouchy time in the Yoruba country — and for good reasons. Some Fulani dregs have turned Yoruba forests into a vast kidnappers’ den.
The land seethes with anger and resent. That is why President Muhammadu Buhari, and his security chiefs, must act — and act fast.
But that is no reason to tar every Fulani with the criminality of a few. Or suggest a “Fulani” presidency spurs Fulani banditry.
That would profane legitimate anger with reckless politicking; and could plant more potent ethnic danger, long after the current security crisis is history.
It all appears a throwback to May 2015, though.
Muhammadu Buhari, a Fulani had defeated President Goodluck Jonathan, a Niger Delta minority; and just got sworn in as president.
Buhari’s winning All Progressives Congress (APC) coalition comprised the Bola Tinubu-led Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), in a rare North West-South West entente.
The Jonathan losing coalition had the Afenifere, led by Chief Reuben Fasoranti, but whose most vocal voices were Chief Ayo Adebanjo and Chief Olu Falae, though these partisans were formally no members of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), dominant in the South East and South South.
So, for the losers, the after-loss strategy was heightened anti-Fulani hysteria.
Because a Fulani just won power, the entire Fulani must be new — or more appropriately, renewed — Judases of the Federal Republic, docked, tried and guillotined, in the emotive courts, holding in the southern media!
The Niger Delta Avengers, in a reckless staccato, fired the opening salvos, to make the country “ungovernable”; blowing up off-shore oil fields, blighting their home environment and sabotaging oil exports.
Nnamdi Kanu, of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), later weighed in with his scalding tribal-hating; explosive ethnic-baiting; and reckless faith-ranting.
That tanked with some so-called northern “youths” giving the Igbo an ultimatum to quit the North, in a grim echo of the tragedies of 1966. Kanu himself would later scram out of town to emerge unfazed fugitive, but with scaled down mischief.
Afenifere’s own contribution to this sour grape “war” was, on the surface, “restructuring”.
But really, its twin-headaches were Tinubu (who masterminded a North West-South West entente) and pushed Afenifere into some political Coventry; and Buhari (the first chief beneficiary of that realignment). That twin-migraine has persisted, with the way the 2019 elections went.
This 2015 back-grounding should illuminate the interpretation, as a Fulani ogre, of a grave national security challenge, that must be smitten in the South West, with all ethnic venom possible. That is a tragic distraction.
Along that line, however, the Yoruba Summit Group (YSG), claiming to act on behalf of the Yoruba, just weighed in with a diktat; and called whoever disagrees with it “traitor” to the Yoruba cause.
While banding into pressure groups could be the summit of pressing democratic rights, YSG must know that branding contrary voices “traitors” is the very nadir of common sense.
You can’t claim a democratic right with recklessly undemocratic swagger. That is the very traitor to common sense!
But having done with the body’s inanity of democratic fatwa (with all its violent contradictions), YSG is right, like everyone, to be gravely concerned about the dire security situation.
This is more so when the South West, hitherto a safe oasis, in a national desert of unrest and violence, seems now captive to kidnappers.
The state must go after and punish those criminals — and fast too! But when you ethnicize a crime, you replace seasonal angst with perennial pain.
That is the folly of the present hysteria, over Fulani kidnappers come to subdue the South West; shortly after the national hysteria of the Fulani herdsmen come to slaughter the rest of the country.
It is a ringing and tendentious fallacy that might just plague the polity, long after Muhammadu Buhari must have retired to Daura.
You blame the “Fulani president” for “Fulani banditry” today? Fine! Tomorrow, a “Yoruba president” would be roasted for Yoruba robberies; and an “Igbo president”, guillotined for “Igbo crime” – and a new bout of Nigerian national banality is born!
O, the very inanity of “Fulani”, “Hausa”, “Igbo” or even “Yoruba” kidnappers (which of these ethnics doesn’t harbour own criminals?), compels the background to the current plague of kidnapping — the Zamfara security crisis.
In southern Nigeria’s political lore, the “Hausa-Fulani” are one and indivisible; yoked in eternal and hideous power plotting.
Yet, from a research finding, the Zamfara crisis started with a spectacular Hausa-Fulani blowout!
According to research findings by the Abubakar Mohammed-led Centre for Democratic Development Research and Training, Zaria, armed robbers, suspected to be “Fulani boys”, were robbing local Zamfara farmers.
A local vigilante, a Hausa answer to the local criminality, faced down these criminals. In its moral fervour, however, it not only vanquished the criminals, it killed and drove almost every Fulani in sight into the bush.
That provoked a counter Fulani reaction, birthing a Hausa versus Fulani ethnic show down — a classic “Gambari pa Fulani” (northern elements neutralize one another) Yoruba sneer, in full tragic Technicolor!
That crisis, of killings and counter-killings, got traction from earlier Ahmed Yerima governorship land reforms, which allegedly grabbed Fulani ancestral lands and shared them among Hausa farmers.
In the equal-opportunity bedlam, a third but overwhelming Leviathan swooped on the scene: rustling the Fulani herdsmen of their cows; robbing the Hausa farmers of their cash.
A new anarchy just came upon the land!
With rustled cows located among rustic robber barons, but with the robber Leviathan protected by AK47-totting toughs, kidnapping for cash, by the dispossessed but equally fiercely armed, joined the explosive mix!
Four years down the line, kidnapping and banditry had become a national emergency; with the violence seeping down to pierce the serene South West, resulting in the current angst.
These Zamfara dregs could be the Fulani plaguing Yoruba forests; extorting millions of Naira as ransom; killing and maiming; and worsening the security situation.
So, instead of escalating their crime as “Fulani invasion”, is it not more logical to isolate the criminals as the soulless bandits that represent no one but own greed; and offering the security agencies the intelligence to bring them to heel?
Should there be suspected criminal collusion and cover-up by the security agencies, specific lights must be beamed on the guilty; and everything done to punish and root them out.
That would be a better strategy, than the current combustible hell-raising and ethnic-baiting.
That way, Yoruba forests would have been rid of Fulani bandits, without stirring any ethnic slur. In any case, if these bandits devastated the Zamfara Hausa folks, why would they suddenly become crime ambassadors, of the Fulani, in the Yoruba country?
Forget the tribe. Tackle the criminal. Then comes the pleasant epiphany: Nigeria has only two tribes: the good and the bad – and maybe, more clear-headed thinking; and certainly less “Fulanization” political mischief!
Get rid of the bad; and every other thing would be added. Nothing could be more liberating.
by Olakunle Abimbola