A good leader will unite this nation and not divide it. President Buhari should jettison his conscious or unconscious bias and demonstrate leadership now, before he goes into history as the last leader to preside over the affairs of a united Nigeria!
Nigeria’s Unity Video message claims: There are no good tribes or good ethnicities. There are good people and there are bad people. I have close friends all across the nation and still wrote my experience of a beautiful, memorable Nigeria in a memoir recently. It actually went viral, titled, The Nigeria That I Knew. Infact, the Fulani I knew as a child were good neighbours who would sell fresh congealed milk we call “wara”.
I also volunteer within an organisation that partners with institutions as patriots. We founded the Corruption Not In My Country to unlock the capacity of Nigerians to identify corruption and shun it, and the FlagIt App to enable Nigerians report corruption, and COVID-19 messages recently, to spread the awareness of a deadly pandemic. Working with the Police to identify culpable officers and uncovering cyberbully gangs in Nigerian Universities. We do not therefore constitute ourselves into superior opinion shapers of how the nation should move forward. We align with strategies and tactics premised on constructive engagement and strengthening the capacity of institutions for effective performance. This is what makes us patriots.
But patriotism must be clearly defined within a noble premise and enthusiasm to critically interrogate issues when our sailing ship is seeming to become rudderless. It is recognising that we do not owe allegiance to a leader, but to the country… Not only to the country but also to justice and humanity.
It is on this note that I feel compelled to address us all on the ongoing crisis between the Fulani herdsmen and other ethnicities in the country, including the Yorubas. I am not speaking as a tribalised Yoruba man, I am speaking as a Nigerian, born here, who made friends here across the divide and still believes in the beauty of our diversity. Truth be spoken, if we situate Nigeria within the concept of Thomas Hobbes’s theory of a nasty, brutish and short life, then it is safe to say Nigeria is already headed in the direction of total chaos and, of course, anarchy.
This anarchy and seeming oppression of a people by another set of people within the same country, which is already besieged by hunger, unequal distribution of wealth and impoverishment, threw up the symbolism of resistance that Sunday Igboho represents. Sunday Igboho is a systemic creation of anger against the gruesome murder of Mrs. Olakunri, the daughter of Yoruba leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti. Also, the gunning down of a first class monarch in Yoruba land, the Olufon of Ifon and, of late, Dr. Fatai Aborode, an accomplished Yoruba man who recently returned to Nigeria to create employment for his people in Igangan, Ibarapa Local Government. They all lost their lives in the hands of Fulani herdsmen.
But we are also not unaware that all across the federation, many families have lost loved ones to this same domestic terrorism from supposed fellow countrymen. Many families will never recover from the emotional turmoil of untimely deaths, rape or the financial setback of those who paid heavy ransoms to rescue their loved ones. Many families will not recover from the agonising shock of paying ransoms for relatives who never return home, because the herdsmen took the money and still slaughtered the victims. I speak as someone who has participated in the contribution of ransom before, for two kidnapped victims.
So, how did the crime of kidnapping by herdsmen become a notoriously enduring industry in Nigeria? Each time we hear that ransoms have been paid, shouldn’t we ask: “Paid to who?” People have paid multiples of millions of naira as ransom. Into whose bank accounts do these ransoms flow? Is it to these same ragtag–looking kidnappers, some of who end up getting caught and are paraded by law enforcement? Do they own the kidnapping empires? Why has it been a challenge for security agencies to FOLLOW THE MONEY? These are begging questions that require urgent answers.
And in all of these, where is leadership?
On October 23, 2001, after ethnic clashes that led to the death of 27 people in Lagos, Nigeria, the Independent Daily of United Kingdom and our local newspapers reported that the then president of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo had ordered rioters to be shot at sight. The president was literally ordering the shooting at sight of his own tribesmen, member of the Oodua People’s Congress, who were alleged to be inciting the riots. Obasanjo was actually quoted as saying, “The Police have instructions that anyone who calls himself OPC should be arrested and if he doesn’t agree, he will be shot on sight. We cannot allow this country to be overtaken by hoodlums and criminals”. THAT IS LEADERSHIP!
On November 26, 2020, the Olufon of Ifon in Ondo State was kidnapped and eventually murdered. This was after Chief Olu Falae, a prominent national and Yoruba leader had suffered in the hands of kidnappers. The governor of Ondo State must have been concerned about a possible attack on the State by herdsmen hiding in the forests, and as chief security officer of the State, he issued a quit order on criminal herdsmen to vacate Ondo State latest by January 18.
On January 19, as typically, Mallam Garba Shehu, representing the Presidency, countered Aketi and rejected the Quit order! Are citizens not curious to ask: Whose purpose is this Presidency serving? Why is Mallam Garba Shehu combining the job of speaking for the president with speaking for herdsmen? And as the president did not disown Garba Shehu by saying, “No, I am president for all”, shall we conclude that Garba Shehu was playing the piper of a tune dictated by the president? Does the president feel gracious to dictate a divisive, ethnic tune?
On July 15, 2012, the twitter handle of Mallam Nasir El Rufai, a Fulani leader, stated the following: “We will write this for all to read. Anyone, soldier or not that kills the Fulani takes a loan repayable one day no matter how long it takes”. El Rufai, contemptuous as he sounded, stood for something: He sent a signal that he would not cower and watch his people decimated. He spared no words. He was not diplomatic. So, what rights guarantee El Rufai’s words but denies Akeredolu’s frustrated response to the annihilation of his people?
When Miyetti Allah leaders rascally issue threats against their host communities, this Presidency plays deaf. But the moment anyone pokes at the herdsmen, the Presidency abandons everyone who voted it in and embarks on vocal hemorrhage. How suddenly did President Buhari forget that for three consecutive periods, he contested Nigeria’s presidency through the platform of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) but lost, until he forged an alliance with the South-West? Why is the same president now carrying on like a president of the Fulanis instead of the President of Nigeria? Why does a president who never speaks to the nation, except we literally drag him to do so in moments of national crisis, always find a hasty voice to ward off justified salvos against cow herders who are jeopardising the rights to existence of other nationalities and he actually does so characteristically within 24 hours? Are we really citizens of the same country?
This is why Sunday Igboho is a symbolic depiction of leadership failure in a suggestive, almost deliberate and complicit abdication of responsibility! And that is why Igboho now represents many things, part of which is the emboldening of numerous other community resisters of oppression. This resistance is building and the government does not seem to be aware of it, or it is aware of it but stranded within its myopic cocoon of ethnic prejudice. There’s a thick dark cloud of calamity around us but we are also being gaslighted into alternative realities. Perhaps we should ask then that how many of our government leaders can travel to their villages anytime of the day, unescorted and pass the night there? And while they enjoy state protection, what happens to the poor? The poor who cannot even go to farm.
In all of these, where are the South-West leaders? Apart from the governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), and now Sunday Igboho, who is fast becoming a phenomenon of circumstance, many South-West leaders have always been reactive than proactive. They must go to the drawing board and work out a strategy of containment, not against herdsmen alone but also to ensure that South-West youths are gainfully and meaningfully employed through the creative unlocking of technological opportunities. The youth in the South-West are not immune from criminality. During the #EndSARS protest, a notorious group called One Million Boys terrorised Lagos. Those were not Fulani herdsmen.
What have we done to rein in those ones? Or we are keeping them for the next election? The money we are stockpiling for this election, how much of it are we prepared to invest in the youths who are so resilient, so creative, so docile, that they’ve accommodated leadership failure this long? South West leaders cannot continue to pretend to be protégés of Awolowo but lack his integrity. You cannot claim to be an Awolowo apostle but lack his character and ingenuity. The South-West is limping because hijackers of great ideals have become burdensome liabilities of counterfeit morality. South-West leaders must recognise that ambition for office must never consume them to such extent that they throw this momentum away, because if on the altar of ambition they keep mute while their region burns, by 2023 they would have no nation left to govern.
In all of these, where lies genuine and constructive criticism?
As we continue to embrace unity in diversity, candour must never depart from the lips of true patriots. There is a distinct line we must never cross out of misguided love for politicians, and that includes the president. Certain nations are classified as fragile states, with their complexities making it necessary to demand accountability from their leadership, or qualitative living, healthcare, infrastructure and especially PEACE. Amongst fragile states are Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia and South Sudan. And with over $400 billion frittered away in oil revenue and poverty staring down at citizen, which is now compounded by clear bias in the management of the crisis of herdsmen, it is heartbreaking to spot Nigeria on the fragile states index, occupying the 14th position in the world and ninth position in Africa, as far back as 2019 and 2020.
With this grim picture, those who call the president “Baba” and lack the temerity to call him out are not doing him any good. Misguided loyalty is cancerous, because it gradually eats into the consciousness of the self-acclaimed “loyalist” as he keeps imagining himself a patriot. Patriotism is not reckless imprudence. It is measured by a heart that loves the nation but also recognises its responsibility and that of other citizens, rich or poor, as rights holders within a social contract that binds leadership as duty bearers who must be held accountable. If by your standard, everything the leader does is right and you must each time hurl expletives at those who find the actions of the leader as insensitive and repugnant, then you are enslaved to primitive patriotism, which is the type that shouts, glares, denigrates, threatens and calls others names.
You are numb to the deaths and pogrom around you, because your political idol must not be hurt. This is a conscious bondage where your undiscriminating respect for your chosen leader is the greatest enemy of truth. This is why you seek diversion away from every disorder and would rather shift it to a political camp disunion, rather than enter a coalition of honour to move the nation forward. This is why, instead of holding government to answer certain questions, some of us have elected to divorce answerable leadership from the leader. When you brand a nation’s power holder as worship idol, you have burnt patriotism and embraced servility. What we’re seeing today is the effect of not just bad governance, but also that of enabling AYE-SAYERS.
This is why government’s spin doctors are quick to demonise and incriminate the media and civil societies as “heating up the polity”. Isn’t it sardonic that this same administration that rose to power through a well-orchestrated media machinery and propaganda and that consistently solicited civil society’s support to call out bad governance of the past is now tagging the media the enemy of the nation by the duplicitous estimation of an intolerant administration? This gaslighting is a disingenuous conduct of a government that circumvents the truth, fails to take responsibility for its errors and must attempt to steer you away from questioning facts, which is completely alien to its mouthed integrity!
The president must face a fact here today: There has been a sweeping and systematic liquidation of other people’s territories by unhinged suspected Fulani herdsmen. The president’s own people.
The president must ask a question too? How do foreign nations who lead the pack in global cow-ranching business get on with this business without slaughtering their own people?
On April 13, 2011, when you wept over the state of the nation in your quest for power at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, will you say you have turned the country around and made it safer after power was granted to you in the past six years till date?
What are you making of your legacy? Are you capable of rising beyond ethnic sentiments now and protecting all Nigerians? After voting and handing over power to you, with the constitutional mandate to be a leader of all, do you recognise that the presidency you hold is more dignifying and it is beneath you to still carry on in a manner that brands you as a mere Fulani leader?
As a Muslim who is nearer the valedictory stage of life, I shall step into this faith to remind you, Mr. President, that for each time you know what to do, to rescue Nigerians from Fulani herdsmen slaughter, but you fail to do so, you will struggle to shake off an inaudible complicity in the murder of innocent souls, all in a bid to fulfill what is beginning to look like a well-orchestrated expansion agenda. Your supporters of today will not stand in judgement with you.
Finally, good leaders take personal responsibility in crisis, no matter how much of these lie outside their control. Good leaders align team focus, and establish periodically evaluated metrics to monitor their own performance. Good leaders create a culture of accountability, and stay alert and aligned on the effective dashboard of priorities. A good leader will unite this nation and not divide it. President Buhari should jettison his conscious or unconscious bias and demonstrate leadership now, before he goes into history as the last leader to preside over the affairs of a united Nigeria!
Akin Fadeyi is the founder, Akin Fadeyi Foundation.