By Sanya Oni
I have in the past couple of days been struggling to recall where I first came across the word – un-leader. Be that as it may, I understood it then, as I do now, that it typifies the exact opposite of what leadership is all about. In other words, leadership in reverse!
Now, of all the things that could be said of the anger and simmering animosities currently ravaging the Nigerian federation, a major one that stands out is the absence of leadership. So much for the babel of voices on the current situation in the country; if these were all that was required to banish the Nigerian nightmare, the nation ought, to, to, by now, be on a steady cruise to Blissland as against Destination Kigali that it seems currently headed.
Within the past fortnight, much has certainly happened none of which bodes well for the future of our republic. In Uromi, headquarters of Esan North-East Local Government Area of Edo State, scores of women trooped to the streets in protest against the activities of criminal herdsmen which they said have brought hardship to their communities. At the palace of their monarch, Onojie Anselm Edenojie, they demanded the immediate removal of herdsmen from their lands.
Premium Times quoted one of the leaders, Angela Esangbedo, as saying that they could no longer access their farmlands for fear of being raped.
“We are demanding that Fulani herdsmen must leave our communities because we can no longer go to our farms for fear of being kidnapped or raped by the herdsmen. They have taken over our farmlands and have destroyed our farm produce”.
The story from Yewa North Local Government Area of Ogun State is no different. Here, a group of youths is said to have served a seven-day quit notice on cattle herders following the storming of the Igbooro, Oja-Odan communities during which three people were killed with two others sustaining gun injuries.
And now, Ibadan, the famed city of the warriors. Incidentally, yours truly, on a short visit to the ancient city, was actually caught up in the mayhem that could only have leapt out of a scene in Dante’s Hell. What began – as I was told – as a group of hoodlums said to be on a mission to avenge the death of a young man following a minor dispute became an occasion for free-for- all fight between two major ethnic groups. And now with the death now being counted in nearly a score, no one as it appears can tell where the next anarchy is coming from.
Unfortunately, if the current descent into chaos was foreseeable, some members of the political class have either chosen to play the McCoy or simply have no clues as to what the current season demands. To some unfortunately, it’s probably just another phase of the darned game that politics have become.
That to me is where the difference between Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State and his Bauchi State counterpart, Bala Mohammed comes out stark clear: one a leader; the other, you can guess!
To the likes of Ganduje, the incessant farmers-herders clashes are not hard to solve: all that is required is for federal government to come up with a law stopping the movement of cattle from the North to the South and the rest could follow. His solution: “My advocacy is that we should abolish the transportation or trekking of herdsmen from the Northern part of Nigeria to the Middle Belt and to the Southern part of Nigeria.
“There should be a law that will ban this, otherwise we cannot control the conflicts between herdsmen and farmers and cannot control cattle rustling which is affecting us greatly.”
Talk of a governor’s good thinking; today, he has the $95 million Kano State Agro-Pastoral Development project, KSADP, a flagship project of his administration as proof that things can actually take a better, less morbi, turn. Which explains why his colleagues in the Nigerian Governors Forum have since embraced the idea!
Not so however, the Bauchi governor. Not only does he see things entirely differently, he has probably little bother about the constitution which is supposed to guide his action as a public official much less the oath to which he swore on taking office. No thanks to his notion of Fulani exceptionalism, to him, nothing should stop his beloved Fulani from their age-long practice of transhumance. Declaring his support for the carrying AK-47 rifles, he says this has become necessary to enable them to defend themselves against bandits, kidnappers and assassins since security agencies cannot protect them. He didn’t stop there: the woodlands in the south, he claims, should be fair game to which everyone – including I suppose – foreign pastoralists are entitled; the rampaging herders, he contended, should be at liberty to freely help themselves without risking charges of land grab!
Lest I forget, he also let it be known that the Fulanis, being stateless should be accorded the right to free movement – without any inhibitions – across the sub region.
I ask – as I also did last week: what happens then to those on the receiving end of his prescription of entitlement? To turn the other cheek? And what happens should they choose to resists as it is increasingly becoming the case daily?
We must thank God for small mercies. The governor has not only recanted, he has literally gorged on his own vomit. Like Saul after the botched trip to Damascus, he now claims to have finally ‘seen’ the light; that there’s no such nonsense as extra-territoriality to which anyone could claim; and that local laws (land tenures) exist to define access to lands across the federation of which no tribe can claim exclusion. And moreover, that his prescription on the bearing of arms is not only unlawful, but is actually a recipe for national destabilization!
Don’t forget that we are talking about leaders at such a time like this!
I have said it before and I will say it again, none can compare with our absentee presidency when it comes to abdication and irrelevance. Unfortunately, if the events of the past few days are any pointers of what lies ahead, which is that the country no longer has the luxury of time let alone the option of inaction or indifference, the administration would seem to have long convinced itself on the wisdom of either doing nothing or yielding the space to non-state actors!
Sunday Igboho. Sheik Gumi. I see both as two obverse sides of the same coin. They are as much the symptoms of state impotence as they are of leadership failure. Only a few weeks back, a friend, who once regarded himself as Buharist unable to hide his frustration any further had blurted out: the country has entered “one chance”. Now, I verily believe that he understated the looming tragedy.