OPINION: RUGA: Fulani herdsmen and their dialectical chameleonics

By Prince Ejeh Josh.

Let me break the big news! It will be folly for anyone to think RUGA has died with the recent suspension made by the federal government.

It’s an attempt to douse tension and allow the stream of time to run over it. It will bounce back, actively repackaged in more persuasive form, and this time, the Aso Rock power will sell it through media propaganda.

It will be sold with a psychological warfare of “the enemies of Nigeria and those not happy with the progress and achievements of President Buhari are fighting back”.

They did it before. They pre-judicially won many gullible Nigerians with their “corruption is fighting back” propaganda mantra sold by their media goons.

A critical question from objective quarters of how the war against corruption, insecurity, poverty, unemployment and bad governance is being fought is readily met with a predetermined answer – corruption is fighting back.

Like the JP Clark’s “Abiku”, there seems to be appearing, disappearing and reappearing of the Fulanistic agenda of turning Nigeria into their heritable cattle settlement through the deployment of tactical and psychological subjugation.

The whole events playing out in Nigeria have assumed a form of a primitive class struggle between the wealthy and economically viable Fulanis who do not only own these cattle businesses but also own and control the herders, and the disadvantaged non-Fulani Nigerians, both wealthy and poor. While the former often wields political power to protect and perpetuate their interest, the latter is only ceded with some person with defined boundary. This, in effect, is seen in the manipulation of State policies to protect one party and subjugate another party.

The idea of ceding land to the Fulani herdsmen for their private business has, therefore, been oscillating with a pattern of structural nomenclature. It is deliberately invented behind the mask of conflict resolution but loaded with the substance of dystopia. It’s manifesting in class contradiction between the core north and south divide. The minority north is in perpetual fear of invasion by the rampaging herder vassals.

Yesterday, it was cattle ranching, herders’ settlement, open grazing, cattle colony and today, it reappears in an innocuous euphemism called, RUGA.

The architects of this term had the idea of repackaging a Trojan Horse under a guise of proffering a truce, or better still, of pacifying the herders to the unsuspecting Nigerian citizens who are much known for docility and susceptibility.

The vicious herders, whom, according to the Presidency, were from the neighbouring countries – Mali, Niger, Chad and Cameroon, had wrecked untold havoc not just to the Nigerian economy and socio-political structures but also to thousands of Nigerians.

Many law-abiding citizens have been sent to gravyards by these belligerent herders. Many have lost their homes and their life-investment as a result of the herders invasion. In extreme cases, a good number of families in Nigeria have been permanently displaced and wiped out in the wake of unjustifiable butchery by these larger-than-law herders who have been glorified to the status of impunity. Sadly, whenever they fiendishly strike, they leave nobody in doubt by claiming responsibilities, and adducing self-gratifying justification for their act.

After perpetuating the carnage, instead of taking a decisive action that would reassure Nigerians of their safety by setting the wheel of the law in motion, the presidency is fond of issuing press statement either asserting that the territorial nationality of those involved was questionable or by blaming those killed – the victims of the bloodbath – as bringing the wrath upon themselves. After that, nothing further would be heard. No arrest would be made. Nobody would be prosecuted. Often, the least the Federal Government could do is to deploy combatants to counter reprisal attacks. With this, one can appreciate Marx’s context of State’s existence even in the cruel notion of the African setting.

Let it be quickly established here that back then as a postgraduate student of International Relations, and even also as student of International Law, one thing is clear, I learnt, and for which every State is ready to wage war if threatened by other States, individuals or whatever organisation called by any name, is the sanctity placed on internal sovereignty and State territory. Any attempt at this territorial incursion by aggressors is reciprocated by stringent brutality as a show of deterrence and future preemption.

The above scenario, however, does not apply to Nigeria since the federal government has by its conduct, acquiesced that Nigeria is a terra nullius. Or how would one explain the action and inaction of the Buhari administration whenever these purported “foreign” herders invade Nigeria.

The contradiction arises when a government saddled with the impartial responsibility of protecting and preserving the lives and properties of all its citizens decide to turn on the garb of emotional attachment to certain marauders borne out of ethnic primordiality against the innocent.

When government sides with a preconceived mind, then, mutual distrust is inevitable. That, exactly, is what the Buhari Government is doing. It has a penchant for a pre-conclusive notion of impunity and immunity for some tribes regardless of what. Simply put; since the law and State exist to protect certain interests against another, those whose interests are protected against others are a little above the law.

Reconciling the protracted conflicts between the state-backed herders and the hapless but fate-backed citizens have proven intractable and may keep replicating itself in forms. The information from the presidency will keep resonating confusion, thereby creating an irreconcilable dialectics of trust, class struggle and structural contradiction.

Trying to wrangle out of this mystery is likened to fissiparous explosives. It is the Buhari government that told Nigerians that killer herdsmen were non-Nigerians that is also planning to acquire land for them all over the country. The same government that made budgetary provisions for the herdsmen from the tax payers money. The same government that has called for the repeal of Anti-Grazing Laws recently enacted by some states to protect their citizens against invading herders. The same government that is forcing, albeit, subtly, states to give away their land to foreigners even when the Land Use Act vehemently provides that foreigners cannot own land in Nigeria. More so, killer herdsmen.

Regrettably, when all these conspiracies and evil designs were foiled by Nigerians, and the project failed, the government chameleonically came up with a legal cloaked-policy of psychologically forcing states to not only cede their land but also gazetted all federal land for the herders. What really informs the government’s interest? A government that would not wait for court orders before ruthlessly dealing with its citizens is seen shying away from its constitutional responsibilities. Now, it’s RUGA! Bluntly put; Fulani Cattle Colony. This would be established in all states as permanent base for the herders. The implication is that people’s property, farmland and sources of living will be taken away from them. They will soon become our landlords even in our land. That’s the case of Illorin. The historical contradiction of the pacific landowners; their hospitality and affability to the then nomads is told in the epic play, “Afonja”, and how the Illorites were over run by the Fulanis. Today, they assert their firm authority over and above the so-called “Omonile”. Suspension of RUGA is just a phase in the chameleonic contradiction and will soon manifest itself in another form.

Without fanning the ember of emotion or throwing up the past since such expected time has not passed, and memory has not faded an inch to disembark us from the journey of recalling our sad experience in different states in the hands of these foreign Fulani herders, our past and present experience will help us calibrate and make a prediction of the implications of this RUGA if allowed to succeed in whatever form, since “suspension” is just a form. A mere usage that means advancement of the same agenda.

Three years ago, these foreign Fulani herders, in the dead of night, while men were asleep, they came, they struck, and by dawn, scores of innocent citizens were already left lifeless in Enugu State. The brute force by which they were slaughtered, the sight of their mangled and mutilated bodies left us with indelible memories lingering and whispering to our ears each time we see them – “see, here they come! “.

While the whole country was thrown into mourning, the presidency, to the chagrin of humanity, came in fierce defense of the herders. Again, in Benue, it was a celebration of death. People were burnt beyond recognition. Thousands were displaced. Heritages were lost. Lineage and generations were wiped out. It was blood in river Benue. And Mr. Buhari’s reaction? It took him a century to visit and sympathise. And when he eventually did, he told the bereaved families to accommodate the supposed foreign herdsmen as the brothers. Jesu! Oko awon opo.

While a certain governor was still laying blame on some policies taken by Benue State, just to present himself as a puppet to the Abuja Power, his own state was visited with a passionate cruelty by the same people he was defending. Dinning with the Devil with a short spoon? Blood was everywhere.

Rudderless torsos were seen swimming in the pool of their blood in streets. I was forced to make an article then showing the defeat of humanity, and a regress to the Hobbesian’s “State of Nature”. As usual, the Miyetti Allah foreign Fulani herders claimed responsibility.

Following the aftermath of the bloodbath, the presidency issued a statement that shocked the whole nation. Nobody was arrested. They all went scot-free. After all, weren’t they above the law? They even threatened to unleash more mayhem. The same carnage persists in many states even as I write. I leave you to foretell what will happen if your fatherland is ceded to them be it in guise of RUGA, suspension or any other chameleonic forms.

This was how the Buhari government sowed a seed of distrust and cruelty in the hearts of millions of Nigerians. The Fulani herdsman becomes an alpha and omega. He farts anywhere he likes. He talks tough. He sneezes and Nigerians quiver. He moves about, brandishing weapons of mass destruction without restraint. As Achebe aptly noted in his “Things Fall Apart”, the Whiteman has come and put a knife on what holds us together, and things have fallen apart.

In his “Bat”, DH Lawrence submitted that “bat is a symbol of love for China not for me”. For those Northern states who have declared their readiness to cede their land to their kin and kith for their private business, I wish you well. However, for the south, especially those who have vehemently resisted this evil ploy, cattle may be a symbol of love for the North not for us. President Buhari could have been a symbol of love for us, but he turned out to sow the seed of hatred, mutual suspicion and distrust in our hearts. A man I had once fanatically supported in the wake of 2014/2015 Presidential Election. A man the Nigerian youths once deified as a living god from a saintly planet. Mr. Buhari would be likened to Ayo in a work called “The New Man” where he was seen by his supporters as the messiah. However, having ascended the throne of power, he turned out to be a legendary fiend. Brutus now lives among us. Aren’t we the Julius Caesars receiving the last but worse blow from this trusted Brutus?


DISCLAIMER: All views expressed on our opinion page are those of the writer and do not represent the position of INSIDER or any of its reporters/editors.

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