by Dominic Umosen
With particular emphasis, history acknowledges the overwhelming sense of misgivings by Northern political leaders for their serial indiscretions and misguided political decisions which began in 2011 when regional leaders met in Abuja and resolved to step up hostilities against President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration in demonstration of the region’s disaffection from loss of political power in the country. Initially, this uncharitable disposition was attributed to tantrums by an over-pampered child who may be hell-bent on ignoring the basic wisdom that wise folks do not betray the confidence of their traditional political allies; which is the exact political currency Arewa is repaying its traditional political allies in the South-South with.
Profound disappointment in the South-South regarding Arewa’s grand betrayal also triggered reverse outrage, with some hawks like former Niger-Delta militant, Alhaji Mujaheed Asari-Dokubo advocating that Niger-Delta aborigines should unilaterally expropriate crude oil as compensation for collateral damages visited on minority oil-producing nationalities in the region. Enraged by this ingratitude-based arrogance against the South-South on one hand and endless hostile exchanges with neighbouring minority nationalities in the North on the other, it was a matter of time before these hostile exchanges exerted irreversible stress on the fabric of homogeneity between Hausa/Fulanis and their neighbour minority nationalities, destroying it in the process and definitively erasing a famous socio-political attribute of the region.
For the first time since the amalgamation of defunct Northern Nigeria and the Southern Protectorate, individuals from that part of the country began to defend the interests of their distinct nationalities in the region, as opposed to a mythical one and indivisible aggregate Northern political interest which deviates from what used to be regarded as aggregate Arewa identity. However, the collapse of the Northern political identity has been most dramatic in Plateau State because there, inter-ethnic acrimony has made it impossible for the man who fought a civil war to keep Nigeria one – Gen Yakubu Gowon – to visit his Pankshin home. The former head-of-state’s predicament posts a supreme irony. Indeed, Plateau has become the epicenter of a vicious inter-ethnic war in which the Hausa-Fulani are permanently locked in battle against minority ethnic nationalities in the savannah.
Part of reasons for the dramatic collapse of the mythical political homogeneity of the North is the fact that democracy invariably destroyed much of the unmerited privileges that the Hausa/Fulani-controlled military hitherto lavished on their kith and kin, including fiercely-arrogant itinerant herdsmen who seem blissfully ignorant of the fact that nomadic pastoralism is no longer fashionable the world over. Because it is no longer possible to indulge or lavish excuses for the over-exuberance of armed herdsmen, well-coordinated clashes between them and farming communities have triggered consistently bloody exchanges, with farmers becoming more determined to protect their farmlands from ravages by rampaging livestock which should ideally be sequestered in ranches as done in every civilised society.
The reluctance by government to restrict livestock to designated ranches was developed during military rule. The institution developed and perfected this reluctance to do what is right because doing so might inconvenience the owner of a consignment of livestock who may have been in some sort of cahoots with the local garrison commander, hence untouchable. The frequency of such practices has been drastically curtailed under this dispensation where the fear of insurgents have imposed a new vigilance on security agencies, inspiring more farmers in traumatized and exasperated communities to resist encroachments on their farmlands by livestock and herdsmen who are often unbelievably well-armed, enough to complicate the scope of their menace as well as ensuing exchanges with these invaded communities.
Indeed, the frequency of such violent exchanges between herdsmen and farmers has triggered countless clashes in several communities across the country. Across Benue, Bauchi, Plateau, Imo, Ogun, Ekiti and many other states, tales of clashes between roaming bands of herdsmen and farmers are routine. Beyond the loss of innocent lives involved and the provocative nonchalance of herdsmen who refuse to distinguish between farmlands and fallow bush, Nigerians are sufficiently exasperated by the reluctance of government to enforce the universal norm which specifies that nomadic pastoralism is outdated and that anyone seeking to engage in large-scale livestock farming should make provision for ranches to eliminate the likelihood of recurring friction between herdsmen and farming communities.
When the articulate Middle Belt Forum, the umbrella group for minority nationalities in the North-Central Zone, issued a threat to reciprocate attacks on their communities by itinerant Fulani herdsmen, the justification for this unprecedented threat of retaliations was provided by frequently-bloody attacks on these communities by Fulani herdsmen who have acquired a greater capacity for menace and are better armed than soldiers. Testimony to this increasing sophistication in the menace posed by Fulani herdsmen is the enabling circumstance surrounding the killing of the former Senate Health Services Committee Chairman, Dr Fulani Dantong by some Fulani herdsmen who invaded a grieving Berom village in Barkin Ladi Local Government Area in Plateau State. According to eye-witnesses, soldiers attached to the Joint Task Force advised the grieving villagers to flee allegedly because the invaders arrived better-armed than themselves.
The greater bulk of ammunition that triggered the collapse of the fabled political homogeneity of the North was provided by animosity triggered by these violent clashes between herdsmen and farmers in the savannah. The traditional indifference of a typical herdsman to a farmland and a bush provoked former Chief of General Staff, late Maj-Gen. Tunde Idiagbon to threaten to gun down any Fulani herdsman that encroached on his farm in Ilorin. Indeed, anger by minority nationalities in the North against the predominant Hausa/Fulani invariably became proportionate to the frequency of attacks on their communities and the destruction of the properties by indiscriminating herdsmen and their rampaging flocks.
Other tear-jerking legacies of feudalism like the almajiri phenomenon further intensified the disintegration of the region’s fabled political homogeneity. It is an enduring testimony to the prevailing culture of political mischief that despite the fact that salvation was graciously engineered for these human eye-sores from outside the region, efforts to rehabilitate them by President Jonathan were vigorously resisted by selfish regional leaders like Gov Babangida Aliyu of Niger State who argue that the sorry lifestyle projected by these human dregs is a worthy and befitting cultural heritage. Yet Aliyu sends his wards to the best schools abroad and lavishes his teenagers with toys almajiris can only dream about.
This sensational hypocrisy by self-serving political leaders in the region contributed significantly to undermine and eventually trigger collapse of the region’s fabled political homogeneity. It also explains why it was possible for an unimaginative governor to spend two-terms in Yobe to acquire choice limousines and exquisite palaces for traditional rulers and after climbing on the crest of prevalent ignorance to senatorial relevance, he gyrated on the axle of mischief to blame President Jonathan for endemic poverty in the North-East. It is unfortunate that instead of holding leaders like these to account for the travesty they represent, some misguided people are holding others to ransom in the name of insurgency which further exacerbates erosion of political homogeneity of a milieu that has been torn apart by internal contradictions.
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