couple of days ago I read about the 2 week ultimatum issued to the Kwara State Government by one Alhaji Usman Adamu, Chairman of the Kwara State chapter of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeding Association Of Nigeria to the effect that the Government should arrest the culprits or perpetrators of the killings of some Fulani herdsmen in the Baruten Local Government Area of the state or face reprisals. The man even went further to reveal that he has had to restrain some herdsmen, including their kinsmen from neighboring countries from retaliating. While some might be tempted to applaud him for his restraint, for him to boast about the atrocities committed by Fulani herdsmen in Zamfara, Jos, Nasarawa and using Imo state as a prime example of their murderous prowess by saying the following and I quote, "if you see what our Fulani's did in Imo, you will cry", is insane and beyond the pale. As if this public threat was not enough, here comes the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum with its own threat to the Yoruba nation to the effect that, they will carry out retaliations on Yoruba's living in the North as reprisals for the killings of Fulani Herdsmen in Ife.
Ever since I read those comments, I've expectedly and hopefully waited for the President or the Inspector General of Police and even the DSS to say or do something about the threat. But as always there has been a deafening silence from all the aforementioned. Am I surprised by their lack of action? Not in the least. However the entire episode got me wondering. What would have been the response if a leader of Anifere, IPOB, MASSOB or the Niger Delta Avengers had issued these threats? All hell will probably would have broken loose. These leaders would have been arrested and battalions of soldiers sent to those states. Now this is not to say I condone killings by any group. Both those who killed Fulani herdsmen and those issuing threats of reprisals were wrong. However the undeniable truth is that more killings have been committed by these herdsmen than most and as usual the Federal Government and our Security officials have been totally inept in dealing with their crimes. Not many of them if any have been arrested or jailed for their crimes. Their failure to forcefully respond to these killings by any group is not only an abdication of their duty to protect the lives of Nigerian citizens but also a failure of leadership on the part of the President who swore an oath to peace and security of the nation and its people.
No one can say this President is or will ever be considered a candidate for the Noble Peace Prize but at least he owes the country the obligation to demonstrate fidelity to his words during his swearing-in in 2015 when he famously said, "He belonged to no one but belonged to everyone." The question now is. Has the President lived up to those words? The answer is a resounding NO. Did we expect him to? Not really, that's if you take into account his comments in the past, when he warned that any war against Boko Haram was a war against the North, his 95% Vs 5% comment or that blood would flow if he lost the election. As we all know, the "Fish rots from the head". As the President, he cannot be absolved from blame. As one past American President once famously said, 'the buck stops at his desk". He had inadvertently set the tone by assembling the most lopsided cabinet in recent times by deliberately skewing it towards the North. In doing so he did not only fail to consider the fact that diversity doesn't just sound nice but has tangible value in ensuring political stability in a divided nation, he also gave the North the impression that power now belongs to them. He basically empowered and emboldened a section of the country, giving them a sense f invincibility, of being above the law and believing that they have a President who will always be on their side. If not, how can anyone explain that a group of people have the right to carry automatic weapons without licenses while the rest of us will be arrested and jailed if we as much as brandish a pistol.
In my opinion, if the President's inaction or lack of forceful response to the various ethnic killings in the country is anything to go by, it will be fair to assume or conclude that this is a President who peddles in ethnic or religious preferences and ignores the deteriorating and worsening ethnic bias, distrusts and violence abound in the country. I am sure when recently the suspended House of Representative member Alhaji Jibrin said "history will not forgive the President for his many inactions" he had this issue in mind. Again it will also be fair to say that with regards to these killings, 'the Emperor has been naked from the beginning". The reality of our ethnic situation today in Nigeria is that ethnic relations is now seen as a zero sum game. The gain by one group is seen as a loss to others. The gain by the North and South West in the Buhari administration is considered a loss by the Igbo's, just as the gain by the Igbo's during the Jonathan administration was seen as a loss by the North and the South West. The ethnic predicament we find ourselves in today can be partly attributed to the fact that the President in his four Presidential campaigns did so on a narrow vision of Nigeria as a nation state, not as a state of people. I will want to believe that he believes in unity in diversity, but unfortunately his approach to solving the nation's ethnic problems so far if any has proven suboptimal.
The story of Buhari's administration is not supposed to have progressed this way, because the nation voted for him to bring about real change. They hoped for much more than what they have gotten so far. As much as they wanted him to fight Boko Haram and wage war against corruption, they also wanted him to not only improve their economic well- being but also to provide them with peace and security. Peace, security and protection of their properties under the present atmosphere in the country is no longer a given nor is it assured. And this a very unfortunate development because in the years before and after the Nigerian civil war many had often wondered if there was ever a chance for real national unity. Now 47 years after that war it will not be gain-saying to conclude that a majority of Nigerians have totally lost hope that this country will ever achieve national unity, at least not with the President's disinterest on the subject, lack of effort and his equivocations on the issue of ethnic violence. Effective governing is about taking action to solve the problems and anxieties of its citizenry at the time and what we have now, it is sad to say is not governing.
As much as it is the height of hypocrisy for the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeding Association and the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum and other like- minded groups or individuals to emerge from their carnivorous caves to condemn the killings they have for so long tolerated when perpetrated by herdsmen, the truth remains as studies have shown that radical change and reform can only be brought about by powerful groups, institutions and individuals being able to transform themselves. They must be willing to reform and condemn societal wrongs and not just act the victim. To be able to succeed in bringing about any real change to the country's ethnic problems and killings, government will have to play a huge role. As much as a majority of Nigerians are horrified by what passes as leadership in the country, they still hope for a detribalized leadership. Leadership that is bold, decisive and proactive. Leadership that is willing to call a spade a spade. One that is not timid, parochial or insensitive to their problems and cries for help. Despite our tendencies and inclinations as a people for our views to be colored by our ethnic and religious leanings and to deny the obvious even when the facts are staring us in the face, there is a lesson to be learned, which is the destructive effects of the false asymmetry in accepting facts at a time of vast asymmetry in reality. The false asymmetry is in ignoring or downplaying the awfulness of these killings and the threats of reprisals and vastly exaggerating the flaws and motives of those who accuse our leaders of inaction. The President must act now or forever be remembered by generations to come as the President who failed to act at a time when his leadership was needed to avert a national ethnic crisis.
Nnanna Ijomah is a New York City based Political Science lecturer.