By Femi Fani-Kayode
“Throughout history it has been the inaction of those who could have acted, the indifference of those who should have known better and the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most that has made it possible for evil to triumph”- His Royal Majesty Haile Selassie 1, Emperor of Ethiopia.
If there was ever a time to remember the words of Haile Selassie and speak out against evil this is it. With the abduction of the elder statesman and June 12th struggle hero, Chief Olu Falae, from his home by a group of Fulani herdsmen in south western Nigeria it is time for us to seriously consider the expulsion of all Fulani herdsmen from the southern part of our country.
We thank God and commend the efforts of the Inspector-General of the Nigerian police that Chief Falae was returned home safely after a harrowing three days. Given his status in Yoruba land, had this not been so there would have been cataclysmic consequences for the unity of our country.
It is because we wish to avoid such a scenario that it is important that we get these marauders and vandals out of our territory as quickly as possible. This is especially so given the fact that, by Falae’s testimony, it is clear that the Fulani herdsmen that abducted him were working hand in hand with Boko Haram.
These herdsmen have become the pests of our nation. They are like the east African tsetse fly: wherever they go they suck the life blood out of their hosts and, like the locust, they destroy everything in their path. They are like leeches: they indulge in a parasitic mode of nutrition and they suck the blood of the carcass until their victim is left for dead.
Like the Arab Janjaweed, they are only known for the most hideous of things. This includes terror, intimidation, theft, murder, rape, abduction, mutilation, the violation of the rights of others, the destruction of the land and crops of farmers and the destruction of property.
Anyone that doubts this should ask the people of the north central zone what they have been suffering in the hands of these vagabonds and vagrants for the last 50 years. This is especially so in Plateau, Benue, Niger, Kwara, Nassarawa, Taraba and Adamawa states.
Yet up until 20 years ago this was essentially a northern problem and it did not affect the south. Sadly that has changed. It has now become a national plague that knows no boundaries and whose poison threatens to consume us all.
In the last few years the Fulani herdsmen have attacked, ravaged and pillaged many rural communities south of the River Niger and they have slaughtered and raped thousands of innocent people in the south-south, the south-east and the south-western zones of our country.
We recall how, after a violent clash between them and some Yoruba farmers in Oyo state in 2000, General Buhari (as he then was) led a strong delegation of northern leaders to see the late Governor of Oyo state, Governor Lam Adeshina. On arrival Buhari put the following question to him: “why are YOUR people killing MY people?” This was a classic case of a Freudian slip. The Bible says ‘’out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks’’. The general had spoken his mind.
Governor Adeshina was shocked with disbelief and he responded by telling Buhari that he was rather surprised that a former Head of State would refer to one ethnic group as “his’’ people whilst referring to another as someone elses’. He said that this was especially so given the fact that people were killed on both sides of the divide in what was a sad and unfortunate conflict.
The insensitivity of Buhari to the Yoruba farmers and their plight in the hands of the Fulani raiders was noted from that moment on. Ever since that conversation took place the lines have been drawn and the south west has been on alert.
The abduction of Falae may well have brought things to a head because today virtually every self-respecting Yoruba man is calling for strong resistance to these alien cattle-rearers whose criminal activities have led to nothing but blood, tears and carnage. If the government refuses to stop them then it is very clear that some communities may end up doing so themselves.
Yet there is an even more sinister dimension to this problem than most people care to admit. That dimension is best illustrated by the following question. Can there be any truth in the assertion that the Fulani herdsmen are nothing less than the vanguard and covert armed wing of the Fulani ruling class which has managed to infiltrate the south under the ingenious guise of selling cows?
Are they sleeper cells of a much bigger army and a much wider cause? Are they, as Falae has suggested, working hand in hand with Boko Haram? If a major conflict were to arise would those sleeper cells be activated and would they commence the wholesale slaughter of the indigenous population in their host states? As painful as it may appear these are questions that we must ask.
The fact that the herdsmen demanded for a 100 million naira ransom from Falae speaks volumes. The question is this: what do mere cattle-rearers want with 100 million naira? Even more instructive is the fact that when they were offered 2 million naira they responded by saying that that amount would not be enough for Boko Haram.
Given all this it is clear to me that we must begin to look at the wider picture. We must accept the ugly reality that there may be more to all this than meets the eye. This is especially so given the fact that up until the time of writing this piece not one of Falae’s captors has been apprehended by the police and they seem to have vanished into thin air. One wonders what transpired. Were they granted amnesty or are they ghosts?
Can there be any truth in the suggestion that there was some kind of official collusion in the abduction? Was it an attempt to put Falae, and by extension the Yoruba, in their place for vigorously supporting the idea of a national conference? Is it an attempt to intimidate those from the south west that opposed President Buhari in the 2015 presidential elections? If so it will not work.
Afenifere, the leading socio-cultural group of the south west of which Falae is a leading member, and the Yoruba people generally have a way of rising to the occasion when they are threatened, cheated or persecuted. History proves that. Worthy of note are the words of Dr. Frederick Fasheun and Otunba Gani Adams, both leaders of the Odua Peoples Congress (OPC) in this matter. Only the unwise would ignore their counsel.
Another curious twist to the tale is the fact that it took the Buhari administration two days to make any formal announcement on Falae’s abduction and just the day after they finally did so the elder statesman was suddenly released.
The question is this: who is pulling the strings from behind the scenes and who is attempting to test our resolve and test the waters? Whatever the answer to these questions are one thing remains clear. The days of killing people with impunity and stripping them of their lands and possessions are long over.
The Fulani herdsmen may well believe that they have one of their own in the Villa today but that does not mean that they will get away with their murderous ways or their sheer impunity. It is most unwise for them to continue to test the resolve of the people of the south in this way. I say this because collectively southerners are slow to anger but irresistible in battle. When pushed to the wall they often indulge in what Dr. Amanze Obi, the respected columnist for Nigeria’s Sun newspaper, once described as ”southern fury”.
Permit me to conclude this intervention with an interesting and relevant contribution from the famous British historian, writer and educationalist Dr. T.R. Batten. He wrote:
“The Fulani were at their most influential in Gobir.Then a dispute broke out between their Imam, Usman Dan Fodiyo and Sarkin Gobir Yunfa.The Fulani rallied behind their leader who encouraged them to defy their Hausa Chief. He began a jihad and fighting broke out. Thus the Fulani seized the country by force against the will of those who lived there. The enmity had nothing to do with religion for among those who fought (against the Fulani) were many Muslims. It was about the Fulani’s wish to seize power from the Hausas.”
It follows that the herdsman and those that they represent conquer by infiltration, assimilation and guile. Those that doubt this should find out what became of the ancient Hausa kingdoms. May God deliver us from the vagabonds and vagrants in our midst.