President Muhammadu Buhari enjoyed a cult image in the run-up to the 2015 presidential election. The followership was so massive and devoted that you would be tempted to think it bordered on hypnosis. But, President Buhari is now a victim of that larger than life image he exuded. He is a prisoner of a variant of loyalty that is clearly not in sync with the everyday man on the street. He is now held in the cocoon of his praise-singing, sycophantic loyalists who are only doing this not for the love of the man or the nation, but for their imperious desire to earn their meal tickets as well as maintain their gluttonous habits and lifestyles.
In the course of these five to six years in office, the president’s support base has continued to dwindle at a pace that should bother him and his genuine followers, but because he has been barricaded from the reality on ground, he clearly is still living in the euphoria of the past believing he still enjoys the hysteric followership of the years past.
One reason there has been so much tension in the land is the fact that the president appears not always ready to heed wise counsel or shift grounds, even where there exist superior arguments to the position he holds on issues.
One touchy issue that has continued to threaten the nation is the position of the federal government on managing the activities of the itinerant pastoralists. The president’s seeming refusal to engage and chart a way that will save the nation from the brink, maintain best practices and boost the value chain in cattle rearing accounts for over 80 per cent of the issues threatening the very soul of the nation.
The volatile farmers and pastoralists dispute has gained monstrous proportions such that the president, because of his unpreparedness to seek a broad-based solution to the contestations, has unwittingly pitched the south against the north. More than ever before, it would seem that the northern and the southern parts of the country never lived together before now. The mutual suspicions between the north and the south have reached a level that one would think that all it needs to smash the nation into smithereens is just a snap of the fingers.
Perhaps, because the founding fathers of this nation have not left us to our own devices and continued to pray for us, there seem to be some kind of supernatural interventions that still keep us as one even when we have failed to realize the need to do the very basics by enshrining the essential components of what makes a nation, with so much complexities as Nigeria, stay united.
Since after the civil war, perhaps, the greatest challenge we faced was the unfortunate annulment of the 1993 general elections, won by the late Moshood Abiola. The aftermath of that unfortunate incident led the nation to the very precipice, but somehow we weathered the storm. Never in our national evolution have we been this challenged, because even the civil war was essentially Biafra against the rest of Nigeria. Today, almost every component of the country is calling for secession. Lives are being lost senselessly, women and girls are being raped, kidnapping and banditry are the most lucrative ventures after politics and religion; and the population of displaced people in all parts of the country is increasing at an alarming rate.
For those who initially advised the federal government to consider ranching not only because it’s the in thing and in keeping with best practices, but also the concomitant benefits deriving thereof, it will not be out of place to call for an apology from those who demonized them and derisively referred to them as wailers and not meaning well for the nation.
Recently, we joined forces with the Emir of Muri Kingdom in Taraba State, Abbas Tafida, who apparently, tired of playing the ostrich, issued a one-month quit notice to killer-herders in his emirate that have been raping their women and children as well as looting and kidnapping the people of the community.
This time from Katsina State, the home state of President Buhari, has come another positive vibe to further reinforce the call for immediate check of the incursion, despoiling of the land and heartless and wanton killings across the country.
The Katsina Emirate Council banned open grazing of animals within the Katsina metropolis and its surrounding communities. The ban on open grazing in the Emirate was contained in a statement signed by Wakilin Kudin Katsina, Alhaji Abdu Iliyasu.
Iliyasu said the directive became effective from Tuesday, August 3, adding that machinery had been put in place for its effective implementation.
Last May, 17 governors from Southern Nigeria had met and resolved to ban open grazing and movement of cattle by foot in the region following rampant cases of kidnappings and killings traced to criminal elements amongst herders.
The southern governors had barely finished making their pronouncements when criticism and condemnation based purely on ethnicity and tribalism started pouring in from the northern parts of the country. Perhaps, the most preposterous of them all might as well be that coming from the attorney general of the federation (AGF) and minister of justice, Abubakar Malami, in which he faulted the Southern governors’ position on restructuring and ban of open grazing, comparing it with the legitimate businesses of the Ndigbo, who have not been accused of kidnappings or killing their hosts, or failing to pay taxes, neither have they been accused of trespassing nor depriving others of their livelihood in the course of plying their trade.
Malami had said the decision of the southern governors to ban open grazing in their states did not align with the provisions of the constitution.
He had retorted that “It is about constitutionality within the context of the freedoms expressed in our constitution. Can you deny the rights of a Nigerian?” Malami had asked, adding that, “For example, it is as good as saying, perhaps, maybe, the Northern governors coming together to say they prohibit spare parts trading in the north.”
What warped logic from a minister of a federation as complex and complicated as Nigeria! That is how low we have come in the sycophancy that characterizes the activities of the government of the day.
Shocked by the pedantic outburst of Malami, the Senate spokesman, Ajibola Basiru, had called for his immediate removal from office. Of course, we all knew that won’t happen because of Buhari’s policy of sticking with a losing team.
Senator Basiru accused the AGF of pursuing a parochial, ethnic agenda, adding that he is not worthy to occupy such a position of trust. The comment, he said, “was not dignifying of the status of the nation’s attorney-general and minister of justice.”
The Senate’s spokesman, who is also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) said: “Equating the activities of archaic nomadic herdsmen destroying peoples means of livelihood with others legitimately carrying on businesses by selling spare parts in their shops stands logic on its head.”
Nobody could have put it more succinctly than Basiru did. Blind loyalty to tribe and religion has continued to obscure patriotism to the country and never has it been more pronounced than in the Buhari regime.
Mary Jane Hurley Brant, writing on Loyalty Vs Blind Loyalty in families had argued that, “Loyalty is essential for genuine family solidarity. But blind loyalty leads to family dysfunction.” By extension, we can as well say that loyalty is essential for genuine national solidarity, but blind loyalty leads to national dysfunction.
It is heartwarming to know that the president is beginning to see reason with those who have insisted that ranching is the way to go. The release of the sum of N5 billion to Katsina State Governor, Aminu Bello Masari, as part-payment N6.5 billion to kickstart the development of cattle ranch in Katsina State, is indicative of the fact that President Buhari has finally come to see reasons with other well-meaning Nigerians. It is bad enough that the president is using public resources to fund private businesses, but if that is the price to pay for peace and to place the nation back on the path of growth and development; it is worth the sacrifice compared to what obtains presently.
If only President Buhari had started this earlier in his regime, it would have spared the nation so many lost lives, millions of displaced persons, wanton destruction of people’s properties as well as the avoidable tension the open crazing crises brought on the nation. However, it is better late than never.