16 March 2018

Nigeria: Open Letter to Mr. President


Mr. President, I salute you for making time to visit the capital cities of states hit by the recent spike in killings by those who trade in the blood of the innocent. You visited Jalingo, the Taraba state capital where the Mambilla plateau is located; you also visited Jos, the capital of Plateau state; two days ago you were at Makurdi, the Benue state capital and today you have gone to Damaturu the Yobe state capital. In all the state capitals you held meetings with "stakeholders" as part of your efforts to find a lasting solution to the madness that seem to have taken hold of our collective sanity. Who are these "stakeholders"? how could you be sure that you are meeting the right people, who represent the aggrieved or the victims? Mr. president have you verified whether what was presented before you was not, what a friend of mine used to call "photo trick"? Anyway, this is beside the point.

Mr. president, it is now clear to me that you have succumbed to the emotional blackmail of the villains by visiting them and not the victims. The narrative in all these places that you visited was from the side of those who shielded you from going to the "theatres of war" to ascertain who did what and when. My prayer is that one day you may find time to visit those places that were attacked and meet the real stakeholders. I pray one day that these victims will have the voice to make as much noise as is generated by those who succeeded in hoodwinking you now into making public condemnation of the likes of the Inspector General of Police (IG) because he refused to allow them have their ways.

Mr. president, there are places in Nigeria called Nguroje, Mayo-Ndaga, Kakara and Yerimaru on the Mambilla plateau where over 727, largely women and children were killed by people known to the government and the victims and these people are still walking free; there is also a place in Kaduna state called Kajuru where 96 women and children were massacred and nobody was either arrested or prosecuted and convicted; in Adamawa, my state we have Kodomti and Shafaron, villages where 59 women and children, including a 3-day old baby, were brutally murdered after their menfolk were invited to a meeting with the traditional institution of their murderers. Why were you denied the opportunity of meeting these "stakeholders" to get their own version of events?

Mr. president your current jaunts across the states have been interpreted by many as a political gimmick, seeing that presidential election is barely a year away. I disagree with those who hold this view, because I know you. You have a good heart and you will never play politics with the life of a single individual, no matter where he comes from. But your selective visits and meetings is making my position on you untenable to those who hold the view that you place more premium on your second term than on the human life. I feel very bad whenever I hear this very pedestrian argument. Mr. president, can you please shame these nay-sayers by insisting on visiting at least the places I mentioned and meeting their leadership to enable you get to the bottom of the mess we find ourselves in? it will go along way in strengthening my position whenever I stand up for you.

Your government had bended backwards to repatriate people who willingly paid their way to Libya enroute Europe in order to escape a country they spent a lifetime condemning. Your government paid their way back to Nigeria and even gave them some stipends to take them home and all you got in return are insults. I also recently read that your government is planning on employing about 204,000 youths from the Niger Delta, which is laudable. But Mr. president all that the average farmer is asking for is to be left alone to tender to his herd and provide the protein needs of an ungrateful nation. Are they asking much Mr. president? Niger Delta supplies crude oil, which in turn provides us with foreign exchange, which we steal and establish farms on gazetted grazing reserves and stock routes. What made the Niger Delta militant better than the pastoralist in terms of government patronage? I believe a tenth of the total monies expended in the Niger Delta will develop so many grazing reserves and stock routes.

Farmers and herders have coexisted harmoniously in northern Nigeria since time. They led a symbiotic relationship where the fodder left after harvest by the farmer feeds the cattle and the herder's cattle fertilise the farmer's fields for the next farming season. How and when did they turn against each other?

Going through the 'Taraba state Open Grazing Prohibition And Ranches Establishment Law, 2017', the first thing in all the nine page document that caught my eye was the first item on the Objectives of the law - "to promote the modern techniques of animal husbandry, particularly the rearing of livestock", I said to myself how. How can I rear livestock in a situation where I am hunted like wildlife. Taraba state have about 72% of unutilised land at the moment, Mr. president, yet they couldn't provide 5,000 hectares to the federal government to establish a cattle colony in order to "promote modern techniques of animal husbandry... ". These are the same people you held meetings with to find a solution? Haba!

Under your watch sir, the Fulani, whether sedentary or nomadic have been criminlaised. Crime now has a new name - Fulani herdsman. Whenever there is a crisis anywhere, innocent Fulani men or women are forcefully dragged out and killed either in their homes or while travelling. While the media frenzy on the mass burial of 73 coffins was ruling the airwaves, seven innocent travellers were hacked to death in broad daylight in the Gboko motor park. This heinous crime wasn't worth a word of condemnation from any quarter associated with your government. Because they are Fulanis. Because they can be expended. Because they don't have access to megaphones.

Visiting state capitals is okay as long as it is political gladiators you want to satisfy Mr. president or just to go and dine with those whose hands are soaked in blood. But visiting the theatres and seeing for yourself what human damage was suffered by those villaininsed by the media will open your eyes to the real issues.

Don't allow yourself to be cowed by anyone Mr. president. Act presidential and do the right thing and not what you are told to do.


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