Averting another Igbohoism (self help)

“Igbohoism” is a form of self-help which usually arises when there is an absence of government or a lack of confidence in the ability of government to protect the interest of the citizens. Nigerians hardly mix or mingle as they have little, if anything, in common. Between the amalgamation in 1914 and 1960 when independence was granted, the ethnic groups were deliberately kept apart. Their interactions, when circumstance make it necessary, are superficial. Peeling off the layers of pretense at unity is as easy as taking a look at the way they live and do business. They create distinct areas for “fellow Nigerians” of different ethnicities in their towns. You know where to find Hausa-Fulani when you get to a Yoruba or Igbo town. There is normally a particular area to find Yoruba or Igbo person when you are in any Hausa town. They have extremely different surface and deep cultures. The Fulani developed a culture of absolutism ascribing temporal and spiritual leadership exclusively to their ethnic group. They don’t subject themselves to the established traditional rulers of their host communities. They create what soon becomes essentially a rival centre of authoritywherever they go. They create separate worship centres.They encamp around their target areas and start hovering about the neighbourhoods, buy up the land on the fringes of the towns and familiarise themselves with the environment. Other ethnic groups soon copy the culture of creating rival power centers by also creating Eze Igbo and Oba Yoruba. It shouldn’t be. It is undisputable that complete submission to a single authority is necessary to maintain order and security. Peaceful coexistence is concomitant and condition of submitting to the authority of your host.Notwithstanding, they manage to maintain peace, perhaps the peace of the grave yard.

The climate changecrisis, food insecurity, and violence engulfing the Sahel region stretching from across Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria and Sudan forced many Fulani and other pastoralists to migrate. The borders especially in the north are unbelievably porous; many say the borders actually don’t exist. Jihadists, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) and criminals fleeing the conflict areas of North, East and Central Africa are taking advantage of the porous, almost non-existent borders of the North to take refuge in the North West. The North-West is no longer safe. The Boko Haram crisis has festered particularly in the North Eastern part of the country. Those displaced are moving down south in droves.  Food insecurity and widespread poverty heightened the appeal of armed criminality as a way of life. The pastoralists seek to grab the fertile lands of the Middle Belt and Southern regions. Fulani from far and near now seek a foothold in the rich forests of the South even if through terrorism.Gradually, the dressing of the herdersis not complete without the AK 47 and the security agencies look the other way. The muted disputes and frosty relationship between Fulani pastoralists and farmers of various ethnicities has degenerated and reconfigured Nigeria into a killing field.

The situation has morphed to what now seems as sponsored terrorism and a tool for land acquisition. People believe there are accomplices, within and outside the regions, because of the weaponry, logistics and seeming outlandish unwillingness of those in authority to even as much as caution these criminals. The absence of a restraining or enforcing authority is a justification for a self-help system. Each community will take responsibility for its own survival. It has become defend yourself or perish. Alexander Wendt, argues that self-help is socially constructed. In his view, “self-help and power politics are institutions, and not essential features of anarchy. Anarchy is what states make of it”. I am not a building engineer but my interactions with construction experts make me to appreciate the importance of structural integrity in the safety of buildings.

Structural integrity is the ability to hold together under various forms of reasonable loads without being stressed beyond limits. It is predictable that when structures are fractured to failure strength collapse become imminent. Foundation is a critical stability factor. The foundation of Nigeria need reevaluation. The foundation is seriously fractured and deformed. The current influx of criminal elements into our communities has further fatigued the structures of Nigeria. These people are determined to annihilate other ethnic groups economically and physically within a set time. They seem prepared for war if need be.  Government seems impervious to the plight of the people in the hands of these marauding criminals, murderous kidnappers and rapists. Their cavalier treatments of these criminal activities is heart- rending.  Self-defense is not just a right; it is a duty. It is a universally agreed principle that a people may protect themselves from harm.  Like a realist, I say that it is clear now that each ethnic group should aim to survive and be prepared to withstand internal and external threats. Regions should ensure that they have sufficient power to secure their citizens and defend themselves or they are done for. The entire world is a self -help system.

The people called on an individual who accepted the challenge to rescue them. Thus, Sunday Adeyemo alias Sunday Igboho rose to the occasion. He was daring. He confronted and warned the Seriki Fulani. He gave the perceived enemies of his people an ultimatum and went on to execute it. The Ondo State government also gave the criminal Fulani a seven-day ultimatum to vacate the forest reserves. The situation has degenerated to an unprecedented level. It is most unfortunate that government seemingly chose to assist an ethnic group in the conduct of their private business by compelling people to give up their ancestral land.  There seems to be a hidden subterranean network of criminals under the control of some puppeteers. Perceivingtheactions of Sunday Igbohoas a threat, they issued an arrest order on him and called a meeting to dissuadethe Ondo State government from executing the quit order. Thank God Igboho was not arrested. But, somehow, his house was set on fire.  Crisis is brewing. A few months ago, there was a revolt of sort called #EndSars. Jack Goldstone described a revolution as an effort to transform the political institutions and the justifications for political authority in society, accompanied by formal or informal mass mobilisation and non-institutionalised actions that undermine authorities”.

We need to be careful and apply our mind and concrete efforts to the construction of a just, humane and egalitarian society. We have to work for it. Yoruba cannot afford to fold their arms and watch their land annexed. Fulani that believe wherever they step their feet on must become theirs. Error! Not an inch of Yoruba land will be yielded to any foreigner.  Governments seems unable or unwilling to effectively curb the activities of the marauding criminals.

You have a place in history. You should be part of the peaceful efforts to actualise the dream of a peaceful and prosperous United Regions of Nigeria. According to Simone de Beauvoir, a French writer, “The oppressor would not be so strong if he did not have accomplices among the oppressed”. Indifference makes you an accomplice.Those who erroneously think they have any form of benefit from the present crisis need to reexamine their activities.

The current level of insecurity, crony capitalism and brazen nepotism should be worrisome enough for the concern of all. State governors now relish the opportunity to stand beside common criminals for photographs. Authorities have no qualms negotiating with criminals. Criminals issue statements instructing government. No known aggressor has ever been arrested or warned. It is simply unfortunate.  The perceived weakness of the ethnic groups is not exploitable any longer. Most Yoruba and indeed Southerners in Nigeria believe that Nigeria, as presently constituted and managed, is skewed against them politically and economically. The present political experiment is, to them, an abysmal failure. The Nigerian nation has witnessedmanyconflicts that areperpetrated mostly alongethnic and sometimes religious lines. The permissive attitude of government to the current scandalous level of armed banditry, general insecurity and ethnic divisionis gradually remolding skepticism of the ethnic groups into a nexus of unrestrained cynicism. Today, there is a need for a dedicated peacefulstruggletorealiseregional autonomy in the United Regions of Nigeria. It is a known fact that the regional structure was illegitimately dismantled when the 1963 Constitution was suspended by the 1966 coupists. It is time for the people to draft their own Constitution.

 

Oladejo  lives in Ibadan

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