How Yoruba’s Leopard got its claws

There cannot be silence anywhere dog is made to feast on leopard’s tail. There was a civil war in Nigeria during which Chinua Achebe wrote ‘How the Leopard got its claws’. It is a story of dog usurping the kingship of leopard because dog is blessed with teeth and claws while leopard lacked both. It is also a story of setbacks and comebacks; of leopard recreating himself – teeth, claws and more – and reclaiming the lost land and throne. The story is themed on the intriguing texture of power and powerlessness, of subjugation, liberation and justice.

The Achebe jungle story speaks to the current western Nigeria’s evocative Amotekun, its Leopard of existential struggle, the northern pushback, their implications and consequences.

Miyetti Allah, a few days ago, ordered the Buhari government to arrest Yoruba leaders behind Operation Amotekun. “They should not only ban it, but should arrest leaders of this group…,” Bello Abdullahi Bodejo, national president of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore ordered. Because Miyetti Allah is the lord of our land and its word is law, our Federal Government will soon carry out that order. It will be a miracle if Abuja looks away and disobeys the owners of the land. Our government does justice by tying down the southern leopard for the northern dog to insult and bite. But while they do their thing their sectional way, can Buhari and his regime look back at his own past? In 2012, Buhari angered the Jonathan government with a deadly Hausa threat: Kare jini, biri jinni – “the dog and the baboon will be soaked in blood.” There was uproar and the government threatened to arrest him. And what was the General’s response? He dared Goodluck Jonathan to pick and lock him up. The government kept quiet.

Southern Nigeria has very great forbearance – almost sheepish in tolerance. The North enjoys pushing it to bare its fangs and test its claws. Now, if every violent crime committed in southern Nigeria has a northern suspect who is above the law, can there be calm? If every southern sinner in federal offices has a northern Lucifer lurking, waiting to displace/replace him, there cannot be peace. Chameleon is asked why he walks the earth gingerly. He answers that it is to save the ground from caving in. The wise world would have no problem with this answer because it knows how hefty chameleon is and how precarious the ground lies. The country reels badly in pains because the people in power have very bad manners. The simple wisdom of careful, cautious chameleon on shaky ground is lacking in today’s men of power. They defecate on honour and snigger at fidelity, justice and fairness. There is tension all over Nigeria because Abuja throws its weight about and treads roughshod on ‘the eyes of the earth.’

A leader of cattle breeders warned Nigerians in the South not to attempt to defend themselves from foreign, violent attacks. If they do, he said, they will forever be shut out of the presidency of Nigeria. Another cattle breeder asked their patron in power to arrest Yoruba leaders behind a regional security outfit because they are anti-Fulani in motive and design. You are a southern Nigerian and you hear a northern herdsman issuing threats of arrest against you with the arrogance of power, would you serenade him with full compliments because he has the state behind him? Unrestrained northern insults like these are flashes of light into the leopard’s eyes. There will be consequences. And the consequences are apparent now. The Amotekun movement has morphed into another June 12 with all the possibilities attached.

The North has collapsed in very sad, Hobbesian manner, and everybody knows. Life there is the very meaning of brutish, nasty and short. And the elite there are so shameless they still shout with vaunted emptiness at southern remedial moves. Even Balarabe Musa at the weekend joined the Miyetti Allah choir of those singing against the South-West protecting itself from bandits from the North. Hear his thought about the Yoruba: “And these same people want us to transmit power to them in 2023!” That could not be a nationalist speaking about national unity. It is the usual arrogant talk of the ownership of Nigeria by the North.

The North, elite and street, will not mend their dress where it is torn. They won’t treat their cancerous sores or learn from those who could help them. The children the North refused to train are back with the fury of the rejected, killing, maiming. A top Yobe State Emir was almost killed in Kaduna last week. He lost many aides to rampaging bandits. And these untrained kids of the North are moving south while their leaders are angry that the South is building walls and erecting doors and recruiting guards. Every day in Ojoo in Ibadan, at the old Toll Gate in Ogere, Ogun State and in several black spots in Lagos – and everywhere in the South-West, trucks from the North are seen emptying hundreds of untrained children of the North into the carefree, careless bosoms of the West in search of hope and survival. How many of these have tasted the blood of banditry and kidnapping in the waste fields of the North? And what hope can they find in a South with its own challenges of life and living? And what will they become when they find out that their places of refuge offer no immediate and enduring hope?

The governor of Buhari’s home state of Katsina, Aminu Bello Masari, has been talking. He deserves being quoted in every discourse about the tragedy of the North. He said his state, according to UNICEF, has 996,000 children out of school. He added, for effects, that most of the children in school in his state are not Nigerians. Now, you ask: Where are Katsina kids? They are in the forest being prepared as bandits of tomorrow.

Hear Buhari’s governor: “We have problems now with the forest people because they have no education of any kind. They do not have Islamic education and they do not have western education because they have been abandoned in the forest and forgotten. So, these are the kind of children who have come up today, fighting us, fighting the society. If we don’t do more to address it, what will come out of the forest in the next 20 years, what we have today will turn out to be like a child’s play.

“Due to lack of education, they only know one pleasure, which is pleasure of the flesh and that is why they keep on producing children in large numbers. I was told this evening that somebody can mobilise over 350 armed men from the forest and we are talking about 350 men without formal schooling, neither Islamic nor western, and they are all married and have children.”

The situation in Katsina is the situation in Sokoto, in Zamfara, in Kebbi, in Niger, in Kano, in Kaduna, in Jigawa et cetera, et cetera. In all these places, death has become ten a kobo. Every day, somebody must die at the hands of children of the North. The killings are unending and may not end. Human Rights Watch said that in 2018, Fulani bandits “killed at least 400 people and displaced 38,000” in Zamfara State alone. These tragedies are rolled over, year on year. Can you recollect that on May 21, 2019, bandits killed 23 in Tunda and Kabaja villages of Kaura Namoda, Zamfara State? On June 8, 2019, twenty-five persons were killed at night by bandits in Kalhu, Tsage and Geeri villages in Rabah Local Government Area of Sokoto State. A day after, the killings moved to Zamfara where bandits murdered 16 people celebrating Eid el Fitr in Kanoma village, Maru Local Government Area. Same day in Niger State, 70 innocent people lost their lives to bandits in eight villages in Shiroro Local Government Area.

Tragedy in the North is a relay race. We see helpless states exchanging batons of death and abduction. For the bandits of the North, there is no New Year’s resolution to do good. Killing is a continuum, and that has been happening, defying all logic. And so, on January 15, this brand new year, they killed 15 persons – old, young, male, female – in Babaru Rafi, Gummi Local Government Area of Zamfara State. The killing train moved to Niger State last week where a local government chairman cried out that the killings were going out of hand. A village head was killed in a morning raid on Rumathe, Shiroro Local Government Area. A son of the deceased and 21 others were abducted by the murderous bandits.

As I write this, the talk in every Western Nigerian home, in every street, uphill, down valley is that “we must not allow ‘them’ to turn ‘here’ to what their place has become.” That is why northern opposition to security measures down South will continue to alarm southerners. ‘Suffer what I suffer; become what I am’ is the only logical reason a snakebite patient would insist on fresh snake pepper-soup as medicine for his ailment. It is surprising that amid all the killings and abductions and total breakdown of everything good and edifying in the North, the northern leadership (and this includes Muhammadu Buhari) still has the time to complain about the South-West protecting itself from present and potential threats. The North won’t ever face their huge challenges. Their interest is how to tame and hold the South in perpetuity as an inheritance bequeathed to them by their conqueror forebears.

Security is a fundamental human right everywhere on earth. And Fela sang it. He said human rights were his property and that no animal would be allowed to claim its copyright: “You can’t dash me my property.” But Buhari’s government does not appear to accept this. It has heeded Miyetti Allah’s call to declare Operation Amotekun illegal. Our ancestors said when dog sees the face of the Leopard, it stops all noise. But the dog of Miyetti Allah now barks the arrest of Yoruba leaders for seeking to protect their rights. And the dog handlers are pushing it to bark louder. It is dangerous. Anyone who equates leopard with the baboon of his “kare jini, biri jinni” song had better be properly tutored. May we all have the wisdom (and courage) to tell Miyetti Allah’s dog to stop demanding the head of leopard for supper.

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