Radicalising the South-West

THOSE who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable –US President John F. Kennedy: Remarks on the Alliance for Progress, 13 March, 1962.


Hereditary bondmen! Know ye not (that) who would be free, themselves must strike the blow? – In: Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom, 1855.


Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains. One thinks himself the master of others, and still remains a greater slave than they…As long as a people is compelled to obey, and obeys, it does well; as soon as it can shake off the yoke, and shakes if off, it does better; for, regaining its liberty by the same right as took it away, either, it is justified in resuming it, or there was no justification for those who took it away…The strongest is never strong enough to be always master, unless he transforms strength into right, and obedience into duty –Jean Jacques Rousseau in “The Social Contract” (1762).


Dissent is the highest form of patriotism –US President Thomas Jefferson or historian Howard Zinn.


To start with, have you seen how the APC/Muhammadu Buhari administration retreated, tail between its legs, over the El-Zakzaky bail issue, only after the Shi’ites turned violent? The amateurish way Buhari has handled the Shi’ites portends grave dangers. First, the government got itself boxed into a corner by the Shi’ites. It had to find a way of escape through the courts. The judiciary has further confirmed its new-found notoriety as lackey and errand boy of the executive. It is now beyond dispute that our judges are willing tools in the hand of the executive. They have thrown their independence to the dogs. Pity! Now, not only the Shi’ites, but other groups with an axe to grind know they will not get Buhari’s ears until they too put his back to the wall. This government does not value the language of peace. The only people it respects are those who talk with it in the streets. More importantly is the fact that the amount of literature that has filled the internet on the Shi’ite versus Sunni, Fulani versus Hausa divide has debunked government’s own narrative of why it is going for broke with the Shi’ites whereas more dangerous groups like the Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen are getting kid-glove treatment from it. Unfortunately, government has been unable to debunk the Shi’ites’ superior argument that government’s high-handedness has little to do with national security, but more with the fight-to-the-finish between two fanatically religious groups (Sunni and Shi’ite) and the now sharpening fight-to-the-death between Fulani overlords bent on keeping their hitherto Hausa vassals under subjugation and the growing militancy of the Hausa and other Northern minorities to overthrow Fulani suzerainty and reclaim their independence.

So, it is religious as well as political struggle. Nigeria is merely the grass on which the many elephants in the North are conducting their battle for supremacy. We now have a better understanding of the issues involved; thus helping us to make informed commentaries as well as take decisions that will better safeguard our individual and collective interests.

George Santayana says those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeating its mistakes. Unfortunately, it has also been posited that history teaches that human beings hardly learn from history. Human memory, says Adolf Hitler (author of Mein Kampf or My Struggle), is so short that you have to tell them the same “truth” again and again. Is it not said that those who drive people from the open space of discussions drive them into cellars (closed places) where revolutions are made? Hence Chinese Communist Party Chairman, Mao Zedong, admonishes “…letting a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend…” Where dissention is forbidden and freedom of speech criminalised, we have a society in regression, a process that has been on in Nigeria for decades, beginning seriously with the silencing of human rights activist and convener of the Ogoni Bill of Rights, Ken Beeson Saro-Wiwa. Vile dictator Sani Abacha had thought the judicial murder of Saro-Wiwa and his comrades would silence agitations in the Niger Delta. But it only accentuated it, radicalising the people even more. Faithful, then, is the saying that the tree of liberty is watered with the blood of tyrants and martyrs alike. Today, the Niger Delta swarms with militants so much so that elections there wear the full regalia of war! But for the wisdom of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, ably assisted by the then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan who came up with the amnesty programme, this country might by now have gone up in flames on account of Niger Delta militancy.

Failing to learn from history is why Boko Haram has become the Frankenstein monster that it is today. Just like they thought the killing of Saro-Wiwa would signal the end of the Niger Delta struggle for better living standards, they also thought extra-judicial killing of Boko Haram’s leader, Muhammed Yusuf, without uprooting the insurgency would do the trick. As our people would say, they only turned Boko Haram into a snake that was wounded but not totally killed, only for it to return with a vengeance. Did you read the Wall Street Journal’s account of how 1,000 of our soldiers were buried peremptorily in unmarked graves in Maiduguri? When I read Festus Adedayo’s account (Sunday Tribune, August 4) of how the death of his brother-soldier in Sierra-Leone was casually broken through a letter – and nothing more – I remembered, also, my cousin, Brother Fasasi. A man cannot be more handsome! The last we saw of him was when he came to say goodbye after he joined the army at the 133 Battalion, Owo in those civil war days. Few days after, they were drafted to the war front. He never returned! It is not the Army alone that treats its members so cavalierly; it appears to cut across. I remember when Rosaline’s father died after having served the police for over two decades. To collect his entitlements, his colleagues in the same pensions department where he last served demanded bribes from Rosaline who, as the eldest child, just finished Form Five! She was aghast to see that those making such demands were colleagues who drank burukutu with her father. They pleaded for understanding because, according to them, the same treatment awaited their own families at their own demise. What a system! And what a people!

But we digress! The Presidency gloats, because it thinks it has “succeeded” in scuttling the #RevolutionNow movement’s planned nationwide protests. It should bury its head in shame! There is no better way of understanding how little-minded our present rulers are than this. If it has chalked up any “victory” at all, it should be told that it is pyrrhic and will soon turn into ashes in its mouth. Unfortunately, they are creating problems not only for themselves, but also for future governments and generations of unborn Nigerians, just like Abacha did with Saro-Wiwa and Umaru Yar’Adua with Boko Haram. The destruction that Boko Haram continues to visit on Nigeria would have been avoided, if their insurgency had been better handled. Nigeria, at the moment, suffers from similar pig-headed policies and mindless intransigence by Buhari. He has made the Boko Haram crisis worse through a security architecture made up solely of his Fulani tribe and Sunni religion that has performed abysmally below expectations. Yet, he will not tinker with it. He has created another monster in the Fulani herdsmen who, on the Global Terrorism Index, are the world’s fourth most deadly terrorist group. Tribe and religion have combined to become Buhari’s Achilles heel. Rather than deal decisively with insecurity caused by Fulani herdsmen and others of their ilk, our own Nero fiddles while the country burns. To disabuse the minds of many that the murderous herdsmen are not doing his bidding, Buhari has to deal with them decisively. He should not be bent on gifting them with colonies, RUGA, etc. when he should be treating them as the vile terrorists that they are.

The South-West used to be quiet before the murderous herdsmen came – There were no Niger Delta-fashion militants and there were no South-East- fashion secessionist group like IPOB. The invasion of the South-West by murderous herdsmen has changed the equation. Not only is the South-West now restive, the various extant militant groups there are being roused from their slumber by the government’s insensitivity to region’s sensibilities, interests and concerns. This cannot but be dangerous. Have you noticed that the South-West’s intelligentsia, who were prominent in the epic June 12 battle, are already in the trenches? Learning from June 12, I think the South-West will prefer to fight and win this battle as it did June 12, but if the avenues of peaceful protests are shut, like the Buhari administration is doing, then, the grim prospects would be either to surrender or pursue the project through other means. I smell revolution in the air! Let the #REVOLUTIONNOW protests continue! Set the captives free!

Drones, drones, drones, everywhere!

VERY soon, Nigeria’s airspace will be awash with drones. Virtually all the states in the Middle-Belt and Southern part of the country that have been whacked by Fulani herdsmen and banditry violence are queuing up to acquire licence to procure drones from the relevant federal authorities. The goal is to use this surveillance devise to monitor the movement of Fulani herdsmen and other bandits and terrorists in the forests from where they launch deadly attacks on hapless citizens and to which they retreat after their dastardly acts. Whoever thought Nigeria would come to this sorry pass! Thanks to the APC/Buhari administration whose kid-glove treatment; nay, romance and complicity with the murderous Fulani herdsmen has brought this calamity upon everyone. Having left fire on his roof top while he retreated to the “other room,” the entire house is up in flames under Buhari’s very nose. This problem is self-inflicted. We have had Fulani herdsmen for centuries until Buhari arrived the scene with his Adolf Hitler-style Lebensraum for Fulani all over West Africa. Nigeria is Buhari’s pet-dream “a place in the sun” for the Fulani.

Neither of Buhari’s pipe-dream nor the opposition to it will come cheap. The cost, in human lives and limbs; in properties; in dislocation of people, turning hundreds of thousands into internally-displaced persons; in the damage done to livelihoods, agriculture, and the economy, already has the country bleeding. The country’s unity, peace and security that have been severed in the process will be hard to repair. To these must now be added the cost of acquiring drones to contain or curtail this self-inflicted disaster. Drones don’t come cheap. On June 20 this year, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) of Iran shot down a US RQ – 4A Global Hawk BAMS-D surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz. That drone cost a whopping $US182 million. Granted that we are not likely to go for such sophisticated drones to fight herdsmen whose invincibility appears to be the backing that they receive from the powers-that-be, this is, nonetheless, a cost centre that is avoidable, especially with so many areas of need crying for attention.

Drones are also not easy to maintain. Training and maintenance of manpower; gathering and analysing intelligence; acting on such intelligence to provide the much-needed security will tax the resources and capabilities of many, if not all, of the states angling to acquire drones. Going by the US experience and others before it, drones are not immune to enemy attack, as they can be shot down by mere surface-to-air missile. Factoring the “Nigerian factor” into this latest fad, the rush to acquire drones may become another avenue for the kleptocrats in government to launder public funds abroad. And without armed forces of their own, how will states take full advantage of the intelligence gathered by their drones? Will they still need to wait for orders from Abuja? Ultimately, the question of restructuring, which Buhari and his cohorts are running away from, will pop up again. Nigeria’s ostrich will not delude itself for too long. Time, I dare to say, is running out!

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