When the news filtered in that the Muhammadu Buhari government, embarrassed into a scamper by the spate of killings of innocent Nigerians in Zamfara State and other parts of the North-West of Nigeria, had sent a delegation to meet with the national leaders of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) in Birnin-Kebbi, capital of Kebbi State last week, Alagba Adebayo Faleti’s 1965 Yoruba novel classic, a 48-page short novel entitled, Ogun Awitele (A War Foreseen/Foretold) immediately leapt on my mind.
Faleti, who died recently, lived between December 26, 1921 and July 23, 2017. He was one of Africa’s first broadcasters, stage plays Director and first film editor with Africa’s first television station (WNTV/WNBS). If you read Ogun Awitele, you would imagine that the fabled Faleti had Nigeria’s President Buhari, the Chief of Army Staff and the whole Nigerian security architecture, who are today running from pillar to post to stem the tide of banditry in the northern states in mind.
Faleti also carved a renown for himself by writing the famous movie, Basorun Gaa, which roundly trounced modern governmental despotism.
Though details of that meeting was shrouded from view, Abdurahman Bello Dambazzau, the Minister of Interior, who led the meeting, had told journalists that the “dialogue” was “with leaders of herdsmen as part of (a) process.’’ Acting Inspector General of Police, Muhammad Adamu, who was also at the meeting, said “criminals have infiltrated the crisis, and we should cooperate and deal decisively with the culprits, hence we called for this interaction.” Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State was also part of the curious “dialogue.”
Excited by the whole exercise, Alhaji Muhammad Kiruwa, MACBAN leader, had said “this is the first of its kind in the history of this country, for the president to direct his security aides to interact with an aggrieved party to air its views.”
As usual, the Presidency, in the bid to reply to the harvest of attacks this ill-advised decision certainly was, went on a junket of inanities. Garba Shehu, who must have substantially contributed to the deconstruction of the Buhari Presidency in the estimation of the world in the last four years, travelled on his usual journey of cants. MACBAN, according to him, is like Afenifere and Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo socio-cultural groups and should thus not be criminalised.
“There are criminals within the Yoruba race and you cannot say because of that, Afenifere is a group of criminals. The Nigerian government is speaking with the leadership of the Fulani herders association, Miyetti Allah. All of the issues were about the involvement of the leadership of Miyetti Allah and getting them to prevail upon its members and they are many (italics mine). We asked them to assist the administration to recover weapons which were owned by a lot of these elements,” Shehu said.
No sooner had they finished this curious tete-a-tete than rumour mills went on their trail. N100 billion was alleged to have been offered to this amorphous group for this weird assignment. You will recall that MACBAN’s Life Patron is President Buhari himself and whose splinter leaders had openly acknowledged being the brains behind several killings of farmers in Benue State in the first couple of years of the Buhari government.
Then Faleti crept in to dissolve the inexplicable riddle with his Ogun Awitele. A Yoruba town in the pre-colony was being ravaged by bandits, just like Nigeria under Buhari. Like Buhari, the Baale was worried stiff. Zamfara and the North-West has amassed the notoriety of the Boko Haram and raised red flag of concern in the West African sub-region. Life of man had become of less worth than that of the Agama lizard. With billions pocketed by Buhari and his minions in the security who co-incidentally hail from that troubled region and the bravado of their Air Force fighter jets hovering in subdued pomposity in the sky, the apparently untrained bandits have been ravaging non-stop, even extending their suzerainty to other parts of the North.
One day, the Baale received a very audacious letter from the leader of the bandits telling him of the particular time and day they would come to rout the town. Troubled the more, the Baale summoned the Oluode, his own Chief of Army Staff, his own Tukur Buratai. No, not to haggle over peace with the bandits surreptitiously as Buhari is doing with his macabre MACBAN nor to hand them the patrimony of state as ransom for peace. His decree was to cut the bandits to size.
Thus, the gathering of armaments and weaponry began. Oluode also summoned his war Generals, the Ikolaba, Balogun and others. Phials and amulets were sourced from all frontiers. Their weaponry was multiplied. Those who needed to make propitiations to their gods were given money for sacrifices. And on the D-day, they had become super-human. Their eyes were dilating like pellets soaked into oil, even as they perfected their war strategies. Faleti painted a scary picture of the 30-man bandits’ appearance when they eventually appeared in the town at the wee hours of the morning. Four women led the rampaging army of bandits in a single file of appearance, two of whom carried a heavy phial-laced pounded yam mortal and the other backing a carved effigy. After a titanic battle waged with metaphysical armaments, guns and cutlasses, the hunters won, to retain the dignity of their fatherland. Faleti ended this novel by concluding that a foretold war should ordinarily not capture a wise cripple.
Rather than yield to the wise counsel of Faleti’s Baale who chose not to negotiate peace with bandits, our own Baale, Buhari, chose to engage acquaintances – and I dare say – accomplices, of those selfsame people who have made the shedding of same people’s blood their sworn credo. They are Buhari’s weird choice as those who would find solution to the bloodshed. We need to ask the president where in the books of war he found this reversed and inverted logic, other than a quest to benefit his Fulani brothers.
All of the issues were about the involvement of the leadership of Miyetti Allah and getting them to prevail upon its members and they are many. What does the presidential spokesman mean by this? First, this is an acknowledgment we have sought all this while from the presidency that MACBAN is indeed what the world says it is. You will recall that Fulani herdsmen had earlier been declared as one of the deadliest terrorist groups in the world by the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) which, in a survey, had said that the herdsmen, mainly of the Fula ethnic group, were terrorist organizations. Prevail on its members terrorising Zamfara and other northern states? With due respect, this is tantamount to the presidency finally acknowledging that Fulani herdsmen are indeed notorious criminals. This is same set of people Shehu unconscionably referred to as ilk of very noble socio-political groups whose activities led to the democracy whose pot of honey he and his likes are feeding fat on. Who canvassed this wonky logic to the presidency, to wit that criminals should be allowed to benefit from their own wrongdoing which this action of the presidency indicates?
The Presidency, especially the dramatis personae empowered by Buhari to enter into agreement with the Fula descendants, have disclaimed the viral claim across the country that presidency indeed offered the terrorist group N100 billion to stop this bloodshed. Fine. No government should be caught in a blood-caked deal like this. But, if we may ask, what was the consideration – I mean payment – that was the core of this negotiation? What was on offer? Or were the MACBAN disciples to bring about this elusive peace pro-bono? If not, how much was on offer and was there an acceptance? When these characters called government leg-men talk, they apparently assume that the people they talk to have their brains fastened to the soles of their feet. Because, their defence of no payment to Miyetti Allah is, please pardon my usage of the word, idiotic. Also, when Kiruwa, MACBAN leader, commended Buhari for sending his security aides to interact with “an aggrieved party to air its views,” what did he mean? If the purpose was to dialogue with aggrieved party to a crisis, why were farmers in Benue whom MACBAN has almost decimated, not party to this “dialogue”?
The ostensible mode of operation of this pleading with MACBAN is either to use counter force against their fellow bandits, which will require government releasing arms and ammunition to them to engage these accursed blood shedding felons in the forest; or arm them with cash with which to persuade the terrorists to abandon their pursuit. Whichever path government chooses to tread has deleterious consequences for Nigeria. In the first, those arms will someday come back home to roost and be used against ordinary Nigerians; second, arming apparent enemies of state with state fund is a recipe for total destruction, apology to Bob Marley, and more chaotic banditry.
The most painful implication of this negotiation with Miyetti Allah is that Buhari is openly raising his arms in the sky in surrender or affirmation of his inability or incapability to ensure peace in the country. It is also an affirmation that he is, by that very fact, ceding the power to maintain peace to some unorthodox and amorphous group of criminals. Since the foundation of every government is said to be security, deductive reasoning concludes that Buhari can as well outsource governance to his kinsmen, the notorious killer group from Foutajallon Island.