By Festus Adedayo
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 classic, a 48-page short novel entitled Ogun Awitele (“A War Foreseen/Foretold”) immediately leapt to my mind. Faleti, who died recently, lived between December 26, 1921 and July 23, 2017. He also became renown for writing the famous movie, Basorun Gaa, which roundly trounced modern governmental despotism. He was one of Africa’s first broadcasters, stage plays director and the first film editor with Africa’s first television station (WNTV/WNBS). If you read Ogun Awitele, you would imagine that the fabled Faleti, way back 54 years ago, had Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, his chief of army staff and the whole Nigerian security architecture in mind while writing it. These men are today running from pillar to post to stem the tide of banditry in the northern states.
Although details of that meeting were shrouded from view, Abdurahman Bello Dambazzau, the minister of interior, who led the meeting, told journalists that the “dialogue” was “with leaders of herdsmen as part of (a) process”, while 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 stave off the harvest of attacks that this ill-advised decision bred, 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 Ndigbo 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. We should recall that MACBAN’s Life Patron is President Buhari himself and its splinter leaders have openly acknowledged being the brains behind several killings of farmers in Benue State in the first couple of years of the Buhari government.
Rather than yield to the wise counsel of Faleti’s baale, who chooses not to negotiate peace with bandits, our own baale, Muhammadu 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.
Then Faleti crept in to dissolve the inexplicable riddle with his Ogun Awitele. A Yoruba town in the pre-colonial period is being ravaged by bandits, just like Nigeria is under Muhammadu Buhari. Like Buhari, the Baale (village head) is worried stiff. Zamfara and the North-West in general have acquired the notoriety of being Boko Haram territories that have raised the red flag of concern in the West African sub-region. Life of man have become of less worth than that of the Agama lizard. With billions pocketed by Buhari and his minions in the security sector, who co-incidentally hail from that troubled region, coupled with the bravado of the Air Force fighter jets hovering in subdued pomposity in the sky, the apparently untrained bandits have still been ravaging non-stop, even extending their suzerainty to other parts of the North.
One day, the Baale in Ogun Awitele receives a very audacious letter from the leader of bandits in the province, informing him of the particular time and day they would come to rout the town. Troubled the more, the Baale summons the Oluode, his own chief of army staff, certainly not to surreptitiously haggle over peace with the bandits, as Buhari is doing with his macabre MACBAN. Nor to hand them the purse 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 of ice soaked in oil, even as they perfected their war strategies. Faleti paints a scary picture of the appearance of the 30-man bandits, as they eventually file into the town at the wee hours of the morning. Four women lead the rampaging army of bandits in a single file of appearance, one of who is carrying a heavy phial-laced pounded yam mortal on the head and another backing a carved effigy. After a titanic battle is waged with metaphysical armaments, guns and cutlasses, the hunters win, to retain the dignity of their fatherland. Faleti concludes this novel by stating that a foretold war should ordinarily not capture a wise cripple.
Rather than yield to the wise counsel of Faleti’s baale, who chooses not to negotiate peace with bandits, our own baale, Muhammadu 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 reverse and inverted logic, other than a quest to benefit his Fulani brothers.
The ostensible mode of operation of this pleading with MACBAN by government was 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 herder terrorists to abandon their pursuits.
All of the issues were about the involvement of the leadership of Miyetti Allah and getting it to prevail upon its members, who are quite many. What does the presidential spokesman mean by this? First, this is an acknowledgment we have sought all this while from the Presidency to authenticate the fact that MACBAN is indeed what the world says it is. We should 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, constituted a terrorist organisation. To prevail on members of the group 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 the same set of people Shehu unconscionably referred to as variants of very noble southern socio-political groups whose activities led to the enthronement of the democracy, whose pot of honey Garba 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 the 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 for? What was on offer by the Federal Government? Or were the MACBAN disciples ordered 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, the 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 by government was 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 herder terrorists to abandon their pursuits. 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 the state with state funds 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 as 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.
Festus Adedayo is an Ibadan-based journalist.