Buhari’s obsession that stirs rage
More than 45 days after President Muhammadu Buhari mounted the saddle for a second term in office, it has become obvious that his style of governance would not change. The recent confusion and allegation of Fulanisation, which tallies with the usual accusation of nepotism, shows why policies of his government continue to receive opposition and stiff resistance, especially from the southern part of the country.
Most observers have continued to wonder at Mr. President’s obsession with the promotion of his own tribe against the larger interests of Nigerians. The citizens seem to be concerned on how to develop the country and make it liveable away from grinding poverty, largely arising from the government’s ineffective economic policies and management.
Amid that worry, in what is reminiscent of the herdsmen’s mass murders in Benue State in 2017 through 2018, when Myetti Allah openly threatened the life of the sitting governor, Dr. Samuel Ortom, another threat and ultimatum have been issued.
A northern group, the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), led by Mr. Abdulaziz Suleiman, had warned the entire country, particularly governors of the south to agree to RUGA, “failing which we would most definitely be left with no option but to resort to our decisive line of action.”
Suleiman went further to hint of his group’s resolve to ask for self-determination of the north from Nigeria if CNG’s demands are not met in 30 days. He literally ordered President Buhari to ensure RUGA Settlements are established across the country if the country’s oneness is to be guaranteed. Suleiman’s threat for the south to accept RUGA seems baffling, as 12 northern states had accepted the programme before the Federal Government cancelled it. The cancellation when 12 states had accepted to accommodate RUGA also raises curious questions as to the real intention of the programme.
With the likes of Suleiman still walking free just as the Myetti Allah’s leader, who threatened the life of a sitting governor, and Buhari’s slow response or none response at all to issues relating the Fulani’s aggression and alleged domination it will be helpful to put the issues in their true perspectives.
Conflicting statements from the president and some of his ministers in the last administration put many Nigerians on edge. While the Benue massacres were still agitating Nigerians and the entire world, Buhari had asked Benue people to accommodate the Fulani as neighbours. Then in another breath, he said the killer herders were not Nigerians, but Fulani from outside the country who were moving because of the challenge of Lake Chad due to climate change. At yet another point, government officials point at grazing reserves and routes that have been encroached upon in the south.
But the president’s explanation left many loopholes. If the killer herders are not Nigerians, what did he do about them? Were they ever arrested? Why did Myetti Allah group, which claims Buhari as its chief patron threaten Ortom on behalf of strangers to Nigeria? Till date nothing happened to these ‘foreign’ killer herders; they have not been brought to book.
The changing nomenclature of Buhari’s government’s efforts not just to accommodate them, but to expand and disperse the Fulani across the country, has been a source of concern to many Nigerians, particularly in the south who see it as a threat to their small land space. Governors and socio-cultural groups in the south equally rose up against what it called land grab by the FG in states that would be forcefully given to Fulani for their private business.
So, first it was cattle colony; when this was resisted, the government pulled back. Not too long ago, former Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, mooted the idea of a Fulani Radio for the herders. This was as rumours were making the rounds when IGP visited Myetti Allah that N100 billion had allegedly been given to the herders. The government denied the allegation and dismissed it as a rumour.
While these were yet to die down, the FG again started the RUGA Settlement scheme. This again sparked the loudest outcry from citizens; it forced Buhari’s government to suspend the project. But critics of the project are insisting that the project be cancelled in its entirety.
A social commentator, Mr. Pius Mordi, recently made a valid point on his Facebook wall when he said, “President Buhari is reported to have jettisoned the RUGA project. Good, but I won’t join the chorus of commendation for him. He just may have retreated to rebrand the project… again.
“After the bid to establish cattle grazing routes came unstuck, the president pushed for cattle colonies to be established in all states of the federation. When the project became a tough sell, he came up with the National Livestock Transformation Plan under the office of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. Even while Nigerians were yet to understand what the plan was all about, up came the RUGA initiative.
“I believe deploying cattle herders to all parts of the country is a project Buhari is obsessed with. Let’s see if this is the last throw of the dice. We can’t afford to drop our guards with this man.”On his Facebook wall also, Minna, Niger State-based writer and culture promoter, Mr. BM Dzukogi criticises promoters of RUGA, noting that the debate is baseless since the north has the largest landmass for RUGA Settlement scheme in the country.
According to him, “Northern Nigeria’s problem will not end now! We are busy in cha-cha-cha with South-south, South-east and South-west on RUGA. You have the largest landmass, yet you must go to their regions by force to create ranches. Why not create ranches in the North and develop the mechanisms for dry-land irrigation to feed your cows and goats? Why not assemble your water resources engineers and agriculturists and develop solutions to the problem instead of this yeye noise everywhere? Haba!”
Dzukogi is not alone in his submission. Many have also argued that since Sambisa Forest has been liberated from Boko Haram terrorists, as the army claims, why not take RUGA Settlement there? In fact, some argue that if there was not more to the RUGA issue, why insist on taking it to the south where there are no known herder tribe as the Fulani? Fulani herders are known to be nomads. Why the desperation to resettle a known nomadic people in other people’s land if it is as innocent a project as being promoted?
When Boko Haram ravaged states like Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, displaced persons in those states were not taken elsewhere to be resettled. Till date those affected are still in IDP camps. While efforts are being made to relocate them back home, the camps remain their home. So, are the Fulani displaced in any way that they need to be resettled in other people’s lands? Why in the south where they do not have any cultural affinity of any sort? Why not resettle them in the north where they have lived all heir lives, carrying out their nomadic activities?
Niger State is known to have a RUGA Settlement, which occupies about 310,000 hectares of land (310 square kilometres). This is about the average size of a local government council. Pushing to establish RUGA Settlements in the south, one analyst opined alarmingly, is designed to change the southern demography irretrievably as local populations will be overwhelmed and swallowed up in about 50 years from now by the Fulani settlers who would have gained population supremacy over the locals. He further noted that this would have critical electoral implications akin to former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s Fulanisation and Islamisation claims.
One critic, Mr. Nnamdi Elekwachi, described RUGA programme as the largest single “illegal migration proposal in human history in terms of size. It’s unprecedented; it’s an abuse and misuse of presidential powers and privileges to force foreigners on indigenous peoples of Nigeria.”
A majority of those who had opposed President Obasanjo on his Fulanisation and Islamisation claim are being forced to recant when, shortly after his claims, RUGA surfaced as a state policy of the Federal Government. While Obasanjo’s claim is yet to settle, iconic writer and culture avatar Prof. Wole Soyinka and the revered Ooni of Ife, Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II, were forced to lend their voices to what appears Buhari’s obsession with his Fulani tribe. They have asked Nigerians south of the country to defend their ancestral lands and heritage against invaders in whatever guise.
How far will Buhari take the unabashed promotion of his own tribe at the expense of others in his new 4-year mandate and still keep the country together remains a herculean task. Peoples of southern Nigeria are urging themselves to be a vigilante. With N100 billion allegedly given to herders, people are being warned to beware of those who come to communities requesting to buy large expanse of land for whatever reasons. So in a sense, Buhari’s obsession is posing more danger to the corporate existence of Nigeria that any single event. For a man who swore to defend Nigeria’s unity and integrity, this obsession is clearly antithesis.