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Ruga suspension: Some animals are more equal than others

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Fulani Herdsmen

Before we start, let us define two concepts, equality and equity.

Equality can be defined as uniformity in or ability, degree, quantity, rank, or value.

Equity, on the other hand, is fairness or impartiality. Basically, when two or more groups know that regardless of what happens, the system will respond to both of them equally, then there is equity.

Painful as it is to admit, in human relations, equality does not exist. By our very nature as animals, some humans are smarter, stronger, prettier, better endowed, and ultimately, wealthier, than their peers. A century ago in Russia, the Mensheviks claimed that their goal was to build an equal society. In reality, that lofty ambition fell apart in a matter of days. When Lenin returned to the country from exile, he made it very clear that that nonsense must stop and that he should be on top of the egalitarian, revolutionary, pile. By the time the smoke had cleared, there was a new elite in charge of what had become known as the Soviet Union, and by the time Stalin came on board, there was no doubt as to who was boss.

Being that equality clearly does not exist, the next best thing for society is equity. This is the appearance that no matter who you are, society will be impartial in handling cases that concern you. Since human creations are not perfect, equity does not always happen. However, the truly great societies of history, have always managed to create a situation where equity for their citizens is the rule and not the exception. In Rome 2000 years ago, once you were able to say, “Civis Romanus sum”, and prove it, you were guaranteed legal protection, up to having the Emperor himself, adjudicate in your matters.

It was no accident then that even all those millennia ago, those who could afford it, like the Pharisee in Acts 23:6 who purchased Roman citizenship for his son, Saul, went ahead to buy Roman citizenship for their children. Like buying an American or a Canadian passport for your kids these days, it was a ticket to a better, more equitable life, and those who could afford it did not hesitate to do it.

This was one of the great arguments during the rise of nation-states, that eventually culminated in concepts such as universal suffrage. For a state to survive, all of its citizens must have equity, in word, and indeed. If they do not have it, that state would eventually wither and die.

In November 2015, Abdulrahman Dambazau assumed office as Nigeria’s Minister of Interior. In the quarter after he took office, there were attacks, mostly blamed on ethnic Fulani herdsmen, in places such as Udeni Ruwa, Nasarawa (January 2016), Agatu, Benue (January 2016, two in February 2016), Tom Anyiin, Benue (February 2016), Abbi, Enugu (February 2016), Logo, Benue (February 2016), Ilado, Ondo (April 2016), Ukpabi Nimbo, Enugu (April 2016), Gashaka, Taraba (April 2016). The first word that Dambazau uttered regarding Agatu, was on 14 March 2016, three weeks after the attack happened. He told the world that social media was to blame for the escalation of the killings. He never said a word about Ukpabi-Nimbo. When there was a clash, in Ile-Ife (Osun), between the Yoruba “hosts”, and their largely Hausa-Fulani “guests”. Abdulrahman Dambazau visited the scene post-haste.

Dambazau’s boss, President Buhari, upon his return from a very long “medical vacation” in the UK, deemed it fit to immediately address the country about ethnic Igbo separatists, and send in the army to quell the “IPOB threat”. He never said a word about Yerima Shettima who had threatened the entire Igbo ethnic group during the same time period.

Over the last few weeks, there was a lot of furore about the ruga settlement scheme, and many people, quite rightly, pointed out that without settling the issues raised by the murders of many Nigerians in these attacks (and counter attacks), that the scheme would appear one-sided, and thus, unacceptable. The din rose to a crescendo, and eventually, the idea was “suspended”. Then the day after the suspension, on a national television station no less, a group led by someone called Abdul-Azeez Suleiman told us that if the ruga was not reinstated in a given period, that anything we see, we should take it like that.

As of the time that I was sending this to my editor, there had been no official reaction. No talk of “national red lines”. No ministers condemning the group. Okay, there is no minister yet, but you get the point.

What our leaders have done by their blatant favouritism is to put concrete on the perception that in Nigeria, some animals are more equal than the others. It gives logic to the actions of the Afenifere Renewal Group, in hiring lawyers to defend those who were arrested following the clashes in Ife three years ago.

What we have been told, officially, is that we are on our own within our ethnic enclaves. There is no one Nigeria, and people will act accordingly going forward.


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