By Bolanle Bolawole
“There lies a sleeping giant. Let him sleep! For when he wakes, he will move mountains. Let him sleep! For when he wakes, he will shake the world”
France’s tragic hero, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, in response to a question, reportedly made the above statement regarding China. Napoleon died in 1821, so he must have made this statement on or before that date – but how prophetic, going by what we know of China today! Substitute “China” for “Yoruba land/South-west” and “the world” for “Nigeria” and you begin to understand that events capable of shaking Nigeria to its very foundation are beginning to take shape in the South-west. Here we go: Yoruba/South-west? There lies a sleeping giant. Let him sleep! For when he wakes, he will move mountains. Let him sleep! For when he wakes, he will shake Nigeria!
The South-west is roiling at the moment – and the reason or reasons are not far to fetched. The spate of insecurity in the region, occasioned by the audacious and mind-rendering atrocities perpetrated in the main by the Fulani herdsmen, has woken the often laid-back Yoruba giant from its slumber. The Fulani herdsmen have trodden on the cobra’s tail, all entreaties to them to let the sleeping dog lie having fallen on deaf ears. They have sown the wind and will now reap the whirlwind; their “eluulu” has called for the rain and must surely be soaked to the pants when the heavens release its store. To be sure, the Yoruba did their very best to avoid this unprovoked “war”; if the Yoruba have “fought” at all, it has been with their mouth, their pen, and their brain. But the Fulani herdsmen have unleashed their AK-47 on harmless and hapless Yoruba citizens – rampaging, raping, maiming, killing, abusing, insulting, and denigrating anything and everything the Yoruba hold dear.
The authorities that should call them to question or take them to task look on, become their cheerleaders, defend them, restrain the victims from self-defence, and insist all is well. But how can all be well when killers and murderers run riot over our land, mowing down our people, desecrating our heritage and valued institutions, destroying our means of livelihood, taking our land by force and turning us into refugees, foreigners, and slaves right on our own land? Because the aggressors are your people and we the victims are not does not make it right. Because they are armed with AK-47 and we are not does not mean we cannot engage them by other means. Because you are in power and we are not, does not justify your criminal silence, cold complicity, and provocative justification of your people’s criminality. We were once in power – whatever it is worth – and never treated you and your people this way. And that we have been civil all this while, expecting that commonsense will return to the senseless, does not make us cowards. “Yiyo ekun t’ojo ko”!
In this same country we have seen the Egbesu boys who looked so terrific then but their most daring acts appear like child’s play compared to the full-blown terrorists of today. We saw the Niger Delta militants, pioneers of kidnapping for political reasons. They sabotaged pipelines and engaged the military in shoot-outs. Everyone had thought that was the worst that could happen- not any longer! Not after we have seen Boko Haram. And not since we have seen the bandits and Fulani herdsmen. Those who claim to know say Boko Haram is the Kanuri revolt against Fulani ascendancy in the North. In like manner, the bandits are said to be Hausa fighters just awakening to the necessity to take back their ancestral land from the Fulani. Assailed on two strategic fronts the Fulani need all the support of other Fulani from all over the world to maintain their hold over Nigeria. Seeing its hold on the North weakened by Boko Haram and the bandits, a movement southwards became a sine qua non for the Fulani.
The quest for grazing land is not the MAIN reason the Fulani herders are trooping into the South; their undeclared reason is the need for new conquests and acquisition of territories. The Fulani are losing the North already. Those who claim to know say the total military power of the Nigerian fighting forces may not match both Boko Haram and the so-called bandits combined. The South must be kidding itself if it thinks RUGA, grazing routes, cattle or whatever colonies will satiate the Fulani herders; it will not. They need new territories, being in the process of losing the ones Uthman dan Fodio won for them in 1804. Once they gain a foothold, like they did in Ilorin with Afonja, the rest, as they say, will be history!
Another vicious enemy the Fulani are running away from is desert encroachment. As Features Editor of the PUNCH newspapers in 1990 or thereabout, I was detailed to interview Col. Mohamed Buba Marwa, the then Military Administrator of the old Borno State (comprising now of Borno and Yobe states). Marwa had just taken over from the sports-loving Col. Abdulmumini Aminu (where is he now?) and PUNCH’s veteran of Borno politics, Victor Izekor, had picked me up at the airport and straight to the Government House. On getting there, I saw a long line of vehicles. Victor took me to Marwa who received me warmly but there was a snag, he said. He was beginning a tour of the state: Would I wait in Maiduguri for him to return or would I go back to Lagos and come back later? I was surprised he did not offer me the option of going on the tour with him – and I told him. He explained it was because they were going to the desert area and the terrain and climatic conditions were quite challenging. Can you cope, since you are not used to such, he asked. I said I would if they, human beings like me, would.
Marwa smiled and asked that a vehicle be prepared for me. His Chief Press Secretary, Gagaran (where is he now?) prepared a Peugeot Station Wagon for me and for the next many days we toured the then Borno State. Marwa detailed his Orderly (Sergeant Afolabi, I think: Where is he?) to keep a watchful eye on me; wanting to know at every minute if I lacked anything. But I lacked nothing and I coped very well. We went as far as Mai Malari where we met the uncle of Brigadier Mai Malari, who got killed in the January 1966 coup. Marwa ensured he did something that the people wanted at every stop we made. Mai Malari’s uncle showed us the well which the community depended upon for drinking water and I was dumbfounded. Marwa promptly awarded them a borehole.
One day as we made our way back to Maiduguri, Marwa stopped the convoy and sent for me. “Bola, can you recognize this place?” I looked around and said “yes”. Two or three days earlier as we journeyed upward, we had stopped at that point and refreshed under a tree, but now what remained of the tree were a few of its branches and leaves; the whole trunk had been swallowed up by sand. “This is what we call desert encroachment”, Marwa said, as he proceeded to give a brief lecture on how it is driving people southward at an alarming rate. That was some 22 years ago. Imagine what the situation would be like now.
So, I was not surprised when Buhari was quoted years back as saying something like “the desert is driving us from the North and you people are driving us from the South, where do you want us to go?” The drying up of Lake Chad is another leg of the desert encroachment palaver for the North. The North and its leaders must, however, be blamed for not tackling the desert encroachment problem with the seriousness it deserves. From the experiences and examples of other countries and peoples, the problem of desert encroachment is not insurmountable. We have the example of Israel. We have the example of Dubai, UAE, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and such other desert countries where our leaders run to but they abandon their own desert area undeveloped.
Northern leaders have been in power for most of the time, what have they done with the humongous resources pillaged from Nigeria? They awarded themselves oil wells but of what benefit has it been for their own people and their place of origin? They have the richest man in Africa; yet, they are the capital of the poverty capital of the world.
Some reports say much of the resources stolen from Nigeria by Northern leaders end up in the development of Dubai and other foreign lands. I was in Libya and saw how Moammar Gaddafi turned a desert into a flourishing land. He constructed the Great Man-Made River, the world’s largest irrigation project, to get his people fresh drinking water. Our own leaders are epicureans and love the easy life. For as long as this is available, they will not know to think or do the right thing.
True then, is the saying that, necessity is the mother of all inventions. Unless and until the North is forced by circumstances beyond its own control, it will not look inward to develop its own potentials but will remain parasitic on the other regions of the country, especially the South. This is one important reason why I think this country should disintegrate – peacefully – so that everyone, not the North alone, can sit up and develop at its own pace. Until this is done, Nigeria may remain forever a “potentially” great country unable to attain that potential.
I grew up learning that Nigeria is a “potentially” great country. In my life-time Nigeria is yet to attain its potential. My children, too, have grown up knowing Nigeria as a “potentially” great country. Not only has Nigeria been unable to attain its potential, the Nigeria that my children know is worse than the Nigeria I their father knew. And the prognosis that things will get worse still stares us in the face. The security challenges that some politicians reportedly introduced into the country with their eyes wide open – in the influx of murderous Fulani herdsmen of foreign extraction for political reasons – is what is tearing the country apart today.
Truth be told, the so-called herder-farmer conflicts of yore bear no resemblance to the gory spectacle of killer-gangs rampaging all over the land today. This Frankenstein monster is the creation of desperate politicians who wanted power by any means in 2015. They have the power; we have the grief. But for how long!
The South-west is stirring! It will have no more of their bestiality! “No Mas, no Mas (No More, No more)” cried Roberto Duran! “Enough is now enough” echoed Sani Abacha! Return the murderous Fulani herdsmen to where they came from! Who invited them in the first place should cart them away, warts and all! This is the minimum, irreducible demand to keep the South-west away from exploding in everyone’s face.