When, a few hours into the New Year, murderous herdsmen visited some six Benue villages, leaving a flood of blood and 73 corpses in their trail, Plateau State Governor Solomon Lalong was one of the very first to condemn Governor Samuel Ortom for enacting the anti-open grazing law, to check the rampaging herdsmen. Like his Nasarawa counterpart, Lalong visited Buhari at the Villa, essentially to reassure the President that he was still loyal and not in support of Ortom and the new law. He promised he would never pass such a law in Plateau State.
But then, Lalong is like the proverbial partridge, which laughs at the sight of a fowl being dissected, and forgets that the partridge ultimately gets dissected the same way the fowl is dissected.
He forgot that, in Nigerian politics, the ‘enemies’ of Benue are one and the same with the troublers of Plateau – and to some extent, the traducers of Taraba. But Lalong fell for the divide-and-rule trick, and failed to join forces with Ortom to stave off a common enemy.
As the Yoruba say, the reed used to flog the first wife is never thrown away. Rather, it is usually kept in a safe place, in wait for eventual use on the new wife.
Now the chickens have come home to roost. The killer herdsmen, whom Lalong, for political correctness, failed to condemn in Benue, have crossed over to his Plateau. And with usually conservative official sources putting the casualty figure at 86, one can safely add another 50 to that figure. But let’s stick with 86. It is Plateau’s turn to bleed once again.
Ideally, I would have said, good for Lalong. But I won’t – because I’m sure no son, daughter, or even close relation of the governor probably got killed. The victims are poor, hapless villagers honestly trying to eke out a living off the land. The victims are innocent women and saintly children. Only a beast would look a tot in the face and thrust a dagger into her, see a the tiny toes and bring a machete down on her head, ignore the shrill cry of suddenly orphaned kids and push all of them into a burning house with their parents’ corpses.
I’m yet to be convinced that we belong to the same humanity (let alone the same country) with these herdsmen!
Now, if you asked me if President Buhari sent these murderers on this heinous job, I would say NO! But if you asked me if the president has done enough to stop them, I would say an even louder NO.
And this is because the president has been read a wrong script of what this nationwide bloodletting is all about.
That is why I am waiting to see how many of the herdsmen would be arrested, let alone charged to court, even if everybody in Buhari’s government visits Plateau State to commiserate and read a now ineffectual riot act.
And, just in case you missed the story, less than 48 hours after the Plateau attack, our ‘gallant’ soldiers arrested another five people in Adamawa for torching Fulani settlements. Yes, the same Adamawa where some five ‘Christians’ were recently sentenced to death for killing a herdsman.
Somehow, the herders are free to kill farmers and raze down their villages, but the law comes down heavily on the farmer if he dares to revenge.
Of course, the federal government would say it can’t trace the herdsmen. But it forgets that there is a certain Miyetti Allah group that is always justifying the killings, and, sometimes, taking responsibility for them. None of them has ever been arrested.
We only arrest militias and vigilantes set up by victims to defend and protect them selves.
But, like I have always said, the present administration, in the false belief of defending the interest of the Fulani in Nigeria, has become an embarrassment to every enlightened Fulani. The regime has become blinded to the fact that Boko Haram, which it claims to have degraded, has only transmogrified into herdsmen, moved to other parts of the country, and continues its insurgency by other means.
But we the victims and the Fulanis in authority continue to wrongly believe that the cattle Fulani is behind these attacks.
The Christians see the attacks as descendants of Usman Danfodio wanting to dip the Quran in the Atlantic, and the Muslims see the protestations of the Christians as another ploy to halt the genuine spread of Islam.
We forget that the Quran was dipped in the Atlantic long before most of us were born, and that the times have passed when religion was forced on people.
And as we are busy fooling ourselves over religions we hardly understand nor practise, the insurgents are having a ball, and even sending themselves to Yemen to learn new tricks.
And so, after the insurgent herdsmen have had their fill of killings and walked away, we mobilise tanks, soldiers and all to go arrest locals who organise themselves to protect their communities, we sack police commissioners, redeploy personnel and generally harass, intimidate and even kill innocent locals. In other words, we kill those whom the ‘herdsmen’ could not kill, thinking we are restoring peace, or pushing the secret agenda of our ethnic group. But we fail to realise that we are all pawns on the insurgents’ chess board.
I guess that’s why the insurgents are going for refresher courses all over the world, while those we entrusted with saving us from them are engrossed in memorizing 1804 scripts.
Government by blackmail
One of my happiest moments of last week was when I saw members of the National Assembly appearing on air and granting press interviews debunking President Muhammadu Buhari’s allegation of budget padding against them.
Of course, it’s not because I thought the president was lying when he said the lawmakers padded the budget. He was right on point! The lawmakers heavily padded the budget.
What the president did not tell us, however, was that the padding actually started from the Presidency, which prepared the initial draft of the appropriation bill. It was after the executive finished their own padding that the document was passed to the legislature, who also seized the opportunity to do their own padding. In other words, the padding was free and fair. For even the judiciary, which only had one opportunity to pad their own budget, ultimately had their interests accommodated, as the lawmakers equally upped the allocation the executive recommended for the judiciary.
I, therefore, could not understand why Buhari would now come and blackmail the legislature before the Nigerian public for tampering with the budget.
Were they supposed to just rubber-stamp it? Even when the Presidency and the lawmakers (in secret) agree on what to put in the budget, isn’t the National Assembly supposed to come and grandstand before the public about being independent of the executive? How would their tale about being independent be believable if they do not make some cosmetic alterations to the draft budget?
For me, however, neither the executive nor the legislature is telling us the whole truth about this alleged budget misunderstanding. The truth, which they are not telling us is: this is the last budget before the general election, and everybody needs to do something, deliver something, to make him/ her re-electable.
The same way Buhari wants to use this budget to look good before the electorate, is the same way the lawmakers also want to look good before their constituents. The same way Buhari wants to use Second Niger Bridge and Enugu airport to hoodwink the South East electorate ahead of 2019, is the same way the Rep wants to use the electric transformer or rural road project in his constituency to boost his own re-electability.
So, Buhari can’t expect the lawmakers to clear his own projects and drop their own projects.
And, come to think of it, aren’t both the projects that were dropped and those that were ‘smuggled’ in not going to be done in the same country?
Or are the lawmakers’ projects going to be done in Ghana? Instead of using federal money to build road inside Niger Republic, why can’t we divert that money to the Second Niger Bridge or the Enugu Airport, both of which are in Nigeria? Or was the selective mention of those critical projects in the South East made for cheap political points?
How come it is on the eve of another election that we are suddenly remembering projects in the South East? What have we been doing all these past three years? Why has government been running in circles around the Lagos/Ibadan expressway since the last three years?
How come it is this 2018 budget that is suddenly the cure-all budget? Can any of the dramatis personae in this tragic budget dance swear by Amadioha that the money would not be used for politicking?
Isn’t anybody alarmed that, even before the ink has dried on the president’s signature on this budget, we are already talking of a supplementary budget?
I suspect that the ‘deal’ with the lawmakers was for the president to first sign the budget, and then send in a supplementary budget, which the lawmakers have given their word that they would consider speedily. I also know that, long before the National Assembly passed the budget, the presidency had sent emissaries from both the finance and the planning ministries to the lawmakers to find out why the budget ran into traffic go-slow on the legislative highway. I was at those meetings that the lawmakers complained that the appropriation bill did not take their interests into consideration. I, therefore, concluded that it was mutually agreed that the lawmakers tweak things a little. Why the president would now deny that deal is what beats my imagination. Or was somebody just dancing to the gallery?
Now that the legislature has replied the Presidency, could they save us all the noise and go blow the money wherever they had since agreed to blow it!
And if they don’t know what to do with the budget money, they can use it to play BetNaija, now that the World Cup is on. Nonsense!
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