Before now, you thought that the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACABAN) was impregnable. It has been behaving like an alternate government all the while. Sometimes you could interchange it with the federal government of Nigeria. But the resolve of the Yoruba nation has taken the mystique off the cattle rearers’ body. For once, its flapping wings were clipped.
Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State was the fly in the ointment. He issued an executive order expelling Fulani herders from Ondo forest reserves. He meant business. He did not waver or quiver. The Yoruba nation stood by him; and South West governors endorsed his position. There were no dissenting voices. There were no quislings in the house. A people had spoken and their position carried the weight of resoluteness and conviction.
Unanimity of purpose is the issue here. The Yoruba exhibited it last October after the #EndSARS protests. It was reported that Lagos was badly damaged by the protesters. The entire Yoruba in power saw the rape of Lagos as a regional issue. They all left Abuja and their various states and converged on Lagos in their large numbers. They expressed regional solidarity with the government and people of Lagos State. Their solidarity visit gave Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu all the encouragement and impetus he needed to start a gradual rebuilding of Lagos.
Back to the issue at stake. Recall that there was tough talk in the North over the eviction order from Akeredolu. Some northern elements said Nigeria would go up in flames, if the order was carried out. They went further to demand that a certain Sunday Adeyemo, also known as Igboho, who sacked the Sarkin Fulani from Ibarapa area of Oyo State, and destroyed his house and other property, be arrested by the police and prosecuted. The northern groups said Nigeria could slide into civil war, if their demand was not met. Those were the threats from the North. But again the Yoruba were united in their resolve. None of them spoke against Igboho who has said that he is out to liberate the Yoruba from Fulani invasion. Many even rose in his defence. They warned that nothing should happen to Igboho.
In the face of all this, tension rose to fever pitch levels in the country. But amid all of that, a peace talk held. The federal government, which tried at first to arm-twist Akeredolu, was said to be behind the peace meeting between Miyetti Allah and South West governors. The meeting held and Akeredolu’s position was upheld. The herders must leave Ondo forests, except they are registered with the state government. The meeting agreed that free range grazing must stop. It also outlawed night grazing as well as the use of teenage herders. MACABAN was advised to embrace ranching and grazing reserves. It objected to nothing because the owners of the land did not give it room for any dissension. And so MACABAN fell flat in the face of regional solidarity.
So, why did the Presidency, which was initially against Akeredolu, back-pedal? To situate this, we must first recognise that the Buhari presidency is decidedly pro-Fulani. It does not even pretend about it. Those who condemned the Presidency’s disputation over Akeredolu’s order accused government of being in league with the Fulani. That was why it brushed aside the security angle to Akeredolu’s order and rose uncritically against his position. The Presidency could not extricate itself from this charge. More so, the position of the Presidency was weakened because an entire region was unanimous in its endorsement of the action of one of its own. So, if the Presidency stood its ground, it would be up in arms against the entire Yoruba race. The possibility of this development has implications for the survival of the country.
It is a well-known fact that the South West is the backbone of the North in its onslaught against the South. The South East has already been marked as a secessionist enclave. The feeling in the North is that any major shake-up in the country will give the East a good opportunity to break away. To stave off this possibility, the North must continue to woo the West. It must do all within its power to placate the region. The fear in northern circles is that if the West is allowed to feel as aggrieved as the East, it will join the latter in its separatist bid. If the two regions of the South are united in this quest, it will be difficult for the North to arrest the slide. This was the politics behind the Presidency’s soft stand on the Ondo quit order. And since MACABAN is one and the same thing as the Presidency, the cattle body has no choice but to cave in under the weight of South West regional solidarity.
It is worthy of note that, since the peace meeting that saw MACABAN losing on all fronts took place, those northern elements threatening hell fire have not been heard. Their fury faded even before it got charged. Peace can now reign in Ondo and the rest of the South West. The herdsman in the West has lost his sting. So, if it took Governor Samuel Ortom and his Benue people a tough legislation to stop open grazing in the state, it took the South West states unity of purpose to achieve the same objective.
With the dismantling of reckless Fulani herdsmen from the West, the East appears to be the only southern territory where the herdsmen still hold sway. Where does this leave the region?
The point must be made that the regional solidarity, which made it possible for the West to defeat MACABAN and its collaborators, is clearly absent in the East. The reason for this is quite straightforward. Eastern Nigeria of today is a babel. There are as many voices as there are sub-regions or groups. This being the case, if the South East were to be confronted with the Ondo situation, the governor whose state is directly affected will not get what Akeredolu got from the West and from his fellow South West governors. Such an eastern governor would be left alone. The other governors of the zone would look the other way. Situations such as this do not give room for strong resolve. This is the general outlook in the South East. Besides, what we know of individual South East governors does not give hope. I have said repeatedly in this column that the present stock of South East governors have sold the zone for a penny. The zone will, possibly, rise from its present comatose state when these governors give way.
Assuming, for instance, that MACABAN resisted Ondo State and the entire South West, Western Nigeria Security Network would have picked up the gauntlet. That is regional preparedness in the face of external aggression. The security situation under Buhari’s Nigeria calls for that. The corollary is that, were the South East to be challenged by the same situation, it would have no security of its own to call out. That was why the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) stepped foward to form the Eastern Security Network (ESN). It filled the gap which South East governors did not have the courage to fill. Now, South East governors are crying wolf over ESN. Their opposition to the security network is what has encouraged the army and its sister security agencies to rise against ESN. It is such a pity.