Ameh A. Ejeh
Here we go again! President Buhari has decreed that there is no going back on RUGA which has become the new catch-word for forceful land grab, a cherished policy of our president since he took office in 2014. Would someone please tell Mr. President that he is no longer a military dictator? Would someone please inform the president that we are now in a democracy? And that there is such a thing as law and order that go hand in hand with due process. What we see is manipulation, coercion and arm-twisting with the reward of money and positions of authority as bait. One thing must be made clear. No matter how the nomenclature changes: Cattle ranch, colonies or the latest one, RUGA, we must not be deceived. Please, let us not be fooled. The reality is the same. It is the same plan to which many fear this administration might be using to implement the fulanization and islamisation agenda. Come to think of it!
Are we to give this land as gratitude to the Fulani people for all the carnage, callous and wanton destruction of lives and property that we have suffered for years and continue to suffer in their hands? How do you reward so much evil with so much good? Animal husbandry and pasturage, like other kinds of farming, is supposed to be a private exercise, a personal business. But because this has to do with Fulani herdsmen, the Federal government has thrown its weight solidly behind it, dolling out huge amounts of tax-payers’ money to create colonies or RUGA for the Fulani herders. How can the nation’s resources be spent on just one ethnic group alone at the expense of others? And we wonder why there is so much controversy over re-structuring. How much is the North contributing to the national purse? How much are the Fulani people putting into the common fund that would make them deserve RUGA in all the states of the federation? What kind of madness is this for crying out loud?
However, there is another dimension to this whole sad development of Fulani invasion that is not given enough attention and I intend to do just that in this segment of our series of articles. This is the role of our leaders and especially, our traditional rulers/chiefs, in the Fulani invasion of our ancestral land and homes Let me begin by quoting the statement issued from the office of the vice president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo as he denies the claim by the General Secretary of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, Baba Uthman Ngelzarma, about his role in the RUGA initiative. This was a denial of the claim made by Baba Uthman Negelzarm at the SunRise Daily Programme of Channels Television that the vice-president is supervising and supporting the RUGA Fulani herdsmen settlement initiative across the country. And in response to this claim, the office of the vice president responds: “The Ruga initiative is different from the National Livestock Transformation Plan approved by the state governors under the auspices of National Economic Council (NEC) chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo…. As far as Ruga is concerned, count me out.” (Saturday Sun: June 29th, 2019, page 44).
The vice president vehemently denies that he has a hand in the RUGA forceful- land-grab project of President Buhari. When I read this I said, Good for you Mr. Vice-President. Good for you! And to be honest with you all, I have no sympathy for Professor Yemi Osinbajo. No sympathy at all. He should have seen this coming a long time ago. I thought the vice president would have resigned by now instead he has allowed himself to be used as a stooge by President Buhari to implement his alleged fulanization policy. And as I say this, my hearts bleeds over the fact that my own brother, Chief Audu Ogbe, has also allowed himself to be used all along as an agent for the implementation of the forceful land grab, cattle colonies now re-named RUGA initiative, of President Buhari. We all know the reason for all of these: Gross selfishness and greed. People want to be in President Buhari’s good book so that they come back as ministers or remain in office as vice-president. And just in case, some of us have short memories. A former senator stated publicly that in Benue the people are the ones killing each other and that Benue has no problem with the Fulani people. He said this on the stage with President Buhari with the hope of coming back to the Senate and be made Senate president. Where is his Senate seat now? When will our politicians and leaders learn that leadership is for service and not selfishness and greed? When shall we begin to understand that leadership role is to make us the voice of the people, the voice of the voiceless?
We have suffered untold hardships, callous murderous rampage, wanton destruction of lives and property and forceful seizure of our ancestral land by the Fulani people over and over again. It is no news that our leaders and chiefs both living and dead have been in connivance by collecting money, enriching themselves and unilaterally ceding public land to the Fulani invaders. What we suffer today could be described as partly self-inflicted. Not that I am justifying the evil perpetrated by the Fulani invaders. No. But we must admit that our leaders and chiefs have actively participated in the process that has brought us to this ill-fated end. The sad news is that some of our traditional chiefs and leaders continue up to this very day to carry on this heinous and evil practice.
And this brings me to the moral question. The local chiefs take money and cows through backyard night deals to cede land belonging to the village unilaterally to Fulani herdsmen. Because of this, and other similar acts that have now become the modus operandi of some of our village chiefs, we have had many instances of clashes between Fulani herdsmen and native farmers resulting in loss of lives and properties. If lives and properties are lost because a village chief who is supposed to protect the lives and properties of his people becomes a saboteur, I think this village chief has ipso facto, forfeited his own right to life. And so, the question then is: Should such a chief be allowed to continue to live and rule over his subjects considering the fact that his leadership has both directly and indirectly led to several clashes resulting in loss of lives and properties in the village over and over again?
When innocent poor children become orphans and wives are reduced to the status of widows in large numbers because we fold our arms and allow foreign aggressors to take over our land, it is a sad and unfortunate development. It is important for our chiefs/leaders to understand that leadership is not a brute exercise of power by way of force or coercion, nor is it an exercise in selfish greed. No. Power and authority are meant to be used for the people.
From the philosophical point of view, power is distinguished from authority in this regard. In the exercise of authority, a leader dispenses leadership role by virtue of the rights that accrue to that office or position conferred on him by the community. Through the legitimate exercise of this office, the leader secures willing obedience and compliance from his subjects to whom he/she is accountable as he/she leads in a transparent, hones and selfless manner. This is different from sheer exercise of force and coercive power which, unfortunately, some leaders use as they manipulate and exploit their subjects. “Leadership” of this nature, found all too often among us Africans, is not worthy of the name leadership.
In the analysis of the kinds of authority from the philosophical perspective, three types are identified, namely: traditional authority, charismatic authority, and legal-rational authority. In either of these three types of authorities, the underlying principle is that the legitimacy of authority is conferred by the subjects themselves. In exchange of the surrender of their rights to self-governance, the people are entitled to a leadership that protects their rights and interests. The moral authority of any chief or leader comes from that which is directly or indirectly conferred on him/her by the community. This puts his/her leadership role on a representative status – representing the needs, interests, hopes and aspirations of his/her people, the subjects. It is, therefore, immoral, unjust, illegal and even criminal for a leader, as some chiefs have turned themselves into, to connive with the Fulani against the interests of their own people for some selfish gains. It therefore follows that if our chiefs/leaders lose their moral authority as leaders of the community either by their inaction or worse still, being an accomplice in the evil perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen, they must be deposed and replaced. Furthermore, we must remember that in our traditional governance and leadership system, the administration of our land, homes, resources, properties and heritage are held and maintained by certain designated individuals and groups in our villages. These groups and individuals become custodians of a sacred trust. In the villages, they are very well known and revered because of the role they play as custodians and a sacred trust. As elders and leaders of the community, which they usually are, they command a certain degree of respect and reverence, again, on the basis of trust, for they hold and administer a sacred position that falls on them through the system. Our chiefs, elders and leaders in the villages belong to this revered class of groups and individuals. They operate on the basis of an authority conferred on them by the people. The power they dispense is the people’s power, not their own personal power. They act in position of representation. They become chief or leader, not on their own, but as representatives of a sacred trust, and their primary assignment is the preservation and protection of the lives and properties of the people put in their sacred trust and care. For instance, in traditional societies as we hold to date, land is not just land. Land is the link between us and our ancestors. Land is sacred and our chiefs and leaders are custodians of this sacred trust. Any breach of this sacred trust automatically puts them outside and off that leadership status conferred on them by the people.
Among the strategies being used by the Fulani are: giving gifts of cows, offering to raise cows for these local chiefs and other leaders who come from the area, or giving their daughters in what I call gift-marriage to the chiefs/leaders to buy them over to their side in times of conflict.
One may argue that it is possible to have a symbiotic relationship with Fulani settlers such that both parties mutually benefit from their stay on our land. Yes, that would be a valid argument except that in this situation we are dealing with a people who have an ulterior motive, a hidden agenda, which explains why it is sad that some of our chiefs/leaders are too myopic-minded to read the handwriting on the wall. There is a common adage which states that those who forget their history will live to suffer a repeat of the mistakes of the past. If we forget the history of the invasion and occupation of the Fulani Empire and the Jihad campaigns/wars of the 17th/18th centuries, we will painfully and regrettably re-live these sad experiences to our own demise and those of generations to come.
Remember, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello was quoted to have boasted that the match of Jihad would continue until the Qur’an is dipped in the Atlantic Ocean. Maybe this local example will also help to further drive home the point.
In Idoma land for instance, Agatu people were among the first to open their doors to the Hausa/Fulani, even to the point of embracing Islamic religion. Agatu has suffered the highest number of casualties in Benue State and as I write, Agatu remains the most volatile flash point in the crisis of the Fulani/Hausa invasion and occupation of Idoma land and Benue State as a whole. The relationship can never be positively symbiotic. Invasion (by peace or conquest), occupation and eventual Islamisation of our land are always at the back of the minds of Fulani people.
Once again, please look at what is happening in Southern Kaduna. Look at what is happening in the Plateau area. There is a long history to all these developments. Let us open our eyes wide and look. Let us wake up from slumber. We are already sitting on a keg of gun-powder waiting to explode (or better still, already exploding). History will not forgive us for our quietness and in-action. Our children of the next generations will curse us, albeit, retroactively.
Furthermore, is there any doubt now that President Buhari and his cronies are in sync with the Fulani herdsmen? While Myetti Allah is aggressively campaigning for vigilantes in all 36 states of the federation, the president is crafting the RUGA initiative for them. I guess it is ok for President Buhari to be patron and spiritual adviser to the Myetti Allah Cattle Breeders Associations of Nigeria, but the president must realise that he is president not just of the Fulani people but of the nation-state, Nigeria.
Almost all the security operatives of the Buhari administration are hand-picked by the president and most of whom are from the Fulani/Kanuri axis. And as General Theophilus Danjuma (rtd) rightly remarked, these security operatives are not neutral. They are solidly in collusion with the Fulani invaders and occupiers.
The Federal government is using her powers to force the establishment of cattle colonies now turned RUGA on us. Huge sums of money, tax payer’s money, have been disbursed to be used as bait. Our chiefs and leaders are sure to fall for it. Watch out! President Buhari forgets that he is no longer a military dictator issuing decrees and commands. He commands and decrees the taking over of lands without any regard to ancestral heritage and expects his orders to be obeyed with immediate effect. No body is showing enough reaction to the fact that many innocent lives and properties have been, and continue to be, lost in Benue and other places since this Fulani invasion and occupation campaign. This must not be allowed to continue. We must wake up from our slumber and act. The time is now.
Ameh A. Ejeh, Ph.D [email protected], wrote from Benue State shortly before the suspension of the RUGA policy by President Muhammadu Buhari