The Herdsmen’s Crisis: Intellectual Dishonesty?
By Isaac Albert, University of Ibadan
It is a truism that Nigerians are sharply divided under the present dispensation. Unless something is done about it quickly, I see Nigeria imploding in a disastrous manner. I go before decision makers (national, regional, continental and global) from time to time to discuss some of the issues. I only respond to invitations; I do not force anybody to listen to me.
This piece is for those thinking that our comments on the herdsmen’s crisis amount to intellectual fraud or are a product of our hatred for the Buhari administration. Those pursuing this kind of argument are not closer to Buhari and his administration than those of us raising the red flag. The truth is that we have serious problems before us. We either manage them honestly or keep hiding behind one finger thinking that our
denials will stamp out the problem. Our leaders are not deceived by the gale of denials they hear. They meet regularly to deal with the problems.
I am motivated to write this piece by my encounter with a religious leader who was held by kidnappers for four days. I was once kidnapped in Kenya and held for a few hours. I know what it is like. At that stage, you are no longer afraid of death. But shortly after, you start experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder. May you never experience it.
We had the Yoruba (Odua People’s Congress - OPC) crisis under President Obasanjo. We had the Niger Delta crisis under President Jonathan. Scholars talked then and were listened to. They wrote about the problems and one colleague received an international award for his paper on the OPC. The only difference between then and now is that we did not have as easy access to social media as we now do. I contributed secretly (with some colleagues, in particular Prof. Ogunsanya and Ayo Hammed of the Faculty of Education, Comrade Moshood Erubami, Shopade and Hon Akinteye) to stopping the OPC killings. Only the DSS state security service have a record of what we did, where and how. Unlike the earlier interventions, including that organized by the Ooni of Ife, nobody died in the course of our OPC project. Governor Daniel
consolidated the peace process later: by differentiating between the titles of Gani Adams and Dr F. Fasehun.
When the OPC clashed with the Fulani in Oke Ogun area in 2001 or 2002 and the Fulani started fleeing Yorubaland through Igbeti and Ilorin, Buhari led some northern Nigerian leaders to complain to Governor Lam Adesina. As they spat on each other's face, I was in the Oke Ogun
area returning the Fulani that fled Yorubaland to their locations. We worked with security agencies, most especially Mr. Hanz Nwendi (the Area Commander of Oyo). He later became the public relations officer of the police in Nigeria. At one stage, we combed different parts of Oyo and Ogbomoso buying up every loaf of bread we could to take to Iseyin to feed the displaced Fulani people and their family members. The OPC has what it takes to rid Yorubaland of any invading force but some of us believe we should not let our problem get to that stage. That is why the intervention of our elders would be appreciated at this moment.
When I was a Research Associate at the Centre for Inequality and Human Security (CRISE) at the University of Oxford, my project was on the Fulani crisis in Oke-Ogun area. I worked with Sarkin Sasa (Alhaji Mai Yasin Katsina) who through the BBC could get us to hold Meetings with the Fulani anywhere. We worked with his children, most especially Chiroma, and the popular Alhaji Tanko (who always came to our events at the University of Ibadan). I worked with Dr. Faleti of the Institute for Peace and Strategic Studies IPSS. We combed the bush everywhere working with the DSS, and hunters’ and farmers’ leaders. We worked with Fulani Ile and the migrating Fulani. We published on the crisis. In other words, our knowledge of this problem is not the All Progressives Congress/People’s Democratic Party stuff we now see.
At one stage in the Niger Delta crisis, I facilitated three meetings with the Councils of Traditional Rulers in the region: in Yenogoa and in Uyo. The meetings were supported by the United States Institute of Peace in Washington DC. When Baba Obasanjo was looking for Dokubo, the leader of the Niger Delta Volunteer Force, some of us went to the creeks of the Niger Delta to talk to some of the boys. Google search my name, you will find the "need to know" sections of the report there. It informed a number of domestic and international interventions.
There are several methods for dealing with a problem of this nature. The first is denial or avoidance, in other words not doing anything about the problem and demonizing anybody that talks about it. Another aspect of that is to try to convince people black is white just because
it is not convenient for us to tell the truth. This seems to be the Approach that some people are trying to force on us: "Don’t talk about it; you only talk about it because you don't like Buhari". The second approach is strategic withdrawal linked to the belief that those responsible for dealing with the problem will act appropriately. Hence, we the "commoners" or "body of fraudulent scholars" should not talk about it as talking does not bring about a solution. The third approach is confrontation: "catch those responsible for the problem and harshly deal with them". The fourth is third-party decision making: take them to court and imprison them. There are several such people in Agodi prison today. If you don't appreciate what is going on around us now, please visit Agodi and talk to those detained there. The last is joint problem solving. This has to do with working collaboratively to deal with the problem. But the first step in this process is to agree that we have a problem to deal with. You do not work together to solve a problem unless it exists in your imagination. Until it gets to us, we feel those talking about
it are talking nonsense. Let's wait and see.