By Dele Sobowale
“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” John F Kennedy, US President, 1917-1963.
Nigerian political elite, like those in any country, kept their attention on the erudite promoters of violent change. Those they either paid-off or wiped out or hounded out of the country. At any rate, the intellectual revolutionaries, were busy fighting the last war. The new revolution began with unknown thousands of faceless men and some women who have now changed Nigeria for ever. This country will never be the same again.f you don’t know that Nigeria is already involved in a violent revolution, then get ready to read the truth and tremble. Nigerian intellectuals have always asserted that “what is needed in this country is a revolution”. Unfortunately, they failed to recognise it when it arrived. The
THE AREWA CONSULTATIVE FORUM AS METAPHOR
“Promises like pie-crusts are made to be broken.”
Jonathan Swift, 1667-1745, VBQA p 203.
Right now, bandits and kidnappers are probably holding another set of victims – perhaps, the eighth set after Buhari promised on March 1, 2021 to make the abduction of school children the last. Recollect my warning to Nigerians – “If you believe that, you will believe anything.” Buhari had made a promise he should not because the security forces were not ready to help him redeem it. The bandits now openly treat the President of Nigeria with contempt. He asked for it.
Most well-meaning Nigerians have rightly carpeted Buhari for that self-ridicule because it is a sad reflection on government. The only exception had been the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF – whose spokesman said Buhari should not be blamed because “he is not God”. Perhaps, the ACF will explain why a person over the age of 40, would not know “he is not God” and stop talking as if he is.
Now, everywhere I go people want to shake my hands for telling the truth about Northern leadership, now represented by Buhari. Here is what one of their traditional rulers said about the President. “The Federal Government is in total control of the security operatives in the country and not the state governors, as such, the President is the one who has failed to address the issue of security.” That was the Emir of Anka and Chairman of Zamfara State Council of Chiefs, Alhahi Attahiru Anka a few weeks ago. He spoke the absolute truth.
The ACF, since its inception in 2000, had represented the interests of the Northern Muslim, elite – while pretending to serve the entire North. The fact is, no poor person was ever admitted as a member of the Forum. They were/are generally well-educated; send their children to good schools; and have few children on the average. But, in whatever position they find themselves they never discourage the poor masses from breeding like bed bugs and uniformly oppose any effort aimed at birth control. The only serious attempt ever made in this country to regulate population growth during Babangida’s regime – with Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti as Minister of Health – was defeated largely by the Northern elite using religion as a cover-up for the more sinister motive of having a large population for selfish political reasons. Now they have their wish. Over 10 million Northern children, mostly Muslims, are out of school. Any half-decent demographer would confirm that the bandits and kidnappers of 2030 are already here with us. They are five to ten years old kids now roaming the streets. The current bandits and kidnappers were the five to ten years old children which the Northern elite failed to educate in the 1990s and since 2000. Northern leaders collectively created millions of Devil’s workshops, called uneducated kids, as they encouraged uncontrolled population explosion. It will require more than two generations, meaning sixty years, to rid the region of bandits who have now set the elite as their targets by kidnapping their children.
Long before the ACF was created, the feudal North was an incredibly unjust society where distribution of wealth was mercilessly skewed against the vast majority of farmers and rural workers. A lucky few of the masses ended up as Maigadi (gatemen) for those monopolising the wealth – the Megidas (landlords and masters). The subjugation of the masses was total – until the first military coup in 1966; which was quickly followed by the second. Military rule which lasted for so almost thirty years was the beginning of a new social order; which most people failed to notice. Suddenly, young soldiers from poor homes became state Governors and even Heads of State. One of them, the incomparable Abacha, struck the first major blow at the Northern power structure. When Abacha deposed the Sultan of Sokoto, top of the power chain, millions expected the sky to fall. But, Abacha, like thousands of young Northerners had joined the Army because the Sardauna of Sokoto, then Premier of Northern Nigeria, had gone round schools urging the kids to join the Army because “he who controls the Army controls the nation.” What Ahmadu Bello said had another meaning. “Power comes from the barrels of a gun.” It has taken much longer for the masses, not in the military, to wake up to the fact that they also can alter the power equation by illegal acquisition of weapons and deploying them against their society. Now, they know. Henceforth, the masses will no longer be afraid of the elite. It is the selfish leaders who must now fear the hoodlums.
“No revolution is the fault of the people; but, the fault of government.”
Johann Wolfgang Goethe, 1749-1832, VBQ, p 216.
Military rule only slightly altered the power structure by bringing another set of elite to the top – successful coup plotters, top military brass and their cronies. They had no interest in creating a more egalitarian society; only in entrenching themselves within it. The inequities continued and even got worse. Meanwhile, the number of uneducated and unemployable youths increased by a million, or more, each year. The elite ignored the danger signals. No attempt was made to study the rising tension. Eventually, only one trigger point was required to start the ball rolling. The herdsmen provided it; and the Federal Government’s response to armed herdsmen terrorising people nationwide provided the catalyst to the revolution now underway.
Herdsmen and farmers clashes had been occurring from time immemorial. Invariably, the dispute was settled amicably; herdsmen admitted fault and compensation was agreed and paid. I had my own flock managed for me by one late Yinusa Idi, living in a rural community near Gezawa in Kano State. Before setting out, Yinusa and his group would request for funds for their trips – including money to compensate farmers whose crops were ravaged by the animals. Herders never assumed they could destroy farms with impunity under any previous President or Head of State. Buhari changed everything.
The rape of Agatu in 2016, less than a year after Buhari became President set in motion the events which brought us to our present predicament. Despite the massacre of at least 200 Agatu people (I was there to see the grave sites), the Federal Government did not even bother to send relief materials or even condolence message. Instead Buhari blamed the Agatus for not welcoming strangers – in a community where Agatus and Fulani herdsmen had lived together for over 200 years. The FG might not have intended it, but, it was the first approval of the use of arms by herdsmen without challenge. Very quickly, armed herdsmen became regular features of the Nigerian landscape. It did not take long for the herdsmen to realise that they had power in their hands – which they could use with impunity.
“There are only two families in the world; my old grandmother used to say; the Haves and the Have-nots.” Miguel Cervantes, 1547-1616.
It also did not take long for other idle hands in the North—the Have-nots — to realise that they could improve on their situation, almost overnight by acquiring weapons and going after the Haves. The herdsmen showed the light; the bandits and kidnappers found the way to easy accumulation of wealth.
A TRUE STORY OF TRANSFORMATION.
I received a call recently from a regular reader of my articles. He wanted to narrate to me his personal experience in kidnappers’ den. No media person worth his salt can resist the offer. Here is the summary.
“Our SIENA car left Ojota a bit late that morning because passengers were scarce. Still, we hoped to reach Abuja by 6 or 7pm. We reached Lokoja at 7.15 pm because of a minor engine problem and a flat tyre. One of us, despite our pleas, decided to drop at Lokoja because the road is too dangerous at night. The driver was happy; he would make extra money by picking another traveller. We ate quickly and set off at 7.45pm. I fell asleep shortly after we crossed the bridge.
A loud bang on the side of the car woke me up; and I saw two guns pointing at us on my side; another gunman ordered the driver to open all the doors and we were asked to come out one by one – five men and two women.
First thing was to seize all our cellphones. Then, we were told to take only light items because we are going to trek a long distance through the bush. We were also warned that anyone trying to escape or proving difficult will be killed immediately. I cannot describe my emotions or that of others. Our pleas for mercy in the name of Allah fell on totally deaf ears. They were true to their words. We were marched in the dark for a long time before arriving at the camp – where there were five or six sheds. One of them was well-lit. Later we found out that the leader – Megida – stays there when in the camp. We were separated — men and women – and placed in different sheds.
Shortly after our arrival, some bandits brought an Alhaji, still in his expensive babanriga. He and three of his daughters had just been kidnapped. Obviously a very powerful man, not used to taking orders from anybody, he continued to protest and, unlike the rest of us, failed to obey the hoodlums instructions promptly. He received over sixty dirty slaps from the bandits before he got it into his head to accept his new situation. But, the worst was to come for Alhaji.
Suddenly, we heard people approaching our shed and among them were women. Three bandits entered leading three half-naked girls. From the pain and anguish expressed by Alhaji, it was obvious they were his daughters. A few minutes after, the bandits’ leader walked in. Another exclamation from Alhaji was all we needed to know that gang leader was known to him and his daughters. He was once their Maigadi. After saying “Alhaji, I was your Maigadi for years; you treated me badly. You molested my daughters because you were Megida. Now, you will be my Maigadi while I have fun with your daughters. I am now Megida here.” He then proceeded to issue instructions to Alhaji to personally disrobe his first daughter. Alhaji hesitated and two brutal kicks followed.”
The revolution is underway; the elite are now the targets of bandits….
To be continued.