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Wike, PDP: When The Sword Destroys Its Pouch [OPINION]

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By Suyi Ayodele

In Yoruba family sociology, children are categorised into three broad groups. The stratification is determined by the character portraiture of the child. The first category is called Omo Ojú – a child who requires just a glance from the parents to do the right thing. Omo Ojú is the ideal child any parent would wish for. He is the disciplined one who takes redress by the mere look of the parents. Most often than not, an Omo Ojú does not even require the presence of the parents before he or she behaves very well. A typical Omo Ojú is that child who says “my parents must not hear this” (omo obi mi o gbodo gbo). Omo Ojú behaves very well not because the parents are harsh on him or her, but because he/she is the well brought up one and attaches importance to the family name. Omo Ojú goes out with the mother and is offered food by their host. He/she refuses, politely, to take the food. The mother, if the host insists, merely says: “we just finished eating before coming”; even when they have nothing at home for their next meal and Omo Ojú nods his/her head in affirmation. Omo Ojú is an Omo Alálúbáríkà – the blessed child who gives no trouble to the parents.

The second category of children is the one known as Omo Ohùn or Omo Òrò – a child who requires you to talk to him or her before he or she behaves well. An Omo Ohùn or Omo Òrò, at times, requires the parents to say some unprintable words before he/she acts according to the acceptable norms of the society. He/she is not usually the delight of the parents. The parents shout, threaten or curse for them to fall back in line. These are the type of children you often hear their parents say: “even the creator knows I am not quiet about your matter (Eleda na mo pe mi o dake lori oro re). The father, for instance, in his peak of frustration asks if he indeed is the biological father of such a child. When that happens, the mother becomes dejected because her fidelity is being interrogated. Yet she knows that the father knows the truth but the behaviour of an Omo Ohùn or Omo Òrò is why the father queries the paternity.

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The third category is the worst of them all. He is called Omo Igi – a child that must see the cane before he acts well. Omo Igi is the typical picaro of the worst form. Anywhere he is, there is trouble and chaos. He is as indecent as he is incorrigible. An inorigibe, Omo Igi goes back to the same offence almost immediately after a reprimand. Among his peer group, he causes chaos. In his family circles, Omo Igi is the allegorical Àjàntálá – an unruly child; the enfant terrible. He is an àwíìgbó (listens to no counsel), an àbéìgbà (refuses entreaties); a typical olóríkunkun (an irritant, stubborn being). Above all, an omo Igi acts only in his own wisdom. No matter how organised a place is, once an Omo Igi enters, peace takes a flight. He is an oníjàgídíjàgan (a compulsive trouble maker). He is also an àjàígbólà (when he fights, he does not know when to apply the brakes); the typical fight-to-finish element. The only thing an Omo Igi understands is thorough whipping or in the alternative, to be completely ignored. It is useless to persuade him to toe the path of honour. Nothing satisfies an Omo Igi unless he is disgraced and dishonoured. No parent wishes to have an Omo Igi as a child. No society desires his type. Most often than not, in the family and the larger society, an Omo Igi turns a pariah. His innate hubris of bad mannerism follows him anywhere he goes. He acts such that the larger society thinks he is not well brought up (aláìlékô). But the truth is that an Omo Igi is a typically well-brought up child, who throws overboard all his home training; hence he is called an àkóìgbà – impervious to training.

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The opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, held its convention on May 28 through May 29, 2022, where it elected its presidential candidate. In the keenly contested primaries, the former Vice President and itinerant politician, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, won with 371 votes to defeat the incumbent governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, who scored 237 votes. Ever since the election, the party has known no peace. What finally triggered the self-destruct voyage the PDP is navigating at the moment is the choice of a vice-presidential candidate. While Wike swallowed the bitter pill of defeat at the primaries, it was reported that Atiku made overtures to him to be his running mate. Wike, it was further gathered, was persuaded to accept the offer. In fairness to him, he never lobbied to be Atiku’s running mate. Atiku, the candidate, without any inducement, set up a selection committee to assist in picking a running mate. That was the beginning of the unending crisis in the opposition party. Atiku, for reasons best known to him, turned down the majority recommendation of the committee he personally set up and chose to pick Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State as his running mate. His argument: “my running mate would have the potential to succeed me at a moment’s notice, that is, a President-in-waiting. In other words, the person must have the qualities to be President”, is what is stoking the embers of disunity in the party. Without being magisterial, I daresay that that statement is most ungentlemanly in content and un-presidential in delivery. Wike never lobbied to be anybody’s running mate. If Atiku decided to withdraw his initial offer, he could have done that without rubbing salt on Wike’s injury. There are some words that are too pregnant with meanings. Atiku uttered some at the unveiling of Okowa. Wike has the right to be angry. I would have been angry too if I were in his shoes. But even at that, his anger should be devoid of the tendencies to destroy the very house that has given him shelter in the last two decades. Why do I say so?

Wike’s open romance with the ruling APC in recent times is unbecoming. It shows a deep-seated bitterness. That, in itself, is as ungentlemanly as the initial offence. His rebuff of virtually all attempts to bring about peace tells much about his character. Hobnobbing with the APC at this critical moment, to me, is a psychological war of attrition against the PDP. I think, and very strongly too, that the PDP should ignore him! Otherwise, the party will be molding him into a Frankenstein monster that may turn out to be the party’s nemesis. My people advise that you cut the branches of an Iroko tree when it is too young; when it grows, it requires a daily sacrifice from you. Wike, by his romance with the APC, is embarking on a journey to political adultery, of which his Man Friday from Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, holds the patent right. It is a journey to political oblivion. People simply don’t learn from history. Bukola Saraki, in 2014, led some PDP governors and leaders to walk out on President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan at the Eagle Square. He thought he was on top of the world then. Where is he today? It took Bukola just eight years to bring to ruins the legacies his late father, Oloye Olusola Saraki, built over decades. The Kwara ‘o to ge’ movement swept him off the Kwara political ladder. Today, Bukola is struggling for relevance and he is back in the same PDP. In his Rivers State backyard, Wike has a living lesson. Rotimi Amaechi, as a sitting PDP governor openly despised Jonathan and practically became the APC’s ATM machine, counterbalancing the financial war chest of Bola Ahmed Tinubu. As a minister of Transport, Amaechi concentrated almost every project in the North, thinking that his APC friends would hand over the party’s presidential ticket to him. They only allowed him to run around the Adokiye Amesimaka Stadium. When the real race began at the APC presidential primaries on June, 8, 2022, they shoved him aside. Ever since, who has heard anything about Amaechi again?

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Wike can toe the same line. He can tear down the PDP for all I care. What have been the benefits of the PDP to the Nigerian masses, anyway? The worst that can happen to the PDP is the loss of the 2023 presidential election. If that happens, does Wike gain anything? He will only go into political oblivion like Fayose. The shout of “Oshokomole” attracts opprobrium on the streets of Ekiti today. Wike, if he likes, should invite General Muhammadu Buhari to come and commission projects in Rivers State so as to “pepper” the PDP. The shame of his political folly will soon come pouring on him like the rains after the August break. Atiku, at Okowa unveiling, said he wanted a running mate that is presidential in character and content, I felt it was too insulting to the person of Wike. But events in recent times have come to prove that the Waziri Adamawa was eternally right. When a man is accused of having a massive alimentary canal, he controls his gastronomical tendencies. I ask: is there anything presidential in the conducts of the Rivers State governor in the last few weeks? Where is the finesse of that exalted office? Where is the ‘Excellency’ in the prefix of his designation as a governor of a state? Atiku offered him the vice presidential slot, yes! Atiku set up a committee to select a running mate for him, OK! The committee selected Wike in a vote of 14 to three, so? Atiku went ahead to pick Okowa, what again? Is that why the house should collapse on everybody? Is that enough reason why Wike should become rabid in his anger against the entire leadership of the party? Granted that he sustained the party financially, as some are wont to argue, with whose resources was he able to accomplish that? Personal family inheritance or the patrimony of the Rivers people? Come off it! Truth is Wike is becoming an Alásejù – an obstinate person. My people say alásejù, péré niíté – the obstinate gets easily disgraced.

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It is usually difficult for a woman introduced to whoredom to retrace her steps. Someone, somewhere, has introduced Wike to the Lagos political whoredom. He is already in the web of the lords of political adulterers of the South West and the leech, which leads that gang, does not let go of whatever it holds. It is unfortunate that Wike would allow a common political harlot to lead him to his political Golgotha! The sad thing here is that unlike the Saviour, who resurrected three days after His Golgotha experience, there is no such grace for Wike. The choice is his’. PDP should dare him and put an end to the bully’s war of attrition. Bashorun Dele Momodu has put the issue in proper perspective. PDP is the only solid platform that Wike has, he counsels. All other political sand is sinking sand. If Wike likes, let him burn the bridge and kill the bridge builders as well. He is like a leech which threatens to kill the dog, its host forgetting that once the dog dies, the leech goes into extinction! I saw an inscription on a building in Ogbomosho some years ago. It reads: “Àdàbà ò ñáaní àhún kùn’gbé. Pápá njó, ęyé lo; kétékété kú, ìsó pin “- the dove does not care if the bush is set on fire. The bush burns, the bird flies. When the donkey dies, its tethering ends. That should be instructive to Wike. The one egging him on towards the slaughter slab of the Lagos whoremonger is finished, politically. He is now looking for more victims in a “da bi mo se da” scheme. How do I translate this? It simply means: join me in my sorry state. If that is how Wike wishes to end his political Odyssey, the PDP should wish him luck. No omo igi ends well in the first instance. Nyesom Wike will only be fulfilling his strata of atavistic regression!

Suyi Ayodele is a senior journalist, South-South/South-East Editor, Nigerian Tribune and a columnist with the same paper.

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OPINION: Supper For Nigeria’s Àkébàjé

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By Suyi Ayodele

Every home has at least one spoilt child. Such a child is known as an Àkébàjé among my people. The Àkébàjé Omo cries for meat when his mates are asking for food – Àkébàjé únsunkún eran, elegbé e rè únsunkún oúnje. When eventually given what he craves, he complains that the pieces of meat in the plate will not allow him access to the stew (wón fun léran tán, ó tún ni eran ò jé kí òhun run obè). The elders of my place have a descriptive name for such a child: Omo gede aróde tò súlé (an over-pampered brat who leaves the outside to pee inside the living room). Àkébàjé can never be satisfied. He remains implacable. He keeps asking for more like Oliver Twist. He is a child with an eerie entitlement mentality! Every family which attempts to satisfy the many fancies of an Àkébàjé ends up in ruins.

One peculiar nature of an Àkébàjé is that he positions himself as an indispensable member of the family. He tells his parents that he holds the four aces. Usually, he comes in the form of either the only child or as the only male child in a society that is patrilineal and attaches importance to the male gender. In such a circumstance, the entire clan tends to pander to the wishes of an Àkébàjé. His greatest weapon is blackmail. He tells his dotting, and equally fretting parents to either satisfy his wishes or he leaves them in pain. He behaves like an Ogbanje, who can die anytime, prematurely. Whereas, he has everything to lose if he dies, but the parents don’t know this!

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The parents of the Àkébàjé operate from a disadvantaged cum weak position. They always believe that the Àkébàjé Omo holds that which is most precious to them. The Àkébàjé knows this weakness of character in his parents. He, therefore, tightens the noose, pummelling his parents to submission, at any given time. Àkébàjé is as unfeeling as he is selfish. He is equally deft on the negotiation table. He is like the Gambler in Kenny Rogers’ song, “The Gambler”, Àkébàjé Omo /…Know when to hold ’em/Know when to fold ’em/Know when to walk away/And know when to run/. Like the gambler that he is, an Àkébàjé /knows the secret to survivin’/ But there are a few members of the clan who feel that the Àkébàjé needs to be treated with tough hands. Some others believe that the spoilt brat should be treated like any other normal child. The basic truth is that any community which pampers the Àkébàjés in its midst ends up very badly.

Nigeria is like that typical parent with an Àkébàjé child. The Àkébàjé of this epoch is the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) of the North. The group has been over-pampered by the Nigerian nation for too long. It has grown wild such that it does whatever it likes with an out-and-out impunity. Every government, particularly the ones headed by Southerners, frets at its feet. MACBAN is the law. It decrees a thing, and it comes to pass. It can create or recreate any that catches its fancies. The group blackmails anyone to no end. You can blame it. When a dog has a marksman as a backup, it kills the most ambulant monkey! Supported by a powerful political block up North, Miyetti Allah dictates the pace in virtually every matter that has to do with agriculture. Its greatest weapon is the terror it visits on its hapless victims. Everyone cringes at the mention of herdsmen. Even presidents shiver in its presence. On the negotiation table, Miyetti Allah does not take prisoners. In the last one year, MACBAN has tested the waters on different occasions.

It started its deft calculation in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, on Saturday, April 20, 2024, when the group ‘signed’ a “peace” agreement with the non-existent Commodities Farmers’ Organisation in the South-West. The event was coordinated by one Olusegun Dasaolu, and supervised by the first daughter of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Mrs. Folashade Tinubu-Ojo, the Iyaloja General of Nigeria. That adventure birthed a piece titled: Why were Miyetti Allah and Tinubu’s Iyaloja in Ibadan?”, published on this page on April 23, 2024, That piece summarises that the Miyetti Allah and farmers ‘agreement’ in Ibadan was all about the 2027 second-term ambition of Tinubu. I stand by that position till the second coming of my Lord Jesus! What is after six is more than seven, so say our elders. We are coming to witness that in a short while!

MORE FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: Tinubu, ECOWAS And Its Rebellious Boys

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The North is very wise. I mean wise like the Gambler of Kenny Rogers’ song. The North has over the years “…made a life/Out of readin’ people’s faces/Knowin’ what the cards were/By the way they held their eyes/. So, it is never difficult for them up there to study President Tinubu. They know that one thing rules the president’s life – insatiable craving for power. They know that for Tinubu to realise his second-term ambition, he will give in to anything. The monkey’s keeps its hand permanently in the gourd of banana till the hunter comes and captures it! I alluded to that in the piece referenced above, when I said inter alia: “Tinubu will do anything to get his second term. He will sell where he needs to sell, buy what he needs to buy. Nothing will be too precious for him to trade off…”

Having scored the needed goals and obtained the required points to advance to the next stage of the 2027 political tournament, the North shifted its strategy to the National Assembly. They asked the docile legislative arm to decree it to law that cows are human beings and must be given freedom of movement. Senator Adamu Aliero, former governor of Kebbi State, waved the bait. He was supported by Senator Danjuma Goje, himself also a former governor of Gombe State. But something went wrong in the calculation. The usual yes-man Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, did not catch the bug. He put spanner in the works with his “Cows are not citizens of Nigeria, Senator Aliero; are you arguing with me?” lines. I detailed that encounter in “Distinguished Senator Cow and his human rights”, published on this page on June 11, 2024. I concluded that piece with this prophecy: “I can predict the end. DISASTER!” I hope I am not Jeremiah, the prophet of realism, who many tagged the prophet of doom. Before I finish packing my divination seeds, my Babalawo has started to praise his Opele!

Again, Kenny Rogers cautions. As a good Gambler, he says: /You never count your money/When sittin’ at the table/There ‘ll be time enough for countin’/When the dealin’s done/. The North knew Akpabio’s interjection was a temporary setback. The Senate President has a master, who lives in the rocky area of the capital city. They approached him. I am still trying to hazard a guess on the plausible argument that was presented to President Tinubu on the desirability of a Ministry of Cows! Yes, read that again! The proposed Ministry of Livestock Development is nothing, but Ministry of Cows. I don’t believe in its euphemism dubbed Ministry of Livestock Development. We shall return to this argument on the exclusivity of the ministry, presently.

MORE FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: Why Were Miyetti Allah And Tinubu’s Iyaloja In Ibadan?

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Why did President Tinubu agree to set aside a new ministry for cows? My ‘infertile’ mind tells me that it could not have been anything beyond the Lagos Boy’s ambition for a second shot at the presidency in 2027. He bought the idea on a weak negotiation table. He told us that we should expect the new ministry. If he ever requires the National Assembly’s endorsement to make that happen, I bet my next salary on it: Akpabio will never use the microphone to ask: “those opposed say nay”. The Executive Bill for the establishment of Ministry of Livestock Development and other departments under it, will pass the first, and second readings, and the Committee of the Whole House, in a matter of minutes. President Tinubu will equally assent to the Bill within the hour. That is the beauty of the ‘cooperation’ between the Executive and the Legislature in this dispensation. This is the era of the you-do-for-me-I-do-for-you concept. With a pliable National Assembly as we have now, anything goes!

Back to the exclusivity of the new ministry for cows and cows alone, I have read a lot about the Solomonic wisdom in establishing the ministry. The government’s mouthpieces on the matter have told us that with the ministry in place, we can kiss the perennial clashes between herders and farmers goodbye for life. Wonderful! I have also tried to ask a few of them why all the talks about the ministry are about cows. Are there no other livestock apart from cows? What about the poultry keepers of Otta, Ogun State. What about those who own piggeries? Those who run snail farms? Herpetaria for snakes, etc? Are they going to get their own ministries? Nobody should deceive us; the new ministry is a Ministry of Miyetti Allah, for the Miyetti Allah, and by the Miyetti Allah, kagane? That group asked for it. That group got it. The group will dominate and run the ministry to the exclusion of other livestock owners! And to those asking us to clap because the ministry would end the clashes between herders and farmers, they did not see this coming!

Miyetti Allah is a typical Àkébàjé. You cannot placate it. President Tinubu had not swallowed the saliva in his throat while announcing the ambitious Ministry of Cows, when Miyetti Allah, like the Àkébàjé that it is asked for another thing. That is the way of the over-pampered child. This time around, Miyetti Allah wants something more! It wants all the governors of the 36 states of the Federation to establish grazing reserves for them in all the states. That group and its promoters have a lot in their kitty. Grazing reserve is another name for Rural Grazing Area (RUGA). RUGA, to bring it to its simplest definition is Fulani settlement in every corner of Nigeria! That is what Miyetti Allah is asking for after getting a ministry for its cows. The group is like the proverbial leper. Try to shake him and he will ask for an embrace and a kiss on the palm!

The issue of RUGA began time immemorial. However, the hegemonic civilian government of General Muhammadu Buhari gave it prominence. The word got more registered in our lexicography in the last nine years. Its younger sibling, “Grazing Routes”, was also brought to our consciousness. Miyetti Allah, nay, the North, will not stop until these two are established. And guess what, if it is established that RUGA and grazing routes will make 2027 happen for Tinubu seamlessly, he will give it everything it takes and requires! That is what ambition does. Little wonder William Shakespeare, in “Hamlet” defines ambition as “a vice of kings; is as bad as the worst thing in the world…” (Act 3, Scene 4).

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The leader of the Miyetti Allah, Baba Othman-Ngelzarma, was on the Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily last Wednesday, a few hours after Tinubu announced the establishment of the new Ministry of Livestock Development, to ask for grazing reserves in all the states of the Federation. Of course, he has the usual signature excuse of such putting an end to the seemingly intractable herders/farmers clashes! He has kind words for the would-be landlords. Herders, Othman-Ngelzarma, assured, “don’t care about land; they stay in the forest, when development reaches them, they move further into the forest”. He added that “even in the northern part of the country where the pastoralists belong, they don’t have lands.” I agree with him. Herders don’t have lands. They simply kill for lands! Kajiko? Naaji!

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I have mentioned it on several occasions on this page. I don’t mind repeating it. Tinubu’s government is at its lowest ebb because every energy is devoted to 2027! You may not like the sound of it; but that is the unfortunate truth. His’ is a pure merchandising government, very transactional in all ramifications! The holder of power today is ready to trade off anything. The race for 2027 began on May 29, 2023. This is a government of no-time-to-waste mentality. The vicious cycle will continue. Tinubu is not like a Buhari who went to sleep when the decision of who his successor would be was being taken. If President Tinubu gets his second term (which I know he will get as long as he lives), the game for a puppet to take over from him will begin immediately! You can engrave this in your mind and thank me later! While that lasts, every other thing will suffer. If you doubt this, I encourage you to do a little research on why kingdoms don’t enthrone the kingmaker. Nigeria has already boarded that bus. Disembarking is not going to be an easy task.

I love peace, no doubt. I want an end to the senseless clashes between herders and farmers. I want Nigerians, irrespective of tribe, creed and language, to be able to live in any part of the country they choose. But I don’t want the peace of the graveyard. I don’t want the constitutional right of residency that does not take cognizance of the traditions and customs of the owners of the land. I equally detest, in greater measure, a situation where the landlord becomes a tenant in his own ancestral home. The new Ministry of Livestock Development is a ruse; it cannot guarantee any peace between two opposed people! It will only give Tinubu what he wants; support of Miyetti Allah, nay a large part of the north, for his second term. It is a selfish decision, taken just for the ambition of the president.

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A government that promised prudence should not be doing this if not for selfishness. Can we imagine what goes to the new ministry in terms of finance, personnel and infrastructure! Where is the money coming from in a haemorrhaging economy like ours? What happens to the Department of Livestock in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture? Will there be a Ministry of Fishery Development in the future? A former Service Chief once told us about the profits in snake farming. Which Ministry is overseeing that? What if I decide to rear scorpions and other deadly creatures tomorrow? Will there be a new ministry for such a venture? Cattle rearing, like cocoa farming, and maize plantations, is a private business. The State has no business managing their affairs other than establishing research institutes where the operators can acquire more knowledge. Virtually all conventional universities run Faculties of Agriculture. Nigeria has more than two Universities of Agriculture, and many Colleges of Agriculture. Rather than establishing a new ministry for cows, let the money be channelled to fund more research in those faculties and colleges.

Miyetti Allah should be encouraged to embrace modern farming practices. Enough of this nonsense about RUGA, grazing reserves and grazing routes! It should perish the idea of permanent settlements in other people’s ancestral homes! Giving in to the demands of the group is akin to pandering to the unending wishes of an Àkébàjé. The new ministry is a sumptuous supper for the nation’s Àkébàjé. Tinubu needs the North to win his second term, no doubt. He equally needs every other part of the country. It is high time someone told this over-pampered few that we all own this nation, together! President Tinubu has every right to aspire for a second term. If he likes, he can manipulate the system and get a third, fourth and ad infinitum! But he should be cautious about what he does to the inheritance of the people. If they are deceiving him that establishing an exclusive ministry for the herders of the North guarantees his second term, he should be mindful of what history says about him. He should answer the name, an Ifabonmi (the Oracle does not deceive me) and add its concluding part: Eminabonrami (I will not deceive myself either). As long as Miyetti Allah remains ambulant, there won’t be peace between its members and farmers all over the country; the number of ministries created for them notwithstanding!

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OPINION: Tinubu, ECOWAS And Its Rebellious Boys

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I danced on Sunday when President Bola Ahmed Tinubu was re-elected as Chairman of ECOWAS. I rejoiced because his re-election will give him an opportunity to correct one of his errors that has made life miserable for Nigerians. And that was the way he handled the Niger Republic crisis of last year. In his acceptance speech, Tinubu asked President Bassirou Faye of Senegal and President Faure Gnassingbe of Togo, to go and appeal to Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger Republic to return to ECOWAS. I give it to Tinubu on this. This is what we say in our street lingo as one’s brain “return to factory setting!” This move, a departure from his last year’s initial gragra of threatening to fight those three countries, especially, the Niger Republic, over the coups that took place there, shows that someone is thinking in this government for the first time. The security of those three countries, known as members of the G5-Sahel region, to the peace of Nigeria, cannot be overemphasised.

When, Niger Republic, for instance, staged its coup against the government of President Mohammed Bazoum, and Tinubu was calling the meeting of ECOWAS Command Chiefs almost daily, many Nigerians warned him of the futility of those efforts. The North made it abundantly clear to the president then that a war with Niger Republic would amount to a war with the North. They explained that northerners share the same ancestry with Nigeriens. A friend who travelled to Gaidam in Yobe State told me that the CFA of Niger Republic was a legal tender in those parts of Nigeria. He said that when he bought some balls of akara from a seller and offered her a N1,000 note, the seller, in giving him back his balance, added some Niger Republic currency to the money she gave to him. Another colleague on that trip, who happens to know that that is normal up North, quickly intervened by exchanging the CFA with Naira notes! That is the affinity that Tinubu was trying to unsettle with his threat of war with the Niger Republic.

That empty grandstanding had its implications. One of them is the influx of bandits and other felons to Northern Nigeria. The least intelligent student of International Diplomacy knows that the collapse of Libya led to an increase in the number of armed men to other African countries. The Liptako-Gourma region – where the Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger borders meet – is believed to be the most ravaged by armed rebellion in recent years. Forcing Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger Republic to leave ECOWAS further compounded the problem. The simple implication is that with their Saturday, September 16, 2023, mutual defence pact, the three countries divorced themselves from ECOWAS. The pact, known as Alliance of Sahel States, was designed to defend one another against any external attack. That broke the bone of ECOWAS.

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Many who postulated that the treaty would not stand have come to realise that it was a huge mistake. The lesson there is that never threaten today’s kids with expulsion; they will leave home permanently. Now ECOWAS wants those guys back, but they are not ready to come back. Now we are in trouble because those three countries provide a shield for us from the ravages of the Sahel. From their geography, they cover us from Libya. Nigeria now must worry about the security implications of not having friendly countries as a buffer against small and big arms from North Africa, particularly Libya. That is what indiscretion can cause! President Faye of Senegal told Tinubu this much when he visited Abuja on May 15, 2024. Faye, at the meeting with Tinubu, said ECOWAS must reopen talks with the guys in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger Republic with a view to bringing them back to the ECOWAS fold. Omar Touray, President of ECOWAS Commission, amplified the importance of the return of the three countries to the regional fold when he said that Faye’s position “is in the spirit of engagement that our leaders believe should continue. Because we don’t only share borders, we share families, we share communities, and the leaders are determined to do everything possible to keep our community together. ECOWAS is not about heads of state. It’s a community of people that must stay together.”

The new ECOWAS position towards the ‘Three Rebels’ runs contrary to the argument by Folahanmi Aina, an Associate Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, London, United Kingdom, who on October 24, 2023, barely a month after the Sahel countries signed their military pact, posited that the pact was bound to fail. His thesis is that the Alliance of Sahel States “is focused more on stoking anti-French sentiment than fighting violent extremism.” He states further that: “Collectively, these states do not have what it takes militarily and economically to fight off the threat of violent extremism, let alone guarantee the sustenance of a defense pact, given the logistical technicalities involved. Even more important is that they lack the state capacity to address the underlying root causes of violent extremism, some of which include deteriorating socio-economic conditions such as poverty, youth unemployment, inequality, illiteracy, poor governance, and environmental degradation. Their institutions are simply too weak…. The new Alliance of Sahel States is bound to fail given that it is built on a faulty foundation—a reaction to a perceived threat from France rather than a proactive posture toward the real threat of violent extremism. However, its potential to embolden would-be putschists across West Africa should not be ignored.”

The chickens have come home to roost for ECOWAS and its misadventure of threat of war. Nigeria now is in dire need of a peaceful Sahel Region if it must fight insurgency in its land and get its farmers to go back to till the land. Murtala Ahmed Rufa’i, author of the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto’s seminal series, “I am a Bandit: A decade of Research in Zamfara State Bandits’ Den”, notes that the vast forests of Sokoto, Zamfara and Niger States alone have about 60,000, terrorists with 120 commanders. The implication here is that each ‘commander’ controls 500 terrorists. If these figures are distributed to all the 19 states of the north, one can imagine the havoc this has consistently wreaked on the local populace. If Niger Republic, for instance, decides to look the other way, while felons use its borders to flux into Nigeria, your guess is as good as mine.

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This is why I think Nigerians should mount pressure on President Tinubu to eat the humble pie and personally approach the coupists in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger Republic to get them to come back to ECOWAS. This appeal is as urgent as the errand of the king. This is not the time to delegate responsibility. President Tinubu should know that his pronouncements when the Niger Republic coup happened in 2023 aggravated the ECOWAS crisis. His threat of war and symbolic meetings of ECOWAS Command Chiefs in Abuja sent the wrong signals. He who assists the tortoise to climb a tree should also be available to assist in bringing it down. This is not an assignment to delegate. Nigerians are hungry.

There are food shortages everywhere. Simple Economics says when demand is higher than supply, there will be inflation. If farmers return to their farms without molestation, food will be abundant. Adding hunger to our current litany of woes is a recipe for disaster.

“My people can no longer afford to buy a mudu of rice to eat. You will not believe it. People now prefer to eat leaves like zogale, rama, and drink water. They don’t have money to buy foodstuff!” A traditional title holder in Birnin-Gwari, Kaduna State, was quoted to have uttered these words last week.

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If anyone is in doubt that there is hunger in the land, the above quoted sentences should clear your doubt! Nigerians are becoming herbivorous daily. The Nigerian Tribune, in its Monday, July 9, 2024, edition, did a comprehensive report on “How insurgency, banditry worsen food prices.” Birnin-Gwari Local Government Area (LGA) of Kaduna State is one of the biggest LGAs in the state. It is equally, unarguably, the food basket of the state with the production of crops like maize, guinea corn, millet, and rice in commercial quantities. The council area is also described as the “most traumatised” LGA, with terrorists, bandits and kidnappers constantly on the prowl. Commuters have abandoned the Birnin-Gwari Road which hitherto served as the link between the North and the South-West because of the activities of these felons.

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Still speaking on the food crisis in the area, the report states, “Farming activities in the area have gone down as a result of banditry. Bandits have taken over the farms from the locals. The production of crops like maize, guinea corn, millet, and rice, which the area is noted for, has become history.” Sallau Ibrahim, one of the farmers in the locality, volunteered the information. In that same Birnin-Gwari, which used to be the source of food supply to the state and other states of the Federation, last week, “a bag of maize was sold at N90,000, while a bag of local rice sold at N105,000, and beans at N85,000.” Why? Ibrahim, again, explained that many farmers in the area had been killed and scores abducted by bandits who usually stormed their communities to carry out the nefarious activities without challenge. Even in places where the farmers were not killed and allowed “access to their farmlands, they (bandits) imposed taxes or levies on them before they could harvest the crops.” Those who could not afford the imposed tax abandoned their farms. The result is the high cost of food items in the markets.

The hunger has nothing to do with the voodoo economic policies of President Tinubu’s government. The Hallelujah orchestra of the government should at least relax now that they know it is not their tin god that is solely responsible for the hunger we all face. However, the Tinubu government is not totally blameless! The hunger in the land is caused not by scarcity of food items but by their unaffordable prices occasioned by the intractable insecurity across the country as well as the prohibitive costs of transporting the food items to end users! The foreign Exchange rate also has nothing to do with it. The simple issue here is insecurity. Farmers don’t go to their farms any longer. Many have resorted to subsistence farming on their available spaces around their homes. At least Madam Remi Tinubu, the wife of the president, demonstrated that in her new video of how to plant vegetables around our homes and their benefits for our “digestive track”!

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Nigeria is a huge joke. The First Lady is encouraging us to farm around our homes. I chuckled at the garrulousness of her new-found love for farming. For instance, how many residents of Aso Rock will that vegetable garden feed, and for how long? So, if we all cultivate vegetable gardens, shall we equally grow our yams, beans and run our own rice farms and mills too? What about those living in face-me-I-face-you apartments? How many Nigerians own their houses, in the first place? How many landlords will allow gardens around their property? But I love the video all the same. It gives an idea of how those guys up there thinking.

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Nigeria is experiencing acute food shortage at the moment because of insecurity. This should be of ultimate concern to those in authority instead of the promotion of gardens around our homes. If we don’t tackle those bandits, terrorists, herders and kidnappers who make farming almost impossible in the bushes, they will soon hit our towns and those Madam Tinubu’s vegetable gardens around our homes will pale into insignificance. The news report under reference here is comprehensive enough. It shows that food insecurity is not a problem of the North alone. Down South too, people can no longer farm. I stumbled on a video of herders who reared their cows into a maize farm in Ikere Ekiti the other time. Someone also sent another video of a deliberate grazing on a cassava and maize farm in Egbe town of Kogi State. The farmers in the two videos could not do anything. Millions of naira invested in those ventures got wasted. Who will persuade those victims to go back to the farm? Little wonder that in Ado Ekiti, a friend told me on Saturday that a set of five tubers of yam was sold at N25,000!

The South-East has the best of vegetable cuisines. Someone once said that vegetables were introduced to the South-East gastronomy during the civil war. Faced with acute shortage of food supply, the people resorted to eating all manners of shrubs. Some died, and many survived. The people studied the leaves that had no toxic properties while the war lasted and added them to their list of ingredients. Nigeria is not at war at the moment; but people in Birnin-Gwari are already eating leaves and drinking water because they can no longer afford the prices of the food items. These are people who used to be the producers of those items before terrorists, bandits and kidnappers took over their land. How soon will that spread to the south, if not already there? This is why our leaders should move away from the banausic issue of planting gardens to tackling the issue of insecurity that has made real farming almost impossible. Enough of egbelekokmiyo vegetable gardens in Aso Rock Villa. Let’s get our real farmers back to the land!

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Hardship In 2024: A Time Like No Other![OPINION]

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Icon-James Tam

Nigerians are known for their sense of resilience, endurance and hard work, especially in challenging times. Like years gone, 2024 has also given face to this fact.

Since President Bola Ahmed Tinubu took office on May 29, 2023, and announced the removal of fuel subsidies, prices of essential goods have skyrocketed across the country.

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Even our education system has been affected, with tertiary institutions increasing tuition fees by 100%. I withheld judgment on the daily struggles of Nigerians until after the president’s first year in office.

To my surprise, President Tinubu’s first tenure came to completion with his stumble at Eagle Square, followed by an explanation that, as a Yoruba man, he(Dobale)was paying homage, not falling. Unfortunately, this past year has been incredibly difficult for Nigerians, with the benefits of subsidy removal nowhere to be seen in terms of human or infrastructure development.

Eight out of every ten persons suffer from malnutrition, a fact painfully evident during my recent visit to my hometown Arogbo in Ese-odo Local government Area of Ondo state. The promises of renewed hope after the turbulent governance of former President Muhammad Buhari seem increasingly distant.

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Today, Buhari’s leadership is sorely missed, as hunger claims an average of ’20 lives daily’, largely under-reported by the mainstream media.

Mr. President, it’s time to live up to your reputation as a pro-democracy advocate and patriot; and live out that messiahic leadership that would salvage our economy.

A president cannot succeed if his people are not thriving. I urge you to overhaul your cabinet, your economic team and enact robust economic policies that would ensure that every citizen, every home in this nation enjoy three square meals a day.

Icon-James Tam,
Writes from the creek of Ogidigba 2,
A suburb community of Arogbo, Ese-odo LGA ,Ondo state ,

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