“The problem is that driving in Nigeria now includes the hazard presented by, among others, criminal herdsmen.”
Sonala Olumhense, Daily Trust on Sunday columnist (14/02/2021)
Nigerians are discerning enough to differentiate between the genuine search for truth and disguised prejudice. You can’t profile a people as criminals and pretend to be a fair analyst. The Sunday columnist gave himself away with above statement. So, the herdsmen are now mainly responsible for the inability of Nigerians to travel safely on Nigerian roads. Profiling any group of Nigerians is dangerous; singling out the herdsmen and exposing them to public hostility is reckless. Reckless assertion by a columnist has unintended consequences on innocent people. Olumhense used considerable space trying to castigate Governor Bala Mohammed, adding issues that are totally irrelevant to the subject matter, but he ended up doing more damage to his case by revealing his prejudice so openly. Just like political office holders, a columnist should use his privilege with a great sense of responsibility, decorum and caution.
Let me say it categorically that Governor Bala Mohammed is not politically naive. As a former Senator and minister, he doesn’t require a lecture on national security and Nigeria’s unity from Olumhense. The Bauchi State governor is sophisticated enough not to advocate illegal possession of firearms by any group of Nigerians. He didn’t and couldn’t have said that the Fulani herdsmen have the right to bear arms to protect themselves from cattle rustlers. Governor Bala merely analysed the hopelessness of our security situation that ultimately led the Fulani herdsmen to bear arms to protect themselves from rustlers. He was blaming the failure government to ensure peace and security to its citizens. Nowhere in his entire speech did the governor say it was right for herdsmen to bear arms; he only reminded Nigerians of the fact that, if the government fails in its primary responsibility of providing security, we may end up with a situation where the people resort to self-defence.
Bala Mohammed painted a bigger picture of the precarious situation we are in today. If the Fulani herdsmen could have illegal access to arms, it’s also a reflection of our security failure. If we have so many guns in the hands of so many bad guys, it reveals the failure of our security. We should be asking ourselves how the Boko Haram terrorists for instance were able to acquire weapons undetected. The issue of the Fulani herdsmen shouldn’t be treated in isolation. The ability of any group of Nigerians to acquire arms illegally should be a matter for sober reflection.
Instead of examining the larger picture and context of Bala’s arguments, the columnist unfairly cherry-picked a single issue out of Bala’s statement in order to portray him as a Fulani demagogue which he is not. The Bauchi State governor is one of the most broadminded Nigerian public office holders you can ever meet. He did not advocate ‘AK-47’ for any demographic group. But the columnist ignored the larger issue in order to bury the Governor’s important message.
What is the central issue to Bala’s arguments? The governor made it unambiguously clear that it’s wrong to demonize every innocent Fulani man and expel them from our forests because of the crimes of few of them. Is there anything wrong with this logic? Why should you embark on the ethnic cleansing of the Fulanis, targeting them and giving them quit notices because of the crimes of some of their members? Where in the world should that kind of situation be tolerated, especially in democratic societies? Did we forget the consequences of Hitler’s ethnic cleansing policies and their threats to our common humanity and democratic values?
A fair-minded columnist should be worried about these important issues that Governor Bala Mohammed talked about. Or does the columnist believe that innocent Fulanis as pastoralists and trans-human should be legitimate targets who deserve no protection under our constitution? The life of every Nigerian is important; no group should be demonized in order to justify their persecution. You can’t be a columnist and tacitly support injustice against innocent Fulani people because the perpetrators happen to be members of your ethnic group.
Not once did this columnist address the mob violence against innocent Fulani people, in the South-West. Not once did he condemn the incitement against the Fulanis by the ethnic demagogue Sunday Igboho. Not once did he address the current violence against Hausa people in Ibadan and the destruction of their property. Does that mean the rights of innocent Fulani and Hausa people don’t matter to him?
You can’t be neutral between compassion and cruelty, or between justice and injustice or between humanity and inhumanity. As a columnist, don’t insult the intelligence of your readers because they are capable of distinguishing the truth and subtle propaganda or a sting media job.
Take this quote for example: “in my view, it should not take a newspaper writer to advise a governor – any governor – that to advocate AK-47s and other dangerous weapons for any demographic does not promote the wellbeing of anyone”. I am scandalized that a journalist of the columnist caliber can degenerate to the abyss of his calling with baseless and rudimentary contraptions using flowery prose in an attempt to bamboozle his readers.
Olumhense betrayed journalistic esteem by calling into question projects for the upgrade of Bauchi Government House. How does the issue in discourse relate to projects? Only the columnist can tell. Blindfolded by the zest for justifying his sting operation he failed to see government houses in Yobe, Plateau, Gombe, Katsina and Kaduna executed at a higher financial scope and size? He simply wants Bauchi State to stagnate or at best operate in reverse gear undignified, unworthy or unqualified to occupy befitting structures for the ease of government business.
Clearly, the columnist must have been dwelling in his cocoon of journalistic isolation. How else did he missed out on the State House of Assembly’s endorsement and approval of the government house project he was bellyaching about?
“Time to show leadership was the by-line for his column. I agree – especially with his boxed Quote: “Does Nigeria really have a Government? If so, now in front of the whole world, is the time to show leadership”.
That exactly was what Governor Bala Mohammed did. He was bold with the truth. The likes of Olumhense I hope, are not intimidated by the truth. Once you are intimidated by the truth you will end up as a victim of falsehood.
DR. LADAN SALIHU
Chief of Staff