Who will speak for the People?

Several years ago, the Creative Center for Leadership, were resource trainers for the United Nations University / International Leadership Academy’s extended Leadership program.  Before the end of their session, the Vice Rector of the University who was acting as the Director of the Academy in Jordan called for an appraisal of the trainers.  The students condemned in totally the style, depth and materials of the Center, when asked, mine was at variance.   I opined that we experience the British / Oxford Templeton College Team before crucifying the Americans, thanks to my Nigerian British style education and the Sheraton American Style trainings.   The class judged better when the two were compared.

Nigeria’s Masses cried during Late Yaradua’s time and Kerosine and Petrol were pegged to N50 and N65 per litre, the Nigeria Police stopped collecting toll fees on the road, the Military were struggling for United Nations Missions. Why was that, because somebody spoke for the down trodden and they were considered favourably.

We have reached a very disturbing cross road and yes there is need for the iron curtains to be pieced so Presidents and their Vice can be on the same page with the electorate/masses. 

How can you truly explain the reason why Fulanis who were known for grazing their cattle peacefully out of sight, now are everywhere as petty traders, tailors, motor bike riders et al, you ask them why, they tell you Cattle Robbers have stolen their cows and refused them peace in the bush.  What has the Government done to return them to their status quo?  Ask me.  Then who are the cattle owners that the National Assembly is always talking of Graze Land or Ranch bill for?  It is definitely not the poor fulani’s who now do not even have the cows to breed.    From the President, who we know has cows in his asset declaration to the likes of the Governors of Ekiti and Kwara, and their likes, are the graze land seekers (not the masses) this is maybe to further galvanise more lands to a few in every nuke and crannies of Nigeria?   When the poor fulanis were grazing we did not have sophisticated weapons and burning of villages, there was symbiotic coexistence with farmers allowing cattle rearers on lands needing manure.  So where did all this violence come from and why now?  Even the fulanis in the bush suffer kidnappings and destruction of lives and properties by these people causing havoc in our land.

The African / Nigerian Press is so muzzled that if you go counter the rulership you are made a black sheep.  And because they are first a business and want to have a green bank accounts and not red;  The Governors and leaders now have praise singers and not a true representation of the realities on ground.

Buhari’s getting a Christian Vice, was because he listened to suggestions.  His suspension of the NIA Chief and SGF was because he listened to the out cry of his people.  The Chibok Girls, Boko Haram and many others are all because he listened.  But how can he hear correctly, when he is surrounded by a very thick iron curtain of the AGIP machinery of power brokers that only have their interest in front and not the electorate?

Shehu Sani suffered his persecutions and is still, they have looked for all ways possible to ground him, including suspension from Kaduna chapter of the party to no avail.

El-Zakhy Zaky, is one person I have known from my days in ABU Zaria to be a forthright person, who government monies can’t buy.  The politicians go to him to canvass from votes, which his supporters give them.  How do I know, all politicians do and I have also benefitted from such vote support, without which no politician can have a comfortable win, unless rigged.  This man has followers in villages unexpected and he cares for the followers more than the elected governors.  If you remember, when the child marrying Governor of Zamfara brought in Sharia during the Obasanjo’s tenure, El-Zahky Zaky was about an only voice that said, it wont succeed. He was criticized for being anti-Islamic.  In his defence, he mentioned the insincerity of the promoters and their using it for political intent and not true religion.  Was he proved right?  You tell me.  The same Zamfara officials were known in Abuja as the highest users of hotels and restaurants.  They bring ladies in droves, shagalinku restaurant (and the like) will be fully booked at breakfast, lunch and dinner times, when the Zamfara harems come to eat.  Zaria’s religious peaceful stay cannot be without the synergy of such religious leaders and the Traditional Houses in the city and the environ.

Bishop Oyedepo – who mentioned the need to defend yourself against any provocation by any group, is not unfamiliar with the antiques of persons using religion, tribe or regions to foment trouble. His Ministry was started in Kaduna and he has a very large followership in Kaduna and the North.  Some of his places of worship suffered bombings like the one in Bauchi, North East.

Apostle Johnson Suleman – Who re echoed the defend yourselves song and was termed provocation.   He became a target when he warned El-Rufai of the Preaching License, he wanted to enforce in kaduna State.  His trouble increased when the DSS was barred from arresting him by the Governor of Ekiti and Eminent Christian Leaders Escorted him to Abuja.  Getting to discredit his ministry and calling came as an aftermath.

The Emir of Zaria, who mentioned a political variance in favour of a crowned title holder (the former Governor).  Demolition inside the city was to spite the Emir; Zaria and Kaduna Traditional Houses started seeing the unseen, including locking of a traditional ruler for weeks in prison custody.

While Kebbi is working with Lagos, the Central Bank and Bank of Industries amongst others to further Agricultural synergy, Zamfara is stigmatizing the people with curse instead of vaccinating and treating them against deadly diseases in the state.

I reside in a state where you hear men saying, marrying one wife is like being single.  A gardener was added N5000.00 to his salary, to my surprise he added a wife, I asked why and how will he maintain them, in a chorus, i was told God will feed all who He gave mouths to.    Cases abound of parents who do not know where their children sleep, eat or play and are not disturbed about that.  They end up as political thugs, so the learned politicians are not bothered because their children are learning abroad and will hope the children of these masses serve their children like the parent did the fathers.

Boko Haram has not finished, it was started by politicians, Cattle rustlings is yet to be stopped, villages being ravaged and so many innocent blood lettings still abound.  From the Zamfara axis to the Ile –Ife and the East every case shows an unbalance that Nigerian politicians are not ready for the truth.

In all cases people who speak or stood against some persons are placed on a pedestal of disgrace, after warning them in some cases.

The Sultan and Emir of Kano did us proud in Kaduna, because some body needs to tell them.  Kaduna is the Power Seat of the North, Kaduna is home for all we accept, but the Gbagis that have suffered displacements from Zaria, Kaduna, Minna and Abuja deserve a better treatment for the kits and kins than what they are experiencing in the name of someone is in charge.  

During the KADINVEST, i see the peaceful loving nature of this people, it wont happen in terrain like we are seeing in Kaduna.  Kaduna for the exigencies of Politics is under the purview of the Emir of Zaria, who is the Traditional head of the State Traditional houses.   The Government invited the Emir of Kano without the presence of any Traditional Ruler from Kaduna.  The Sultan was invited, he stands as a Islamic Religious Leader and their was no thought of inviting a Christian Leader to also be in attendance.  Am sure the likes of Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah, who is the present Bishop of Sokoto would have been a good accompaniment of the Sultan (they have severally), Kukah is from Kaduna State El-Rufai was not ready for what the Bishop would have mentioned maybe.

So for many silenced mouths, in and out of prisons for saying what some politicians do not want to hear, the Emir of Kano and his likes should not stay quiet. 

Now is not the time to use the usual old antiques to silence people, our politicians should be more responsive and responsible to the electorate.  As electorates, we need to disturb the National Assembly to remove certain privileges leading to abuses and give the electorate the power to recall their elected officers, when they see them not responsible enough.  That will keep our leaders on their toes to the needful for the enhancement of their constituents.

Let the speakers keep speaking and the silent ones should join speaking.  I long to see the State Assemblies stop singing the Governors sing songs and start acting like Honourable.  I long to see the State Houses call their Governors to order in especially the case of Local Government Elections, so people can feel the Government more and have easy access to the officials.

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African / Nigerian Elections and Post Electoral Remedies!

 

The best beggars of votes when elected to serve turn to become near political tyrants, thieves of public funds and slave masters of the same people they vowed to serve.

In most elections, now that coups are not popular, the citizenry is left with the garbage till the next elections, when money and the power of incumbency could be used to steal the peoples mandate at all cost to keep the status.

Democracies are guided by constitutions. I need to know, what are the constitutional guides to recalling a President, Governor, and Member of the House of Assembly by the electorate when they are in office?

We need to stop some nonsenses that makes elected officers become demi gods and demagogues while in office.

Can any educate us on the needed process, please?

Ondo Elections 2016 –Now that APC has been declared winner.

The elections was relatively peaceful, gratitude to the Almighty and all that contributed to make it so.

Now is time for synergy to get the state forward and not at a stand still or backwards. I hope the Jimohs, Okes et al will join hands off party lines and see Ondo forward.

For the New Governor Elect, it is time to return to Owo and say Thank you.  It should extend to the Akungba – Ikare Axis and the whole of Ondo North. 

Owo is a Junction town and the busiest link the North and Middle Belt (Benin). 

I am kindly requesting for

1. Increased Security, especially between Owo and the Akure, we have been robbed thrice on that stretch.   At a time people started using the Ekiti link with Oshun, long but safer at that time.  Luxurious Buses were the major targets at night.

2. The link roads to

a -Sabon Gida Ora and Benin axis;

b – Road from Ibillo junction to Kabba, a very commercial road, especially with the Cement Factory in Kogi, the Dangote’s should join in making the road better.

c. – The Owo Akungba – Okene Link roads (security and pot hole repairs.

d. – Akure – Ilesha road – road repairs and maintenance

e. Start thinking of dualising Owo-Akure-Ondo-Owo-Okitipupa/Igbokoda roads and start even if on small scale a Lagos – Okitipupa/Igbokoda Water transport (luxury/business class).

should see some visitations.  Yes they may be Federal roads, as a member of the Centre Party, Fashola should be able to make it priority or you work on them and get refund.

3. The Issue of Kidnappings must stop or see a drastic reduction, even if it means upsetting some cabals.

4. Build a big Trailer park in Owo for decongesting of roads especially as there will increase of traffic with road repairs.

5. Start campaigning for the Ajaokuta rail line to Pass through Ondo to Lagos.  Ondo needs a direct Lagos – Abuja Link to unlock the state from the relegation by the western states.

6. Start looking at Diaspora, Abuja, Lagos, Ibadan and Kaduna/Kano for inputs to the state.  Ondo has a large cache of Highly placed resources that can be of benefit to the state in Oil and Gas, Cocoa, Timber, Cassava, Medicine, Water, ICT and name it.  The Kupolatis and Aruwajoyes, Famutimi et al are Egbons that must be used to get the Bitumen, Oil and Gas resources on your top front burner now the PIB is being pursued.

7. Tourism has suffered so much set back due to lack of care.  Religious Tourism was not cared for in the days of Obadare, now Ogun State has captured the Mountain of Fire, Redeem, Living Faiths et al.  The Government should see how the Sun Shine state can shine again with the Idanre’s and Oke Marias et al.

8. As a corper, I made sure I used only products from Oluwa Glass factory in my apartment, they sufficed, PPP with the Chinese if need be but lets start producing Glasswares.

9. Ondo should visit Ghana and see how they have silently started producing European Quality Chocolates, export product.  They avoided Nigeria, because we could still the market.   Get the Boyede’s and Ile Oluji start producing affordable Coco Products for Nigeria and Export again.

10. The Farmers of your area do not have a regulated market to sell their products at premium price, get the lebanese and gambaris give good deals, by getting a commodity board to give these farmers a reason to increase the production and get premium pricing for their goods. And you can do what your eastern counterpart is doing exporting vegetable to abroad.  The Farmers need better pricing.

11. The North East is being reconstructed, Ondo Furniture, wood workers can be enabled through your Government to be a major source for wood products for school, hospitals, churches, homes and establishments furniture and wood needs.

It is my prayer that the progress of Ondo State will be a continum.

God bless the people of the Sun Shine State and he blesses the State to truly shine.

Commercial Bike (Acaba/Okada) Registration–Bauchi State Nigeria in Mind.

On a trip so many years ago to Ghana by road, the Commercial Bikers in Cotonou and Lome amazed us.  They filed orderly along lanes meant just for them and all had visible numbers readable from far on the front and back of their aprons.   They were so organised, that you wonder, if they had high cases of casualties like we do.  Coming home to Nigeria, the emergence of Okada, Acaba or Commercial Bikes was as a result of the down turning of the economy; increase in the population sizes of our towns and cities with the corresponding vehicular traffic issues and Unemployment. 

With so many states banning out rightly the use of motorcycles, with no sustainable alternative(s), is enough for Bauchi State Government to be applauded for the decision to register motorcycle riders in the state.  Suffice to say that every Government have their reasons for decisions taken, but the fact remains that, these class of people are only there because of the service need they provide for.

In Nigeria, Acaba/Okada (motorbike) is associated, (not exhaustive though), with armed robbers, militants, terrorists, kidnappers, bag snatchers, assassins, ritualists, Orthopaedic Hospital and Mortuary service providers  marketers/promoters.

Why is it so? Amongst reasons are:-

1. Most riders are not trained, they learn on the trade.

2. Poverty, it is a very fast way of getting little change to keep body, soul and family together.

3. Joblessness, some riders are graduates with Diplomas, Degrees.  There was a case of a Masters Degree graduate in Abuja, before the El-Rufai ban on riders.

4. Lack of sufficient affordable transport, they act as bridges/gap fillers

5. Lack of accessible roads, they are able to reach un-motorable nukes, corners and crannies.

6. High Traffic Jams / Go slows, they have ability to manoeuvre in-between vehicles reducing the time wastages due to traffic challenges.

7. It is fun and airy, having the breeze blow on your face and skin.

The list can go on and on.   Unfortunately, it has become the most risky form of transportation.

In Bauchi, where people blatantly refused to wear crash helmets and seat belts, any measure to increase the safety of the commuters and citizenry is a noble deed.  Yes the riders are full of complaints, but it is necessary and of more benefit to them if properly executed.  Everyday you will meet a handful of riders, who do not even know the roads, they depend on you to show them, they keep telling you, if care to ask, that they are from neighbouring states.  So anybody from anywhere, (Militant, terrorist, robbers), can carry a motorbike and commercially work/carry out a negative activity, disappear and leave the true service providers to carry the brunt of the crime committed.  So registration is truly needful.

What will we need to do to make the registration, more meaningful and of benefit to the riders and their passengers?

a. Riders Test and Certification – Mental, Physical, Medical, Eye tests and Knowledge of the terrain (Locality)

b. Road Worthiness of Vehicle, not only license plate

c. Basic First Aid Training

d. Security Back ground check

e. Separation of the town into different areas with responsible coordinating heads, reporting to their town/city or state coordinators.

f. Usage of Reflective readable numbers on bikes (Petrol Tanks), showcasing Bike Commercial registration number.

g. Usage of Reflective Readable Riders Registration Number on Aprons (front and Back).  The riders are not necessarily the owners of the Bikes.  Their registration entitles them to have license as a commercial rider.

h. The Uniform / Apron should be non-transferable, as in the case of license/ID card.

i. Ownership change of Commercial vehicles, should be documented with the necessary authorities, before it is enforced, this will reduce the snatching of bikes.

j. Black listed riders, should have their Apron/Uniform seized for the duration of the black listing.

k. Remove multi taxation – form a one channel ticketing/taxation, Local Government & State Inland Revenue people should have a weekly/monthly scheme.

l. Create a weekly/monthly fora for training, retraining, networking and feedback.

m. Have a 3 digit toll free line for Passenger Complaint, emergency or eventuality report.

n. Institute/Support a compulsory basic Health Insurance through National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to cover the rider and his passenger.

o. Create a benefit/reward system where riders through their association/cooperative can finance bike purchase or other projects to increase their channels of revenue generation.

Knowing that Nigeria is not starved of ideas, it is the execution and maintenance that suffers, I rest my case, with a prayer, that the Government will get credible agencies/people to do the needful.  If well implemented, the riders will be presenting themselves for registration and payments of dues, as they know what they are getting from it and later work on making it sustainable and theirs.

May God bless the people of Nigeria.

 

 

 

The Zamfara State killing field – by Olusegun Adeniyi

The Zamfara State killing field – by Olusegun Adeniyi

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Nigeria is currently engulfed in a major crisis of intergroup relations that is rooted in the politics of economic survival but which is often easily exploited by the elite. 

The latest theatre of such madness is in the Northwest state of Zamfara where towns and villages are attacked, almost on a daily basis, by armed bandits while the vigilante groups brought in by the helpless communities to help restore order are either being exterminated or are themselves engaging in extra judicial killings. 

With villages being deserted and a growing resort to self-help in the face of what looks like organized crime, there are serious threats to our national economy and security that many Nigerians are not paying adequate attention to.

The violence in Zamfara State is particularly difficult for “outsiders” to understand, especially when the people many of us had always assumed to be one and the same are now killing one another. 

That perhaps explains why most of the reportage of the orgy of bloodletting, essentially between the Hausa and Fulani peoples of Zamfara State, is by the foreign media. 

But the more I probe into the bloody crisis, the more it reveals the complexities of our country and how simplistic some of the assumptions that drive the political agitations in Abuja are.

In a series of attacks that started in 2011 before it exploded in the last one year, no fewer than 48 people were recently killed in one single attack after the marauders entered a village called Kizara before dawn, riding on motorbikes. 

“There was an attack by armed bandits on Kizara village where 48 residents were killed in apparent targeted killings by cattle rustlers that have been terrorising the state for some time now,” said Alhaji Ibrahim Birnin-Magajia, a Zamfara State government official who spoke to AFP. 

An eye witness confirmed that the murderers “later moved house to house, telling residents that they were looking for members of local vigilante (groups) whom they said had been disturbing them.”

To compound the problem is the total neglect by the Zamfara state government to build basic transport and communication infrastructure in the conflict areas; a situation that has made law enforcement and maintenance of security extremely difficult. 

As a result, the area has virtually become a haven for all manner of hoodlums with the attendant rise in crime rates, characterized by frequent armed robberies, mostly targeted at local wealthy Hausa traders and cattle rustling for which Fulani herders are primary targets.

I understand that the violence actually started late in 2011 in Lingyado village of Dansadau District but it was in 2012 that the situation went out of control when 52 persons, mostly Vigilantes mobilized to protect the community, were killed, assassination style, in Zurmi, sending fears to many of the residents who had to flee with their families and cattle. 

In 2014, specifically on 7th April, 112 victims of one of such attacks in Yar Galadima village, Maru Local Government, were buried. 

The state governor, Abdulaziz Yari, who led a delegation to the burial rites promised that the culprits would be apprehended and brought to justice but those were empty words.

According to the residents who claimed more than 200 people were actually killed in that attack, the attackers came on motorcycles at midday, during a meeting of people from the village and other surrounding communities to plot strategies on how to curb the incessant attacks. 

“They came on motorcycles and opened fire on the people who were gathered at the venue of the meeting, killing many instantly,” a resident, Mohammad Yargaladima, told Channels Television.

I have in the last week spoken to top politicians and civil servants (retired and serving) in Zamfara, Sokoto and Kebbi States and what they tell me about the violence sounds like tales out of horror movies. 

The bandits in Zamfara operate in such a brazen manner that they now send letters ahead to targeted communities to expect them, with instructions that their would-be-victims keep large sums of money at home. 

They would state the amount they were coming to collect from each household and woe betides those who are “stupid” enough to default when the bandits visit. 

These brutal assassins are reputed for killing husbands in the presence of his wife and sometimes they wipe out entire families.

In kizara village of Tsafe Local Government, the military troops stationed there was recently withdrawn because of lack of feeding allowance and two days after, the bandits attacked, killing more than 50 people. 

Such is the nature of criminality that it would seem the security agencies have been overwhelmed. 

For instance, while the military operation is now primarily focused on Dansadau-Mgani axis in Maru local government, the killings in Zurmi-Birnin Magaji-Shinkafi areas have also heightened in recent weeks.

What compounds the problem now is that it has extended to neighbouring states. 

On 10th August this year, while receiving the newly promoted AIG Zone 10 in Sokoto, Governor Aminu Tambuwal raised alarm over the influx of bandits from Zamfara into his state. 

He said the people inhabiting local governments in Sokoto that neighbour Zamfara now have their cattle rustle every day. But what is the way out?

The Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria-based Centre for Democratic Development Research and Training (CEDDERT) in collaboration with some development partners recently held a seminar on the farmer/pastoralist conflicts ravaging communities across Kaduna, Katsina and Zamfara States. 

In his paper at the seminar, the Executive Director of CEDDERT, Dr. Abubakar Siddique Mohammed, popularly called ASM, attributed the recent killings to the ill-advised decision of the Zamfara government to clear the large forest and cattle grazing reserves in a section of the state after which the same plots of land were allocated to senior government officials and politicians.

However, my investigations reveal that this most egregious looting of public resources, by way of converting a Forest Reserve to farmlands and sharing the plots among cronies, started with the former Governor (now Senator) Ahmad Sani Yerima. 

The policy has resulted in the dislocation of thousands of Fulani hamlets between Dansadau area and Maradun – Zurmi axes. 

These were said to be communities that had been in existence for over 500 years. 

The dislocation of these Fulani herders and their livestock was believed to have sparked spontaneous mass movements of human beings and cattle into other neighbouring communities and states in the central and southern zones of the country with the attendant consequence in conflicts with farmers being ignited along their flight paths.

While I intend to dig more on this crisis that has serious national security implications, there is no doubt that the failure of the Zamfara state government to take necessary measures has encouraged various local communities to resort to self-help, thus exacerbating the problem. 

Parallel vigilante groups known as “Yan Banga” and “Yan Sa Kai” have emerged in several villages within the state with their members usurping the role of law enforcement agencies. 

In recent weeks, members of these two vigilante groups have assumed the sole responsibility of defining, identifying and arresting alleged criminals and executing them without recourse to law courts and other constituted authorities.

Incidentally, on 14th July this year President Muhammadu Buhari personally attended the launching of a military offensive code-named “Operation Harbin Kunama” in Dansadau forest to battle the cow rustlers. 

Instructively, he wore a military fatigue on that occasion perhaps to send a message but that does not seem to have moved the bandits one bit. 

As recently as the Sallah day last week, several communities witnessed fresh deadly outbreak of hostilities between the two warring groups–Hausa and Fulani–leading to the death of unspecified number of people in the Dan Gulbi and Magami areas of Dansadau-Maru local governments.

While we must prevent a situation in which the conflict escalates into a more sinister conflagration that may, like the Boko Haram menace, overwhelm the Northwest zone of the country, the crisis is also a reflection of the failure of both the traditional and political authorities in Zamfara. 

On the political front, almost everybody from Zamfara State that I have spoken with describe Mr. Abdulaziz Abubakar Yari as an absentee governor who hardly spends up to one week within a month in Zamfara. 

Incidentally, the governor had been away to Saudi Arabia for several days while the killings continued only to return at the weekend to join President Buhari’s team to the United Nations General Assembly in New York. 

I will enjoin the governor to stay more at home to deal with the challenge facing his people.

However, beyond the government, the traditional authority in Zamfara State should also brace up because there is so much that they can do. 

In a February 2013 piece titled “The Fulani-Farmers Conflicts in Nasarawa State: The Ecology Population and Politics”, Murtala Adogi Mohammed, after a brilliant analysis of what he described as a “Natural Resources Conflict” recommended the “Yauri Model” which may be worth examining by the authorities in Zamfara State.

According to Mohammed, upon his installation, the Emir of Yauri in Kebbi State, Dr. Muhammad Zayyanu Abdullahi, helped to establish many professional and tribal associations which were then encouraged to elect their chairpersons. 

“The different chairs elected one representative as member to the Emirate Council. 

“A conflict resolution mechanism was set up at three levels: Low level committee, comprising of village head, Fulani and farmer leaders. 

“They can resolve the issue at their level, mostly by mediation and payment of compensation; Middle level committee, comprising District Head, Sarkin Fulani and branch chair of the Farmers Association. 

“Very few issues pass this level without being resolved.

“Even if the issue is with the police or court, the committee can achieve an out-of-court settlement.”

If and when these mechanisms fail, according to Mohammed, the matter would then go to the “High level committee, comprising His Royal Highness the Emir of Yauri, the Galadima and other members of the Emirate Council. 

“The verdict here is final and the conflicting parties must adhere to it. Since the establishment of this mechanism, farmers, fisher folk and pastoralists have been living peacefully with one another. 

“The committees are multi-purpose and it resolves all forms of conflict, not just farmer-herder issues.”

Although it may appear to be a crisis localized within a few local government areas in Zamfara State, the killings and displacement of innocent villagers now abandoned to their fate not only have serious security implications, they are a scar on our collective conscience as a nation.

A Conscious Life

I was in Lagos yesterday for the public presentation of ‘A Conscious Life’ written by Mrs Funmi Oyetunji, a chartered accountant and investment banker, at an impressive ceremony chaired by the Emir of Kano, HRH Muhammadu Sanusi II. 

My review of the book is published on my web portal, olusegunadeniyi.com, where new materials have been uploaded. 

Meanwhile, there is also a notice on the web portal about the 2016 edition of the Pastor Poju Oyemade-inspired ‘Platform Nigeria’ coming up, as usual, on 1st October.

The Verdict by Olusegun Adeniyi, Email: olusegun.adeniyi@thisdaylive.com

The Zamfara State killing field – by Olusegun Adeniyi

The Zamfara State killing field – by Olusegun Adeniyi

clip_image001

Nigeria is currently engulfed in a major crisis of intergroup relations that is rooted in the politics of economic survival but which is often easily exploited by the elite. 

The latest theatre of such madness is in the Northwest state of Zamfara where towns and villages are attacked, almost on a daily basis, by armed bandits while the vigilante groups brought in by the helpless communities to help restore order are either being exterminated or are themselves engaging in extra judicial killings. 

With villages being deserted and a growing resort to self-help in the face of what looks like organized crime, there are serious threats to our national economy and security that many Nigerians are not paying adequate attention to.

The violence in Zamfara State is particularly difficult for “outsiders” to understand, especially when the people many of us had always assumed to be one and the same are now killing one another. 

That perhaps explains why most of the reportage of the orgy of bloodletting, essentially between the Hausa and Fulani peoples of Zamfara State, is by the foreign media. 

But the more I probe into the bloody crisis, the more it reveals the complexities of our country and how simplistic some of the assumptions that drive the political agitations in Abuja are.

In a series of attacks that started in 2011 before it exploded in the last one year, no fewer than 48 people were recently killed in one single attack after the marauders entered a village called Kizara before dawn, riding on motorbikes. 

“There was an attack by armed bandits on Kizara village where 48 residents were killed in apparent targeted killings by cattle rustlers that have been terrorising the state for some time now,” said Alhaji Ibrahim Birnin-Magajia, a Zamfara State government official who spoke to AFP. 

An eye witness confirmed that the murderers “later moved house to house, telling residents that they were looking for members of local vigilante (groups) whom they said had been disturbing them.”

To compound the problem is the total neglect by the Zamfara state government to build basic transport and communication infrastructure in the conflict areas; a situation that has made law enforcement and maintenance of security extremely difficult. 

As a result, the area has virtually become a haven for all manner of hoodlums with the attendant rise in crime rates, characterized by frequent armed robberies, mostly targeted at local wealthy Hausa traders and cattle rustling for which Fulani herders are primary targets.

I understand that the violence actually started late in 2011 in Lingyado village of Dansadau District but it was in 2012 that the situation went out of control when 52 persons, mostly Vigilantes mobilized to protect the community, were killed, assassination style, in Zurmi, sending fears to many of the residents who had to flee with their families and cattle. 

In 2014, specifically on 7th April, 112 victims of one of such attacks in Yar Galadima village, Maru Local Government, were buried. 

The state governor, Abdulaziz Yari, who led a delegation to the burial rites promised that the culprits would be apprehended and brought to justice but those were empty words.

According to the residents who claimed more than 200 people were actually killed in that attack, the attackers came on motorcycles at midday, during a meeting of people from the village and other surrounding communities to plot strategies on how to curb the incessant attacks. 

“They came on motorcycles and opened fire on the people who were gathered at the venue of the meeting, killing many instantly,” a resident, Mohammad Yargaladima, told Channels Television.

I have in the last week spoken to top politicians and civil servants (retired and serving) in Zamfara, Sokoto and Kebbi States and what they tell me about the violence sounds like tales out of horror movies. 

The bandits in Zamfara operate in such a brazen manner that they now send letters ahead to targeted communities to expect them, with instructions that their would-be-victims keep large sums of money at home. 

They would state the amount they were coming to collect from each household and woe betides those who are “stupid” enough to default when the bandits visit. 

These brutal assassins are reputed for killing husbands in the presence of his wife and sometimes they wipe out entire families.

In kizara village of Tsafe Local Government, the military troops stationed there was recently withdrawn because of lack of feeding allowance and two days after, the bandits attacked, killing more than 50 people. 

Such is the nature of criminality that it would seem the security agencies have been overwhelmed. 

For instance, while the military operation is now primarily focused on Dansadau-Mgani axis in Maru local government, the killings in Zurmi-Birnin Magaji-Shinkafi areas have also heightened in recent weeks.

What compounds the problem now is that it has extended to neighbouring states. 

On 10th August this year, while receiving the newly promoted AIG Zone 10 in Sokoto, Governor Aminu Tambuwal raised alarm over the influx of bandits from Zamfara into his state. 

He said the people inhabiting local governments in Sokoto that neighbour Zamfara now have their cattle rustle every day. But what is the way out?

The Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria-based Centre for Democratic Development Research and Training (CEDDERT) in collaboration with some development partners recently held a seminar on the farmer/pastoralist conflicts ravaging communities across Kaduna, Katsina and Zamfara States. 

In his paper at the seminar, the Executive Director of CEDDERT, Dr. Abubakar Siddique Mohammed, popularly called ASM, attributed the recent killings to the ill-advised decision of the Zamfara government to clear the large forest and cattle grazing reserves in a section of the state after which the same plots of land were allocated to senior government officials and politicians.

However, my investigations reveal that this most egregious looting of public resources, by way of converting a Forest Reserve to farmlands and sharing the plots among cronies, started with the former Governor (now Senator) Ahmad Sani Yerima. 

The policy has resulted in the dislocation of thousands of Fulani hamlets between Dansadau area and Maradun – Zurmi axes. 

These were said to be communities that had been in existence for over 500 years. 

The dislocation of these Fulani herders and their livestock was believed to have sparked spontaneous mass movements of human beings and cattle into other neighbouring communities and states in the central and southern zones of the country with the attendant consequence in conflicts with farmers being ignited along their flight paths.

While I intend to dig more on this crisis that has serious national security implications, there is no doubt that the failure of the Zamfara state government to take necessary measures has encouraged various local communities to resort to self-help, thus exacerbating the problem. 

Parallel vigilante groups known as “Yan Banga” and “Yan Sa Kai” have emerged in several villages within the state with their members usurping the role of law enforcement agencies. 

In recent weeks, members of these two vigilante groups have assumed the sole responsibility of defining, identifying and arresting alleged criminals and executing them without recourse to law courts and other constituted authorities.

Incidentally, on 14th July this year President Muhammadu Buhari personally attended the launching of a military offensive code-named “Operation Harbin Kunama” in Dansadau forest to battle the cow rustlers. 

Instructively, he wore a military fatigue on that occasion perhaps to send a message but that does not seem to have moved the bandits one bit. 

As recently as the Sallah day last week, several communities witnessed fresh deadly outbreak of hostilities between the two warring groups–Hausa and Fulani–leading to the death of unspecified number of people in the Dan Gulbi and Magami areas of Dansadau-Maru local governments.

While we must prevent a situation in which the conflict escalates into a more sinister conflagration that may, like the Boko Haram menace, overwhelm the Northwest zone of the country, the crisis is also a reflection of the failure of both the traditional and political authorities in Zamfara. 

On the political front, almost everybody from Zamfara State that I have spoken with describe Mr. Abdulaziz Abubakar Yari as an absentee governor who hardly spends up to one week within a month in Zamfara. 

Incidentally, the governor had been away to Saudi Arabia for several days while the killings continued only to return at the weekend to join President Buhari’s team to the United Nations General Assembly in New York. 

I will enjoin the governor to stay more at home to deal with the challenge facing his people.

However, beyond the government, the traditional authority in Zamfara State should also brace up because there is so much that they can do. 

In a February 2013 piece titled “The Fulani-Farmers Conflicts in Nasarawa State: The Ecology Population and Politics”, Murtala Adogi Mohammed, after a brilliant analysis of what he described as a “Natural Resources Conflict” recommended the “Yauri Model” which may be worth examining by the authorities in Zamfara State.

According to Mohammed, upon his installation, the Emir of Yauri in Kebbi State, Dr. Muhammad Zayyanu Abdullahi, helped to establish many professional and tribal associations which were then encouraged to elect their chairpersons. 

“The different chairs elected one representative as member to the Emirate Council. 

“A conflict resolution mechanism was set up at three levels: Low level committee, comprising of village head, Fulani and farmer leaders. 

“They can resolve the issue at their level, mostly by mediation and payment of compensation; Middle level committee, comprising District Head, Sarkin Fulani and branch chair of the Farmers Association. 

“Very few issues pass this level without being resolved.

“Even if the issue is with the police or court, the committee can achieve an out-of-court settlement.”

If and when these mechanisms fail, according to Mohammed, the matter would then go to the “High level committee, comprising His Royal Highness the Emir of Yauri, the Galadima and other members of the Emirate Council. 

“The verdict here is final and the conflicting parties must adhere to it. Since the establishment of this mechanism, farmers, fisher folk and pastoralists have been living peacefully with one another. 

“The committees are multi-purpose and it resolves all forms of conflict, not just farmer-herder issues.”

Although it may appear to be a crisis localized within a few local government areas in Zamfara State, the killings and displacement of innocent villagers now abandoned to their fate not only have serious security implications, they are a scar on our collective conscience as a nation.

A Conscious Life

I was in Lagos yesterday for the public presentation of ‘A Conscious Life’ written by Mrs Funmi Oyetunji, a chartered accountant and investment banker, at an impressive ceremony chaired by the Emir of Kano, HRH Muhammadu Sanusi II. 

My review of the book is published on my web portal, olusegunadeniyi.com, where new materials have been uploaded. 

Meanwhile, there is also a notice on the web portal about the 2016 edition of the Pastor Poju Oyemade-inspired ‘Platform Nigeria’ coming up, as usual, on 1st October.

The Verdict by Olusegun Adeniyi, Email: olusegun.adeniyi@thisdaylive.com

Federal Character And Its Discontents – By Reuben Abati

reuben-abati

reuben-abati

There has been so much concern about how the Federal Character principle has since its introduction in 1979, promoted mediocrity within the public service, and retarded national growth and progress. Introduced after the civil war to promote national integration, and to address the fears of sections of the country which felt marginalized, the Federal Character principle was meant to ensure that public service appointments reflect the country’s diversity: religious, ethnic, geographical and linguistic, and by extension, that resource allocation reflects the fact that this is a federal system and not a clan.

It is thus an ethnic balancing mechanism. The assumption is that if the public service is truly representative, this will promote a sense of national loyalty and inclusion. Sections 14 (3-4) and Third Schedule, Part 1(c) of the Constitution spell out the principle in clear terms and in 1996, a Federal Character Commission was established to ensure compliance.  But today, the general impression is that Federal Character as applied has resulted in an erosion of merit, and that the observed inefficiency in the state bureaucracy is traceable to it, and in other areas of national life, it has not necessarily brought better spread of opportunities.  The oft-recommended solution as was again reportedly argued at a recent colloquium in Lagos, in honour of Professor Anya Anya, is to abolish the Federal Character principle and replace it with a merit-based system.

Merit is important, no doubt; indeed, this was a key outcome of the Vision 20:2020 process. The quality of human resource in any organization determines the quality of inputs and outputs. That is why organizations look for the best and the brightest. And if the public service in Nigeria can be taken as an organization, the kind of people who run, lead and manage it have not necessarily been the best and the brightest that the country should have. But I am tempted to argue that the problem is not the Federal Character principle or quota system.

In fact, in many parts of the world today, diversity and inclusiveness are actively encouraged in recruitments and other processes. In a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural country such as ours, the Federal Character principle can help promote our diversity and strengthen otherwise marginalized, less populous groups such as the minorities. The 50 wise men in the 1978 Constitution Drafting Committee who proposed the principle were right in seeking to make more Nigerians have a sense of belonging.  In applying the quota system however, we have over the years, abused and ignored best practices.

Where the problem lies is when people hide under the Federal Character principle to lower standards so that their kinsmen can have opportunities, or when in the name of Federal Character, needless cost is incurred and room is created for the incompetent to rise. That is not how the principle is applied in other parts of the world. There must be certain benchmarks, below which a responsible system should not descend. The story is often told about how the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board and some universities, for example, have different cut off points for students from different parts of the country. It is this kind of story, if it is true, that raises questions about how the Federal Character principle is an assault on merit. If the required score for any prospective student of Medicine is 290, then all applicants must score 290 in the qualifying examination before they can gain admission.

Equal opportunity must be given and standards must be the same.  A quota principle may then be applied in filling the available slots to ensure diversity.  In the public service also, it is often said that certain less qualified persons are often promoted beyond their level of competence. That is unacceptable. The Nigerian Constitution says for example that there must be a reflection of Federal Character in the appointment of Ministers, and because of that we have ended up with a bloated Federal Executive Council.  These are some of the ways in which the quota system has generated so much discontent.  There is even a tendency among certain Nigerians to look down on people from other parts of the country as products of quota, whereas it has not been proven that any Nigerian group has a monopoly of competent and intelligent people.

What we need to insist on is not an abolition of a deliberate attempt to ensure diversity and inclusiveness, but that any such system in place must not negate merit and standards. Before 1979, there were serious issues about marginalization and exclusion in the Nigerian public space. There was tension between majority and minority groups over access to power and opportunities. The military made everything more complex due to a Northernization principle that defied the idea of Federalism. It is ironic, however, that today more Nigerians feel more marginalized than was the case before 1979 and 1999. If there was no Federal Character law, the situation could even have been worse. Poorly implemented as it may have been, it is still a major restraining force against the tendency of the average Nigerian leader to reduce everything to his or her own narrow interest.  It is perhaps better to have a system where people in authority pretend to be nationalistic, than to have a system where nepotism and favoritism predominate.

The big problem is that we are not yet a nation. We are not yet Nigerians in the sense in  which a country is propelled by love and patriotism.  We are a country of villagers, of ethnic champions, locked in a primordial mode, largely incapable of thinking as Nigerians, an imperfect union. When people are in positions of authority, they do not think of the best for the system, but how they can use that position to promote ethnic and sectarian interests. The people outside the system also expect to be patronized by their kinsman in position and power. There is a “Na-my-brother-dey-there” mentality that has made nepotism the driving force of the public service system, making the problem and the associated guilt collective.

I recall a high-ranking public official boasting that he was able to get over 200 people from his state into the public service! These would be qualified persons of course, but they had the opportunity only because their brother was within the system, and if every influential person loads the system with their kinsmen, certainly better qualified or equally qualified persons  who do not know anybody will have no access. When there are vacancies in certain government departments, the first group that would most likely know would be the kinsmen of the influential persons in charge. And the people who do this are very shameless about it. No matter how educated, most Nigerians only feel comfortable with people from their parts of the country or those who speak the same language with them. They find it difficult to relate with other Nigerians.

I once attended an event organized under the auspices of the office of a certain big man. It turned out that the keynote speaker was from his ethnic group, the Master of Ceremony, the Chair of the occasion, nearly all the lead paper presenters too, and when we checked, they all came from his state of origin! And yet there is a Federal Character principle in place. If there had been none, the fellow probably would have invited the audience from his village too. It is precisely that kind of attitude that makes a Federal Character principle useful. The event in question was a Federal Government event! But it didn’t matter to the man in charge. All the speakers were knowledgeable by the way, and the Master of Ceremony did a good job. Nobody could question their performance. But certainly there must be people from other parts of the country who could have discharged the responsibility just as well, and if the organizer had been a bit sensitive, he would have ensured some degree of diversity.

It may be difficult to know how offensive nepotism can be until you actually encounter it. It is a fact that people in power and position use that privilege to develop their own village and state as a mater of course.  Their first instinct is to use public funds to set up infrastructure in their own states and villages, before they think of other Nigerians. From the village and the state, they may then think of their region. The contractors are either their friends or agents. This is the case because the average Nigerian sees public service as an opportunity to serve and please his own people, and not Nigerians. I have been in situations where public officials, surrounded by their kinsmen, will suddenly stop a conversation and relapse into their mother tongue, leaving you to start screaming “Speak English, speak English, don’t shut the rest of us out of this conversation”. Most Nigerians see anyone who does not speak their mother tongue as an outsider and when it comes to the distribution of opportunities, they will treat you exactly as an outsider.

Have you not noticed how the pattern of dressing and attitudes in Abuja, the Federal Capital, reflect the changes in the leadership of the country?  When a Yoruba man is in power, the Yoruba are all over the city. When it is the turn of a Northerner, every Northerner stumps the floor of Abuja with greater ease and confidence. If anyone didn’t have Ijaw friends before President Jonathan became President, they had to seek out one and befriend. Our governance process is terribly driven by a certain “It-is-our-turn” mentality, which influences everything else. Even in the states, a Governor is first and foremost, the Governor of his constituency, and he seeks to please that constituency before any other part of the state.  “If I don’t develop my area, another governor from another area will not bring development to my people”.  Such a system as we run where people are not held accountable on the basis of ideas and principles, can only promote division.

Religion is part of the equation. Some people are so unscrupulous, when they head a department, they would insist on surrounding themselves only with their church members or adherents of their faith. The result is an occultic system that stands in the way of performance and efficiency.  I believe that the existence of a Federal Character principle is the only reason why some people still manage to pretend to be Nigerian. It should be retained, if only to keep reminding people that this country cannot be run at the level of a village and that it belongs to over 450 nationalities, but greater emphasis should be placed on merit and standards.

To rise gradually above it all, we must grow an enlightened society. We must develop a sense of Nigerian-ness, build a nation, such that people will be given opportunities, and promoted, not on the basis of affiliations, but their ability and the content of their character.

courtesy – https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/abujaNig/conversations/messages/101672