By Mukhtar Jarmajo
Perhaps, in recent times, there has not been a moment when it is so glaring that the contraption called Nigeria is sharply divided on the fault lines of religion and especially ethnicity than now. In this, all sorts of people are sadly involved; the educated, semi-educated, illiterate, informed, ill-informed, misinformed and the uninformed. A simple survey of opinions on the electronic or the print media and the social media can confirm this. For instance, the Daily Tust Newspaper edition of 16th instant came handy with an opinion written by one Eugene Enahoro, which was captioned: “Governor Mohammed must tender an apology.”
In the discourse, Mr. Enahoro underscored the importance of exercising restraint by public commentators as according to him, “more than anything Nigerians want peace and prosperity and nothing should be said or done which stands in the way of this.” This, he insisted, is especially so “if they hold high political office.” He continued: “Its often been asserted that Nigeria is blessed with every natural resource necessary for peace and prosperity except good leadership! The truism of this statement is becoming more apparent every day as the nation drifts towards being a failed state.”
And in a manner as to delve into the crux of the discourse, Enahoro lamented how bad governance and wealth accumulation have continuously caused the break of law and order in the polity culminating in citizens “taking matters into their own hands.” And to arrive home, he brought up the issue concerning the Fulani herdsmen that has caused lots of debates amidst tension in the public space as one of such instances when citizens took matters into their own hands.
Enahoro went on to say that the “recent public spat between governors Ortom of Benue and Mohammed of Bauchi over the issue of herders bearing arms only served to highlight the lack of a workable national policy to address the issues surrounding the nature of the nations inappropriately structured cattle rearing business.” Now, all the while the writer appeared to be objective and therefore out to pursue a just cause. Alas! He derailed and appeared in a different color when he eventually became selective in narrating how the “public spat between governors Ortom and Mohammed of Bauchi” transpired.
More so, in spite refusing to tell Ortom’s words and actions that were in contravention to the provisions of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, the writer consciously and deliberately refused to report the full speech of Governor Mohammed. He therefore, trimmed it to suit his intention to paint the presidency black and present the Bauchi state governor as ethnocentric.
According to Enahoro, the governor of Benue state has “complained severally that whenever his citizens are slaughtered in their homes not a whimper is heard from the federal government, but as soon as he takes action to reduce the death toll by giving the herders quit notice, then the Presidency itself springs to their defence.” He then concluded that this assertion was confirmed by Bala Mohammed when he publicly backed the Fulanis for carrying “AK47 assault weapons.”
But Bala Mohammed didn’t back anyone carrying AK47 or any other arms for that matter. Rather, he told the world how, as leaders, governors of Ondo and that of Benue have failed to manage the farmer/herdsmen crisis in their respective states. He faulted their profiling of the entire Fulani ethnic group as criminals, because as he observed, “in every tribe, there are criminals.” By way citing an example the governor also said that: “If Cyber Crime is practised by one tribe, you don’t criminalise all the tribe that they are criminals.” In effect therefore, criminals are supposed to be identified as criminals and not by their ethnic identities.
More so, Bala Mohammed who spoke at the closing ceremony of the 2021 Press Week of the Correspondents’ Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Bauchi state Council on the 11th instant, at the Command Guest House in Bauchi, was unambiguous on the issue of the herdsman carrying AK47, which Mr. Enahoro had so much interest in. The governor first painted a picture of the situation the herdsmen are in today. He observed that they are being attacked by cattle rustlers who kill them and walk away with their cattles. And because government has failed to protect them, the herdsmen resort to self-help.
His words: “Because the Fulani man is practicing the tradition of pastoralism, he has been exposed to the vagaries of the forest, cattle rustlers who carry guns, kill him and take away his commonwealth, which is the cows. He has no option than to carry AK47 because the society and the government are not protecting him, what is his fault; it’s the fault of the government and the people.” These were the words Mr. Enahoro interpreted as an attempt to justify the herdsman’s romance with arms. And it beats even the wildest imagination that many media organizations especially of the western corridor deliberately tried to give the Bauchi state governor a bad name.
But they all forgot that Bala Muhammed also cautioned that we “should be very sensitive, and you as journalists, you must exercise restrain; you must decipher from wrongs and rights, something that is so bad, that can divide us, that can threaten our unity, you don’t do it.” Thus, it baffles that for saying this, Mr. Enahoro demanded that Mohammed should tender an apology even though it is not known yet where one has to apologize for merely saying the truth and appealing for caution.
Jarmajo can be reached on Twitter at @mukhtarjarmajo