BY KAZIE UKO
The odds are indeed weighing heavily against the Federal Government over its inability to think through the idea of establishing a Fulani radio station, before announcing to a beleaguered nation that it was embarking on its implementation.
Ordinarily, an idea of a communication medium targeted at specific interest group, community of people or tribe to address issues common to such a group would not have caused anybody to raise an eye brow. But not in today’s Nigeria where almost everything is viewed from the narrow prism of ethnicity, tribe, religion, political affiliation or class.
Why would the Federal Government want to float a radio station to cater specifically for the interest of the Fulani tribe at a time the country is bouncing menacingly towards the precipice, with Fulani herdsmen in the eye of the storm? Just days before the Minister of Education announced to a nation troubled by Fulani herdsmen that the Federal Government had obtained a broadcast license to establish a radio station that will target the fulanis, erstwhile President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, had stirred the hornet’s nest.
Obasanjo in his usual take-no-prisoners frankness had said that the deadly activities of Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen in the country was no longer as a result of lack of education or employment but of a more hideous agenda.
“It is no longer an issue of a lack of education and employment for our youths in Nigeria, which it began as, it is now West African Fulanisation, African Islamisation and global organised crimes of human trafficking, money laundering, drug trafficking, gun trafficking, illegal mining and regime change,” the former president told his audience while delivering a keynote speech, ‘Mobilising Nigeria’s Human and Natural Resources for National Development and Stability’, Saturday, May 18, 2019 at the second session of the seventh Synod of the Anglican Communion, Oleh Diocese, in the Isoko South Local Government Area of Delta State, south south Nigeria.
Even before Obasanjo could leave his audience for another engagement,
the verbal missiles had started flying down south from the northern end. The former president’s comments elicited harsh criticisms from northern leaders such as former Governor of Jigawa State, Malam Sule Lamido; Second Republic lawmaker, Dr Junaid Mohammed; and Second Republic Governor of old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa. There was also the former commissioner of police, Lagos State, Mr. Abubakar Tsav.
While Sule Lamido, a former governor of Jigawa State and known ally of Obasanjo was a little charitable in his criticism, it was not the same with Balarabe Musa, Mohammed Junaid and Abubakar Tsav.
“Please sir, don’t let your disappointment with sitting presidents turn you into a bigot. You must not abandon the national stage. The cracks along the various divides in our national cohesion are already turning into huge gorges,” pleaded Lamido, while picking holes with the venue of a church, a religious ground, for Obasanjo’s criticism.
Alhaji Balarabe Musa, who noted that Obasanjo was well-informed about Boko haram insurgency than any average Nigerian, said: “Obasanjo is being mischievous because he knows about Boko haram more than average Nigerians. There is nothing to show that the insurgent group wants to Islamise Nigeria. Why should he say such thing now? So, he is wrong and a confusionist.”
In like manner, Dr. Junaid Mohammed said: “I have no choice but to condemn his language, the circumstances and the choice of place for such a statement. I believe a person, who was a President should be very cautious about the kind of language to use when addressing vital national issues. What Obasanjo said was a lie. His intention is to set this country on fire. Any time Obasanjo looked for something and he didn’t get it, he used abusive language to reduce what he looked for. He wants to play one section of the country against the other. The people being killed are mainly Muslims in the North and they are people who have nothing to do with the contentious issues in the country.
“Every Nigerian leader should be blamed for the mess we found ourselves in. We must blame in totality, the so-called political class, who have not handled the economy and politics well. They have been very divisive in their ways. But for Obasanjo to say that some people are trying to islamise anyone is wrong. I am one of those, who come from a family that does not go out to convert anyone.
‘’Clearly, Obasanjo is lying and if Obasanjo abuses anyone, I will encourage the person to revenge. I recall that I and the late Dr. Bala Usman had gone to caution him not to get involved with the Sharia thing that was being introduced then. We told him to allow Muslims to handle it, insisting that if he got involved, a new dimension that would not serve the country well would be introduced. We even told the late Bola Ige to caution him against it.”
Expectedly, the Presidency was outraged by Obasanjo’s speech for it may have been perceived as a direct affront on the Buhari regime. And it was Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Presidency’s man Friday and minister of information, that had the unenviable duty to charge on President Obasanjo, accusing him of trying to divide Nigeria in his old age.
In a statement, the minister said it was particularly tragic that a man who fought to keep Nigeria one was the same person seeking to exploit the country’s fault lines to divide it in the twilight of his life. Mohammed said Boko Haram and ISWAP were terrorist organizations, adding that they cared little about ethnicity or religion when perpetrating their senseless killings and destruction.
His words: ‘’Since the Boko Haram crisis, which has been simmering under the watch of Obasanjo, boiled over in 2009, the terrorist organization has killed more Muslims than adherents of any other religion, blown up more mosques than any other houses of worship and is not known to have spared any victim on the basis of their ethnicity.”
However, Obasanjo was not without support in his statement about Boko Haram and militant Fulani herdsmen. In fact, as criticisms descended from up north so support flowed for him from the south and middle Belt. Notable personalities and groups rallied support in defense of the man who was the first to rule the country as a military man and civilian.
Of all the support that has come to Obasanjo one stands out. Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka surprisingly berated the Federal Government for not being able to separate the man they love to hate from the substance of his speech.
Speaking at the United Bank for Africa (UBA) symposium tagged: ‘Africa’s history redefined: Our past, a path to the future’, Soyinka said there was nothing wrong with the former president’s statement that Boko Haram and herdsmen have become a tool for Fulanisation of West Africa and Islamisation of Africa.
“I see that the government is not happy with the statement made by former President Obasanjo. Now, everybody knows me and Obasanjo, and at the same time, I think we should be very careful not to be too dismissive or even abrasive.
‘’Obasanjo was calling for a meeting of stakeholders to tackle some of the very serious aspects of social malaise this country is undergoing. He was talking about kidnapping, talking about youth suicide and stating that it is about time, Nigerians across board, irrespective of ideology, polity, religion, sit down and tackle these issues immediately; and I will suggest that even more immediate.
‘’This country is undergoing a horrendous descent into the abyss spiritually, morally, the whole system. We are watching a huge mass of people descend into a state of brutishness, the like of which we have not experienced in this country,” Soyinka said.
Other notable personalities and groups that have filed behind Chief Olusegun Obasanjo include the National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF), Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Ohaneze, Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Cardinal John Onaiyekan and Femi Fani Kayode.
“We are behind Chief Olusegun Obasanjo one hundred per cent on his comments that Boko Haram insurgency and herdsmen crisis had become an agenda to ‘Fulanise’ West Africa and ‘Islamise’ Africa,” Elder Solomon Asemota, chairman of National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF) said on behalf of his group, which comprises retired professionals from different fields of endeavour, including very senior army generals such as former Defence Minister, Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (rtd).
“Again, I say we support President Obasanjo hundred percent. In fact, I am of the feeling that he made the statement after reading the letter I sent to him on the issue. He understands that the current government is promoting Sharia ideology, which is at variance with democratic norms.
“Anybody who does not understand what we are saying should visit our website and see for him/her self the agenda this government is pursuing. What is baffling though is the fact that two eminent Christian leaders (names withheld) are the ones promoting the Islamic cause. Where are the Muslims?”
He recalled the group’s recent statement, entitled: “Jihad in Nigeria: Burying The Head in Sand,” where it was compelled to defend its earlier release, entitled “Correct Assessment of Situation in Nigeria,” which has generated a great deal of debate among some Nigerian Muslim leaders who have denied the reality of an ongoing Jihad in Nigeria and clarified certain misconceptions in the interest of peace and development of Nigeria.
After reviewing unfolding events across the country, the eminent Christian elders called on Nigerian leaders to tread softly to avoid a pending implosion, insisting that the real problem was that a Jihad had been launched in Nigeria. It also contended that Islamists that have been interfering in the governance of the country, using “Taqiyya” (approved deception) as “stealth/civilisation Jihad,” Boko Haram and herdsmen as violent Jihad, were relentless in their pursuit of eradicating democracy in Nigeria.
It said: “The objective of the Islamists (political Islam) is to supplant the constitution of Nigeria with Sharia ideology as the source of legislation in the nation. The conflict between democracy as national ideology and Sharia as a usurping ideology is responsible for the crisis unfolding in Nigeria. The nation is in the throes of Jihad.”
If anybody had any misgiving about Obasanjo’s speech on Fulanisation of West Africa and Islamisation of Africa, that ought to have dissipated with the announcement by the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, four days after Obasanjo made his speech. Adamu announced that the Federal Government was shopping for funds to establish a Fulani radio station. The station, according to Adamu will broadcast on frequency 720KHz, and will be strictly on Fulani language, Fufulde, spoken and understood mainly by the Fulanis.
The timing of minister Adamu’s announcement was wrong, bearing in mind the subject of his statement. Adamu also portrayed the government of President Buhari as uncaring and insensitive to the fears of the rest of the tribes, that constitute the Federal Republic, majority of whom had been at the mercy of marauding Fulani herdsmen.
The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum stressed the issue of Fulani radio in a statement by its spokesmen Yinka Odumakin (South-West), Prof Chigozie Ogbu (South-East), Senator Bassey Henshaw (South-South) and Dr. Isuwa Dogo (Middle Belt), when they accused the Federal Government of hypocrisy and deception. The forum said it received with rude shock the announcement of plan to set up an AM radio station for herdsmen to broadcast in Fulfude.
Even though minister Adamu said that the station was part of the peace-building efforts of the government to address herders-farmers clashes, the forum believed otherwise. “The announcement came at a time the Federal Government has been acting as the information arm of Boko Haram and herdsmen by using the correct interpretation of the groups’ activities as attempt to ‘Fulanise’ Nigeria.
“We totally reject this insensitive decision of the government on the following fundamental grounds:
“It smacks of hypocrisy and deception for a government that has in the last four years denied responsibility on behalf of the herdsmen for crimes they even owned up to, to now tell us it wants to set up a radio for them to address the same issues.
“Section 55 of the 1999 Constitution recognises English, Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo as languages in which the official business of the National Assembly can be conducted. There was no mention of Fulani, which is not a language most northerners even understand. Will it also set up radio stations for the officially recognised languages and the over 250 languages spoken in different parts of Nigeria?
“We fear seriously that the proposed radio will become a weapon of spreading hate propaganda against other nationalities in Nigeria, given the kid gloves treatment with which the Buhari administration has handled the killings of thousands of Nigerians in the last four years.
“We are aware of the genocide-aiding role Radio Rwanda and RTLM played in inciting ordinary citizens to take part in the massacre of Tutsis and moderate Hutus during the Rwandan genocide. From 1993 to late 1994, RTLM was used by Hutu leaders for spread of an extremist Hutu message and anti-Tusti disinformation by identifying specific targets and areas where they could be found and encouraged the progress of the genocide.
“In 1994, Rwanda Radio began to advance the same message by issuing directives on where to kill Tutsis, congratulating those who had already taken part.
“Using the instrumentality of the Federal Government to set up a radio for herdsmen will throw a knife at the tiniest of the threads still holding Nigeria together. We, therefore, demand that the Federal Government perish the thought of a Fulani radio, sponsored by government, if it cares in any form about the corporate existence of the country.”
The stiff opposition to the Fulani radio project did not just happen. Events of the last four years of the Buhari regime may have unwittingly given rise to it. From the lopsided pattern of appointment of people into political offices to the distribution and execution of infra-structural projects across the country and down to the fight against corruption, Boko Haram insurgency, menace of Fulani herdsmen, banditry, militancy and various other forms of insecurity, it is apparent that this regime has not been totally sensitive to the principles of Federal Character, that have united the country. This regime has shown by its utterances and actions many of the times that even though the President had proclaimed upon swearing in that he belonged to no one and belonged to everyone, there might still be some truth in the cliché, ‘all animals are equal, but some are more equal than the others.’