That was why when he sang in his popular track titled “Black Times” that: “Time don come my people. Are you ready to rise to be free?” Seun Kuti was rightly, accurately and timely summarizing the only possible...
Pathetically, the Nigerian state has been thrown into a wretched state of grief, sorrow, tears and blood. The week that began on the 24th of June, 2018, came with countless numbers of tanks loaded with sadness and mourning and splashed on Nigerian soil and Nigerian people. It was on its Tuesday that about two hundred and thirteen nigerians—including women and children—were ruthlessly butchered by a deadly killer squad codenamed “Fulani Herdsmen”. These macabre lovers of sour smell of blood and gory sights of innocent dead bodies did not only slaughtered their defenseless victims—they also set fires on their houses and hard earned properties, reducing them to ashes.
While Nigeria and the Nigerian people were still staggering with so much excruciation to recover from that heartrending mammoth loss, two days later, another scourge struck the Nigerian soil—a fuel truck exploded on the Otedola bridge, killing over hundred Nigerians and burning down over fifty-four vehicles. Besides the fact that both unpleasant episodes had sorrow, tears, blood, and death in common, there is another important similarity that seems to be missing in the current discussion in public space; they are disasters orchestrated by the Nigerian ruling class. What do I mean?
First (speaking of the herdsmen massacre) it is over seven hundred and fifty persons that have been recorded to have either been murdered, maimed or displaced—since the nascence of the launched assaults by these neo—facists’ scoundrels. Yet, the Federal Government had dealt and has continued to deal with a sacred matter of national terror, tension, and trepidation with utter flippancy. None of these transgressors of human lives, societal peace and national development has been arrested and charged with the heinous crimes of murder, arson and mayhem. Government at both the federal and state levels has continue to massage the shoulders of homicides with soothing balm of appeasement, rather than dismantling the shoulders with iron rod of reproach.
It is already a public knowledge that the “Fulani Herdsmen” is a notorious gang terrorizing the existence of the Nigerian citizens, and, as such, deserves to be dealt with, with the very measurement of crudity only worthy of ruthless agents of terrorism. But the number one citizen whose statutory obligation it is to exercise such measure, selfishly contradicts the truth of the public. To president Muhammodu Buhari, the “Fulani Herdsmen” are merely hot-tempered citizens whose scraps occasionally degenerate into “communal clashes”!
There are also instances where the identity of these macabre brutes are denied all in an effort to conceal them off prosecution. Recall how El Rufai, governor of Kaduna state, stated that his peace committee successfully traced the herdsmen to locations outside Nigerian borders. But as if to make a ridicule of his own very being, he however contradicted himself when he further stated that he then made payments to them from state coffers to appease them not to carry out another reprisal attack against Nigerians.
Why is the Federal Government unwilling to wake up to what the situation portends for the country? Why are these bloodbath enthusiasts allowed to kill and destroy whole villages with impunity? These and many more are the questions that continue to regurgitate the mouths of vulnerable Nigerian people.
However, there is no other way to understand the terrorism of this neo-facist gang, its victory, and most particularly, the complacency of the Nigerian government, except to answer one important question: “who are the owners of the cattle?” The herdsmen are only hired by the cattle owners to ensure that the cattle are fed and defended against rustling and other dangers. Who then are the owners of the cattle? Although, it appears simple and perhaps inconsequential, this question is like a pregnancy carrying many more pregnancies. The answering of this question is a pointer to the answering of many more important questions like: how did they acquire the AK-47 assault rifles with which they escort cows through highways, villages and farmlands? Why has the government, besides its usual paper condemnation, not taken any decisive and deterrent action against the wanton butchery and unconscionable destruction precipitated by these brutes against innocent Nigerians?
That the vast majority of the Fulani elite each owns hundreds or thousands of heads of cattle is an incontestable truth. We can not have quickly forgotten the confession of President Muhammadu Buhari himself, during his assets declaration in 2015 that he owned “farms, an orchard, and a ranch… 270 heads of cattle, 25 sheep, five horses, a variety of birds and a number of economic trees” (Vanguard, September 3, 2015).
Besides, the ownership of cattle goes well beyond the Fulani. Many Northern politicians of various ethnicities, especially governors, senators, and members of the House of Representatives as well as their predecessors in office, also own cattle. Military and ex-military officers from the North can not be excluded from this list. To however expect government to willingly institute a prosecution against it own self is like expecting Lockheed Martin, US largest manufacturer of arms, to institute an action to put an end to the terrorist activities going on throughout the globe!
Another point of notice is that the herdsmen massacre is an organized conspiracy of the cattle owners (ruling class) to coarse the nation to concede to their demand for colonies throughout the federation. Rather than instituting arrests and prosecutions, the ruling class are talking about actualizing a gazing bill—a bill that presupposes taking people's land and giving it to herdsmen to appease them of their bloodbath.
How else could the condition of the Nigerian people be more terrible, if those entrusted with the statutory obligation to initiate sanctions to put an end to all of these nightmares are the dramatist personae of the very nightmares? What else then is to compel the government to first, declare the herdsmen a terrorist group, and then the terrorists and their sponsors (cattle owners) be unconditionally made to face the scorching heat of justice, if not the rising up of the Nigerian people?
That said, let us turn to the tragic inferno that took place at the Otedola bridge.
The Public Relations Officer of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Mr. Bisi Kazeem, was reported to have attributed the cause of the explosion to break failure from laden fuel tanker. “Why should the brake of any vehicle fail especially a dangerous tanker full of inflammable petrol? Don't they do vehicles mandatory MOT and inspection in Nigeria?” These were the first questions I read from a Nigerian in diaspora. Those who often travel through Nigerian roads would by now have been used to the sights of those heavy trucks and articulated vehicles and also can testify to the fact that most of these vehicles are in dilapidating state. Why are they on the roads in the very first place?
An important point that Nigerians should begin to consider is that there would have been no need for that inferno, carnage and destruction—or perhaps, we may not have recorded so heavy a loss if the New Lagos Traffic Law signed in 2012 by Mr. Babatunde Fashola, immediate past governor of Lagos state, did not make an exclusion of petrol tankers from the vehicles of restricted movements? Section 2 of the said law states that: “Save as may be prescribed by the Commissioner by Regulation, no trailer other than petrol tankers and long vehicles used in conveying passengers, shall enter into or travel within the metropolis of Lagos between the hours of 6.00am – 9.00pm,”
But bearing in mind that of all articulated vehicles petrol tankers are more threatening to lives and properties and should not be tolerated on regular roads, why then did the Lagos State government made an exemption of that category of articulated vehicle from the restriction? The answer to these questions are contained in a question that has a slight rephrase from the question of cattle ownership. “who are the owners of the petrol tankers?”
Femi Otedola, Mike Adenuga, Adewale Tinubu, Patrick Ifeayin Ubah et cetera. These are a mafia of petrol mongers—government cronies and sycophants within the downstream sector whom the Lagos state government was trying to protect by exempting them in the traffic Law at the very detriment of innocent Nigerian citizens. By that singular exemption, the Lagos state government protected their supposed loss which would have come about from the time limitation. The same way the Fulani elites, northern house of representatives, senators, ex-military officers are being protected while the notorious Fulani cult continues to chop off innocent heads, ripple out intestines and set ablaze hard earn properties. Is the Nigerian law a net big enough to catch spiders, ants, and squirrels, but so small to catch elephants, chimpanzees, and gorillas?
Thirdly, is there a graver disheartenment than a country of over 170 million people transporting about 95% of her needs, including inflammable oil and gas, on regular roads? Would the existence of a standard Rail System to convey all these ignitable items—keeping them off the high ways—not have equally headed off the inferno? The rail projects have been largely lavished with funds which unfortunately have been terribly embezzled by the ruling class over the years—leaving the rail system in perpetual wreckage—at the detriment of the lives and properties of the Nigerian masses.
According to information available within media dossier, the administration of the late Gen. Sani Abacha awarded a $528 million railway contract in 1995 to the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) for the revamping of the nation’s rail infrastructure, supply of 50 locomotives and other rolling stocks—as well as the training of critical Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) personnel. But what ought to be a revamping became a further breakdown of the railway system.
Similarly, the civilian administration of Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo also awarded over $250 million dollars to the same Chinese Company for another revamping of the rail system. The project was however abandoned by the Yaradua’s administration. “What then became of the public funds?” is a question still roaming the streets of Nigeria with a face soaked with tears, begging for answer. Moreover, the allocation of funds for the revamping of the rail system did not end there. There was the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri rail line, which was awarded to a Korean firm at a cost of $10 billion—again, for revamping! That too, was never executed.
Romanian railway experts came after the Indians and were reportedly paid $17m to supply wagons and workshop equipment. But reportedly, the supplied facilities are still gathering dust at the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) workshop in Lagos, uninstalled. The one from Otueke was also said to have instituted an allocation of N1 trillion for another revamping. This money is said to be currently under investigation at the House of Representatives. There are so many more instances of how the collective wealth of the Nigerian people has been budgeted for the revamping of the nation’s railway system to ease transportation, to boom economy, create geographical unity, and most importantly forestall calamitous episode as the Otedola bridge inferno. Rather than revamping the rail system, the heartless ruling class instead used the funds to revamp their national and foreign bank account, and sympathize with the Nigerian people as they bury their loved ones.
Whosoever attributes the woes that have befallen Nigeria in the week before to divinity is no less an enemy of the people, but an agent of the ruling class, because these woes against us are absolutely political and they can only be defeated with our Political Power of Mass Uprising! That was why when he sang in his popular track titled “Black Times” that: “Time don come my people. Are you ready to rise to be free?” Seun Kuti was rightly, accurately and timely summarizing the only possible alternative to all of these ruling class orchestrated wanton killings, butcheries, and colossal destruction of properties of innocent black people, including Nigerians, throughout the globe.
There is no part of the ruling class that can salvage the people, because they are beneficiaries of the people's misfortunes. Surely, as Seun Kuti has rightly observed, the time has come for the people to reclaim their country. In fact, the time has always come. What is still not sure is if the people are ready to rise up against their scavenging ruling class to be free—or they still enjoy their current condition of “suffering and smiling” and their raining of impotent curses on the ruling class at various newspaper joints. Until then, this is not the end of our funeral!