A former secretary of the political committee of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Alhaji Mohammed Abdulrahman, was quoted recently as saying that “a Muslim Yoruba can be president of Nigeria, but Tinubu is a Chrismus …” He went on to say that a “Chrismus” means “Somebody who is a Christian and a Muslim”. One would have thought that it would be a great honour if an individual would embrace and practice the two great religions.
What Abdulrahman really meant, in his own words, it that: “A Southern Christian cannot be president of Nigeria..” For a vital member of the Arewa Consultative Forum to utter such a statement in a secular polity as Nigeria, reveals a peculiar mindset, depictive of some hidden agenda. By what statistical computation can anyone come up with such assertion that a Southern Christian cannot win presidential election in a democracy?
Perhaps, without meaning to offend, Abdulrahman’s statement is a hate and inciting speech, in a nation where “the Federal Government sponsored Ruga projects for Fulani herdsmen across the country.” With a senior official of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development saying that the Ruga project, generally, is “a policy conceived by the Federal Government to cover the entire country”, then was Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo wrong in raising an alarm about Fulanisation and Islamisation agenda?
What is “political undertone” in an obviously economic-religious-political policy that is being foisted upon unsuspecting communities? Someone is expressing surprise why “a group from Benue State staged a protest that government wants to invade their lands.” Why is a private agricultural business undertaken by individual cattle breeders being sponsored and funded by the federal government as a national “Ruga” project?
Yet, the states being lured to embrace the Ruga project for a fee, can be told that “a Southern Christian cannot be president of Nigeria”? Obviously, the impression which Abdulrahman and those he speaks for create is that Nigeria is not operating a democracy but an oligarch with a religious undertone. What impression does Abdulrahman’s statement make in the minds of Nigerians that “the South and North issue has to do with religion”?
In TELL magazine of April 10, 2000 (p.3) Dare Babarinsa said that “What is at stake is not religion, but power and the future of the Nigerian State”. This would mean that power-holders and political gamblers often use religion as a ready means for political ends. Babarinsa went on to say that: “The Fulani ruling class, rootless and without any cohesive political ideology or nationalist and cultural interest, has clung to Islam as a political weapon”.
It would not be hard for any analyst to see a logical link between “Ruga project” and what Obasanjo said about Fulanisation and Islamisation agenda. Without allowing religion to bring animosity and disunity in Nigeria, it is needful that those who have a narrow view about religion must not be allowed to sow the seed of animosity. Similarly, the issue about settlement for nomadic Fulani herdsmen should not be allowed to take the pattern of the settlement of the Jews after the World Wars.
A programme of Nomadic Education for Fulani herdsmen many years back turned out to be a failure, with huge sums of money voted for that programme ending in fraudulent practices. Much vexation across the country resulted in a clamour for the establishment of a programme of education for Migrant fishermen. Since there were migrant Nomadic herdsmen and migrant fishermen in other parts of the country, it was considered right and proper that the “National Cake” be shared in a just manner, via federal projects.
Obviously, there were references that the revenue fuelling the nation’s economy came primarily from the southern part of the country. While a debate about this issue was going on many years ago, some group of youths raised a song about “monkey working and baboon chopping..” It took the intervention of the Police to disperse the youths. Today, Federal Government sponsorship of Ruga projects would likely lead to a demand for a parallel one applicable to and suitable for problems peculiar to the South.
Agitation and instability often arise as a result of one-sidedness and use of double-standards in addressing demands for justice. The statement of Alhaji Abdulrahman gives the impression that some Nigerians are more Nigerian or more equal than others. Why must religion and ethnicity become determinants of who becomes a president. Was Buhari misquoted when he said that “Muslims should only vote those who will promote Islam”?
From the dislodgement of former President Goodluck Jonathan, to the intrigues of the 2019 elections, the statement of Abdulrahman that “Buhari will still be president” is ominous. When added to his assertion: “2023: Why Christian, Tinubu’ll never be Nigeria’s President” then there is the possibility of some hidden agenda! We would not want to have careless talkers like late Wada Nas!
It is right and proper that the Federal Government has withdrawn the Ruga settlement project for now. But, considering the nature, might and caliber of cattle owners in Nigeria, there is the possibility of the issue being reintroduced under a different guise later. A home settlement for nomadic herdsmen is the key issue.
Dr. Amirize is a retired lecturer at the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.
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