It was the great socialist and author, Dashanne Stokes who said that “when we allow violence against some, we enable violence against all.” No statement perhaps best captures the way some Nigerian leaders have been stoking violence recently even in the face of all the tensions and crises unsettling the country. Last time, it was the Zamfara State Governor, Bello Matawalle, with talks about monopoly of violence, and CHURAC president, Alaowei Cleric. Now the focus is on the Governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, and Senator Smart Adeyemi.
Governor Abdullahi Ganduje
Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, is one of the country’s political leaders who deserve commendation for the decorous way he joined other stakeholders in seeking solutions to the farmers/herders crises when it got to a boiling point and was equally threatening the country’s unity.
He was perspicacious to admit that open grazing was largely responsible for the constant feud between farmers/herders that was fast degenerating into a national crisis. As a member of the Northern Governors Forum, he noted that open grazing was not sustainable in view of growing modernisation, and that the Nigerian government should put a law to ban the movement of cattle from the North to other parts of the country.
The Kano Governor said he believed this move would help strongly in resolving the problem of clashes between farmers/herders and also the issue of rustling. His words:
“Those herders traveling from the North to South should be banned from doing so. This is a national issue. A robust bill by the National Assembly is the only answer to the issue of farmer/herder conflict,”
Ganduje’s recent statements however are a deviation from the ideals of statesmanship that informed his former comportment. The Kano State Governor in a recent interview stated that Northerners remain the owners of Nigeria, while describing the Igbos and Yorubas as minorities. His words:
“It is a glaring fact that Northerners occupy over 80 percent of Nigeria’s population and that is primarily why other minority tribes like Igbo and Yoruba should respect them for that.
“The insecurity everybody is talking about is everywhere. Before, Nigerians, particularly Igbos and Yorubas use to think that insecurity exists only in the North but today, insecurity in those tribes today is on the increase.
“Igbos and Yorubas are busy agitating for freedom, thereby creating their own insecurity with the establishment of IPOB and Oduduwa Republic which are now terrorising the entire nation.”
While some political players and well-meaning Nigerians are not taking Ganduje’s statement likely, the obvious reason is what good numbers of people regard as demeaning in the way he described the Yorúbà and Igbo ethnic groups as minority. As analysts opine, this tantamount to undermining Nigeria’s diverse composition, and the fact that the Igbos and Yoruba ethnic groups are major ethnic groups with a huge percentage of the country’s population.
The problem does not lie in what Ganduje said but the divisive and sectarian undertones of the statement which has always predated violence, especially ethnic clashes in Nigeria. Saying Igbos and Yorubas are busy agitating for freedom and terrorising the entire nation is another way of saying they are the real troublemakers, while exonerating other ethnic groups as peacemakers.
While Ganduje was right when he said some Igbos and Yorubas are busy agitating for freedom (even though he was wrong in generalising it), the orientation that informs his statement is one reason why calls for secession and the accompanied violence have been constant.
While one wonders why a respectable statesman as the governor would make such sadistic utterances, his past misdemeanor cast him in the light of someone with violent inclinations.
He and his counterpart, Odigie Oyegun, were quoted as inciting violence during the Rivers State rerun elections in 2016. According to him, “if they push you, push them back. If they slap you, slap them back. If they shoot at you, take cover and shoot them back.” These utterances were what forced pro-democracy and good governance group, the Wailing Wailers, to react as they urged Odigie Oyegun and Governor Abdullahi Ganduje to stop making inciting statements capable of sparking violence in the state.
Moreover, the governor was alleged to have threatened Jafaar Jafaar, the publisher of Daily Nigeria for exposing video clips in 2018 which showed Gov. Ganduje collecting dollars, believed to be kickbacks from contractors handling various projects awarded by the Kano State Government. Ganduje had in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation Hausa said his government was making plans to deal with those who released the videos. Meanwhile, only those who are ready to exploit violent means to seek redress can make such threats instead of seeking redress legally.
Senator Smart Adeyemi
Smart Adeyemi, the Nigerian legislator representing Kogi West senatorial district, can be described as a rabble-rouser following the way he takes on issues especially at the floor of the red chambers. In March last year, the house went into confusion when the former National President of the National Union of Journalists said he preferred military rule to the current democracy being practised in Nigeria.
Apart from the fact that he enjoys causing a stir, Senator Adeyemi has shown himself to be a leader lacking in ethics and decorum. His tirades with a good number of his colleagues in the political space underscore his violent tendencies.
Following his outfit with Dino Melaye with whom he contested the 2019 Kogi West Senatorial election, he described his counterpart as “a thug on the streets of Abuja who joined politics and became a senator through corrupt means.” Adeyemi didn’t just stop there as he went to say that “The elders have a saying that when a place is peaceful, the vagabond and bastard there have not grown and that is what happened in the case of Dino.”
As one observer pointed out, “Smart Adeyemi seems to have a knack for hurling vituperative and enjoys being a demagogue”. His verbal assault on the Governor of Abia State is what stakeholders have described as irresponsible coming from a serving senator and in a period of crisis occasioned by leaders who were busy speaking and stoking violence along ethnic lines. While contributing to a motion to restore the ‘Safe School Initiative in Nigeria’ sponsored by Odey Stephen, senator representing Cross River North, Adeyemi said Abia state is governed by “drunkards”. His words:
“Some governors are committed to the protection of their people. In my state, the governor awarded contracts for the renovations of schools and provides security services to them.
“In some states of Nigeria today, where we have highly intelligent people, highly educated people, very enterprising people like Abia, but they are governed by drunkards.
He described the governor of Abia as a champagne drinking man. According to him, “Abia people are unfortunate.” If not for Senate President Ahmed Lawan who cautioned him against the use of such malicious language, Smart Adeyemi would have continued in his tirade. When asked to apologise, Adeyemi blatantly refused.