The Fulani have many intriguing proverbs. ‘If a man says he will swallow an axe, hold the handle for him.’ That is one of the proverbs. If you want to understand the full import, then listen very well to Alhaji Buba Galadima who professes to be Buhari’s enemy. He was in the news a few days ago responding to the call for an Igbo president for Nigeria in 2023. He declared that the South East could produce the next president but the person would not be ‘Igbo president.’ What did he mean? Strategic obfuscation is same in business, politics and in war. The neutralizing objectives are the same too. If you are brilliant and brave and talented and you think you can sing, the Fulani won’t stop you from singing but the song must be theirs. That is the meaning of Galadima’s deep-structure politics. In the coming 2023 contest, if there is a contest at all, the Hausa-Fulani of northern Nigeria will use Mr Tortoise’s sword to kill Tortoise. They always do.
The Igbo of South East Nigeria want to be president of Nigeria. A governor said so last week as he moved to the party of the north. The Igbo will be taken seriously by Nigeria only when they know what they want with (and from) Nigeria. Is it not very confusing to feel them fighting for their Biafra and at the same time seeking to rule Nigeria by defecting from ‘their’ party to the party of the ‘enemy’? Again, you cannot become the president of Nigeria by worshipping the north. It does not work that way. If it did, grand old Zik would have ruled Nigeria immediately after independence. Others who sold their souls to the presumed owners of Nigeria would have been president too. The Yoruba deprecate such fawning acts with an unflattering dismissal of cows as unfit for their worship. And that has made a lot of difference in Hausa-Fulani versus Yoruba engagements. In 1998/99, all the political parties were made to field Yoruba presidential candidates for a reason. In 2015, a Yoruba emerged the Vice President of Nigeria eight years after Olusegun Obasanjo’s presidency, again for a reason. There are frenzies already around some Yoruba who want to be president in 2023. These occurrences were/are not a product of slavish flagellations at the feet of the ‘owners’ of Nigeria. The past was rather a surrender by Nigeria’s kidnappers to the consistency of Yoruba’s demands for justice and equity. Today, between ‘them’ and the Yoruba, there is a balance of respect, even of ‘terror’ – which is the language of engagement understood by the Nigerian establishment.
Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State left the PDP for the APC last week because his former party cheated and would continue cheating his Igbo people. That is what he was asked to say and he is saying it stridently. And he had to jump from his party to a party of angels who can make kings out of slaves. If you frown at his ways, his supporters would point at mercurial Winston Churchill and his politics of serial ratting from one party to another and to another. Just as Umahi declared his PDP of 21 years as a party of injustice, conservative Churchill in 1903 looked at his own party and declared that he “hated the Tory Party, their men, their words and their methods.” That hatred did not stop Churchill from going back to the Tory Party in 1925 while lamenting that the years he spent outside the party were the “wilderness years” of his political life. Umahi will go back to his vomit after fulfilling the mission he has been asked to carry out.
Is it that Umahi really wants to be president of Nigeria for his Igbo people or he wants to serve the owners of Nigeria to undermine his people? The Fulani have only one ‘juju’ with which they have ruled Nigeria since they crossed the borders to here. And that is that they know how to convince the enemy to slaughter his brother for their sake.The physical representation of that ‘charm’ is the herdman’s stick. It has never failed them. There are always victims on the queue for the Fulani to use as swordsmen against their own homestead. Look at the Lekki shooting controversy and the men doing the talking now whether for the military or for the government. Where are they from? This government of the north is adept at using southern palms to quench the fire of its misrule. A little back in time, M.K.O Abiola won an election in June 1993 but had that mandate annulled by a General from the north. The annulment flowed directly from a court restraining order on the election issued by a southerner, Justice Bassey Ikpeme, for a southern applicant, Chief Arthur Nzeribe. When Abiola felt that his life was in danger and he escaped abroad on August 4, 1993, it was Igbo’s Uche Chukwumerije that was asked to use his University of Ibadan education to mock Abiola as “the first Aare Onakakanfo to run away from battle.” When Sani Abacha’s five leprous parties were to adopt him as their sole presidential candidate, it was a Yoruba minister that was directed to move the motion.
Someone told me last week that the best bet for the Yoruba in 2023 is to back an Igbo presidency. I said an Igbo presidency, if it ever happened, would work for the north and fight the Yoruba. It may even be utterly useless to the Igbo people. It is strange that Governor Umahi said he defected to the APC last week so that an Igbo man would be president in three years’ time. Who told him the north is fastidious about platforms and won’t kill the APC if it toys with what Umahi talked about? And why would that Igbo governor not think that the north could contest the 2023 presidential election on any platform and on its own terms? The north is already gathering the ingredients.
There was a northern conference in Abuja recently. They called it Islamic but it appeared more political than religious. Reportedly present at the conference were Islamic sheiks, traditional rulers, Imams from the northern states and the FCT and leaders of Islamic movements across the north. After the conference, one of the participants, Sahabi Danladi Mahuta, a professor of Environmental Biochemistry and chairman, Kebbi Development Forum, told the media in an interview what the north would not accept about the 2023 presidential election contest. He said a southern Muslim could aspire to be president in 2023 only if Christians wanted a Muslim-Muslim ticket. Hear him: “What is, however, not acceptable to us in the north is a southern muslim picking a northern christian as his vice presidential candidate…if people of the south are comfortable with a Muslim-Muslim leadership, they can present a Muslim presidential candidate, but the one coming from the north must be a northern Muslim. That is not negotiable.” What he said here is that with the north, you can’t have both a chick and a calf.
The professor was very articulate as he went on to narrow the coming contest to one between Senator Bola Tinubu and Governor Kayode Fayemi, both of the south west. He knew and mentioned the one clutching deleterious baggages and the one who carried no baggage. He spoke as if the north has ever considered cleanliness as being next to godliness. From the north, he offered no names even for any contest. The wise don’t play by displaying their cards on the table. The professor gave those conditions at a time his leaders are believed to be luring former President Goodluck Jonathan to come out again for the presidency, and at a time Igbo politicians like Umahi are being promised the top job. Now, what are the implications of those moves and statements for the unity of the south? The southern sea may soon erupt in a turmoil which only the emergence of a northern caliph would calm. Again, what is the implication of playing the Lagos ‘father’ against the Ekiti ‘son’ to the unity of the ACN/APC tendency in Yoruba politics? There is a feeling of deja vu here. Yoruba’s disunity has always been that race’s undoing. And it is historically linked to their engagements with the Fulani. All major intra-Yoruba wars of the 19th century had Hausa/Fulani content. The historical Yoruba never fought his brother without forming an alliance with the common enemy outside. The moment the Fulani realized the efficacy of playing one Yoruba group against the other, they stopped losing sleep over their ambition to conquer the whole land. The Jalumi war of November 1, 1878 was between the Ibadan army and the allied forces of the Ekiti, Ijesa, Ila and the Hausa Fulani of Ilorin. Even in the various earlier civil wars fought in Oyo Empire, the Fulani were always there, helping one side against the other. The most popular was Afonja’s revolt of c.1817 and his recruitment of Shehu Alimi and the Jamaa into his army. All the subsequent attempts to reclaim Ilorin failed because there was always a Yoruba General in a secret alliance with the Fulani. Between 1823 and 1826, there were four wars with the objective of retrieving Ilorin from the vice grip of the Fulani. There was one in 1823. There was another from October to December 1824. There was the Kanla war of 1825. There was the Eleduwe war of the following year. Each of those wars was lost to jealousy, petty rivalry and treachery among Yoruba leaders. It was either Kakanfo Toyeje, or Adegun, the Onikoyi, or Edun of Gbogun or Prince Atiba of Oyo or a Timi of Ede in a secret pact with the Fulani. They always showed the way to the outsider in the thick of battle, deliver victory to the enemy and start preparing for the next war. The Fulani is not a horse to be mounted to battle. It is a tiger looking for greedy, ambitious riders to eat. A majority of those Yoruba war leaders ended up in the belly of the Fulani.
There was nothing that happened in the 19th century Yoruba wars that is not happening now in the 21st century politics of Nigeria. Nothing has changed despite the benefit of 200 years of experience. The Fulani has not changed their tactic of instigating strifes and rebellions for the discomfort of their foes, and recruiting allies in the bedroom of the enemy. The disparate south has also not weaned itself of the curse of betrayal and of seeking deliverance from doctors of death. The result has been the same for both sides. The north will contest the coming presidential poll but not before playing a Jonathan against his ‘friends;’ the Yoruba against the Yoruba; the Igbo against the Igbo; the Igbo against the Yoruba, and the Yoruba against the Igbo – and neutralizing all. That Kebbi professor has sounded the trumpet already.