BY CHRIS GYANG
And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32)
However, Governor Masari soon realised that mouthing such banalities to conceal the deteriorating security situation in his state was becoming more and more counterproductive. So, on August 17, he stirred the hornet’s nest when he gave citizens this advice: “We must all rise up to counter the insecurity challenge, we must not sit and watch people buying guns attacking our houses, we too should buy the guns and protect ourselves.”
He argued that it was morally repugnant for citizens to submit meekly to hoodlums without attempting to defend themselves as security was everybody’s business.
This was not the first time a Nigerian leader would be issuing this sort of advice. In March 2018, the well-respected General T.Y Danjuma (a former defence minister) advised Nigerians to defend themselves against Fulani herdsmen’s attacks or be annihilated.
He warned: “You must rise to defend yourselves from these people, if you depend on the Armed Forces to protect you, you will all die. This ethnic cleansing must stop in Taraba [State], it must stop in Nigeria. These killers have been protected by the military, they cover them and you should be watchful to guide and protect yourselves because you have no any other place to go. The ethnic cleansing must stop now otherwise Somalia will be a child’s play.”
In fact, Lamido Sanusi, former Emir of Kano (2014), Governor Samuel Ortom (2018), Governor Nyesome Wike (2018) and Pastor Paul Enenche (2018), among others, have canvassed similar positions. But what was uniquely surprising about Governor Masari’s case was that he was a sitting governor in a core Northern state and himself a Fulani man.
But he was speaking based on his bitter experiences in the hands of these murderous, double-dealing Fulani herdsmen. He personally met them in 2019 to broker peace, which failed, and still went on to grant four of their leaders and their followers who renounced violence amnesty in April 2021.
According to pulse.ng, the Secretary to the Katsina State Government “revealed in July  that the government [had] spent N30million on the failed amnesty programme. The fund was used to buy surrendered weapons from repentant bandits.”
Later, an understandably exasperated Governor Masari would declare: “I have instructed the security operatives to deal ruthlessly with the bandits until they are rendered permanently ineffective. We are no more going to negotiate with them. But if on their own volition they decide to renounce their violent criminal ways and embrace peace, we are ready to listen to them.”
Apparently, his robust engagements with the Fulani criminals to negotiate peace for his people had woefully failed.
It was against this background that he made that startling revelation on September 6. Observers suggest that the governor may have realised the futility of building peace on the shaky foundations of existing lies and falsehoods.
Governor Masari, in that same Channels Television interview, also offered very revealing insights into an extremely volatile and vexatious issue that has become a bugbear to majority of Nigerians, especially in the last six years of Mr. Buhari’s administration – open grazing of cattle by Fulani herdsmen.
His views on this matter have been described by most Nigerians as extraordinary for a Muslim and a serving governor who is supposed to support the president who is an indigene of his state. While maintaining that the movement of herders with their cattle from one part of the country was wrong, he stated: “Herdsmen should stay in one place. Roaming about should not be encouraged. In fact, for us, it is un-Islamic. Why do you have animals that you cannot feed and you have to go to other people’s land and farm and you say that is right? I don’t think it is right….”
He explained that Katsina State had set in motion the machinery to build ranches for its herders. “The Federal Government has given us N6.2 billion and as a state government, we are also investing N6.2 billion. The objective is to have Fulanis stay in one place,” he said.
Although most citizens continue to reject using government revenue to build ranches for the Fulani (because it is a private business), the governor’s position against open grazing has received widespread applause from a broad spectrum of Nigerians. They view open grazing with great suspicion. They consider it a ploy by the Fulani to take over their ancestral lands, foist Islam on them and push through the Fulanisation agenda.
Governor Masari was likewise severely criticized by some core northern elites and the umbrella herders organisation, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBA), because his stance further strengthened the decision of most Nigerian states to ban open grazing. With the exception of the Buhari administration, Plateau and the core northern states, the general consensus among most state governors is that open grazing should be banned and the Fulani herdsmen made to acquire land and build their own private ranches.
Unfortunately for MACBAN, Masari’s landmark declarations were coming at the time governors of the 17 southern states were ramping up efforts to pass legislation banning open grazing based on a collective decision they took in Asaba, Delta State, in May. Only on August 31, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu signed Ondo State’s law banning open grazing and on September 6, the anti- open grazing bill passed second reading in the Lagos State House of Assembly. Coincidentally, that was also the same day Governor Masari made those remarks that have since upturned the apple cart.
On September 9, the Lagos State House of Assembly unanimously passed the bill banning open cattle grazing in the state. The next step is for the governor to finally sign it into law.
Expectedly, MACBAN would not be deterred. It had realised that the lies, subterfuge and innuendoes it had spun, with the active connivance of Buhari’s Federal Government, to obfuscate the true nature of Fulani herdsmen’s terrorism, land-grabbing in Central Nigeria, the dangers of open grazing, etc, were being gradually erased by sound, practical, historical, Islamic and constitutional logic.
It is instructive to note that both the Ogun and Lagos state governors are staunch APC members who have been very loyal supporters of President Buhari in the last six years. But, unlike their Plateau State counterpart, they have not allowed neither party loyalties nor personal interests overshadow their resolve to protect and enhance the security and well-being of their citizens.
They have clearly demonstrated that, whenever Mr. Buhari’s position contravenes the constitution and threatens the corporate existence of their peoples, they are willing to challenge him using due processes of the law. That is the beauty of democracy.
But MACBAN, which has worked hand in glove with the Buhari Presidency in the last six years pursuing the Fulanisation plan, would not allow these novel, positive, developments derail their overarching ambition. So, like angry cows, they have continued to kick ever since.
They launched a puerile attack on the person of Governor Masari, calling him a drunk and tired man. They simply want to demonize and belittle him in order to diminish his profound statements of truth.
Has confusion set into their camp? Have they started speaking in discordant tones?
On September 6, an obviously distraught MACBAN told Mr. Buhari and the National Assembly to order the state governors to halt enacting anti-open grazing laws. The Buhari Presidency had surreptitiously deployed our country’s security, political and economic wherewhithal to aid the herdsmen in freely plundering indigenous lands and decimating their inhabitants to such an extent that MACBAN has completely become used to impunity and arm-twisting.
The herdsmen have failed to realise that, even in our flawed democracy, there are certain critical matters of state that are off-limits to the president, even if, as we have consistently seen in the case of Mr. Buhari, he possesses dictatorial tendencies.
Constitutionally, issues pertaining land rights are the sole prerogative of state governors. But MACBAN has resorted to threatening both the Lagos and Ondo states governments over their enactments of those laws.
In a scathing, defiant response to MACBAN’s intransigence on September 8, Governor Akeredolu (SAN) described the threats by the pastoralists as “unacceptable in a lawful society.” Because his statement captures the thinking of most Nigerians and exposes the malignant shinanigans of the Fulani herdsmen and their main driving force, Mr. Buhari, we crave the indulgence of readers to copiously quote from it.
It reads: “The Ondo State Government is in possession of a video clip of the press statement issued by a so-called association of cattle breeders through its secretary. This uncouth, uncultured and, evidently deracinated vagrant, left no one in doubt as regards the level of support certain criminal elements, like he, enjoy, deplorably.
“Any ethnic group, truly indigenous to the geo-political space known as Nigeria, should not be desperate to appropriate other people’s lands to assuage banditry, rape and robbery. Modernity imposes certain obligations on any social group which claims a membership of the human race.
“…. It is disingenuous and fraudulent for any band of stragglers, certified felons, to paint a highly resourceful people, with the same indolent and retrogressive brush, a befitting epitaph for characters of Saleh Hassan’s felonious hue.
“No part of our land will be given to foreigners who cling to a dubious regional protocol as an instrument validating dispossession. Let him practice his cultural practices on his father’s land. His likes will not be permitted to operate with impunity in Ondo State. We will defend our land.
“Ondo State has a law that prohibits open grazing. The government has a responsibility to implement the law for the benefit of the people of the state and those who may share in their aspiration for the development of their God-given space. The people of Ondo are hospitable. They will, however, be unable to tolerate and condone the invasion of their lands.
“No bandit will operate in Ondo State under any dubious guise.”
Governor Masari will go down in history as a leader who refused to follow the crowd and continue living in denial so as to further a clannish plot aimed at making other Nigerians subjects to ethnic and religious supremacists. He will be remembered as a man who had the courage to tell the truth so as to be liberated and find solace in its awesome redeeming power.
(GYANG is the Chairman of the N.G.O, Journalists Coalition for Citizens’ Rights Initiative – JCCRI. Email: email@example.com)