Saturday, 16 April 2016

Opinion: A Slide into Almajirism

By Anthony Chuka Konwea, P.E.
 “Accursed are those nations whose leaders are small-minded. They cannot accomplish great things in concert.”
This writer’s take on leadership pettiness.
In northern Nigeria, almajiri is a term used to refer to boys or adults who go from house to house, or openly along the street, begging for food or for alms. The word is said to derive from the Arabic word for ‘migrant’. 
To the extent that since assumption of office as president, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, has spent as much time outside the shores of Nigeria begging for foreign assistance as he has spent at home, one is tempted to infer that Nigeria has become an almajiri nation.
Indeed to the extent that President Buhari has been going from country to country begging for one form of assistance or the other, one can also say based on fairly solid evidence that ‘almajirism’ has become the cornerstone of Nigeria’s foreign policy .
Now this writer does not know about any successful Nigerian who has publicly claimed that he was once an almajiri. Every so often one hears about rags-to-wealth stories of successful Nigerians who were once taxi cab drivers, or street hawkers, or domestic servants or laborers, or fashion designers etc.
Apparently almajirism has never proven to be one of the routes to later success in life. This is not to suggest that it is impossible. It is just that the odds are well stacked against almajirism as a roadmap to success.
President Buhari’s diehard supporters will surely claim that Nigeria’salmajirism if at all that is what it is, is a short term desperate measure well suited for the desperate times Nigeria finds itself. The only problem with this claim is that the career path for an alumnus of the almajiri system invariably leads from almajirism into violent urban rioting accompanied by the stabbing to death of kafirs (non-muslims).
 From urban rioting there is a progression into fanaticism or fundamentalism, finally crowned for some alumni of almajirism by a transformation into full blooded terrorists. Surely this is not the ideal roadmap we want to traverse as a nation.
 President Buhari’s supporters may also deny the fact of Nigeria’salmajirism on the grounds that any aid received so far from foreign nations such as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, China, Britain to name just a few has come mostly in the form of “soft” loans which must be repaid someday and not as outright grants in ‘almajiri style.’
 However the crucial question arises. Can Nigeria ever repay these so-called soft loans given the current trend of things?
 Can an administration which claims that agriculture is one of the centerpieces of its strategy for national economic revival, reasonably rely on agriculture to drive national economic recovery when it always looks on rather benevolently as well armed Fulani herdsmen who may or may not be Nigerians, terrorize, kill or dispossess indigenous professional farmers of their farmlands?
 Posing the same question in another way, can an administration whose policy is to seize and transform ethnic farmlands into “grazing” areas (read conquered territory) for both the indigenous nomadic Fulani as well as foreign nomadic Fulani from the West and Central African sub-regions reasonably rely on agriculture as a driver of national economic resurgence?
 While on this matter and as an aside, the reader’s attention is drawn to a recent essay by this writer titled “Herds or Tales – The Herdsman Always Wins (Parts 1 & 2)” which at its tail end proposes a possible solution to the herdsmen vs indigenes conflict that guarantees justice for all.
 Furthermore can a nation which wants to emerge from poverty and repay the loans it took in times of economic peril, afford to alienate, marginalize, dehumanize and suppress some of the most vibrant, most creative, most energetic, and most entrepreneurial segments of its population under an ill-conceived feudalist policy as is currently being meted out to the South-East and possibly the South-South regions of Nigeria?
 Can an administration which is currently attempting to institute a national dual caste system of Fulani Herdsmen as the “upper caste” and the rest of the nation as “lower caste” peoples ever re-create the peaceful atmosphere necessary to engender the sort of national productivity imperative for wealth creation and repayment of the so-called soft loans it is taking around the world?
 Can a nation which is inexorably sliding into avoidable conflicts through obnoxious and discriminatory actions of state organs or state agents ever be realistically and holistically mobilized for genuine wealth creation?
Can a political administration which for short-sighted and petty reasons chooses to be the Divider-in-Chief rather than the Reconciler-in-Chief of the nation engineer the national reconciliation and harmony inevitable for genuine progress?
 If the answers to the above listed posers are all in the negative, then it is as clear as daylight that the humongous loans this current administration is begging for around the globe cannot be repaid by Nigeria as things currently stand, without prejudice to the price of a barrel of crude oil.
 To repay these accumulated debts under prevailing circumstances, President Buhari  has to perpetually keep making the rounds of foreign capitals, beggar’s bowl in hand, pleading for ever more aid, almajiri style.
 It is clear that presidential pettiness more than corruption and poverty now poses the greatest danger to state security. Presidential pettiness is a confirmation of the presence of feudal statecraft in high places.
Presidential pettiness encourages institutionalized discrimination against targeted segments of the nation by sycophantic agents of the state.  Targeted discrimination runs counter to the Nigerian constitution which holds all Nigerians equal and is a sop to feudalism which is an abuse of office.
Each discriminatory act against bona fide Nigerian citizens, dead or alive on the basis of ethnicity or religious beliefs by State organs or State agents, delegitimizes the current administration unless it expressly and publicly distances itself from such obnoxious and atrocious acts through the punishment of the perpetrators.
The recent alarm raised by the Department of State Security (DSS) about the unfortunate murder of 5 Fulani herdsmen-citizens out of 55 other citizens’ corpses found in shallow graves in the South-East region while remaining completely unconcerned about the deaths of the remaining 50 dead citizens is an act of institutional discrimination even in death.
It diminishes the stature and credibility of the Buhari Administration and portrays it as completely lacking in the type of statecraft necessary to govern a modern country as opposed to a primeval feudal society.
There is deafening silence by the Buhari Administration as well as an apparent lack of serious minded criminal investigation into the following violent acts.
(1) The cold-blooded murder of more than 300 citizens of Agatu in Benue State as well as countless other citizens of Nigeria by Fulani herdsmen.
(2) The cold-blooded murder by the Nigerian Army of 370 to 800, protesting Shiites with number of casualties depending on who you ask.
(3) The cold-blooded murder of several peaceful, unarmed neo-Biafran agitators by State agents.
(4) The recent kidnap and cold-blooded murder of a serving colonel of the Nigerian army.
This trend is truly disturbing to all fair minded people in Nigeria regardless of political suasion.
The Buhari Administration must summon the courage to condemn all these violent acts done against innocent Nigerian citizens including the aforementioned 55 persons killed in the South-East all of who it was constitutionally obliged to protect. It must also do all in its power to honestly identify and bring all the perpetrators of these violent crimes to justice regardless of ethnic origin, religious affiliation or public status.
Unless and until it does both, the Buhari Administration runs the risk of incrementally delegitimizing itself and affirms that under its watch Nigeria can never pay back the foreign loans it continually seeks and acquires under our nation’s new almajirist state policy because unity, peace, justice and consequently progress will always remain elusive.
It effectively confirms therefore that Nigeria is now an almajiri nation hooked on foreign aid with a concomitantly bleak almajirist future.

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