Nigeria's Democracy: The Trilemma of Herdsmenism, Terrorism and Vampirism.

Author:Ojo, Emmanuel Oladipo
Position::Essay
 
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Introduction and Contextual Discourse

Democracy and Nigeria are like Siamese twins; though conjoined, they are uncomfortable and under very intense pressure. While democracy, either as a concept or a system of rule, may not be strange to an overwhelming percentage of Nigerians; what may be strange to them is the brand of democracy that invests, first and foremost, in human and material resources for the purposes of political stability, economic viability, scientific advancement, technological breakthrough, educational development and life-enhancing social services. 'Rule of the people by the people for the people' is supposed to solve the problem of the people, be it political, social, economic, environmental or technological.

Thus, the safety, protection, happiness and the general well-being of the people should normally and continually take the central stage and be on the front burner in the rule of the people by the people for the people. In other words, the 'occupiers of the democratic space' should spare nothing in their pursuit of 'better life' for the citizens of their country. However, this is an hypothetical situation that has rarely been experienced in practical terms in Nigeria. The purpose of this study, therefore, is to examine the content and context of Nigeria's democracy. Data for this conceptual study was obtained through secondary sources and interviews with some individuals the author considered sufficiently knowledgeable about the content, context, practice and workings of Nigeria's democracy. In addition to the interviews he conducted in Nigeria, the author interviewed some Nigerians residing in the Russian Federation. The study employed the descriptive and analytical method of data analysis. For the purposes of clarity and in-depth analysis, this article is broken into five sections. This introduction and conceptual discourse is followed by a brief examination of the threat the grazing activities of herdsmen pose to Nigeria's rural and farming communities and by extension, food security and the national economy. This is followed by an outline of the activities of two deadly terror groups and their impact on the Nigerian state. This is in turn followed by a brief description of 'Nigerian democracy'. The section draws a line of demarcation between the gain of the occupiers of the country's democratic space and the pain of the citizenry. This is followed by the conclusion.

Of the five main terms contained in the title of this article--democracy, 'trilemma', 'herdsmenism' terrorism and vampirism--only two (democracy and terrorism) are probably commonplace and could be understood without any ado. Therefore, the contexts within which the remaining three are used in this article require qualification so as avoid ambiguity, misconception or misinterpretation. In his opening address at the World Economic Forum on East Asia held on 19 November 2014 entitled "The three big issues facing East Asia", Atsutoshi Nishida coined the word, 'trilemma' to capture and underline the three pressing issues contending with East Asia, which according to him, required urgent solutions. One, securing economic growth and accommodating population expansion; two, working with increasingly limited resources in the face of rapidly expanding population; and three, raising environmental awareness in order to deal with devastating weather events linked to climate change. More than Atsutoshi's East Asia's 'trilemma', today, Nigeria's democracy is assailed by a more devastating 'trilemma' (three problems)--'herdsmenism', terrorism and vampirism.

There is no dearth of literature on the challenges facing Nigeria's democracy. Indeed, literature on national challenges like insecurity, Boko Haram insurgency, Niger Delta crisis, corruption, mono-resource economy, unemployment, etc is massive. However, a very careful examination of these works would reveal that they either altogether neglect, or only mention in passing, the challenge posed by 'herdsmenism' and the grave political, demographical, security and economic challenges it poses to the Nigerian Federation.

Given the magnitude of the challenge 'herdsmenism' poses to the socio-economic and political stability of Nigeria, it deserves more than foot note reference. 'Herdsmenism' in the context of this study, refers to the rather unprecedented forceful and violent grazing activities of Nigeria's herdsmen that have now almost completely wiped farmers off their farms and which, if allowed to persist for a few more years, have the potentials of precipitating nationwide severe food shortages and turning Nigeria into a food-import dependent nation.

The subject of terrorism and its attendant consequences is no doubt a well researched one in Nigeria. However, again, a vacuum or mis-contextualisation exists in the extant literature on the Boko Haram terror group. While it is true that today, a large number of ethnic terror groups exist in Nigeria; the most famous and dreaded of them in the annals of Nigeria's history is the Boko Haram sect. (1) Till date, scholars and commentators have treated the Boko Haram terror sect as an upstart group without drawing connecting lines with an earlier sect. A juxtaposition of Usman dan Fodio (the leader of the 1804-1810 Jihad in Hausaland) and Mohammed Yusuf (the leader and founder of the Boko Haram sect) will yield instructive historical lessons and parallels that will help put the Boko Haram terror group in a clearer context and perspective.

The last term that requires some contextual clarification is vampirism. A vampire is a folklore being that subsists by feeding on life essence, particularly blood. In European folklores, vampires were 'undead' beings that often visited loved ones and caused mischief or deaths in the neighbourhood they inhabited while they were alive. Vampires are described in various languages and forms in different cultures depending on region and cultural beliefs. However, generally, the character, characteristics and traits of vampires are the same in virtually all cultures--they cause death, suffering, ill-health, ill luck etc. Indeed, they represent everything and anything that contradicts wellness and wellbeing. Vampirism is used in this article to denote living by preying on others; making a living from the misery of others; or "the draining of psychic energy from one individual by another" (2). Indeed, it means the unscrupulous exploitation, ruin, dehumanisation and degradation of others. Across all levels and without any notable exception, this is whom and what Nigeria's political class is: a crop of vampires who, through their ineptitude, licentiousness, greed, obsession for material wealth and comfort, selfishness and utter disregard for human dignity, have not only 'politically conquered' and held their fellow Nigerians captive; but have brutally muzzled and cremated them economically. This assertion will be substantiated as this article progresses. Having attempted a brief contextual discourse of our major terms, we could now proceed to briefly discuss each of them and see how they individually and collectively impact on Nigeria's democracy.

'Herdsmenism'

This is almost exclusively associated with the Fulani of Northern Nigeria because, while pockets of non-Fulani possess a few herds of cattle; Nigeria's herdsmen are predominantly the Fulani, Peul or Fulbe, a predominantly Muslim group scattered throughout many parts of West Africa, from Lake Chad in the east to the Atlantic Coast. Numbering between 20 and 25 million, they are concentrated principally in Nigeria, Mali, Guinea, Cameroon, Senegal and Niger. (3) They are said to be the largest nomadic people in the world and probably the first group of people to be converted to Islam in West Africa. The Fulani language, known as Fula, is classified within the Atlantic branch of the Niger-Congo family language. (4) People of the Fulani tribe probably rarely ever use artificial birth control methods; consequently, the tribe is a very fertile one hence their population and vast presence in almost every state of the Nigerian Federation. (5) The most important object in the Fulani society is cattle and there are many traditions, beliefs and taboos concerning it. The number of cows a person owns is a measure of his wealth. Apparently, an average Fulani loves and cherishes his cattle much more than the life of a non-Fulani. This, as shall be pointed out as this study progresses, is responsible for the brutalities Fulani herders had meted on farmers elsewhere in Nigeria who attempted to stop Fulani cattle from eating up the farms and crops they had laboured so much to cultivate.

The problem posed by Fulani herdsmen to Nigeria's political stability, economic prosperity and food security cannot be over-emphasised. This is because herdsmen/farmers clashes have reached boiling points with several thousands of farmers killed, maimed or wiped off their farms nationwide thereby drastically reducing the food producing capability of the country as well as creating mounting political tensions, particularly between the Fulani and other ethnic nationalities whose farmlands and crops are being daily invaded and eaten by Fulani herds. Fulani/farmer clash is about two decades old; it is therefore not a new phenomenon in Nigeria. What is probably new is the vigour and intensity it has gathered in recent times. The low-level and isolated clashes between nomadic Fulani herdsmen and farmers used to be confined to the northern most regions of the country but due to the increasing desertification (to which Nigeria has not been able to respond let alone attempt to tackle), overgrazing and lower rainfall; the nomadic herdsmen have been pushing farther and farther south and towards the middle belt in search of grass and water for their herds. In the course of moving from place to place and grazing their cattle, herders most times encounter cattle rustlers, consequently the herdsmen started to carry...

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