First, it was on the news that traditional rulers in Ebonyi State had been directed by the state government under penalty of sanction to create grazing areas for Fulani herdsmen in their different communities. Added was also a warning to Ebonyi farmers to be wary of implements they carry to farms to avoid confrontation with AK49 wielding herdsmen invading their farms. The farmers were reminded that the cows are important to the herdsmen as their crops. When public mood was gauged, government returned days later to deny such directive. Never mind that the state owned-media also awash with the news.
Next, Ebonyi made headlines as one of the states that had agreed to carve out grazing routes for the herdsmen. When Charles Ogbu like other concerned Nigerians expressed surprises at such dangerous gestures, Umahi issued an arrest warrant on him without denouncing or suing the publications. After few days of motion without movement, people swallowed the political fable from government house; and moved on with their poverty. But, we knew there was more to it than meets the eye.
This week, Ebonyi is on the news again as one of the 10 pilot states for test-running ranching system. Whatever that means, I don’t know. As usual, I just read from Umahi’s media aide that the governor has denied the rumour too.
The puzzles! Of all the southeastern states, why is it always Ebonyi and Fulani herdsmen and grazing routes or ranch? Why all these romances with anything or person with northern or Fulani nomenclature? At Christmas, Ebonyi doles out billions of public naira to buy gifts for northern oligarchs; and at Sallah, rather than expect a return gesture from our Muslim brothers, Ebonyi still spends millions of naira on them? When will Ebonyi get her own gifts? Don’t we have poor people worthy of northern gifts?
Obviously, there is no smoke without fire. Umahi like Caesar’s wife should not only be innocent but should be above suspicion. He needs to come out clean on what we need to know about Ebonyi and herdsmen brouhaha. This is not about party politics; it is about people’s patrimony. Ndi Ebonyi didn’t elect leaders expecting to cede their land nor to go hungry just to please others.
I rest my admonition on history. In the late eighteenth-century France, people were boiling with hunger and anger under the watch of King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Anthoinette. While the poor masses protested for mere bread, Marie Anthoinette was rumoured to have ridiculed them saying, Qu’ils mangent de la brioche, ‘Let them eat cake’. Whether she ever uttered such ridiculous phrase or not the rumour was just enough to send the King and the Queen to the guillotine. Such was the fall of Ancient Regime.
In No Coffin, No Grave, Jared Angira poetically bequeathed us a sarcastic elegy enriched with irony and euphemism expressing the ever sad end of every wicked and selfish life. In that poetic gunshot, he warns ambitious and tyrant leaders to tread with caution when people’s patrimony is involved.
As we play politics, let us bear in mind that there is no coffin, no grave, nor reprieve of life freed from fear and agony for any politician who hits his people below the belt to achieve his self gain. To sympathizers who hardly separate politics from their future, beware that King Louis XVI as well as Idin Amin, Mobutu Seseko, and even Adolf Hitler once had their supporters. But I bet you, none of them can proudly identify with nor defend those politicians who gave them food.
Far from being unpatriotic, when I am split half and half between my head and my heart, I follow my heart. Nationalistic spirit is good but not when it is against the rights of indigenous people to their land. Don’t forget that Ebonyi has never been involved in any reprisal attack in all spillover riots at various times in the country. Has it made Ebonyi safer? No. Sometime ago, Gov. Sam Egwu told the state not to join any reprisal attack sparked by the killing of Igbos in the north; after all Ebonyi recorded no casualties in the northern mayhem. A week later, Ebonyi buried three of her sons killed in the north.
History is karma. Let this be saved here for the next generation to know that we didn’t all keep quiet.
© Felix Uche Akam: 21.06.2018