So many are antsy. So many are angry. But so few know what RUGA will wreak when it spins into a reality in the South. In the social media, fire and brimstone are flaring daily.
Facebook is aflame, splitting the nation as Words are now swords. They are cutting tribes and faiths apart to the marrow. Twitter is quiversful with its darts. WhatsApp groups grieve and gang up. The RUGA idea is coming across as a welfare scheme to herdsmen. Many perceive it as a ploy to give the Fulani a hegemonic edge over the rest of us.
The federal government says it is voluntary. The Taraba State, by its rhetoric, expresses fears that it is a fiat. Benue State streets are in the early stages of combustion with placards of protests over RUGA settlements in some local government areas. So much is the fury that even the Vice President has had to dissociate his office from the scheme without condemning it.
The federal ministry of agriculture coiled away from a scheduled press conference. The most apparent silence is from the presidency that would not state in clear terms what it thinks about what the rest of the country is thinking. Suspicion has wired the country. The augury is inauspicious.
My own take is very simple. I call it a tit-for-tat federalism. If the federal government would unfurl billions of the nation’s resources to help a group set up colonies, or what it sees as autonomous settlements for a group of economic and ethnic adventurers in other lands, let’s democratise the idea.
You can start from my ethnic group, the Itsekiris in Delta State. We are stately dancers, our language is lyrical, our pride stout. To the best of my knowledge we live in every part of Nigeria. So, every Itsekiri man and woman who lives everywhere ought to be given a parcel of land in very state from Sokoto State to Ogun State. A budget should be assigned to us, so we decide what we want to do with it. Our cuisine is delicate and benumbing, and we can start to evangelise the great and vibrant epaulets of the Itsekiri values. We can teach locals of our proud history, the majesty of our dances, the brilliance of our imagination, build schools dedicated to Dore Numa, Nana and others, revive our architecture and show how that great tribe overwhelmed much of what is called the Niger Delta today. We can proselitise how we dared the British in the 19th century with the genius of our generals, ethos of our nationalist virtues, a mammoth blockade that paralysed the British almost out of their wits. Professor Obaro Ikime, alumnus of Government College Ughelli, where I also attended, will have his book on this subject revived with a special fund to sell this noble heritage of which we are proud.
Then, of course, the land of Kaaro Ojire will also come up with its template. Although quite a few vocal members of the group have called for a true brand of federalism, they know that people of the Yoruba stock, just like the Fulani, abound not only all over the country, but also around West Africa. They too can ask for their own lands, where some of them can set up factories and industries, from fabric to complete chain of the agricultural process that stretches from farm to factory to the market. Few know that they make Kolanuts. It is the nut of unity. They make it, the Hausa-Fulani consume it, the Igbos divinise it.He who brings kola brings life. The Yoruba brought Kola, and the life of unity. Why not make it a national treasure with federal funding? The Yoruba, always with imagination, can do a lot to change the flavour of the economy. After all, the Southwest is the wealthiest region in the country. Why not give them the lands by fiat so they can also colonise a few territories and import its commercial wizardry to the benefit even of the citizens in Kano or Kebbi?
Igbo kwenu! Known for their “trading” tackles, we can use much of their genius in turning two Naira to two billion Naira. They have been doing so without federal dollars. This is the time to take advantage. After the civil war, the Igbos were left to their own devices. No one gave them money to start businesses. They returned to Kano, Kaduna, Lagos, Port Harcourt, and within a few years, businesses whirled into profits.
Imagine if Governor Ikpeazu’s idea cruises under a national impetus.The Abia State governor has been in the forefront of galvanising anonymous Igbo geniuses in Aba. He wants to make their inventiveness into cottage industries first, and later flower into bowers of commerce. A lot of federal support can import these youths of promise to every state, so those products that many see as imitation will become the envy of the originals. After all, that was how Japan and Taiwan became Trojans of global commerce.
We cannot say enough of the Edo. Forget the impunity of its governor with a contrived legislature. The Edos, also a mini-Nigeria, have been a bastion of arts and furniture, an industry also troubled as the herdsmen are troubling us. Imagine all the geniuses in Edo furniture have money to design and carve chairs and upholstery, instead of the millions the elites pay to import. Also the western world swoons over Edo artworks, from Oxford to Berlin to New York.
The Ijaw, with fishing acumen, ought to enjoy special allocation, so they go all over the country to fish. Even where there are dry lands, we can make artificial lakes. Where the lakes are abandoned, we can revive them in places like Kano, stock them with fish and allow them to grow into fishing centres all over the country, whether in Borno or Benue.
With this federal arrangement, no one would pitch any hate at the RUGA plan as hegemonic or fulanisation. It will be either mutually assured benefit or destruction between south and north, between tribe and tribe, between faiths. Either an embrace for warmth or suffocation.
In the north, the sabon gari will have special funding, just as the Hausa quarters like the one near my childhood church in Warri will enjoy same. RUGA as a ploy will become a ruse. This way, we can reinvent the Bororo lifestyle by making every tribe a sort of Bororo.
Bard as wayfarer
Since we are in the mood of satire today, let’s refer to a master. Just before the COZA firestorm, Professor Wole Soyinka spun a tale of a modern-day wayfarer online. In a business class cabin, Soyinka had occupied a seat, before a youngster, described by oil baron Tonye Cole as all biceps and tattoo, appeared and asked the prof to leave his window seat. The man insisted in spite of pleas. Soyinka rose for him. The picture of Soyinka on the seat with the shadowy face of the impudent fellow is on facebook.
A fellow claimed he was the one and that he had a charming chat with the bard, and the bard told him he would do the same if he were the young guy. He also reported that he went to research Soyinka, implying he did not know of him, and he claimed to be a teacher at a faceless university abroad. Soyinka responded to Mo Abudu that he had no such exchange with the fellow and they never even spoke. No one is sure if the so-called report and the name are fiction. Some rude fellows applaud the man of biceps, while wise men and women said he should have shown respect and left the prof there. He is not only Soyinka, he will soon be 85. Here comes the classic. Soyinka turned the episode into a work of art. Here him:
“I don’t know how much airlines succeed in raising for their charity drives through those envelopes they distribute to passengers into which their captive donors are exhorted to deposit their loose change before disembarking. Such monies are then distributed to worthy causes all over the world, especially in the pursuit of health. What I am convinced of is that they would generate a hundred times more if they were creative. For instance, they could impose a fine on passengers who take the wrong seat on boarding, even for a second. One can only rejoice in the thought of such benefits to humanity in its efforts to eradicate all kinds of diseases, especially malnutrition, and ensure the supply of nutrients that prevent the premature onset of brain impairment.
Those who permit themselves to be persuaded, even for one second that I, Wole Soyinka, having wrongly identified a seat number like millions of travellers all the time, and all over the world, would then attempt to consolidate the error in any form, through act, word, gesture, qualify to be the first beneficiaries of this vastly improved humanitarian policy.”
The bard, with a playful self-indictment, mocks all those who have made a storm out of a seat change. Especially the part about “brain impairment.” Kudos Prof. Your words set forth like dawn.
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