By Ayo Akinfe
(1) Yesterday, July 20 was the 75th anniversary of the famous plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. German Chancellor Angela Markel used the occasion to call on her nation’s citizens to counter the rising right-wing extremism taking root in the country
(2) Very courageously, Ms Merkel thanked the German officer, Claus von Stauffenberg and other plotters who tried to kill Hitler in 1944 with a briefcase bomb. After the plot failed, for their troubles, Stauffenberg and some 200 co-conspirators were caught and executed.
(3) Not sitting on the fence on this matter, Chancellor Merkel urged the German people to join programmes for strengthening democracy. In May, the right-wing Alternative for Germany, became the country’s largest opposition party in parliament with an anti-immigrant and nationalist agenda. Clearly, the danger signs are there
(4) I can see parallels with Nigeria here as according to government figures, there are 24,000 right-wing extremists in Germany . Nearly 13,000 are believed to have a tendency to violence. Do we know how many violent Fulani herdsmen there are in Nigeria and how well armed they are?
(5) As Fulani extremism grows, it is unfortunate that Nigeria’s educated, urbane, cosmopolitan and liberal Fulanis have not taken a cue from Chancellor Merkel. There are millions of ordinary Fulanis out there who have no interest in dominating other Nigerians and who just want to live their lives in peace with their neighbours. Unfortunately, they have allowed the extremists to become the face of the Fulani
(6) In my opinion, now is the time for the moderate Fulani to stand up and be counted. They should be promoting the legacies of the likes of Tafawa Balewa. When he was prime minister, Balewa was the face of northern moderation. After his trip to the US in 1954, Balewa said: “If the various nationalities in the US can live together as one nation, so too can we in Nigeria.” After he returned, the Northern People Congress (NPC) changed its slogan to Independence Now from Independence in our Lifetime
(7) Balewa eschewed a lot of the hardline rhetoric of the NPC hawks in a lot of what he did. For instance, he appointed Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi as head of the Nigerian Army despite some Fulani extremists wanting Zacharia Maimalari. Balewa also took it upon himself to develop our federal capital Lagos. Places like Unilag and Victoria Island were all Balewa’s ideas. This current concept of taking over the land of states and giving it to Fulani herdsmen was unheard of back then
(8) However, Balewa was powerless to stop the excesses of the NPC when it came to power. In 1962, the smashed the Action Group, jailed Awolowo and declared a state of emergency in the Western Region. To make matters worse, the NPC then rigged the 1964 federal and 1965 regional elections in an unprecedented manner, leading to the inevitable crisis that brought about two coups and the civil war
(9) What strikes me is that even the most hardline NPC hawk in the First Republic was nowhere near as domineering as those backing the Fulani herdsmen today. Even Ahmadu Bello drew the line at 50%. His stance was that that everything in Nigeria, be it appointments, resources, scholarships, contracts, etc, must be split in two, with half going to rye north and half going to the south
(10) Today, President Buhari is the defacto Sardauna, the champion of the Fulani cause but alas, he is leading them astray. Just imagine how much goodwill President Buhari would enjoy if he took a stance that come what may, at least 50% of his appointees would be southerners. If nothing else, it would send a message to the Fulani extremists that they are on their own