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Before we crucify Bala Mohammed

Published by The Nation on Sun, 21 Feb 2021

By Emma AguMany will remember the rhetorical question posed by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu when accusing fingers started pointing at the Fulani, as the culprits in the unfortunate murder of Mrs. Funke Olakunrin, daughter of Afenifere leader, Chief Reuben Fasoranti. When asked to comment on the murder, Tinubu asked: Is Evans a Fulani herdsman'Tinubu was referring to Evans, who is now standing trial for allegations of kidnapping and extortion of money from victims. To be sure, by referring to Chukwudi Onuamadike, alias Evans, many people of Igbo extraction interpreted it as a dig at their race. After all, since Mrs. Olakunrins killers were presumed to be looking for money, Tinubu might as well have asked: Is Dr. Ishola Oyenusi or Shina Rambo Fulani' Oyenusi (Yoruba by tribe), was the notorious armed felon who, in the early seventies, led a series of carjacking and bank heists that, for several months, defied the best investigative effort of Nigerias security agencies, until he was apprehended after leading the Boulos Factory robbery of 1971. Similarly, Shina Rambo, was the dare-devil robber who terrorized Lagos and environs in the mid-nineties leaving a trail of blood as he made nonsense of Nigerias security apparatus. He too was later checkmated.On the identity of the murders of Mrs. Olakunrin, Tinubu had this to say: I am extremely bothered about security but I dont want stigma. I can go through the history of kidnapping and we know how it started, where it started, there are lot of copycats; how many years ago have we faced insecurity in this country and cases of kidnapping' Is Evans a herdsman'I have recalled the two episodes to remind us that ethnic profiling has never been encouraged by the society. Neither Oyenusi nor Shina Rambo (both Yoruba by tribe) or even Lawrence Anini (Edo by tribe) were of the Igbo or Fulani stock. That was the implication of Tinubus riposte to the accusation that, the Fulani had killed the daughter of the Yoruba leader.By some uncanny coincidence, that dastard criminal act was carried out in the same Ondo State where, a few weeks ago, the State Governor, the indefatigable and fearless Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, issued an eviction order on Fulani herdsmen in the state. The controversies and actions that have trailed Akeredolus order have reached fever pitch and the nation is searching, or is it groping, for a path out of the conundrum.Thus when, last week, the Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed, tried to rationalise the circumstances of the Fulani herdsmen by saying they armed themselves with AK47, in self-defence, he obviously did not expect a slap in the wrist from Nigerians. Understandably, many have kicked against his statement for the well-founded reason that, there is no questioning the culpability of some Fulani herdsmen in the sordid spate of crimes that not only dehumanise people but now threaten the very survival of the country.Actually, contrary to the impression created, anyone who knows Bala Mohammed will agree that he would never dispute a claim that the Sultan of Sokoto and MURIC have ostensibly corroborated. Be that as it may, in the nature of things, the impression that has gained ground is that Bala Mohammeds primary intent was simply to support a kin-group to which he only tangentially belongs. However, from the explanation of his spokesman, Comrade Gidado Mukhtar, that was not his intention. According to Mukhtar, at no time did the Governor set out to justify criminality by anyone, no matter the persons ethnic nationality. Rather, he admonished us, in the interest of national unity, to avoid wholesale branding of any ethnic group as it is inconceivable that any one group can be made up of only criminals.Fortuitously, appearing on a TV programme last Tuesday, two days before Bala Mohammeds statement, Femi Otubanjo, retired professor of political science at the University of Ibadan, maintained the same position. To him, all the hoopla can be avoided by addressing the people by their occupation as herdsmen (emphasis mine), so that the over 70 percent of Fulani people who are engaged in other occupations in the urban areas, would not be stigmatized by the wholesale profiling of their ethnic group as criminals.Just as no one can dismiss the obvious culpability of some people of Fulani extraction in the unconscionable blood-letting and bestiality that has killed many and defiled women, no one can sweep aside the genuine fear, as expressed by Bala Mohammed, that the ethnic profiling of Fulani could lead to unpleasant actions against them. Are we not already there' Apart from the Sunday Igboho expedition against the Fulani in Ibarapa, today, all over much of the South West, people of Fulani extraction now live in fear.
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