Response to Prof. Seun Kolade’s article: You can’t tackle “herdsmen” terrorism without addressing rural poverty
Prof. Seun Kolade is a friend of mine (We are both waiting for the lockdown to ease, so we may grab some good coffee together as we have a lot to physically discuss). I read his new short article last night after a long day. Kolade made the argument that “rural farmers in Nigeria are trapped in a cycle of desperate poverty”. This particular sentence hooked me like a stubborn fish bone in my oesophagus, you know the kind of Tilapia fish bone you’d push down with a morsel of hot Eba wrapped in okra stew but wouldn’t ‘move an inch’. As I began to ponder on this sentence for a long time, I realised the fact and the recognition that not only the rural farmers are trapped in this poverty cycle but the city dwellers and workers in Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt, the ‘money miss road’ politicians stashing away billions of Dollars in their Swiss accounts, the former Vice President with a mansion on the Potomac, the former Governor with a mansion in Croydon, yet complaining that his successor did not buy him a car as part of his pension and gratuities, the ‘Oga Agbero’ of NURTW who owns a luxury flat in Canary Wharf overlooking the Thames River and the former senator who is currently enjoying himself in Dubai after lacing his pockets with billions of Naira from various Senatorial District projects at the National Assembly. Kolade is spot on about being trapped in a poverty cycle but what he didn’t flesh out is that the entire nation is impoverished. I write without any recourse that Nigeria is indeed trapped in a poverty cycle. Kolade and I knows this. We are a poverty ridden nation. We are bankrupt!
Last week, a news report was published that Nigerian moneybags spends an average of £30M (Thirty Million Pounds Sterling) per annum on university education for their children in the UK. Now imagine what the equivalent of this which is circa N18B could do to improve education at the University of Ibadan? The elder brother of a Nigerian billionaire (I knew the family very well when I was growing up at The First Baptist Church Lagos) disclosed in an interview a few days ago how his wealthy brother died of Covid-19 complications. He said that they had to pay N10M (£16K) for a bed so his late brother could be clinically attended to. The brother then said this, “if such a wealthy man couldn’t get a bed in a hospital, what is the hope for the common man?”. I don’t think that this man was asking a rhetorical question, it is a question in its present continuous tense that all Nigerians MUST answer. What is the hope for the common man? Suspected Fulani Herdsmen have been unleashing terror on villagers in Ibarapa and its environs and both the State and Federal Governments have turned blind eyes until a citizen took it upon himself and sacked the terrorists and friends! This particular brazen act by this citizen should henceforth be a secondary school module under the Subject ‘Civic Education’ and to be titled ‘Igbohoism’-Igbohoism is the identification of the challenges of historical problems and the need to sack such!
We have a problem in Nigeria!
We need to further probe this problem that Kolade has helpfully identified in his article. Our local church began a monthly evangelistic evening service yesterday and I had the opportunity to preach a sermon from Genesis 2:15-3:6 under the title, ‘We have a problem’. As I prepared the sermon and also preached it over 22mins, I couldn’t but remember my country of birth and that it seems many Nigerians do not yet have the clearer understanding that we have a problem in Nigeria. Kolade is concerned with and about rural transformation and the development of our hinterlands, fair enough and I have no problem with this but Kolade and I must realise that this historical and present rot of non-development and/or what I have come to know as deliberate under-development is not only peculiar to the Nigerian villages but also the cities. The endemic rot is in highbrow places like Bourdillon Road, Ikoyi Lagos, where though the road may be paved with metaphorical asphalt gold compared to the rustic rural roads leading into Ibarapa and where one of the homeowners is perhaps the richest politician in the whole of Africa had bullion vans photographed in broad daylight been driven into his compound on the eve of the last presidential election. The cash reportedly in those vans could have been used to develop Ibarapa into a London Greenwich Village where a lot of gentrification is ongoing or used to clean up the Lagos drainages which usually becomes an eyesore when there’s a heavy downpour or used to expand the Moniya-Iseyin link bridge where a friend of our family whose birthday would have been today tragically died last week.
Prof Kolade desires for the villages to be developed but Nigeria has not only neglected the villages and but the cities too. I am not going to delude myself that Lagos is a city because it is not! We may be building the Eko Atlantic, we may have Banana Island and other mega housing estate projects doting the metropolitan ‘city’ of Lagos but all you need do is cross the Carter Bridge into Apapa and see the systemic rot. Two weeks ago, two suspected armed robbers were necklaced near Wilmer Junction and killed, yet our thieving politicians are roaming the Abuja ‘city’ in Mercedes Benz cars, eating fresh fish and quaffing Moët? Cross the Eko Bridge into Yaba and you’d vomit to see that the same Lagos with the so called Banana Island and Lekki Phase 1 is also home to Makoko on the Lagos Lagoon! Lagos kills her citizens by crisscrossing lethal crude oil products pipelines across the state which has killed more people than the suspected herdsmen have done. Ibarapa may be undeveloped but I’d prefer to live in Igangan where there is fresh food than in Lagos where the stench of over population may kill me. I’d prefer to live in Omi Adio, a village on the outskirt of Ibadan towards Abeokuta than live in Ajah where I will be stuck in traffic for 15 years out of my 80 years on earth. Suspected Fulani herdsmen may be killing villagers in Ibarapa but police officers kills more in the city of Lagos. Kidnappers daily lay siege on the Ore-Benin Road to maim and kill commuters but the Nigeria Army kills more by court marshalling junior soldiers for asking for better war kit to fight the Boko Haram insurgency.
We have a problem in Nigeria!
I am a professing Christian of Reformed Baptist persuasion and just like I told the hearers last night at our evangelistic service, I’d like to share again here that Humanity has a problem. There are various indicators pointing to this fact. A bomb was placed on a PamAm flight from Heathrow to the US and blew over the Scottish town of Lockerbie. Terrorists flew passenger planes into the World Trade Centre and killed over 3000 people. AlQaida Terrorists detonated bombs over an embassy in Kenya killing scores of people. Nazi Terrorists exterminated over 1M Jews in various camps in Europe. The apartheid in South Africa had many people killed. Hutu Rebels massacred ethnic Tutsis in Kigali Rwanda killing over 800K people in 100 days. Fulani Herdsmen are hacking farmers to death in South West Nigeria, and when we come to the narratives in the Bible, we read of Cain killing Abel in the first murder, Egypt enslaving Israel for 430 years and King David stealing another man’s wife. All these that I have mentioned were and are the consequences of sin. The question is, what problem do we have as humanity? We have sinned against God and deserve to die an eternal death and the only person who can save us from this eternal death is the Almighty God in Jesus Christ but it is important to truly and really understand the problem we are in and why we need to be saved. It is necessary to have a grasp of what we need to be saved from and why we can not save ourselves. We have a problem. We have a very huge problem. We have the problem of sin. We are rebellious people! We are by nature children of wrath and this is the reason why man kills another man. This is the reason why world economies are corrupt, the need to recognise our sinful state and the very utmost urgent need for reconciliation. This reconciliation can only be found in Jesus Christ. Only Jesus Christ can save the politicians in Nigeria. May the Lord in His will and mercy grant our politicians eternal life. Amen.
Olawale A. Akinrogunde serves as Co-Elder at Grace Church Walthamstow London and founding member of the International Alliance for Justice and Peace in Nigeria.