OBJ the farmer vs PMB the herdsman and the rest of us By Hassan Gimba


Nigeria is at its wit’s end over the farmers-herders’ clashes in which lives in hundreds and properties in hundreds of millions of naira have been lost.
Unfortunately, one cannot safely say the end is in sight but the government is doing all it can to bring such clashes to a halt. Whatever happens, as in a family fight, there will only be the vanquished because this is one of such clashes that produce no victors.
It is in this difficult and sad time that Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, now a certified Ph.D. holder, chose to release the kind of letter he is known for releasing when governments at the centre are struggling for air.
Dr Olusegun Obasanjo is different things to different people. He has variously been praised as the nation’s conscience and, at the same time, vilified as the devil’s incarnate. Whichever one chooses, one can marshall strong points to back one’s opinion of him.
On March 4, 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari himself said “Former President Obasanjo is a courageous patriot and statesman who tells truth to power when he is convinced leaders are going wrong.” Obasanjo himself was reported in the Punch newspaper of September 15, 2017 to have said Buhari had impressed him.
But trust Nigerians with their inventiveness and capacity to make light of every seemingly troubling situation, a kind of comic relief to ease off stress, the trending engagement between perhaps arguably the only two Nigerians who have been in the country’s political consciousness for the past forty years, is to pass it off as a mere “farmer-herder quarrel”, and going further to say that “the battle line has been drawn”.
But is it? I do not think so; at least going by what is in public domain. To begin with, the government’s response, even if out of tune with the former leader’s allegations, was mature, measured and conciliatory. In the past, those who received Obasanjo’s letters took up the bait and engaged him in a roforofo fight. Perhaps being a retired General himself, Buhari knows that any soldier, retired or active, bristles on challenges. Turn back meekly and the ballooned ego in him bursts. And they let you off, especially the officers being also trained ‘gentlemen’.
Obasanjo’s letter, a sort of an ambush, may be the precursor to many political machinations because a soldier, especially a commander, does not draw the first blood and then go to sleep. Likewise, a good commander must not sense an ambush and go to sleep. Both Obasanjo and Buhari were good war commanders and both of them know and have tasted power at the highest level and what it can be used for.
Nigerians should expect a lot of political movements and activities that may even threaten the dominance of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) because many will come out with the intention of delivering Nigeria from its current not too encouraging narrative.
However, all these will happen in a suave, elitist manner. The problem will be with the followers who are wont to hurl brickbats at one another and at the main actors. These are the people who fight for, kill for and die for those who do not even know them. Most of them do not even benefit from the good fortune of their adopted heroes.
And this is one of the problems President Muhammadu Buhari and all those who genuinely love him should endeavour to avoid.
At the nascence and the apogee of the campaign against former President Goodluck Jonathan, his supporters became social media warriors, bashing his ‘enemies’ left, right and centre. And the ‘enemies’ were people who spoke out of genuine love for country and rightly felt he needed to be told the home truth. They instead preferred to praise him to high heavens and clap at all his gaffes – and they were plenty; they simply succeeded in alienating those who would have genuinely helped him politically.
We are today witnessing a repeat of history. Anybody who really loves President Buhari would be alarmed at the way some things are happening under his watch and they must tell him the truth. His failure would be a shame or even embarrassment to them. They knew what they went through in supporting him. Those murdering people on social media on his behalf should know that they are not helping him one bit.
At that time, Obasanjo and many others being traduced today were heroes and they would not be seen by Buhari’s social media warriors as devils’ incarnate had they not ‘dared’ to speak truth to power. A lot, for fear of such ‘warriors’, have been intimidated into graveyard silence, muscled out of their inalienable right to freedom of speech. The fear should be the fact that their silence does not translate into acceptance.
When Buhari was chosen over Jonathan, it was the best for Nigeria because if Jonathan had won, maybe, just maybe, there would have been no Nigeria by now. God used Buhari then to stabilise Nigeria but the way things are now, probably Buhari needs to change drastically to pull Nigeria up. If not, then somebody else’s time to do that has come.
No doubt Obasanjo, as president, committed almost all the wrongs he now accuses Buhari of. But Buhari’s supporters should also know that you cannot attack your wicked neighbour who cautions, for instance, your child for misdemeanor because you love that child very much. You also cannot refuse to right your ways just because a sinner tells you that what you are doing happens to be a sin.
But better than those shouting blue murder, Buhari knows the value of Obasanjo. Even though Obasanjo, like an opportunist, always aggregates the general thinking of the people and jumps in front of the bandwagon, he nonetheless has the capacity to irritate and mobilise the international community behind a cause. He may not have any electoral value, in terms of numbers, but his capacity at terrorising and denying sleep to his opponent is legendary. He also knows how to bring under his fold those with electoral value.
Buhari is a Fulani and, like the average Fulani herder, is ‘decorous’ and even ‘civil’ in enmity and waits for his time to ‘revenge’ personally or hand over the fight to children and grandchildren yet unborn to ‘avenge’. But again, better than those picking the gauntlet on his behalf, he knows that Obasanjo, like the average farmer, does not lay pretence to decorum or civility in his fights. He is also not averse to rolling in the mud (and even gutter) unlike him who may not want his sparkling white babban riga sullied.
Henry Kissinger was quoted to have said that ‘the conventional army loses if it does not win’ but ‘the guerrilla wins if he does not lose’. Buhari can be likened to the conventional army and Obasanjo the guerrilla fighter. Does Obasanjo care about people’s applause or damnation? He does not seem to care. And that’s why he has never lost. Well, minus the third term bid.
Luckily for Buhari, Obasanjo’s letter came early in the day; at least comparatively earlier than when Jonathan got his. And since to be forewarned is a call to be forearmed, he should be the Buhari most wanted and voted for in 2015. Nigeria is yet to change the way we all dreamt of way back in 2015. But then, maybe because change is yet to start with the leadership. The Chinese have a proverb which says a fish begins to rot from the head because they believe that change must begin with leaders before it seeps down to the citizenry.
Having said this, truth is, Nigeria needs a leader who can take it to the next level. The life of a nation, like that of man, has milestones, and at each milestone, there comes a leader purpose-fit to take it forward. He may not necessarily be the messiah but surely he may have the panacea for the ills bedeviling the nation at that point in time.
Year 2015 was definitely the time for a Buhari. God in His mercy and wisdom has used him to stabilise the country and keep it united as one.
Year 2019 should be for another Buhari, but younger, better educated, more vigorous and surely more accommodating.
It would be wrong, bordering on a challenge to the Creator of man, to think, believe and even say that in a country of 180 million, there is no one else better who can heal our festering wounds and lead Nigeria to unity and progress apart from President Muhammadu Buhari.
And leadership recruitment is not the preserve of people like Obasanjo alone. Leaving it for few has landed us exactly where we are now.
All Nigerians should look around the political space and identify and encourage those who have the wherewithal to lift this nation out of the present quagmire. Every Nigerian should have his views and opinions on those he feels can deliver the goods. It is left for us all to decide who the best is.
God willing, I will come up with a shortlist of those I believe can fit into the shoes of the wanted great leader Nigeria deserves at this point of its nationhood.
When on the 26th of February 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari said at Chatham House, London: “Nigeria’s economy grew to become the biggest in Africa, but it is more of paper growth, a growth that, on account of mismanagement, profligacy and corruption, has not translated to human development or shared prosperity,” he was right.
He then said the economic growth refused to answer three fundamental questions: “what is happening to poverty? What is happening to unemployment? And what is happening to inequality?” Have these questions been addressed? Our task as a nation is to get those who will address them.
Therefore, while we can amuse ourselves with the exchanges between Obj the farmer and PMB the herder, we should come together as brothers and sisters to look for the one that will lead us to the Promised Land.


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