Fellow Nigerians or whoever cares to listen, Nigerians and particularly Igbos are genuinely worried and opposed to the Ruga initiative. Once bitten twice shy. Whoever has been bitten by a snake dreads a lifeless stick on the road.
The Igbos as an ethnic group within Nigeria has lived through unimaginable but real and horrible existential threat. Once upon a time Igbos were nearly extinguished and for the benefit of the uninformed who are either in denial or unappreciative of the scale of physical and psychological trauma that visited the Igbos between 1966 – 1970 and thereafter I reproduce a few excerpts from foreign observers at the time.
“I want to see no Red Cross, no Caritas, no World Council of Churches, no Pope, no missionary, no UN delegation. I want to prevent even one Ibo from having even one piece to eat before their capitulation. We shoot at everything that moves and when our troops march into the centre of Ibo territory, we shoot at everything, even things that do not move” (Benjamin Adekunle, Commander, 3rd Marine Commander Division, Nigerian Army to French Radio Reporter).
“Until now efforts to relieve the Biafran people have been thwarted by the desire of the central government to pursue total and unconditional victory and by the fear of the Ibo people that surrender means wholesale atrocities and genocide. But genocide is what is taking place right now and starvation is the grim reaper. This is not the time to stand on ceremony, or go through channels or to observe diplomatic niceties. The destruction of an entire people is immoral objective, even in the most moral of wars. It can never be condoned”, (Richard Nixon, during the presidential campaign, September 9, 1968)
“One word now describes the policy of the Nigerian military government towards secessionist Biafra: genocide. It is ugly and extreme but it is the only word which fits Nigeria’s decision to stop international Red Cross and other relief agencies from flying food to Biafra ( Washington Post editorial, July 2, 1969).
“There has been genocide on the occasion of the 1966 massacres, the region between the towns of Benin and Asaba where only widows and orphans remain, federal troops having, for unknown reasons, massacred all the men” (Paris Le Monde, 5th April, 1968)
“Myself and the same UNICEF representatives went on to convey something of what lay behind this intransigence: Among the large majority hailing from that tribe who are the most vocal in inciting the complete extermination of the Igbos. I often heard remarks that all Nigeria’s ills will be cured once the Igbos have been exterminated from the human map.” (Dr Conor Cruise O’Brien, 21 December, 1967, New York Review
Post war Nigerian government policies reinforced the fears of Biafrans that Nigeria’s tribal structure and relationships are unforgiving and destructive. Most emphatically, General Gowon in his surrender speech on 15th January 1970 said that ‘’we guarantee the security of life and property of all citizens in every part of Nigeria and equality in political rights ……’’ but the same Gowon immediately proceeded to confiscate the properties of Igbos in their own country in the name of the Abandoned Property law.
What’s the relevance of all these. Little things are often reminders of previous tragic events. Only a thoroughly insensitive person will fail to appreciate Igbo fears of existential threats. The Igbos and in deed other Nigerians have experienced the ugly sides of the country’s ethnic tensions and although some regimes have admittedly tried to ameliorate the excesses of tribal frictions, none has raised the tempo of suspicions and despair as the current government of President Buhari and APC.
If there is anyone out there listening and has the ears of the President he needs to be told that Nigeria is already hanging on the precipice and Ruga may be the final straw that pushes her over. No one except the beneficiaries of this senseless project believes that it’s an innocent programme to end herdsmen and farmers clashes.
Whatever is the origin of the word Ruga, we understand it to mean Hausa word for Fulani settlement. Fulani settlements as clearly shown in Nigerian history precedes conquest and domination in the northern part of the country. How on earth any right thinking government can conceive the idea of herdsmen settlements in places that are already fearful of their place in the Nigerian federation is beyond belief. The insensitivity is audacious and reckless.
The Ruga project for whatever purpose it’s meant is wrong;
It portrays a government oblivious to the feelings and interests of the diverse ethnic groups of Nigeria. Relatedly the President, the initiator of this supposedly good scheme has in the last 4 years shown himself to be obstinately partisan and parochial to the detriment of national unity.
Ruga is clearly against the spirit of the Nigerian constitution. The federal government has no place expending huge billions of naira on the business of Fulani herdsmen already on the rampage in the most bizarre primitive acquisition of other people’s property, land. Any state government confronted with the genuine problems of cattle rearing and issues arising from that should address it locally.
Nigeria is supposedly a free market country where individuals and corporate bodies are meant to manage, grow and adapt their businesses to the ever changing world.
Ruga is wrong for its primitivism. Ruga implies an isolated and exclusive Fulani village. The modern world is thinking of integration and inclusivity. A booming Fulani village with distinctive Fulani characteristics in a strange land in an already tensed country is nothing but recipe for disaster.
Mr President, Fulani oligarchs in Nigeria and worldwide, Ruga is beckoning civil war in Nigeria. Mark my words.
Emmanuel Chigozie Osuchukwu is a writer based in London; Email: email@example.com