Home ViewpointOpinion Emmanuel Onwubiko: Nigeria’s Man of the Year is a “cow”

Emmanuel Onwubiko: Nigeria’s Man of the Year is a “cow”

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As a Journalism student many years ago at the Jos campus of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ), one of our powerful Journalism teachers who also doubled as a practicing media worker told us that the major role of the media in any nation is agenda setting.

That fundamental and Institutional function of a Journalist as an agenda setter or rather the newspaper as an agenda setter is fully actualized when editorial boards of each publication takes a position on an issue of national interest and then thematically highlight key points that must be practicalized by the government to achieve good governance.

The fact that a typical media house ought to act as an agenda setter is best explained when you research on the etymology of the tradition of yearly naming a theme, individual or institution in a country as the Man of the year.

The tradition of selecting a “Man of the year” specifically started in 1927, with Time editors contemplating the news makers of the year.

The idea reportedly was also an attempt to remedy the editorial embarrassment earlier that year of not having aviator Charles Lindbergh on its cover following his historic trans-Atlantic Flight.

Ever since Charles Lindbergh was proclaimed Man of the Year for 1927 in the Jan. 2, 1928, issue, TIME magazine has annually selected what is now known as the Person of the Year — the man, woman, group or concept that had the most influence on the world during the previous 12 months. In 2019, TIME’s editors chose climate activist Greta Thunberg.

From the official website of TIME magazine comes the information that, a letter to readers that appeared in the 1944 edition (Man of the Year: Dwight Eisenhower), TIME’s Person of the Year franchise all started by accident. Here’s what happened: New Year’s week of 1928 had been a string of slow news days. In those years, TIME’s cover — which had only recently acquired its signature red border — was dedicated almost exclusively to portraiture, but there was nobody whose face seemed to fit the week’s events. As the publication date approached, the editors were at a loss. “No one had done anything newsworthy enough to put his picture on TIME’s cover, so somebody suggested we stop looking for a Man of the Week and pick a Man of the Year,” wrote then-publisher P.I. Prentice in the Jan. 1, 1945, issue. “This was an easy choice: Charles Augustus Lindbergh, who had soloed the Atlantic in only 33 hours and 39 minutes, was the hero of 1927.”

TIME magazine website also informs us that, (It was also the case that Lindbergh had not been on the cover yet, an oversight that needed rectifying. The week that news of Lindbergh’s flight was reported, the TIME cover featured an old picture of King George V & Queen Mary in masquerade costumes.)

The editors apparently didn’t think that naming Lindbergh as TIME’s Person of the Year would be particularly noteworthy — in fact, the actual article about him is fairly brief and not even easy to find within the magazine.

So it is fair to adduce herein that the idea of naming a man of the year is not a new tradition. What we have set out to do in this reflection is to undertake a critical appraisal of the dominant issues that have bedevilled Nigeria since the beginning of the year that has the biggest impacts in terms of losses. Nigeria has had frustrating experiences over the past many years with the economy and the issue of mass illiteracy and mass poverty. But perhaps, the Country has siffered from the most debilitating threat to her survival as a nation from INSECURITY and instability brought about by the activities of armed non state actors in the last five years and compounded by the inaction of the Federal government of President Muhammadu Buhari to bring these security threats to a minimal level. So the situation of insecurity will appear appealing herein in the understanding of the theme of this write up. Permit me to state emphatically that any observer who is not used to keeping records meticulously, can easily be persuaded to think that the Corona virus Pandemic in Nigeria is the single most disturbing phenomenon that has affected a majority of Nigerians. Also, we will forgive any observer who also suggests that boko haram terrorists have affected more lives than any other thing including Covid-19 Pandemic in Nigeria.

But none of the above is correct if we go by the fact that the government of Nigeria has made some forms of efforts to positively address the consequences of both of those disturbing developments although with some obvious errors of judgment and lack of professionalism and efficiency.

However, one thing stands out clearly as Nigeria’s hydra headed monster which the present Muhammadu Buhari – led administration has shown no willingness to confront head long.

That major thing is A COW and the Fulani herdsmen. So, it is not out of place to immediately list “Cow” as Nigeria’s man of the year 2020 because it is factually correct that because of cows and grazing lands, over six thousand innocent Nigerians have been slaughtered. Sadly, the World has bought into the mistaken but deliberately couched narrative that there is a conflict between Fulani pastoralists and farmers. Far from this, what we have had over the years, with some frenetic ferocity this year of 2020 is the incessant attacks against farmers and Villagers by armed Fulani herdsmen and pastoralists and then coupled with the Federal government that places higher premium on the VALUE OF COWS THAN THE SACRED VALUE OF HUMAN LIFE. Also, cows are the major cause of frictions in over Seventy five percent of one sided conflicts instigated against farmers by armed pastoralists against villagers that have led to bloodshed in virtually all parts of Nigeria with southern Kaduna, Benue and Plateau states becoming the flash points of these needless massacres of farmers who are mostly Christians and native people of those states. The Southern Nigerian States of Enugu, Imo, Abia, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and some parts of South Western States have also had series of violent attacks. Sadly, in all of these killings, not one of the killers suspected to be armed Fulani herdsmen have been prosecuted.

The Justice Minister who is Fulani by ethnicity, told the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) that his office has not prosecuted any of those suspected armed Fulani herdsmen because there is no case files on those killings. But even as the Central Government is not willing to prosecute armed Fulani herdsmen, the president has consistently promoted a one sided narrative blaming the victims for those conflicts when he has persistently pledged to restore what he calls grazing routes for cows even in this 21st Century that ranching is the best form of cattle business and indeed you may begin to imagine why the private business of cows should become the dominant concern of the president of Nigeria who although is Fulani, was elected for all of Nigeria by the electorate who cut across over two hundred ethnicities and religious affiliations.

Not long ago, the president repeated his unusual clamour for cows.

President Muhammadu Buhari had reportedly charged his ministers of agriculture to work with the states to rediscover the lost animal grazing routes and reserves as a means to ending the frequent outbreak of violence between farmers and herders.

President Buhari also said that Nigerian farmers stand to reap the benefits of his government’s reforms as he continues to accord the highest priority to agriculture, describing it as the country’s largest employer of labour and engine of growth.

Speaking a meeting with Katsina State Elders Forum at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the President said his administration will continue to take steps to enhance output and productivity by ensuring the availability of cheap agricultural credits, farm inputs, fertilizer and the introduction of latest technologies. President Buhari in a statement issued by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu said the choice of practicing farmers as ministers in charge of agriculture, first Chief Audu Ogbe and now, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, was a reflection of his strong wish to protect the interest of farmers and the attainment of national food self-sufficiency. According to the statement, “He (Buhari) agreed to look into the request of the Katsina Elders for the expansion of existing irrigation schemes at Zobe and Sabke dams to enhance employment and profitability in agriculture, saying that a situation in which 60 per cent of the state is productive in rain-fed agriculture for three to four months, and idle for the rest of the year was unacceptable. “The President told the meeting that he had charged his ministers of agriculture to work with the states to rediscover the lost animal grazing routes and reserves as a means to ending the frequent outbreak of violence between farmers and herd. “He also pressed the necessity of educating school-age children, saying that once the opportunity of early education is lost, it often turns out very difficult for them to make up. “According to him, “This is the best preparation we can give to them. We destroy their lives by denying children education.” The statement further said that President Buhari also broached the issue of armed banditry and kidnapping that had bedevilled Katsina and other north-western states and gave assurances that the situation will be overcome in the same way the farmer-herders attacks were subdued. The leader the delegation, Alhaji Aliyu Balarabe Saulawa representing the Chairman, Alhaji Ahmadu Kurfi, Maradin Katsina, commended the President for returning peace to most parts of the state and for the various infrastructure projects, including the Kano-Jigawa-Katsina-Maradi rail link. They welcomed the recent decision by government to elongate the service of teachers and improve their condition of service.

In some states, the threat to food production has been exacerbated by clashes between communities over farmlands. In states known for their enormous contribution to food production, the blood of farmers killed by bandits and herdsmen has not ceased to flow while the lives of those who survived the attacks have been torn apart, as they have been turned into refugees and in some instances reduced to destitution. This much was revealed in some of the major states involved in the production of food, so says media reports. Media says that for the past two years, Simon Orshio, a native of Mbabai Village in Guma Local Government Area of Benue State has been living in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp with his family. He escaped from his village in 2018 after Fulani herdsmen attacked it, killed many people and displaced the survivors. Since then, he and his entire household, including his aged father and siblings have been at the Abagana IDP Camp in Makurdi, the Benue State capital. They had not been able to return to their ancestral homes since they escaped the murderous attack. But this year, Orshio along with other members of the village decided to take their destiny in their hands, to revive their farming activities from the relative safety of the IDP camp. In the last five years, Niger State has been plagued by banditry. Although every part of the state has had one form of security challenge or the other arising from kidnaping, cattle rustling and rape, Shiroro, Munya, Kagara and Rafi are the four local government areas that have become the epicentre of the activities of bandits activities, where the people have lost their ancestral homes and farms. About 176 communities across the four LGAs have remained “no-go areas” as they are under the control of armed bandits. From 2015 when the bandits launched their attacks till date, more than 10,000 people have been displaced and are taking refuge in six IDP camps. The bandits have sustained the attacks and no week passes without an attack on the people. Several have been kidnapped and their families compelled to pay huge ransoms. The plight of farmers in Plateau State is no less heart-rending as herdsmen have prevented most of them from cultivating their farmlands. More agonizing is that those who have been able to plant crops, have had the mature crops that are almost ready for harvest destroyed by herdsmen who deliberately graze their cattle in the farms, destroying the crops in the process. Though, when strongly confronted by the leaders of the farmers, the herdsmen accept responsibility, but what they pay as compensation has always been grossly inadequate to cover the real value of the crops destroyed. This sad experience has been the lot of people in Gyero village of Gyel District in Jos South Local Government Area of Plateau State, where herdsmen grazed freely in about 50 farms belonging to the natives. Governor Solomon Lalong had exempted the villagers from the lockdown imposed on state, to allow them plant their crops. When the crops had grown to a viable stage, the herdsmen let their herds of cattle loose to graze in the farms at night. The victims were speechless when they saw the horrendous damage done to the farms and bemoaned the huge loss they incurred. It was gathered that the incident had been a regular occurrence.

Even in the nation’s capital, the fear of COWS has become the beginning of wisdom. Cows now enjoy right of way along major HIGHWAYS in Abuja than motorists even when it is known that the master plan does not permit open grazing of animals but since President Muhammadu Buhari is Fulani and the FCT minister Mohammed Bello is also Fulani, the duo have prioritised the welfare of COWS much more than that of the HUMAN beings living in the Federal Capital Territory.

For instance, only Yesterday, the report emerged that no fewer than three persons were injured in a bloody clash between farmers and herders at Iddo, a community in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, on Monday. Many thatched houses were also set ablaze when locals resisted the Fulani herdsmen who allegedly grazed livestock on their farms.

Confirming the incident, the FCT police spokesperson, ASP Mariam Yusuf, said operatives had restored calm, adding that the Commissioner of Police, Ali Ciroma had also held peace talks with the community leaders to forestall a recurrence of the violence.

It stated, “The FCT Police Command has successfully restored calm along Iddo axis, following a farmers-herders clash that broke out between locals residing in a settlement within Iddo on Monday. “The unfortunate clash left three persons with various degrees of injuries while some thatched houses were set ablaze within the area. The Commissioner of Police FCT, Bala Ciroma has ordered a discreet investigation into the incident.” Meanwhile, the Nigeria Labour Congress has condemned the reported killing of some commuters on Sunday at Gidan Busa, close to the end of the Abuja – Kaduna expressway by suspected kidnappers. Scores of people were also said to have been wounded while many were abducted by the hoodlums who allegedly intercepted and attacked over 20 vehicles. The congress in a statement by its president, Ayuba Wabba, described the attack as one too many, and the most horrific, stressing that it represented the height of impunity and lawlessness. The statement titled, ‘Halt the highway massacre,’ read in part, “We are afraid to state that our security agents have not done enough to contain the surge of violence on that road. “In the past couple of weeks alone, we have recorded multiple attacks in and around the same spot qualifying it to be designated a dark spot. We also need more intelligence as reaction almost always comes after damage has been done. “We do need mobile recce on a sustainable basis instead of the present ad-hoc arrangement. Last but not the least, what has happened to the highway safe houses of yore?” The union further called on the security agents to rise to the renewed challenges of internal security. Most pf those who kidnap passengers along the Highways are also COW RUSTLERS which underscores the enormity of the security threats posed to the Nigerian citizens by COWS. So the man of the year in Muhammadu Buhari’s Nigeria of the year 2020 is a COW.

*EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and blogs@www. theingerianinsidernews.com, www.huriwanigeria.com.

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