THE Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, while participating in a live television programme, recently asked Nigerians who are against the current administration’s ranching and colony programmes for herdsmen to have a rethink. In his reply when asked a question about people’s sentimental attachments to ancestral lands, Mr. Adesina dropped a bombshell. He said: “Ancestral attachment? You can only have ancestral attachment when you are alive. If you are talking about ancestral attachment, if you are dead, how does the attachment matter?”
For a government under oath to protect the lives and properties of citizens, there hardly can be a worse step. Adesina’s statement was completely unguarded. And except the Presidency tacitly endorses the outrageous proposition, it should officially repudiate it. Indeed, it is disturbing that it has not found it necessary to do so till now. Ordinarily, an elected government should care about the sentiments of those who voted it into power because discountenancing them may prove to be electorally fatal. Mr. Adesina’s riposte during the TV interview means that if people refuse to give up their lands, they would end up dead on account of their refusal. This is an aggravation of the extremely touchy issue of herdsmen who have been labelled as terrorists as a result of their unceasing acts of violence against farmers all over the country and their quest to take over other people’s lands.
Pray, are the herdsmen to be officially recognised as being superior to farmers in the country? Was the presidential spokesman speaking the mind of the president who had previously sought to douse the tension in the polity by claiming that the killing of farmers across the country was carried out by foreigners from Libya? Is the presidency now threatening the farmers who have been depopulated? Adesina’s threat damaged President Buhari’s posturing in its entirety.
As could be expected, Adesina’s threat has been strongly condemned by ethnic and pressure groups whose interests have been spurned by the herdsmen’s violence, especially southern and Middle Belt leaders who have reacted angrily to the threat to law-abiding citizens and their ancestral heritage. The statement reveals the reasons behind the kid gloves with which the government has hitherto treated the herdsmen’s infamy. Besides, the statement explains the double standards exhibited by the government with regard to the herdsmen. In any case, it shows the supercilious attitude of the Presidency to the yearnings and interests of citizens and people who are of different persuasions from the herdsmen’s.
The Nigerian state’s resort to the threat of extrajudicial killings in order to expropriate people’s lands is not only unfortunate, it is actually ridiculous and indeed shameful and must be condemned by all people of goodwill. Nigeria must be governed by the rule of law and any establishment that will upturn that must be absolutely condemned. We think that the Presidency ought to retract the abominable statement made by its spokesperson. To say the least, it was demeaning, insensitive and ill-advised. It represents a brazen and unabashed display of clannishness and favouritism writ large in governance.
It could be painful to see people assumed to be statesmen betraying such base emotions and prejudices as clannishness in a plural society like Nigeria. It certainly bodes ill for countries that experience such afflictions in the high places.