By Musa Azare
“There is no one tribe that can be attached to one crime.” – Gov. Bala Mohammed Profiling of criminals based on their race, religion, ethnicity or whatever inclination other than the crimes they commit is one of the biggest challenges of fighting crime and criminality anywhere in the world. However, the political nature of man will hardly allow him to have a sense of justice that is universal in application and acceptance.
We are by nature political and therefore, sentimental.When last week during the occasion of the Press Week in Bauchi, Gov. Bala Mohammed made statements against ethnic profiling of the Fulanis, vis-a-vis the banditry and kidnappings that have characterised everyday life in some parts of Nigeria, little did he expect harsh criticisms and name-calling. But as usual with the pen pushers, they made cosmetic headlines about a nonissue, and left out the rich message of the governor, which he defended with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
I expected a legal debate over his statements as they border on our constitution but alas, politics took over the thoughts of some of us. The majority of his critics called him out only on the self-defense angle, or more precisely, the AK47 angle. As the governor rightly quoted sections of our constitution, there are rights guaranteed under the same constitution, which are referred to as “inalienable rights.”
These are rights for which the law has made “specific and special” provisions. They are officially known as “Fundamental Rights.”These rights include among others, the “Right to Freedom of Movement,” which stipulates that; “Every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part of it.” Then, the “Right to Freedom From Discrimination,” which stipulates that, “No citizen of Nigeria is to be subjected to any disabilities or restrictions based solely on the fact that he/she is a member of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion or circumstances of his/her birth.”
When the governor of Ondo State governor Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN issued quit notice to the Fulanis residing in his State, he cannot be said to be ignorant of the provisions of the constitution as quoted above. Mr. Akeredolu is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, the highest echelon of legal practice in the country.
I cannot remember such harsh criticisms against Akeredolu’s clear violation of the constitution, as we have seen against Bala Mohammed, who, by the way, was out to defend the constitution.There have been calls by leaders in this country, on citizens to defend themselves against criminals and criminality, because the government is seen to have fail to defend them.
This fact is also buttressed by Mrs. Maupe Ogun-Yusuf the co-presenter of Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily, which hosted Gov. Mohammed a couple of days ago. During her conversation with the governor, just as he was making a clarification on the AK47 issue she interrupted, “We will come to that shortly because a number of governors have also come out to say let Nigerians carry arms; let everyone be able to protect themselves..” But Gov. Mohammed however, did not call on bandits to carry arms. He simply agrees with the concept of self-defense, which is by the way, tenable even before the law.
In March 2018, a statement calling on Nigerians to defend themselves because the government has failed to defend them was credited to the respected army General, Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma.
The war veteran’s call was greeted by thunderous applause, of course by a section of the press and, a section of Nigerians as well. General Danjuma was quoted as saying; “You must rise to protect yourselves from these people, if you depend on the Arm Forces to protect you, you will all die..”Such calls are therefore, not new, and have been recently made even by Nigeria’s Defence Minister, Maj. Gen. Bashir Magashi.
The minister, in what looks like a slight, even called Nigerians “cowards” for running away in the face of bandits attacks, who according to him, “only come with about three rounds of ammunition, when they fire shots everybody runs.”Although Magashi himself came under fire, his is understandable. He is Nigeria’s Defence Minister, who is charged with “maintaining a proper balance in arms and men to meet the needs of internal and external security.”
Such a statement coming from him may sound like a clear abdication of his constitutional responsibility.The security challenges facing us as a nation are a culmination of so many factors – injustice, neglect, corruption, vested interests, poverty; name them.But the sentimentalization of Gov. Mohammed’s statements by some of our brothers across the Niger is unfortunate. The only thing they picked out of his comments was the AK-47 angle, which itself when critically analysed, is harmless. And they left out the key message that emphasizes the sanctity of the Nigerian constitution.
Indeed there are Fulanis living in the South for over a century, just as there are Yorubas, Igbos, etc, living in the North for same period of time or even more. It was beautiful when Gov. Mohammed mentioned of Yorubas that have risen to become permanent secretaries in the civil service of Bauchi State. That part of his momentous speech carries a powerful message of tolerance and accommodation that should resonate with Nigerians. Truth is, many leaders in this country agree with him, but they are trying to be politically correct by keeping quite.
But those people forget that Simon Bako Lalong is a member of the APC, Samuel Ortom is PDP. Governor Mohammed hit his party man and praised the ruling party man. This is fairness. He was largely fair and bold in his statement. His words are clear to every discerning mind that there is no intention to condone or encourage violence.
He was not talking about bandits, whose identity cut across tribes and religions anyway, but about legitimate herders, who are the worst victims of rustling and other societal vices over time, and the society and governments that have shown less concern to their ordeals. Gov. Bala Mohammed agrees that bandits are criminals and in his own words, “they must be dealt with, decisively.”