By Stanley Azuakola
Femi Falana and Femi Fani-Kayode both bear the same first names. Any attempt to find more similarities between them, especially in their approaches to problem solving may be stretching things a bit too far.
The difference in the thinking between Falana and Fani-Kayode becomes clear when one considers their positions on one of the biggest security challenges facing the country at the moment – the war between herdsmen and farmers across the country.
Fani-Kayode has intervened several times on the matter, from interviews to op-eds. Fani-Kayode, a former aviation minister and presidential campaign spokesman, shapes the conversation as a battle between the North and South; between Fulanis and the tribes of Southern Nigeria. In one such intervention, he described the herdsmen as “tsetse flies”, a provocative comment which led to a reprimand from Prof. Chidi Odinkalu of the National Human Rights Council.
“These herdsmen have become the pests of our nation. They are like the East African tse-tse fly: wherever they go they suck the life blood out of their hosts and, like the locust, they destroy everything in their path,” he said. “They are like leeches: they indulge in a parasitic mode of nutrition and they suck the blood of the carcass until their victim is left for dead.”
Invoking the ‘Janjaweed’ theory pushed by the Peoples Democratic Party to describe the All Progressives Congress in 2014, Fani-Kayode said, “Like the Arab Janjaweed, they are only known for the most hideous of things. This includes terror, intimidation, theft, murder, rape, abduction, mutilation, the violation of the rights of others, the destruction of the land and crops of farmers and the destruction of property.
“Anyone that doubts this should ask the people of the north central zone what they have been suffering in the hands of these vagabonds and vagrants for the last 50 years. This is especially so in Plateau, Benue, Niger, Kwara, Nassarawa, Taraba and Adamawa states,” he said.
Compare Fani-Kayode’s approach with that of top lawyer, Femi Falana, whose intervention on the matter was an attempt to proffer solutions.
“States which have large livestock populations should take advantage of the Land Use Act to acquire land for the establishment of grazing reserves,” he said, and suggested that those grazing reserves should be well policed.
Ultimately, according to Falana, the grazing reserves will be phased out and replaced with ranches and abattoirs.
“Since the Federal Government is obligated to protect the life and property of every citizen, urgent steps should be taken to avert further killings and destruction of farmlands by herdsmen,” Falana said in a statement.
Whereas Fani-Kayode called on Yorubas to offer “strong resistance to these alien cattle rearers”, Falana called on the federal government to move towards solving the problem or face a lawsuit by him.
Falana threatened that, “If the Buhari Administration does not discharge its constitutional duty by stopping the unwarranted civil disturbances, we shall not hesitate to pray the Federal High Court to compel it to act responsibly in the circumstance by ensuring the protection of the fundamental rights of every farmer to life and property.
“At the same time, we shall equally ask the court to compel the Federal Government and state government with large livestock populations to establish grazing reserves and ranches,” he said.
Falana said farmlands have continued to be destroyed due to the state’s failure to address the problem.
“Once again, I call on President Buhari to address the bloody clashes which occur regularly between farmers and Fulani herdsmen in the various parts of the country.
“Through the negligence of the state, the country has continued to witness the reckless killing of innocent farmers and the destruction of farmlands.
“Farmers, like other citizens, are entitled to the protection of the right to life and property. To halt such wanton killings, the primitive movement of thousands of heads of cattle from the north to the south should be stopped without any further delay,” Falana said.
Compare the above intervention by Falana, with the crude, insensitive way Fani-Kayode put it in another one of his pieces: “It is important that we get these marauders and vandals out of our territory as quickly as possible.”
There you have it: A tale of two Femis. One of them is actually thinking – about the country, about solutions, about handling our fault lines with care, about things other than himself. The other is Femi Fani-Kayode.