The mindless killings of Nigerians in Rivers and Benue states as we were about ushering in the New Year underscore the pervasive general insecurity in the country. It does not really matter if the killings are political or economic, what is central to the two scenarios in Rivers and Benue is that some people have decided to kill others either for land grazing issues or for political space.
While the blood-letting in Omoku, Rivers State, can be traced to politics of 2015 and even 2019 between the influential political gladiators in the state, that of Benue is economic but can sometimes be political or both. The Fulani herdsmen do not approve of the anti-open grazing law accented by Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom.
And because they do not approve it, they must kill over 70 people to prove their point. They have resorted to self-help because they have AK-47 assault rifles with them. With these military assault rifles, they are above the laws of the land. They can kill and rape young girls and women at will and nothing will happen to them. For the death of one cow or so, so many people will have to be killed. They can also kill when no cattle is killed. They have done it in many parts of the country, including Enugu, Delta, Ogun, Ekiti and Ondo states.
There are parallels in the two separate killings in Rivers and Benue states. While Rivers killing is mainly because of politics, looking for political space to occupy, that of Benue is economic, looking for grazing land to feed their cattle and eventually occupy. There is a link between politics and economy. Politics can be social and economic or socio-economic.
Political office holders control the people, the land and the economy. That is why all lands are vested with the governors. Without their Certificate of Occupancy (C-of-O) you cannot be guaranteed of your land. You can see why C-of-O is being hawked in Jankara and Dugbe markets. The Fulani herdsmen must look for fertile land to graze their cattle in their wandering, sorry pastoral movements from North to South.
I pity the Fulani Cattle because by the time it gets to Umuahia, it will be so tired and emaciated that it will attract very low price. For how these cattle and their pastoralists suffer, go and read The Fulani Cattle, a poem by our own JP Clark. The herdsmen love their cattle and the grazing land and water over human beings just as our politicians value political office far and above human beings.
Because of politics, our politicians can kill their political opponents and their supporters. Our nation is a typical Animal Farm, sorry to George Orwell for alluding to his classic of the same title. Nigeria’s animal farm is so huge. There are tigers, lions, hyenas, jackals, monkeys and baboons. There are rats, goats, sheep, fox, tortoise and vultures. If some politicians lose election, the blood of monkey and baboon must be soaked together.
In this huge animal farm, a cow is more valuable than a human being. If you doubt me, go to Benue, Taraba and count the number of the dead over cattle welfare. Killing for politics is all over the place but that of Rivers State has taken a new and worrisome dimension. Whenever it appears the state is peaceful and that Governor Nyesom Wike is being applauded for his numerous achievements, some wicked forces will strike to make the place look insecure.
For how long will Rivers continue like this? For how long will Benue continue like this? For how long will Taraba continue like this? Extend this question to all troubled spots in Nigeria and you will be surprised at the enormity of the security challenges in our hands. Those blaming Wike and Ortom for what is happening in their states are indeed missing the point.
I think they are unduly politicizing the issue beyond recognition. They are joking with the lives of Nigerians. They are even mocking the victims of such heartless killings. The notion that governors are the chief security officers of their states is only theoretical. Those criticizing Wike and Ortom are aware of this basic fact. The Federal Government is in charge of all security agencies in the country. It has the control buttons of all of them and uses them the way it likes.
The Federal Government’s response to the Benue massacre is not encouraging. Asking people not to retaliate as Vice President Yemi Osinbajo preached is never the solution. It is not about blaming the victims instead of the perpetrators as some people are doing.
The government must disarm and arrest the Fulani herdsmen that killed innocent Benue people and bring them to justice. That is the best way to ask the injured people of Benue State not to retaliate.
Attacking Fulani herdsmen must be given the IPOB treatment. President Muhammdu Buhari should visit Benue and Rivers states to assess the security situation in these states. Both Rivers and Benue are economically strategic to the country. While Rivers boasts of oil money, the nation’s number one revenue earner, Benue is the number one food basket of the nation.
Making Rivers insecure will definitely affect oil production and social life in the Garden City. It is not about Wike’s performance, which is already rated highly across the nation. In the same vein, continuous blood-letting in Benue will drastically affect its agricultural production and decimate farming population. It will make farmers to loathe farm work and agriculture.
It is a pity that 22 people were killed after attending crossover church service and on their way home by some cultists in the New Year in Omoku, Rivers State. The killing has political undertone. Likewise, it is bad that over 70 people were killed in Benue by Fulani herdsmen over grazing law. In Benue, many houses were razed and residents dislocated. In these two killings, the security agencies failed to act when mostly needed.
Before Nigeria is turned to a killing range of the worst description, let this ‘go-slow’ government act fast and arrest the situation before it degenerates. For these killings, the Federal Government has failed in its primary duty of protecting life and property of all citizens.
To arrest the ugly situation, the government must think fast and act on state policing which will translate to community policing.
The current centralized policing is inimical to securing life and property in the country. It does not include the security of the weak, the vulnerable as well as soft targets.