Calamitous events have come in torrents in the wake of 2017. The outgone year sailed home on the wind of unabated fuel scarcity. After some incoherent explanations, the authorities have told us that the nation ought to be on the cusp of another hike in fuel price but for the administration’s insistence to return to the jaded road of subsidy rather than inflict more pain on already weary Nigerians. However, the matter has not abated as long queues still grace the few petrol stations where premium motor spirit is found. The alternative source would be the stations where the pump price goes sky-high. We have all been told to wait for the ultimate solution, currently held in the multi-billion-dollar construction of a refinery by the richest African, who would do with petrol what he has done with cement.
While we await that solution, we should be startled as this writer, with the bloodbath that has heralded 2018. The nation has lost its humanity in a manner that has made human blood even cheaper than that of cows. I have not got the bravery, if that is the word, to look intently at the pictures that came from the New Year Day bloodbath in Benue. Mine is akin to one of the members of General Sani Abacha’s junta, who could not watch the video of the hangman’s execution of environmental crusader and writer, Ken Saro Wiwa. The maximum ruler, whose loot seems to have vowed to elude all regimes, had instructed that the hangman’s duty of death on November 10, 1995, on Ken and the rest of the Ogoni Nine be recorded for his ‘viewing pleasure’, and summoned some of his aides and lieutenants to partake in watching the gory video, causing one of them to break down in tears. The maximum ruler reportedly jeered at him with these words: “And you call yourself a soldier.”
I never called myself a soldier, which is why I can bear not looking at those heart-rending pictures that came from the killings in Saav, Mbadyen and Uvir villages in Benue, a New Year gift laced with blood. Fulani herders were on the prowl and have been for over two years in Benue. In this latest attempt, 93 people were counted dead. Chairman of the affected local government area, Anthoy Shawon, said the attackers retreated to the forests of Dogon Yashi, stretching from Guma to Logo, on the banks of River Benue, covering over 57 kilometres. A national coordinator of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Garus Gololo said the attacks may have taken place following the alleged seizure of 1,000 cows by youth referred to as Livestock Guards in enforcing a law recently passed by the Benue State House of Assembly. Commissioner of Agriculture in the state Mr. James Anbua, said no such thing happened and called for the arrest of Gololo to tell the world what he knows about the incident. The implication of the foregoing is that human life stands at per with a cow’s. Nothing can be more disparaging than that herders kill for cows.
I understand that President Muhmmadu Buhari stands as patron of the Miyetti Allah and his seeming reluctance to deal with the matter has done damage to his image. The kind of blow he deal the ‘irritant’ group, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), led by Nnamdi Kanu, shortly after his return from medical vacation in London, showed that he could act decisively when his mind was on it. The other day, cultists struck in Omoku, Rivers State, wasting several people, and the military hit back in days, and sent the gang’s leader, Don Waney, to the great beyond. Images of destroyed houses said to belong to him were shown in social media.
Why has it taken the President years to deal with the destruction and loss of lives perpetrated by herders? Whispers within the polity is that the President has looked the other way because he is their patron, being a livestock farmer. The President is said to be an avid reader of newspapers, implying that he has seen how this matter has battered his image. We have begun to see some level of action with a high-powered team set up to unravel the blood literally flowing on River Benue. The Inspector-General of Police has been ordered to relocate to Benue just as the ministers of defense and agriculture, governors in the area and security agencies have met over the matter. We await the outcome of their ‘talks’.
I do not know how many such security meetings went into the routing of IPOP and the statement by the minister of information that it was a terrorist group. I do not know how long security men met before Don Waney, who allegedly masterminded the killings in Rivers, was gunned down.
In this Benue case, we are regaled with stories of security meetings and such protocol that hardly yield fruit. Someone, as reported above, has pointedly revealed where the killers are domiciled, yet all we see are meetings. Benue has become a killing field for herders in the past two years or more. But for the coming elections, even these securely meetings would not hold. Minister of defence, Abdulrahman Dambazau, hinted at this when he addressed the meeting and said, “Bearing in mind that general elections are approaching and considering the history of political and electoral violence in Nigeria, all necessary steps must be taken to ensure the recently witnessed violence is curtailed.’
The foregoing implies that the action we see is driven by political interests. Little wonder it took so long in coming. The lives of cows have assumed greater value that those of human beings. The President and his men must deal a decisive blow to the menace of herders. They compete with terrorists in death and destruction. The forthcoming elections must not be fuelled with the blood of Nigerians. This must not be the year of bloodshed.
Who will eat their cattle if they continue with this killing spree?