The threat posed by the Fulani herdsmen who have unleashed mayhem on farming communities in Nigeria has left hundreds of people dead, farmlands, crops destroyed, just as several communities have been sacked from their ancestral homes.
Worst hit by this crisis are communities in the North- Central geo-political zone of Nigeria, also called the Middle Belt and the southern parts of the country. Data compiled by Association of Idoma Lawyers recently showed that between February 2013 and December31, 2017, Fulani herdsmen attacked communities in Benue State alone about 41 times. The attacks left hundreds of people dead and many more displaced.
Other communities in the middle belt and southern Nigeria have suffered similar fate. This explains why recently, the Southern Nigeria and Middle-Belt Forum for Development (SNMBFD) convened a stakeholders’ meeting to find common approach to the reoccurring problem they have in common.
Speaking at the forum which held at the Airport hotel, Lagos, a journalist and a former Local Government chairman in Adamawa State, Garba Yedimakudon noted that the Federal Government has failed to live up to its constitutional responsibility of protecting the lives and property of the citizenry, adding that the people of the affected regions must work together to protect themselves.
Influx of herdsmen
Yedimakudon argued that following drastic change in climatic condition leading to the drying up of several sources of water for animals and pasture, the herdsmen have continued to migrate southwards with their cattle and encroaching into farmlands.
He said further that although the herdsmen have roamed for decades in southern and middle belt parts of Nigeria, the current generation of Fulani herdsmen seem not to respect the interests of their host communities and usually force their way into farms in order to feed their animals, adding that from the simple sticks they initially carry, the Fulani herdsmen today wield sophisticated weapons, which have made them become more brazen.
According to him, under the laws of the Federation, possession of unregistered firearms is a crime. He however noted that the Fulani herdsmen carry their firearms openly and unchallenged by security agents, a situation that has led to accusations that the security agency are biased.
He said the former Chief of Army Staff and ex-minister of Defence, General T.Y. Danjuma, recently gave impetus to this allegation while speaking at the convocation ceremony of the Taraba State University, Jalingo when he accused the military of aiding and abetting the herdsmen attacks.
“It should be clear to all and sundry discerning minds by now that the killings, destruction of properties, plundering of farmlands currently on-going in some states in the Middle-Belt-from Plateau, Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa, Kogi, Southern Kaduna and Adamawa South especially in the old Numan Federation are well planned, scripted and being executed with the bestiality that could only take place in the Animal Kingdom.
“They are no coincidences. The dual purposes of these coordinated attacks by terrorist groups and Islamic fundamentalist elements masquerading as Fulani herdsmen are aimed at subjugating the people into slavery, to plunder or inflict injuries to the economic fibre and bases of the people. The third purpose many believe is to achieve what the late Sheikh Usmanu Dan Fodio could not attain during the 1804 Jihad in Northern Nigeria,” Yedimakundon noted.
He said further that these attacks which were unprovoked and unwarranted, coupled with the way and manner they were carried out had virtually all the trappings of an invading army on an ethnic cleansing mission, to say the least.
And that for the very first time in the history of communal clashes or herdsmen invasions of farmers’ communities, the fighter jets, helicopters and drones of the Nigerian Air force were deployed, curiously against defenceless citizens in the guise of quelling communal clash or ‘to fire warning shots at invaders’.
But at the end of the day the number of citizens killed by the bombs of Nigerian Air force far outnumbered those murdered by the herdsmen. “One could therefore appreciate the import of the very recent statement made by Elder Statesman Gen. TY Danjuma urging the people to defend themselves because the Nigerian Military had become partisan as they collude with terrorists to kill people and destroy their settlements. He said among other things that ‘the attitude of the police in nearly all situations is to come to equity with hands soiled by sympathy towards the party favoured by the government of the day! Sadly the usually more nationalistic Army has fallen into the trap of such favouritism.’ In this instance the Fulani herdsmen are the chosen ones of Adamawa State and the Federal government,” Yedimakudon said.
Need to work together
To this end, he called for a collaboration among all the affected communities, saying they must work together to protect themselves. According to him, “We must come together, think together, and rationalise together, pull our resources – both human and material, together. Our intellect, talents and energies must be brought to bear in our resolve to resist with all vehemence possible, the impending dangers ahead. Or else, we all will perish or become slaves and second class citizens in our God-given lands or territories. The coming generations will not forgive us. We should be reminded that our fore-fathers be they Berom, Tiv, Ngas, Idoma, Bwatiye, Lunguda, Tarok, Baju, Jaba, Jukuns, Chamba or Mbula all resisted subjugation and ambitions conquest attempts over 200 years ago, we must not allow it succeed in the 21st century.
“We have no option than to act now. Let us take the bull by the horn. The road to freedom is always laden with thorns, mountains and valleys, with rivers and lakes and with all sorts of dangerous predators, but with determination, genuine resolve and tenacity of purpose we will surely succeed. The human population is on our side, courageous leadership, from both regions, we do no lack. We have no reason therefore to be afraid or think failure but success and victory at all times.”
Long standing brotherhood
Yedimakudon added that the peoples of both regions need to rekindle the bounds of brotherhood and cooperation that existed among them during the second republic era when they worked together. “In the Second Republic, it was the wise and patriotic political decisions taken by some middle belt politicians to join Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP) that fetched them ministerial appointments when the NPP went into an alliance with Alh. Shehu Shagari-led National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and formed government.