Governor Samuel Ortom is certainly distressed. He is the most embattled public office holder in the country at the moment. Killer herdsmen have raped the peace in Benue, the state he superintendents over. As governor, he swore an oath of office to protect life and property of his people. That makes him the chief security officer of his state. But his will in this regard is being tested. His numerous flock, the beleaguered people of Benue State, are looking up to him in this trying moment. It is evident that he hardly sleeps with two eyes closed anymore.
Ortom’s predicament is not his making. He is the servant of the people who has come to solve problems. Governance, if it must worth its salt, must address the needs and concerns of the people. Ortom came into office and was confronted with a knotty issue. Fulani herdsmen had made Benue a killing field. Indiscriminate cattle grazing was the bone of contention. Ortom took a cold, hard look at it and decided to confront it. The result was the anti-open grazing law, which came into effect last year. The governor had to do it in order to end the senseless killings by the gun-wielding jihadists who masquerade as herdsmen. But the Fulani marauders would have none of that. They launched a midnight attack on Benue communities that left scores dead. Ortom’s anti-grazing law has, therefore, become a travesty of good intentions. Should the man repeal the law and allow the herdsmen to return and intensify the killings or should he stick to his guns? The governor has chosen to go ahead with the law. He is prepared to damn the consequences, whatever they may be.
A man faced with a life-and-death situation as Ortom needs all the encouragement in the world. He needs all the support and solidarity that he can get from all men and women of goodwill. He may be getting a good dose of it. But something out of the way, something very disquieting, has come from unexpected quarters. Instead of the expected solidarity and encouragement, his immediate neighbours from Nasarawa and Plateau states are showing him hostility. They are mocking him. They have made themselves out as unfriendly neighbours. That is the way Governors Simon Lalong and Tanko Al-Makura of Plateau and Nasarawa states, respectively, have presented themselves.
In an outburst that was most unexpected, Lalong berated Ortom for introducing the anti-open grazing law. He said he warned his colleague against it. Lalong went ahead to say that, rather than do what Ortom has done, he has already mapped out land in his state for the proposed cattle colonies. Lalong did not say anything about the butchery. He did not express shock. He did not show sympathy. He was not interested in human lives. He was just interested in Fulani cattle and how to safeguard them. Lalong certainly shocked the world with his insensitivity and indecorous display. He just washed his dirty linen in public.
Days later, Al-Makura followed suit. He was apparently smarting from Ortom’s allegations that his state of Nasarawa harboured and is still harbouring the killer herdsmen that left over 70 people dead in Benue. He said there was no need for the anti-open grazing law in Benue. He said it was uncalled for. Like Lalong, Al-Makura did not really express shock at the bloodbath in Benue. There have been no words of solidarity, no sympathy visit from him. As the nearest neighbour to Benue, Al-Makura ought to have taken a few hours off his schedule to visit Makurdi. But he has treated the ugly incident as if it does not matter.
But those who understand the complex nature of human beings are hardly shocked by the Lalong-Al-Makura disposition. Certain breeds of human beings have an infinite capacity for wickedness. But, sometimes, it takes trials and tribulations such as the one Benue is going through to discover certain truths about people around us. For Ortom, the massacre that took place in his state has an epiphanic effect. It has helped him to discover those who harbour deep antipathies and animosities against him and his people. Lalong and Al-Makura have betrayed their reservations and resentment for whatever Ortom stands for.
But what could be the politics behind the attitude and disposition of the likes of Lalong and Al-Makura? The Nasarawa governor, I understand, is Fulani and is, therefore, sympathetic to the agenda of the herdsmen. We have since witnessed a general lack of sympathy among Fulani governors for Ortom’s Benue. They are probably brow-beating Ortom and saying to him: “it serves you right.”
What about Lalong? I am yet to understand what drives and motivates this man. A Christian from the Middle Belt whose people are serially being massacred by the Fulani in their homeland ought to be circumspect. But Lalong is not. He hankers after the Fulani as if his life depends on it. Could this be political survivalism or what?
Whatever may be the disposition of anti-Ortom elements, including his hostile fellow governors, the fact of the situation remains inviolable, Ortom is not alone. Those who wish Nigeria well are behind him. They know that the Benue governor is not crying wolf. They know that he has good reasons for his action on open grazing. The entire country has suddenly become a theatre of war on account of the trigger-happy disposition of the herdsman. It didn’t used to be so. Nigerians of goodwill have, therefore, rejected the present order. Those who think that the herdsman will continue to kill and maim without a whimper from the victims should better think again. The outsider has certainly taken too much for the owner not to notice.
It is tragic that the killer who should be on the run is boasting about what he has done.
The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria is talking tough. It is holding press conferences and insisting that its will must be done, if peace must reign. The other day, it demanded that a certain ministry on livestock should be created to cater for the needs of herders. This effrontery is taking place in a country that is supposedly governed by human beings. The unconscionable partiality, which the President Muhammadu Buhari administration has been displaying in the governance of this country is crying to high heavens for redress. That is why I consider it insanity of sorts for anybody to wish Buhari to stay in office beyond 2019. The man has bastardised governance and the earlier Nigerians are rescued from the aberration the better for all of us and the country.
Consider this scenario. Dan Ali (Minister of Defence); Abdulrahman Danbazzau (Minister of Interior); Tukur Buratai (Chief of Army Staff); Ibrahim Idris (Inspector-General of Police); Babagana Monguno (National Security Adviser); Abubakar Malami (Attorney-General). How can a normal human being be this sectional and parochial? It can only happen under a Buhari. That explains why Miyetti Allah is bragging. What do we expect, when a country’s security apparatus is controlled by one tiny segment of the country? This is broad daylight tragedy staring us in the face.