Nobody knows the real number of casualties and that is the stark reality. We all agree it is huge, running into several hundreds, perhaps thousands. It is still guesswork, a gamble of sorts, very expensive one.
We have actually lost count. The frequency of the assault is both frightening and alarming. It is sadly coming with increasing losses. We are forever dazzled and dazed.
The problem is enormous. It is the aggressiveness of Fulani herdsmen. Their preys are the unarmed, innocent farmers of Benue State. They have become the victims of the perennial attacks of the ferocious herdsmen. They constantly come for what is glaringly not theirs.
Since they launched the very first known aggression in 2012, there has been no stopping them. Their drums of war have ceased to stop. They keep perfecting their deadly act in rapid consistency. They forge ahead with great rabidity.
The onslaught and slaughter become more chilling and awful as time ticks. They left an indelible mark on Agatu and Guma local government areas in 2016. The assaults were massive and the casualties were colossal.
There was a seeming relief the following year. They retreated. No major invasion was carried out by the herdsmen until they came calling in the wee hours of December 31, 2017. And that is the “crux of the matter.”
Between December 31, 2017, and January 2, 2018, the Fulani herdsmen callously preyed on Gambe-Tier, Ayilamo, Turan, Anyii, Awashuwa, Agba-Ukor and Tse-Aga all in Logo Local Government Area. They then moved to Umenger, Tse-Akor and Tomatar near Tse-Abi in Nongov District of Guma Local Government Area.
They were tactical and more precise this time around. It was mass attack, mass targets and mass casualties. The figures vary and keep improving every day. It has been put at 71 and still counting.
In the midst of this, one Garus Gololo still found his cracked voice. He claimed to be the national coordinator, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN). He insisted the herdsmen killed because “1,000 cows were rustled,” by some armed youths referred to as Livestock Guards.
He did not stop at that. He was convinced that 10 Fulani were also abducted and their whereabouts unknown. He gave the location of the incident(s) to be “around the areas that border Nasarawa and Taraba states.”
At this stage, Governor Samuel Ortom could not keep his peace any longer. The very reason he cried out like a newborn baby. He did not care a hoot, spitting fire like Sango, (Yoruba) god of thunder.
It is about Ortom. He has taken the deadly bull by the horns. He has turned a new leaf; picking a refreshingly fresh lease of life. The reality has dawned on him. He could not continue playing politics with the lives of his people.
Neither could he again do the same with the senseless killings by the Fulani cattle rearers. No more playing of dangerous kite with the precious lives of his dear people. An indirect admission that they have not been faithful in the handling of the situation in past.
He has a change of heart. It is better late than never. And he decided to call a spade a spade and wisely damned the consequences. He did it by crying with all his might to high heavens.
This was how Ortom exploded in Daily Sun on Monday, January 8, 2018: “It is not that the perpetrators are not known. They are known, and we have been reporting them. They are coming from other parts of the country to attack us. But their headquarters and their leaders are in Abuja. And it is not that they did not inform us; we were threatened and we reported this to the authorities, the security authorities of this country, and nothing has been done.”
He believed the Fulani attackers were opposed to his Anti-Grazing Law: “They threatened that, first, they would not accept the law, and they would do everything to stop the implementation, that they would go against it, and they would mobilise their members to fight and frustrate the implementation. We reported them. They did not issue this threat once. They issued it several times through press conferences. They are on video, they are on audio, they were published in the papers, that they were going to attack the state, and we reported them.
“So, it is not that they are not known. The police are aware, the DSS are aware; the NSA is aware of this.”
But Ortom’s mind is made. No shaking. He is determined and resolute. He belongs to his people. There is no other place called home. He declared: “Let me tell you, I am not talking about politics now. Whether presidency or no presidency, governor or no governor; whether I am re-elected or not, that is not my concern. My concern now is how I will stop the killings that are going on, because I cannot be politicking with dead people; I am not a dead man.”
Daily Sun reported that he vomited all these words with “his nostrils belching fire.”
Ortom was even bolder when he met with President Muhammadu Buhari last Tuesday. He promptly rejected the President’s planned so-called colonies for cattle rearing: “For the colony thing, I don’t know what colony is.”
Instead, he went further to locate the perpetrators. He told Aso Villa correspondents: “We know where they are. As I talk to you, they are in Tungua in Awe Local Government (Nasarawa State), that is where these people are camped and coming to attack people.”
This is a new-look Ortom. He has opted to swim and sink with his people. Yes, that is how it should be. A leader should stand out to be counted with his people. Not the apologists, bootlickers, do-gooders and praise-singers and worshippers. To eternal hell with them!
Luckily, Ortom is not alone. He has a good ally in Prof. Iyorwuese Hagher, Second Republic senator and former minister. He told the President pointblank: “You have betrayed democracy and promoted genocide.
“Step aside and open the political space for another person to continue your war against corruption with a more comprehensive development programme that Nigeria needs and deserves.”
He was more forceful and down-to-earth: “Your government has failed woefully in this regard. Mr. President, there is no greater corruption than the government looking the other way while the strong bullies, kills the weak with impunity and pleasure.”
We dare not disagree!