For the umpteenth time, rampaging Fulani herdsmen last week attacked six communities in Benue State, killing about 71 people, injuring many others, and violently rupturing the fragile peace in the state. The attack is only the latest in the series of blood-curdling killings of Benue indigenes, and people of other parts of the country, especially Plateau State and Southern Kaduna, by the cattle breeders.
Many Nigerians remember Fulani herdsmen as peaceful persons grazing their cows in many Southern communities while their women sold wara, a native delicacy loved by many people. But, not anymore. The so-called herdsmen have since transmogrified from the peace-loving people that Nigerians knew to the gun-wielding ones that are lording it over farming communities and killing farmers at will.
Plateau, Benue and Southern Kaduna have been worst hit with so many Nigerians mowed down there in the last two years. Benue, in particular, has lost so many people to herdsmen. In an incident on February 24, 2016, hundreds of Agatu people, estimated at between 300 and 500, were reportedly killed in cold blood by the herdsmen. In Southern Kaduna, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) recorded that the clashes between herdsmen/farmers and other locals led to the death of 204 people between October last year and now. Four districts in Kafanchan local government area (Linte, Goska, Dangoma and Kafanchan town) were reported to have lost 194 people, while ten died in Chikun Local Government. Maingo District, in Bassa local government area of Plateau State lost 19 persons to herdsmen on the night of September 8, 2017.
The Eastern part of the country has not been spared this menace as 46 people were killed at Nimbo Community of Uzo-Uwani LGA of Enugu State on April 25, 2016. Delta, Edo and Ekiti States have also not been free of the attacks, as they have had brushes with the cattle breeders in recent times.
The surprising aspect of the herdsmen’s attacks, however, is the cold response of the President Muhammadu Buhari government and the security agencies to the problem. The government has not showed itself to be very much interested in reining in the herdsmen and has rather been more interested in making excuses for their murderous instincts and pleading for their accommodation. The security agencies hardly respond to reports of impending attacks by the herdsmen and are hardly to be found anywhere around or lifting a hand during the actual attacks. Instead, what the nation sees after every attack is an order by the president to the security agencies to act, while the Agriculture Minister, Audu Ogbe, thinks up yet another scheme to pacify and accommodate the herdsmen. First, in the early life of this government, was the plan to buy grasses at a huge cost to the national treasury for the herds of the private businessmen who own the cattle. Next, came the plan for grazing routes. Then, the plan for cattle ranches, and now, the plan for “cattle colonies.” Almost three years of this administration is gone, yet the government is still on its drawing board, seeking out a plan to end the problem of herdsmen who, some of its security chiefs have said, are not even Nigerians. Yet, they are allowed to ride roughshod over the people and kill at will with sophisticated weapons for no other reason than the fact that they believe they can do whatever they like in the country. They not only kill, their leaders own up to the crime and give reasons for committing it, yet nobody brings them to book! They have boldly stood against the Benue State anti-grazing law, and have vowed to continue resisting it!
There is an apparent difference in the way the nation’s security agencies treat these killer herdsmen and security threats in other parts of the country. No sooner than incidents of much lower magnitude occur in the country than the culprits are arrested and paraded on the pages of newspapers. In the case of the recent unfortunate killings in Rivers State on New Year Day, it took no more than seven days for the leader of the cult gang, Don Waney, and some of his gang members to be traced to Enugu and gunned down. When in Ile-Ife, Osun State, too, there was a clash between the Yoruba and some Hausa settlers in the town, it did not take the security agencies long to arrest and parade the Yoruba people allegedly involved, including a traditional ruler. However, when it involves Fulani herdsmen, our ‘gallant’ security agencies become clay-footed and unable to act, thereby giving the herdsmen the impression that the whole country is theirs to pillage. In the South-South, these herdsmen are reported to be choosing grazing grounds for their cattle, without minding whether the farms of their host communities are being ravaged in the process.
The situation has reached a state that is now threatening the unity of the country. It has become so bad that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, in a seeming attempt to paper over the problem, told a recent gathering that Nigerians were wrong to politicise the herdsmen’s attacks. In that, he is wrong, because the attacks are not only economic, they have their roots in politics. They are fuelled by the belief of the northern herdsmen and, indeed, many other northerners, that herdsmen have a right to graze their cattle on the farms of anyone in any part of the country, especially in the South. This is a wrong premise. Even the president and the agriculture minister appear to believe that the country has a responsibility to provide herdsmen with grazing grounds, and until that is done, the herdsmen have a right to graze on any farm, especially the farms in, as some people put it, the (conquered?) southern part of the country. These fallacious views stand reason on its head.
The herdsmen menace is doing great damage to the president’s image and that of the unity of the country. The cattle breeders may, indeed, not have the blessing of the government on their attacks, but the president has a responsibility to check their murderous inclinations and make them live within the laws of the land. No group of Nigerians should lord it over the rest of the country with impunity. And, mass murders can never be a justifiable response to the alleged rustling of cattle.
Your analysis of Nigeria in 2017 is absolutely indisputable in all its areas of coverage. But, adoption of its provided solutions to government’s failures in that year, is possible only where the leadership is visionary, intellectually competent, detribalised, but nationally focused in its operations. Nigeria lacks that incentive to adopt positive suggestions outside its orbit. And, with INEC run by his appointees, his re-election in 2019, if he decides to contest, is guaranteed. That is Nigeria’s unchangeable political norm. Only deceptive minds will see it otherwise.
– Lai Ashadele, 07067677806
We entered 2018 with hope of good news, but killings started again. But what is the rationale behind these ugly acts? PMB should take proactive action over these killings before things get out of hand. Sad news everywhere. Security agencies should sit up.
– Gordon Chika Nnorom, 08062887535
Oba Abdul-Ganiyu Obasoyin of Ikere-Ekiti should be released immediately.