Global Terrorism: A Test Case for Gov Suswam
A macabre dance is slowly unfolding in another section of the country and sadly we all wait to allow what was once an ember to fan into a billowing wildfire. The spate of killings going on in Benue state in what we for now labelled as Tiv/Fulani crisis is worrisome and is a challenge that must be immediately dealt with.
It is important that the so called Tiv/Fulani crisis must first be seen from the right perspective. For starters, why is it that this crisis only took on this evil dimension over the past couple of decades? Something does not add up. Also, these marauders' mode of operation of leaves sour taste in once mouth as any human with blood flowing in his veins would scarcely be able to supress the bile that instinctively rises to one's throat upon beholding the gory sights these killers usually leave behind. Assuming their actions are retaliatory for loss of cattle during disagreements over grazing rights, the logical thing would be to go after the able bodied men responsible for their losses– not that this is the right thing to do, but the killer squads usually lay entire villages and community to waste, killing women and children in what violates even the convention for wars.
Let one turn again to the choice of weapons that survivors of these attacks narrated their attackers as possessing. Certainly the mankind has evolved in the course of the past century but what business has Fulani herdsmen to do with automatic assault firearms when their tradition would have favoured bows and arrows? Are we missing a connection between the kind of weapons that the alleged marauding herdsmen use and the ones that insurgents in other parts of the country are known to deploy in unleashing terror on innocent citizens? Are there similarities between the choice of targets in Benue and the ones in the North-East? How come that these attackers are able to strike deep within the heart of the country and get away with the dastardly acts repeatedly? Do these killers have a larger agenda that the citizens of this country are unaware of?
All these call for concern because confirmation of national or international dimensions to these crises would mean that we are dealing with a monster that is larger than we dare fathom.
That the problem seems intractable is another cause for concern. In the words of the Benue state governor, Dr Gabriel Suswam “I have tried to address the issue and set up committees, but when you think that the crisis is diminishing, something will happen and the crisis will erupt again. Now, because the communal crises are happening in Benue, the Fulanis, too, ran to Nasarawa state and launched attack on Nasarawa people.” The governor's submission is a confirmation that the crisis has defied solutions so far proffered and it is also a confirmation of the potentials for the killings to spread further afield to other states if not contained at this stage. And contain it we must because there is a parallel in the unfolding nightmare of Boko Haram insurgency that has today engulfed an entire geopolitical zone.
Tragically, where Boko Haram's campaign of terror has crippled the economy of affected states, the Tiv/Fulani crisis threatens the entire nation with starvation. The warning from Suswam in this regard is stark and ominous as he intoned that “It is a very disturbing situation because our farmers are displaced and unsettled. I'm deeply worried because famine is imminent in the land if nothing is done quickly to address the issue," What is implied but not expressly obvious in the governor's warning is that the hunger in question is not for the people of Benue state alone. It is a hunger that would ravage the nation because if the people of Benue cannot farm or scale down their farming because of the crisis then it follows that there would not be any surplus to send to other states – the domino effect of this is best not contemplated. Apparently, what Boko Haram's campaign of bombings and shootings has not achieved would become a reality when the marauding band of herdsmen triggers starvation to kill the population off.
The forgoing underscore why Suswam must see the security challenge as another test case for his person and his administration. It is noteworthy that he is urgently interfacing with the relevant security agencies in efforts to seek solutions to the crisis. The governor should continue seeking federal assistance to stem the tide of this crisis and should also continue the consultations he is already having with governors of neighbouring states. This Tiv/Fulani clashes is a crisis the Benue state governor can successfully put an end to and make it another feather in his cap and this has to happen before it spread beyond the boundaries of the state to become a national headache.
On its part, the federal government should not treat the problem as a Benue state affair as the problem is best dealt with now that it is geographically limited in scope. One must at this stage acknowledge and commend the intervention of President Goodluck Jonathan in detailing a top hierarchy of the police and army to take charge of the situation. However, these fine officers must rise above the comfort of government house and courtesy visits to face the attackers who are stationed in the bush with the determination to send people packing from their ancestral land.
Finally, for the people of Benue state and other peace loving Nigerians, there is need to rally behind the Benue state governor. This kind of support is vital for making headway in fighting this growing menace. Those with useful suggestions on how to tackle the problem should make themselves heard in this matter, which must not be viewed from political, ethnic, religious or geo-location prism. Treating the on-going carnage in Benue state different from the sheer terrorism that it is would not be in the interest of anyone.
From Philip Agbese, a public affairs commentatot based in Abuja.