The Raging Herdsmen Inferno
One issue that has defined the Buhari presidency is the spate of insecurity and the unique but dubious distinction acquired by herdsmen all over the country. The herdsmen are notorious for destroying people’s farm, raping of women, killing of innocent people and even kidnapping. The deafening silence from the government seems to give the impression that this government is very accommodating of the vices perpetrated by these people in all parts of the country. In the north, the herdsmen have turned it into a killing field with some prominent northerners suggesting amnesty for these criminals. The views of the Nigerian wordsmith, Wole Soyinka that president Muhammadu Buhari is not in charge begins to bear semblance of reality.
I will not be drawn into the polemics that because Buhari is a Fulani that is why the Fulani herdsmen are being treated with kid’s gloves. If the herdsmen were Isoko, Yoruba, Igbos, or of whatever tribal hue, they should be subjected to the full weight of the law. The government as regards the herdsmen issue is abandoning the very essence of governance- the security and welfare of the citizens. Time was when a prominent northern traditional ruler said that the herdsmen are Fulani from other countries. If that assertion is true, what is the government doing in controlling this band of terrorists?
Today the inferno of the herdsmen and tales of destruction and death are engulfing Ondo, Ogun, Oyo and Edo states. That is why these states have given the herdsmen ultimatum to leave the states or obey the laws that forbid uncontrolled grazing of cattle. The same story duplicates itself in the South East and time was when Benue state was reduced to a killing field by these herdsmen. The Nigerian government cannot continue to live in denial about the menace of the herdsmen in the name of animal husbandry.
Some northern state governors in clearly what is in the domain of after whiskey talks rose to the defense of these herdsmen. Mallam Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna state said that the herdsmen are merely exercising the freedom of movement as enshrined in the 1999 constitution. I could not agree less with him but he must answer some questions. Does the freedom of movement say that you can go to another person farm to graze your animals? Is the freedom of movement synonymous with the killing of people, raping of women and kidnapping as they are currently happening in the South? Will el-Rufai be happy if people from the south go to Kaduna and start killing people in the name of freedom of movement? The governor is only trying to be clever by half by defending the atrocities committed by his kinsmen. This is certainly how not to be a political leader.
Even more outlandish and bizarre are the views canvassed by the Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed that the Fulani are global citizens and do not need visa to enter Nigeria. He also said that those Fulani bearing AK 47 are doing that for their self-defense. The history of Fulani is full of migration and notorious for decimating the original inhabitants to establish themselves as dominant people. You do not need to go far for evidence- the Uthman Dan Fodio jihad. If the governor believes that Fulani are global citizens, some of us will never buy that argument. As global citizens, I advise them to go to Europe, Asia and America to ply their trade of cattle rearing. As for the bearing of arms by non-state actors by the Fulani, it is clear that the government is tacitly supporting them. This is so because any person other than a Fulani bearing arm will have to face the wrath of the police and security forces. The truth of the matter is that the Fulani are treated as citizens while the rest of us are branded as subjects. Indeed, time is running out for the Buhari administration to do the needful as regards the rampaging Fulani herdsmen.
Perhaps in midst of this security uncertainty caused by the herdsmen, the only voice of reason is that of Kano State governor, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje. He canvassed ranching and that the herdsmen should stop moving to the south. This is the mark of a patriot and a leader. The governor is not concerned about the immediate political gains of vote catching. He is more concerned about the safety and destiny of the nation. Let it be said over and over again, grazing of cattle is archaic and we should all embrace ranching. Those interested in animal husbandry of the cow stripe should buy land and keep their animals there. Animal husbandry should not be used in destroying the production of crops. People need crops as they need animals. It is hoped that the presidency working with the national assembly would map out strategies of curbing this menace once and for all.
Furthermore, the allegation that the police and other security forces are giving the Fulani herdsmen cover for their atrocities must be investigated. Because if this is proved to be true, it could send dangerous signals to the victims of the herdsmen menace. The refusal of the President, Muhammadu Buhari to address the nation on the herdsmen menace is deeply troubling. A president should not keep sealed lips when the security of the nation is threatened. The national assembly should follow the footsteps of some state governments that banned open grazing. Furthermore, some of the leaders of the Fulani herdsmen are inflaming ethnic passions by their unguarded utterances. This nation belongs to all Nigerians and none should be treated as special people. It is not too late for the Buhari administration to change the narrative about this band of criminals hiding under the veneer of cattle rearing to commit abominable crimes. Doing nothing and contemplating political navel is a frightening and nightmarish prospect. I rest my case.
Julius Oweh, a journalist, Asaba, Delta State.