By Levi Chukwuma
THE big question begging for answer in the public domain since the precarious incident of the herdsmen attacks on communities and innocent citizens of the country is whether the heinous acts should be categorised as a state or national issue.
The above question is against the backdrop of the continuous attacks in recent times which have led to wanton destruction of lives and property. What is more worrisome is the fact that the Federal Government, which is constitutionally saddled with the responsibility of protecting lives and property of the citizenry through its security agencies such as the Nigeria Police Force, the Army, the State Security Services, SSS, among others, has not taken decisive actions against the ceaseless and inhuman atrocities of the herdsmen.
It is on record that in a lopsided federalism, all the security agencies in the country are under the control of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and consequently, take final directives from his office in terms of providing security to the nation.
The worries remain that the present administration has not treated the herdsmen issue with the urgent dispatch it requires, thereby posing a serious security threat to the peace and unity of the nation.
Painful to note is the fact that in the past one year, the nation has witnessed series of attacks and killings of innocent people as a result of the weird attitude of the herdsmen. The situation has become so terrifying that Nigerians wonder what could have come over these cattle rearers, that they now unleash grievous terror on fellow Nigerians with sophisticated weapons, while nothing much is being done to tackle the issue.
Coming to the recent attack on Attakwu Community of Enugu State, and the misconception and sentiments being attached to it in the public domain, one is first compelled to frontally condemn the unfortunate incident as callous and barbaric.
But the truth remains that the Enugu incident is not as grievous as the ones that occurred in other states of the country, yet the citizenry have not raised their eyebrows over how the affected state governors have addressed the issue.
It is on record that the recent report released by the United States Government to its citizens travelling to Nigeria, named 20 unsafe states in the country and marked them as no-go-areas for the reason of “pockets of crimes being carried out by faceless persons that are hardly brought to book”. Enugu State was not on the list.
When one takes an inventory of how many people killed and injured by the herdsmen in ravaged states such as Benue, Plateau, Kaduna, Delta, Imo, among others, it becomes obvious that Enugu does not deserve the negative comments it receives from cynics.
In Benue State for instance, the casualty rate of persons killed by suspected herdsmen between May 30 and June 20 this year, in Logo and Ukums local government areas alone, according reports is about 81 persons. Even though the Benue State Police Command said it witnessed 22 deaths, the number is still high compared to what was witnessed in Enugu State on the two occasions the herdsmen struck. The statistics are the same in other ravaged states.
The questions now are: Why is the Enugu State issue different? What have the governors of these other states mentioned above done constitutionally to address the issues that the Enugu governor has not done? Under our lopsided federalism, does the power to direct the security agencies to crush the marauders rest squarely on the shoulders of the governors or the President and Commander-in- Chief of the Armed Forces? Do the people expect a governor who swore an oath of office not to take unlawful actions that could lead to bloodshed or jeopardise the unity of the country, make inciting statements? Is it the responsibility of the State Assembly to enact laws bordering on national issues such as grazing bill or is it the duty of the National Assembly?
These and other questions indeed beg for answers, considering the fundamental rights of every citizen of the country as contained in the constitution.
One, therefore, takes exception to the falsehood being peddled by the likes of Amanze Obi in the Thursday, September 1, 2016 edition of his Broken Tongues in Sun Newspaper, where he alleged that the “Fulani herdsmen massacred an entire community” in Enugu State. Nothing could be far from the truth. I live and work in Enugu and to the best of my knowledge ,there is no record of an entire community being wiped out anywhere in the state. The state despite the unfortunate recent incident of the herdsmen has remained peaceful and is still rated as the least among the states ravaged by the herdsmen in the country. There is no doubt that the governor is working tirelessly with the security operatives to do all that is necessary and lawful to bring the culprits to book and end the menace of the marauders. This is evident in the recent arrest of a suspected herdsman in the state by the police for allegedly being in possession of a sophisticated AK47 riffle.
One appreciates the stance of the Enugu State students, who “lampooned” those inciting the students and youths of the state to stage reprisal attack on the Fulani herdsmen over the recent carnage in the state.
They were of the view that such vengeance would be counter-productive and might lead to the endangering of lives of youths and students in the state.
The students’ reaction which was contained in a statement jointly signed by the State Chairman of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Comrade Chidi Ilogebe and its South East and South South Spokesman, Comrade Victor Ezenagu, described such comments as “careless, inciting and inimical to the calculated efforts being made by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi to decisively resolve the issue in line with the oath of office he swore to uphold.”
While condemning the attack in its entirety, they noted that the menace of the herdsmen is a national issue and requires the swift intervention of the federal government, which is constitutionally empowered to nip in the bud the atrocities of the marauders.
They reasoned wisely that “unlike in Ekiti State, the population of the Igbos living in the northern parts of the country is enormous, allaying fears that any unlawful action against the herdsmen in retaliation may likely put the Igbos in the north at the receiving end.”
On the call by some Igbo groups for the Enugu Governor to emulate Gov. Ayo Fayose’s actions against the herdsmen, the students said that “no true Igbo leader would support any act that could lead to bloodshed or undermine the peace and unity of the country.”
According to them, “Gov. Ugwuanyi as a responsible leader believes in due process and constitutional means of addressing issues of this nature and should not be pushed to instigate the people of the state to take laws into their hands, as that is certainly not the best option under a democratic setting.”
In the same vein, the workers of the state through the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, expressed similar views, calling on Mr. President to exercise his constitutional powers to ensure that the issue of the herdsmen is laid to rest.
Through a joint statement signed by the state chairman and secretary of the congress, Comrade Igbokwe Chukwuma Igbokwe and Comrade Benneth Asogwa, they also commended the Enugu Governor, “for his prompt visit to the ravaged community and the efforts he had put in place to maintain peace, protect the lives and property of the people of the state as well as ensure that the incident did not escalate.”
From the foregoing, it is clear that the menace of the herdsmen is a national issue and should be tackled holistically with the full support and cooperation of the federal government for a peaceful, united and prosperous nation – thereby sustaining the dreams of our founding fathers.
Chukwuma, a public affairs analyst writes from Enugu.