By Josef Omorotionmwan
THE last yuletide came with horrendous killings and attacks across the country. The Fulani herdsmen wrote the preamble and also provided the footnotes. Between both extremes, the Boko Haram, as expected, made bold appearances while cultism was readily available to spice it all. Lest we forget, fuel scarcity contributed its quota bountifully. All these added up to what we had – a black yuletide!
Perhaps as a premonition of the impending danger, as early as December 7, 2017, the cowmen fired the initial salvo when they moved into Mbiabong in Ito Community of Odukpani Local Government Area in Cross River State where they sacked over 200 families by driving a large herd of cattle into the community’s farmlands. It was a wicked invasion never seen before. At the approach of the evil invaders with their sophisticated weaponry, the villagers ran into the bush, thus abandoning their farmlands for total vandalisation by the cowmen.
In Rivers State, a family of seven – a man, his wife and five children as well as eight others were killed in Omoku, Headquarters of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area. Over 52 other persons were seriously injured in the particular incident.
The victims had just attended a cross-over church service. As they were coming out of the church, gunmen opened fire on them. It was later gathered that the gunmen were militants working for a man whom the military described as a notorious kidnapper, militant, cultist, ardent illegal oil bunkerer, Mr. Jonhnson Igwedibia (aka Don Waney), who has been on the run following the November 20 raid of his camp and shrine by the Nigerian Army.
Almost simultaneously, up North, in Southern Kaduna, a traditional ruler, Mallam Gambu Makama, and his wife were killed in their home by mask-wearing gunmen.
The problems have no religious boundaries. In Borno State, not less than 11 worshipers were killed and several others injured, when a bomber blew up himself during a congregational prayer in Nglala Local Government Area where Muslim faithful were observing their early morning prayers in a Mosque at 5 a.m.
What goes around, comes around. All the yuletide tragedies must be sealed up by the activities of the Fulani herdsmen. They soon moved back to Benue State where they virtually sacked the entire Guma and Logo Local Government Areas, killing as many as they wanted and taking over their farmlands for the grazing of their cows. Since most people have lost count of the number of people killed and property destroyed, it is only safe here to adopt the elegant phraseology of President Muhammadu Buhari who has “commiserated with Governor Samuel Ortom over the killing and injuring of several people….”
We saw it coming. By its act of commission or omission, the Federal Government has pushed itself into a dilemma from which it can hardly escape on the herdsmen issue. The cowmen claim that they have a right to feed their cattle and they must be protected by the Federal Government, particularly with the latter’s new focus on agriculture.
The Benue people, and indeed, other Nigerians, have an inalienable right to life and the protection of their property. They can’t be labouring all year round only for the herdsmen to come round; kill them; and will their farmlands to their cattle for grazing.
The loud silence of the Federal Authorities on this issue speaks volume. For Buhari, it may soon border on conflict of interest. Even where as a private citizen he could easily have been classifiable in the herdsmen’s category, the truth is that he is today the President of all Nigerians, including the herdsmen and the farmers.
We are almost constrained to believe that the Herdsmen Republic has developed a standing army that possesses more sophisticated weaponry than the Nigerian Army, hence they are able to brazenly herd their cows into people’s farmlands; and decisively deal with such land owners; and take-over their land for the grazing of their cows!
The modus operandi of the Herdsmen Republic is to brandish their sophisticated weapons openly and strange enough, nothing is done by law enforcement agencies, at least to enforce the law prohibiting the possession of illegal firearms, which the rest of society must strictly observe.
It would be superfluous to begin to catalogue the numerous atrocities of the cowmen but since Benue State is currently in the air, we are constrained to recall the dastardly incident at the Agatu Community where the herdsmen razed down the entire community; burnt down their homes and killed everyone in sight!
Worse still, these barbaric elements have the temerity to justify their primitive acts. At that time, the interim National Secretary of their umbrella body, Gan Allah Fulani Association, Saleh Bayeri, proclaimed that herdsmen’s attack on Agatu Community was merely a vengeance for the killing of a Fulani man in 2013.
Reacting to the passage of the Prohibition of Open Grazing Law in Benue State, this same group maintains that the law was dead on arrival as no one was going to prevent them from grazing their cows anywhere. By the recent onslaught on the Benue Community, the group has lived up to its threat. Yet our President is still dealing at the level of “directing the security agencies to do everything possible to arrest those behind the incident.” What a complex duplicity!
By remaining stoically silent, the Federal Government gives the impression that all is well but we know that all is not well. In fact, if we cannot arrest the leaders of the herdsmen, then, we have also lost the moral authority to be going after Nnamdi Kanu, the IPOB leader. For the Federal Government, time is of the essence.
Again, we have reasoned that the Sambisa forest should provide a litmus test of how far we have defeated the Boko Haram insurgency. We should have no problem in converting that area to a grazing zone for the herdsmen. Nowhere in Nigeria do we have such a vast expanse of land with such huge advantage.