By Rotimi Fasan
NIGERIANS may yet have to conduct an investigation to know how many of their leaders are patrons of Miyetti Allah, or associate in some way with this umbrella organisation of cattle herders whose foot soldiers called herdsmen have in the last few years gone on a killing orgy in different parts of the country. Muhammadu Buhari long before he took up leadership of the Nigerian state as an elected president had self-identified with the group as both patron and proud cattle farmer. Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President and aspiring successor of Buhari, is also a member of Miyetti Allah and owns the largest number of cattle heads in Nigeria. We all owe this intelligence to Paul Unongo, the second republic politician from Benue State and member of the Northern Elders Forum whose membership of the NEF has come under scrutiny in the wake of the series of destruction brought upon communities in Benue State by herdsmen.
Forced to explain his involvement with an association whose members probably own many of the cattle for which hundreds have been made refugees or killed in their own land, Unongo was quick to point accusing fingers at Atiku whom he says should be held responsible for what is happening. And while Nigerians were still wondering what to make of Mr. Unongo’s brand of reasoning, in walked Lauretta Onochie, president Buhari’s special assistant on social media who brandished a framed portrait of an award apparently bestowed on former president Goodluck Jonathan by Miyetti Allah as evidence of his link to the association. Onochie obviously wanted Jonathan assessed in the same manner Nigerians have been calling on Buhari to act.
Both Unongo and Onochie are purveyors of the kind of warped thinking this country does not need. Their eagerness to trivialise or politicise serious issues that border on human safety or survival says much about why this country would continue to wallow in the kind of criminal ineptitude for which our leaders are rarely called upon to take responsibility. Whether Atiku owns thousands of cattle or Jonathan received an award from Miyetti Allah is not the point at issue. It would not even be an issue that Buhari is a patron of this organisation had he been alive to his responsibility as president. The fact is that neither Atiku nor Jonathan has responsibility for the security and welfare of Nigerians today. That is the job Buhari signed up to. He it is that should tell Nigerians why he has decided to remain silent in the face of the criminal activities of members of his ethnic or professional association.
What is unclear to many now is whether the president’s failure to act as expected of him is an indication of his commitment to an association over and above the oath he swore to uphold as president. The president’s past appears to be haunting him. Fuming with raw anger he once led a delegation of leaders of the cattle herders to former governor of Oyo State, Lam Adesina, to protest against what he saw as the unfair killing of his (Buhari’s) people. Buhari enjoyed the luxury of being a former head of state who could hide behind the relative peace of being a private citizen to call on another leader to live up to the responsibility of his office. This even when there was nothing to indicate that he was right in his accusation or his ‘people’ were not at fault in that episode. His anger stemmed mainly from his perception that his ‘people’ had the worst of that encounter. It took the diplomacy of the late Adesina, we were told, to defuse the tension created by Buhari’s intervention in that skirmish between Fulani cattle herders and farmers in some rural parts of Oyo State.
Why is Buhari silent now? Is it because he does not know what to do? Buhari sure knows what it means to take a hard stance when he wants to. Without going back to his record as a military ruler, his utterances and conduct as a retired soldier are enough evidence to show he is not the soft ball he is pretending to be on the matter of our herdsmen gone amok. The violence that followed Buhari’s loss of the 2011 presidential election in some parts of the north could be seen in the light of his threat that both the blood of the baboon and the monkey would be shed in the event he lost a mere election. This dovetails with his active promotion of fundamentalist Islam along with some northern politicians at a time when his intervention as a former leader could have helped to stem the tide of extremism. Their collective failure went a long way to encourage the spread and entrenchment of Boko Haram. He was apparently content with the activities of the extreme group until his growing profile in politics pitched the group against him and they almost did for him as they had done for others. That he escaped being assassinated by a skin of his teeth was just an act of providence.
Buhari is, therefore, not the pacifist that his present stance on the killer herdsmen may suggest. But since he took over as civilian leader he has been less than enthusiastic about taking on these terrorists that have become one of the deadliest terror groups in the world. Buhari who knew how to stamp down on the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra suddenly went limp in the leg when matters turned to herdsmen. A president who made it a cardinal point of his presidency to put an end to Boko Haram has sat back in the entire period of his presidency to watch as terror herdsmen take over the land, replacing one type of terrorism with another type that is fast taking the cake for murderous brutality.
The series of attacks in Oguma and Logo followed similar attacks all over the country that were preceded with threats by members of the Miyetti Allah to defy any state authority that enacts any law detrimental to its ancient practice of animal husbandry. Buhari and his service chiefs, especially his appointed head of the Police, Ibrahim Idris, are still lost for the right response to the herdsmen menace. The obvious failure of intelligence or indeed criminal complicity that has allowed the bloody orgy across the country these last few years and now, from Omoku in Rivers State, to Ilorin, Kaduna and Benue in just a few days of 2018, are matters the president and his security chiefs have to answer for. A president who professes change is loath to change his non-performing surrogates as he is opposed to restructuring the country. Yet he wants a second term when he can’t justify his present performance. Terrible!