Like every other Nigerian, the people of Benue must have been relishing in mirth the freshness of a New Year milling over them as at the last day of the Year 2017. They must have been conjuring the traditional resolutions that always come with the anticipatory fever of a new year. In the same fashion, many of them must have bought clothes and accessories, ready to embellish themselves with a view to ushering in a New year with merry hearts and joyful souls.
However, it seems the people of Benue forgot that life is ambidextrous. It holds the scale of the good and the bad, the pretty and the ugly. Consequently, their world was taken by surprise as the scale of gloom, damnation, desolation and mass killing tilted to their side as armed men who were supposed to be their fellow countrymen, their comrades, their brothers severed the chord of brotherhood and marched up in arms and slaughtered the innocent and peaceful people of Benue, watering their crops with their blood on the eve of a new year, a New beginning.
(Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, courtesy Guardian Nigeria)
(Idoma protesters, Image, courtesy unicpress)
(Minister of Defence, Col Dan Alli)
Meanwhile, it betrays all sense of logical reasoning that a group of people considered as herdsmen are armed with guns and other sophisticated weapons of mass destruction. Does it not bother us that these herdsmen in the course of their peregrination hide under their visible garments weapons? Is it possible that bearing of arms and ammunition is part of their cattle-rearing duties?
If not, how would one explain the actions and reactions of the government where a peace meeting was called, attended by the state government and security agencies of the nation, including the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and these group attended according to reports with AK 47s and other weapons of mass intimidation visible under their garments. Yet they were neither disarmed nor turned back?
If this is not a recognition by the government that these weapons are part of the paraphernalia required by these herdsmen to successfully and speedily discharge their nomadic obligations, then what other explanations could suffice to exculpate the government of its seeming conspiracy of silence and indulgence on that very day?
The Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbe, according to the Nation was credited to have submitted that the root cause of this bizarre killing by these herdsmen is as a result of the refusal Or inability of the government to fill in the poverty of attention and consideration ascribed to herdsmen.
In his words ” The inability of the government to pay attention to herdsmen and cow farming, unlike other developed countries ,contributed to the killing ” . The Minister continued
Over the years, we have not done much to look seriously into the issue of livestock development in the country… we may have done enough for the rice farmer, the cocoa farmer, but we have not done enough for the herdsmen and that inability and omission on our part is resulting in the crisis we are witnessing today….Audu Ogbeh
In the same vein, the Minister of Defence , Col. Mohammed Dan-Alli (rtd.) only last week after a further succession of murders in Benue and other parts of the country, addressed journalists after the security council meeting with the president. He said…
You see, whenever a crisis happens at any time, there are remote and immediate causes. Look at this issue (of killings in Benue and Taraba), what is the remote cause of this farmers’ crisis?
“Since the nation’s Independence, we know there used to be routes whereby the cattle rearers took because they are all over the nation. You go to Bayelsa, Ogun, you will see them. If those routes are blocked, what do you expect will happen?
“These people are Nigerians. It is just like going to block the shoreline, does that make sense to you? These are the remote causes of the crisis. But the immediate cause is the grazing law. These people are Nigerians and we must learn to live together with each other.
“Communities and other people must learn how to accept foreigners within their enclave, finish!” Mohammed Dan Alli (Rtd)
This is hardly fair to Nigerians whose interests the Ministers are expected to protect, hardly fair to the souls of those whose lives were cut short by these marauders. The able minister speaks of Neglect? Are the Ministers suggesting that any set of people starved of attention and consideration ipso facto earn the right to take up arms against their fellow men and women? Perhaps we should remind the ministers that we speak of herdsmen here. We mean marauders who conduct their cows for grazing. When did AK 47 become a tool for such a venture?
(Armed Fulani Herdsmen, courtesy indpendent newspapers Nigeria.)
(Mourners at a mass burial, courtesy nnu.ng)
(Dead bodies piled in a truck. Yes barbaric)
It was reported that one of those elected by Nigerians, fed by Nigerians to make viable laws contended in the hallowed house that the Fulani herdsmen have been wired by the creator to attach a higher premium to his cows than even his own children. This preposterous position and unfair accusation against the noble work and intentions of providence could probably explain why some suspected herdsmen killed a pregnant woman in Ekiti state recently Or the demise of a monarch in Taraba orchestrated by these murder-incoporated set.
Please, could the ministers explain to us in plain language how the scores of lives taken, add or would add to the crop of cows of these criminals?
Undeniably, it appears the federal government with its veneer of hypocrisy cracking through its silence and vacillation has now decided to grant the supposedly long overdue attention to these herdsmen. This is fully appreciated against the backdrop of the federal government’s proposition for the establishment of Cattle colonies for these set driven by homicidal urge and temptations.
This development has engendered divergent views and outcry with some states like Ekiti, Abia, Benue among others kicking against such ridiculous,protective and expansionary proposition. Benue state claimed it had no sufficient land for such an undertaking and paid for such defying position with the mass killing of her natives on Jan 1st 2018 . It appears anyone who kicks against any attempts to shield these criminals go down.
(Benue State Governor, Ortom, courtesy lagostalks)
(Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose, courtesy 36ng)
It is this writer’s opinion that attempts by the government to honestly secure the means of livelihood and sustenance of these people is laudable so long as it does not take away same from others.
However, this is a project that should be pursued in favour of genuine herdsmen, but can one sensibly adjudge these killers herdsmen and not be haunted with such disservice to humanity?
Can these group who have grown wise in its deceit and contempt, with its boastful exploit in mass killing be considered herdsmen? Herdsmen or Headsmen? Only the latter fits into this execrable act of bestiality.
The country is swaying on the edges of a hill with its continued indulgence of injustice perpetrated by these headsmen who call themselves herdsmen, who loathes the sight of others and long for their blood.
If being a cattle rearer suggests bearing arms, it won’t be long before the farmers suddenly realise that the hoes and the cutlasses are inadequate for the cultivation of crops. They would stop farming rice and start farming lives, stop uprooting weeds and start uprooting souls with the kind of disgust that accompanies the clearing of weeds on the farm. We fear this impending doom. Therefore, we ask once again, Herdsmen or Headsmen?
Nigerians want justice. We want to see those who’ve committed these atrocities brought to book with no less than a life or death sentence. No more excuses!!!
Nigerians have to love one another and stand together in solidarity to hold our public office holders responsible. After all, they swore to protect the lives and property of all citizens irrespective of tribe or religion. This killing must stop, period.