Nigerians daily condemn the incessant attacks of armed herdsmen on unarmed farmers and civilian public as suspicion continue to be raised that the former are being protected by the President Muhammadu Buhari led government. This may be a great problem for his re-election bid next year
By Olu Ojewale
THE incessant attacks of herdsmen in some parts of the country is, perhaps, one issue that President Muhammadu Buhari will not like to be an election issue in the coming general elections. But unfortunately, it is most likely to be. Repeatedly, Buhari has had cause to distance himself from the allegations that he has been treating the rampaging Fulani herdsmen with kid-gloves. But his reticence and seemingly indecisiveness in dealing with the situation may alienate him from a lot of Nigerians, especially those who have suffered the brunt of attacks of this group of merciless killers. Besides, Buhari is from Hausa/Fulani stock, which makes his defence that he is doing a great deal to curtail the menace, a mere talk.
On his visit to Nasarawa State on Tuesday, February 6, Buhari again, perhaps, for the umpteenth time, assured Nigerians that he would deal with rampaging herdsmen.
The president, who spoke while commissioning the Comprehensive Special School, Lafia, Nasarawa State, said he planned to visit other states where herdsmen-farmers clashes have led to many deaths. Buhari will be in Taraba, Zamfara and Benue, but no dates have been set for the trips.
Nevertheless, Buhari said that the federal government was working hard to ensure that peace and stability returned to the affected region. He also disclosed that additional resources had been deployed to end the crisis and maintain law and order.
The president said: “The attacks by suspected herdsmen and other bandits will not be tolerated. I appeal to all Nigerians to refrain from reprisal attacks. The security agencies have standing order to arrest and prosecute any and all persons found with illegal arms.
It appears that such an assurance would need to come from everyone in the Buhari government to be believable and perhaps more actions from government to demonstrate to Nigerians that the government is on their side.
Indeed, Buhari would be hard pressed to actually convince a number of Nigerians that his government is not tactically backing Fulani herdsmen in their nefarious activities.
Notwithstanding Buhari’s vows and commitment, utterances of some senior government officials have not so assuring to assuage the Nigerian public.
In the midst of the storm right now is Ibrahim Idris, inspector general of Police, who has been asked to resign for his position on the killer Fulani herdsmen.
Idris, who appeared before the Senate on Thursday, February 1, had blamed the deadly clashes between herdsmen and farmers on the anti-open grazing laws passed by some states, saying they should be suspended until ranches were created across the country. Mansur Dan-Ali, minister of Defence, had in the same manner claimed that anti-open grazing law was responsible for various killings by Fulani herdsmen.
As if that was not bad enough, Jimoh Moshood, a CPS and spokesman of the Police, on Tuesday, February 6, on Morning Rise, a Channels Television programme, described Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State as a “drowning man.”
The development was not palatable for members of the House of Representatives who ordered Idris to apologise to Ortom for the unguarded statement. The House also advised the president to sack the inspector general of Police for being incompetent to handle the security situation.
This, perhaps, has reinforced the allegation by the Benue State government that Fulani herdsmen could not have been acting alone without the backing or connivance of some senior political bigwigs in the Buhari administration.
Addressing reporters on Monday, February 5, in Makurdi, over the call by the IGP for a repeal of Benue State’s anti-open grazing law, Lawrence Onoja, jnr. Benue State commissioner for Information and Orientation, said such remarks were clear indications that highly-placed Nigerians were fuelling the killings.
Onoja charged: “Such statements coming from some of the nation’s top security chiefs may have confirmed the fears expressed by many people that the herdsmen unleashing murderous attacks on Benue may have the backing of some highly-placed individuals within the security apparatus of the state.
“When those who are entrusted with the sensitive task of protecting lives and property of innocent Nigerians resort to placing unjustified blame on the good intentions of Benue State government to promote peace and security, then such people have unknowingly or knowingly become part of the problem we have on our hands today in the country.”
On Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, the herdsmen umbrella body’s threat, he said: “When the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore rose against the grazing law and threatened to invade the state, Governor Samuel Ortom, the Benue State House of Assembly, and leaders of all the socio-cultural organisations in the state petitioned the Presidency and all the relevant security agencies in the country. No action was taken by those saddled with the responsibility to protect lives and property at the national level.”
Besides, the commissioner further alleged that when President Buhari ordered that Idris should relocate to Benue in the wake of New Year Day 2018 killings, the Police did not spend more than a day in the state before going back to Abuja.
Hence, he said: “We reiterate that until the masterminds and sponsors of the killings in Benue State are arrested, we will not trust or have confidence in the IGP of Police.”
Indeed, Ortom has consequently advise the people in the state to adopt any lawful means to defend themselves from bloodthirsty herdsmen attacking parts of the state. He said the call had become necessary because the IGP who should enforce security and safety of the people was playing politics with the unending killings in the state.
The governor, who spoke Tuesday, February 6, during a live Phone-in Benue Radio Programme, Issues of the Moment, monitored in Makurdi, also accused Idris of becoming the mouthpiece of the murderers of the Benue people.
Besides, he said: “The Police said they arrested Livestock Guard members and termed them a militia group from Benue. It’s just a diversion from the main issue. “If you want to hang a dog you give it a bad name. That is what the Inspector General of Police is doing, he is the mouthpiece of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore. That is what the man represents. He should therefore resign his current position to serve full time in his new job.”
Stoking the amber of discord with the federal government, both Ayodele Fayose and Nyeson Wike, governors of Ekiti and Rivers states respectively, have similarly condemned the way government has been handling the situation.
In his submission over the weekend, Fayose noted that although the federal government had set up a committee headed by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to tackle the issue, he appeared to be unconvinced. Hence, speaking on behalf the PDP governors, he said: “We believe that the Federal Government’s decision to set up a committee to address the issues of herdsmen killings is a pretentious approach to a matter that requires firm action and leadership by the President in line with his oath of office to protect all Nigerians, irrespective of creed, tribe and political affiliation.”
In the same vein, Wike on Wednesday, February 7, called on the federal government to admit its failure to provide security of lives and property in Nigeria.
Wike, who was in Benue State to commensurate with government and people of the state over the death of 73 persons killed by suspected herdsmen, also berated Moshood for daring to call an elected governor a drowning man.
“I have instructed the Governors Forum to react to that statement made by the Force spokesperson. It’s an insult that persons elected by their people would be referred to as ‘drowning. It’s only in this our democracy that you can hear that kind of statement,” he said.
Nevertheless, the Police on Tuesday, February 6, said it had deployed 15 additional police units, special forces, technical and intelligence teams to contain further attacks in Benue State.
Fatai Owoseni, state commissioner of Police, who disclosed while addressing journalists in Makurdi, the state capital, said:”The inspector-general is seriously committed to bringing to an end the killings in the state and the country.
“It is that commitment that informed the reinforcement of our command continuously on daily basis to nip in the bud the act of criminality and killings in the state.”
Similarly on Wednesday, February 7, the Nigerian Army said it would begin Exercise Ayem Akpatuma covering Benue, Taraba, Kogi, Nasarawa, Kaduna and Niger states in order to tackle the cases of kidnappings, herdsmen/farmers’ clashes among others.
David Ahmadu, a major general and the chief of Training and Operations, who announced this in Abuja, on behalf of Tukur Buratai, a lieutenant general and the chief of Army Staff, said the exercise would run from February 15 to March 31..
According to the army, Exercise Ayem Akpatuma, which is said to be the Tiv language for Cat race, would involve raids, cordon and search operations, road blocks, show of force and checkpoints.
However, it would be interesting to see if such a development would pacify people in those areas that the Buhari administration really wants to tackle the herdsmen’s invasion and killing once and for all.
Besides, Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano State has offered all Fulani herdsmen resident in other parts of the country, especially Benue and Taraba states, to relocate to Kano since the state has vast grazing land to accommodate them and their cattle.
Ganduje, who stated this while inspecting the vaccination of over one million cattle and other small animals free-of-charge at the Kadawa artificial insemination centre in Garum Malam Local Government Area of the state, as part of activities to mark the 2017/2018 livestock vaccination programme, condemned the recent killings arising from clashes between farmers and herdsmen in the country, describing it as unacceptable.
The governor said: “I am inviting herdsmen from all parts of Nigeria to relocate to Kano because we have enough facilities to accommodate them.
“We have grazing lands in Rogo, Gaya, Kura, Tudun Wada, Ungogo and other reserved places where facilities are in place to accommodate the herdsmen and their cattle.”
It is left to be seen whether the Fulani herdsmen would be willing to take up the offer and move to Kano. That notwithstanding, the signs are already showing that further troubles from the Fulani herdsmen will not be augur well for Buhari’s re-election bid in 2019.
Before that time, the Buhari presidency may solace in the advice of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo who, once again, called for state police to tackle some of the security situation besieging the country.
“State police is the way to go,” Osinbajo said at the opening ceremony for the two-day summit on national security organised by the Senate on the spate of killings by herdsmen and other crimes across the country on Thursday, February 8, at NAF Centre Abuja. Is anybody listening?
– Feb. 10, 2018 @ 4:00 GMT |