| By Amanze Obi |
IT is hardly surprising that the rampage of Fulani herdsmen has continued unabated. This is in spite of the outrage that trailed the organised massacre that they unleashed on Enugu State. The itinerant killers are not yet deterred by anything. When they soaked Enugu State with blood, what they got was mere condemnation. No deterrence was placed on their way. That is why the story of their killings has remained unending. They have continued to strike elsewhere in the south and the Middle Belt. So far, Nimbo and Agatu communities in Enugu and Benue states respectively have borne the worst brunt of their attacks.
Regardless of the wanton destruction of life and property in Agatu and Nimbo, the Federal Government has not acted in a way that suggests that we have a monster in our hands. The governments of the affected states did not also respond as stridently as expected to the emergencies.
But it is gratifying to note that Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State has departed radically from the complacency that we saw in Enugu State. Just a few days ago, we were told that the herdsmen struck in Ekiti State, leaving two people dead. Fayose could not accept this. He was appalled by it. He did not just condemn the murder in Ekiti, he also talked tough. Then he followed up the tough talk with concrete action. He has banned cattle grazing on Ekiti soil. He has told the herdsmen to take their cattle elsewhere. They are no longer wanted in Ekiti State. That is the order. That is the situation in Ekiti at moment.
In taking that decision, Fayose was only doing his job. As the chief security officer of his state, the governor has a responsibility to take necessary steps to protect life and property in his domain. He did not have to wait for the authorities in Abuja who, obviously, are not interested in the murderous activities of the herdsmen.
I consider Fayose’s action very appropriate. It is the answer to the impunity and impudence that surround the activities of the herdsmen. It is also gratifying that the governor’s action is enjoying the blessing of Afenifere. By so doing, the region, which has come under attack, has stood up to be counted. This is unlike what obtained in Enugu State where neither the state government nor any Igbo group responded stridently or appropriately to the ugly development.
In a harassed and cowed region, such as the south of Nigeria, it can only take a man of uncommon courage, such as Fayose to confront this monster of oppression and suppression. To demonstrate that somebody somewhere is enjoying the bad situation, Northern states Governors Forum shocked decent minds with their response to the Enugu killings. While blood was still flowing in Nimbo, the governors had the audacity and temerity to defend the Fulani killers. They berated those, who condemned the action of the Fulani herdsmen. The governors said they were unhappy that the Fulani were being vilified. They warned against further demonisation of the Fulani race. That was impudence walking with a swagger.
The position of the northern governors on the issue at stake was not only shameful, it was insensitive. It did not take into consideration the fragility of the Nigerian federation. I had thought that in a country as volatile as ours, people in positions of authority should be sensitive to issues that have been trying the soul of the nation. One of them is ethnic cleansing. It has been happening in this country since the 1960s. The debacle that degenerated into the Biafran war was a direct consequence of ethnic cleansing. We need not remind ourselves of the need to move away from this dangerous path. This is one of the bitter truths that we need to tell ourselves.
Unfortunately, we live in a pretentious and artificial republic where many bury their heads in the sand just to give the impression that all is well. We live in a country where people in high places have refused to paint the true picture of our situation. What we have instead is ostrichism and being lily-livered. We do not say it as it is. We prefer to lie to ourselves. Complicity or cowardice on the part of elders is a great disservice to peace and progress.
By taking charge of the situation in his state without taking orders or instructions from Abuja, Fayose has demonstrated that the issue at stake is beyond politics. You do not play politics with the life of the people. You do not play politics with national security. The activities of Fulani herdsmen border on both. The life of the people is sacred and must be protected at all cost. That is what Fayose is trying to do. No one can fault him on this score.
Certainly, Fayose must have learnt something from the Nimbo incident, which was shamelessly politicised. When Enugu was flattened by the herdsmen, the Igbo were lost in action. They were neither seen nor heard. The vacuum created by the absence of appropriate Igbo response was quickly filled by select governors of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State was the arrowhead. He led a delegation of APC governors on a courtesy call to Enugu Government House. By so doing, they turned the mourning of the people into a political gathering. That, effectively, diverted the attention of those who were supposed to urge for an appropriate and workable response to the Enugu massacre.
Today, we have consigned the Nimbo incident to the ash heaps of history. We are probably waiting for its repeat elsewhere in the South. Fayose understands this scenario too well. That is why he wants to clip their flapping wings now that it is not too late. Leadership should be forward-looking. And that is what Fayose is doing.
For the Fayose initiative to endure, Nigerians must look beyond politics and treat this national challenge dispassionately. If we move away from the madding crowd, we will recognise the fact that those who are talking about the “Fulani National Grazing Reserve” bill do not mean well for Nigeria. The bill seeks to carve out portions of farmland, belonging to communities in the 36 states of the federation for the Fulani to carry out their grazing. This would have been a harmless exercise if our country were founded on love, trust and respect for one another.
Unfortunately, Nigeria rests on oppression, suppression, impunity and conquest mentality. The Fulani herdsmen for whom we want to make this law have demonstrated that they are out to conquer their host communities. They do not operate in a peaceful atmosphere. They thrive on chaos. They are, therefore, a security risk wherever they operate. Already they have the licence to kill and maim. Carving out enclaves for them across the country is to prepare and equip them for total annihilation of the people of their host communities. Those who wish this country well should reject the grazing bill in its entirety. It is a recipe for anarchy.
- This column was originally published in Daily Sun, Thursday, May 26, 2016. Amanze Obi can be reached via [email protected]
— Jun 6, 2016 @ 01:00 GMT