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Posts Tagged ‘Violence by Fulani Herdsmen’

The way things are going, one cannot help but note that when the history of this government is written, it would be one blemished with violence and bloodshed. This is not a prophesy. It is a statement of fact, what with the ongoing killings and destructions associated with the Fulani herdsmen and local farming communities that has continued unabated.

Even though every other day there is new news report and statistics of unnamed victims thrown at us, like all things with us, we have since grown numb to these news stories. Fresh or reprisal attacks by herdsmen on farming communities do not hold the same attention in the news and in public discourse as they once did. Much the same way we all grew use to boko haram attacks that in February 2014 fifty-nine boys were killed at the Federal Government College of Buni Yadi and the nation moved on like nothing had happened. We are seeing this happening again. Herdsmen killings are increasingly taking the back seat in our national consciousness. We are gradually resigning to having it as one of those things we have to live with…like corruption, power outages, annual Lassa fever and meningitis outbreaks and the super eagles not qualifying for major tournaments.

The ease with which we move on is an issue that deserves deeper study. Perhaps it is the most apparent evidence of a deep rooted cynicism, the expression of a people who have been disappointed for so long by their leaders that they have resigned to surviving on their own and in the process have deadened their conscience to any issues that affects anyone other than themselves. So when the victim of the current pain is not directly them, they make a little noise just to fulfil all righteousness and then move back to the rate race that is their private lives. Like I said, this is a matter than requires a deeper study.

The subject of this intervention is however the failure of those whose sworn duty it is to stop the killings to do so. It appears that the Nigerian state has thrown her hands up in a show of helplessness as concerns this issue. Over and over what we get is condemnations from Aso Rock of a new episode of mindless killings so much so it appears the media aides to the president simply edit the location of the incidence and the date and issue it. Reminds one of the days when the boko haram attacks was at its peak. These statements are deeply frustrating to say the least and inspire no confidence whatsoever in the citizenry. What is more, despite the ever present promise of ‘leaving no stone unturned’ in bringing perpetrators to book, hardly anyone has really been sent to jail for this nor those behind the scenes writing the cheques that funds the madness.

Read the full article published on Olisa.tv on April 28 2017

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fulani 1I still remember the billboards, the radio jingles, the online propaganda army and the campaign podium rhetoric of then candidate Muhammadu Buhari and his party, the APC, listing security as one of its cardinal objectives and assuring that under their watch Boko Haram (which was the main national security issue at the time) and all other security challenges, would be defeated. It was an easy sell. The country was tired of the blood bath by Boko Haram and who better to marshal the necessary will to battle them than a former General? A majority of Nigerian voters bought it.

The jury is still out on how we should describe the present state of affairs as regards Boko Haram. Victory?  Technical victory (as the president had claimed)? Stalemate? Peace of the graveyard? Or still a raging battle? While there is no doubt that there has been gains on that battle front, one cannot but acknowledge that the war is a long way from being over. A few days ago there were suicide attacks in Bornu, the epicentre of the insurgency, that claimed lives. If we are truthful to ourselves, the terror group still has the capacity to cause huge casualties by picking on soft targets hence the need to keep the momentum going.

While the government is quick to sing its own praise, claiming it has delivered on its ‘security’ campaign promise, the country has actually gotten a lot more insecure with various other security issues which to be fair, predated the administration, but which have become more rampant and the perpetrators emboldened by the inaction of the government and the seeming unwillingness to confront them. On the other hand, the government has, through its own actions, fanned other issues of insecurity to flame and picked battles it is not exactly well prepared to fight.

From Niger State to the FCT to Kogi State to Nassarawa, to Benue, down to Enugu, Ebonyi and Delta States, the menace of the rampaging ‘Fulani herdsmen’ has been felt. This killing militia, which were ranked among the top global terror groups of 2015 by number of deaths caused (even though our government does not seem willing to even describe them as criminals), has continued to run amok, killing, maiming and destroying the properties of Nigerian citizens unchecked. We have lost count of the death count. The images of the carnage melts the heart and reminds one of the title of the book by former president Obasanjo “The animal called man”. Only beasts and savages of the stone-age kind can be so ruthless. These bloodthirsty militia dismember women, children and the aged and film it. There is sufficient evidence to show that they are well organised, well-armed and strongly backed.

Nothing else can explain the fact that after each episode of blood letting, after we have screamed the life out of yet another hashtag on twitter and some Police boss has done the ceremonial visit to the place with a promise to ‘leave no stone unturned’ in fishing out the perpetrators, nothing happens. An identified group of people (not ghosts) walk around armed with assault weapons in this country and no arrests have been made. Entire villages are wiped out in nights of violent orgies and nobody has been caught and prosecuted for it. How does one explain this?

Just this week, more than 80 people were killed in a series of brutal attacks in Benue State by groups of nomadic herdsmen. Within the same period, there were attacks in parts of Niger and Kogi states. And these are those that made it to the news. In most cases, we hear of the attacks days after it happened, owing to the remoteness of the places of incidence and there so many others that never even make it to the news.

Very appalling is the seeming conspiracy of silence around this issue. The government simply makes like it didn’t happen often taking days to acknowledge it and issue the terse statements or not even bothering at all. It does not help that as a Fulani man, the people suspected to constitute this militia are kinsmen of the President and it is seen in some quarters that he has simply looked away and allowed his brothers have a field day. This perception finds credence they argue, in the zero reaction by security agencies to the killings and in the absence of any concrete approach to ending the madness. This is a dangerous perception which handlers of the president must take seriously.

How much longer before we do something about this ugly trend? When their government cannot defend them, people will resort to self-help and there is no better recipe for anarchy. Every Nigerian life matters. It might seem far off just yet, much like the Boko Haram issue seemed at first. Until it hits closer home. Until we watch another inferno arise and there will be no water to put it out. Until there is no country left for us to call home. Alas, the fire is already burning.

We watched how both the government and the people reacted after the recent killing of Americans at a gay night club. We are watching the reactions this week following the killing of two Americans by cops and the reprisal shooting of five police officers by a lone gone man. We saw President Obama addressing his people from abroad, cutting short his trip to attend the memorial for the fallen cops. We see street protests and proactive actions by law enforcement agencies. You are not American but you share the emotions and the faith. That is a country of serious people, where security is not a campaign slogan but a fundamental right. Where leaders take responsibility for failures and do things to make it right.

President Buhari and his party must wake up. Just in case they had it twisted, the definition of security does not stop at fighting Boko Haram. The restiveness in the Niger Delta, the now ubiquitous kidnapping for ransom, the hacking to death of people in god’s name and the Fulani herdsmen killings are all security issues and the ruling party has done very poorly, so far, in addressing them.

@nzesylva

First published here on July 13, 2016

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fulani 1I will assume sir, that you’ve been briefed by your people about the very sad occurrence last week in Agatu LGA of Benue State. I am assuming because there was no sign that you were aware well over forty-eight hours after the community was attacked and sacked by rampaging Fulani herdsmen.  Like your principal who was at the time seeking spiritual interventions for the problems of Nigeria in Mecca and inundating us with pictures every step of the way, there was no official statement of any kind from your office which is most unfortunate.

As a well-read individual and a retired army general, one will expect that you appreciate the importance of prompt communication in crisis situations. It is therefore very baffling that over 200 Nigerian lives (some say 300, it depends on who you are reading) can be lost within the country and your office does not deem it fit to make a statement, even if just to acknowledge said event and reassure the rest of the citizenry on what steps are being taken to stem the killings and rehabilitate the displaced.

That said, one must note that the killings in Agatu came barely a week after similar events happened a little further South in Abi community of Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State. These are just two of the most recent occurrences of these dastardly assaults on Nigerian citizens which have indeed become a reoccurring event in parts of the middle belt and southern Nigeria extending to the South West and Eastern heartlands. To put it more succinctly, we are witnessing a silent genocide and government seem to be pretending that it is not happening. The question is, are we going to allow this to continue? Are we throwing our hands up in surrender? Are we saying we cannot solve the problem of Fulani herdsmen in this day and age? Are we inadvertently giving the impression that the herdsmen are immune to the law?

destroyed community

Providing answers to the above questions is the reason you have a job, sir. Suffices to state here that it is high time we as a people, tackled the Fulani herdsmen issue head-on with the sincerity and sense of duty that it deserves. Our country cannot survive these cycles of barbarity. A group of people no matter the grievance cannot continue to operate outside of the law and take lives whenever it pleases them and without any consequences whatsoever.

There is no mystery around the bone of contention here. No need to setup fact-finding committees as governments is quick to. The report of many committees of times past has never been implemented anyway. So we don’t need new ones. The issue is simply that of grazing cattle and the destruction of farms crops in villages along the path of the nomads. You might wish to note that the strategy of papering the cracks in which government hurriedly convenes a meeting of actors on both sides at the end of which you declare that ‘peace’ has been negotiated and television cameras roll away has not helped anyone. As long as desertification continues, and the Fulani herdsman has to go deeper south to get green pasture for his cattle, these clashes will continue if we do not do something intelligent about it.

Mention has been made for grazing reservoirs, for the definition (and demarcation) of grazing routes, for the domestication of the Fulani herdsmen, for working with them to go from nomadic animal husbandry to a structured farm style husbandry. But mention must now also be made of finding out the source of the sophisticated weapons these herdsmen bear, the need for proper surveillance of communities and the creation of a robust internal security architecture that is not reactionary but able to predict crises and nip it in the bud. This again is the reason why we pay you handsomely.

Failure to deliver on these will among other things mean your tenure as Internal security Czar was a failure and that those that died in Agatu and Abi and many other communities before them, died in vain. Remember, they too are Nigerians and share fully in the commonwealth which guarantees you round the clock security protection. They deserve better. The protection of their lives and properties is sacrosanct. It is enshrined in the constitution as their right and we cannot continue to fail them so.

Honourable minister, we have glossed over his Fulani herdsmen issue for too long and it is becoming as much an embarrassment as it is an indictment on us all Nigerians especially those of us who live in the relative peace of cities and semi-urban areas far from the killing theaters.  The conspiracy of silence has run its course. It is time for use to do something. We look up to you and your team to provide leadership in this area.

@nzesylva

First published here on Monday 29 February, 2016

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