By Omoshola Deji
Unsure casualty figures. Presidential condemnation. Police and military deployment. No justice. All we get is a repetition of otiose actions after defenseless citizens have been massacred by extremists and killer herdsmen. Human blood has become a worthless liquid in the sights of villains desperate to have dominion and control over others.
The machetes and bullets of radical herdsmen recently wasted over 200 persons in Bakin Ladi, Riyom and Jos-south local government areas of Plateau State. The genocide – which occurred from 22-25 June, 2018 – turned properties to ashes; beings to corpse; women to widows and; children to orphans – all in retaliation for rustled cows.
The North-central Chairman of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Mr Danladi Ciroma, was reported to have avowed that the massacre was a revenge action by herdsmen who lost about 300 cows to cattle rustlers, suspected to be farmers. A national newspaper later retract the statement. The retraction is probably to douse the tension Ciroma’s alleged statement is generating nationwide. But then again, even if Ciroma’s statement is a misreport, herders killing to avenge cattle rustling and farmers murdering to avenge farm invasion oft-times occur.
Farmer-herder conflict is an aged-long hostility triggered by a clash of interest. The most cherished asset of the herder, cattle, needs the farmer’s treasured grains and grass to survive. The farmer doesn’t need the herder’s input, but the herder greatly needs the farmer’s produce to keep his cattle alive. The farmer – who earns a livelihood from the sales of harvested crops – strives not to allow cattle destroy his plantation. On the other hand, the herder wants to – and must – feed his cattle.
The herders’ desperation to save their starving cattle triggered farm invasion. A stitch in time could have saved nine if government had swiftly stem the tide. The irresponsiveness of government encouraged land-grabbing, murderous attacks and reprisals.
The ongoing massacre by killer Fulani herdsmen is generating a national condemnation and voter disaffection for President Buhari, who is also a Fulani. As the 2019 election approaches, Buhari’s doomsday looms if the blood-spilling herdsmen are not decimated. If the outpour of anger by Nigerians is employed as a standard of gauging a candidate’s electoral value, Buhari cannot win an election in Nigeria today. His reelection mainly hangs on the effectiveness of his conflict management strategy.
Nigerians yearn for a conflict-free society, but realistically, no government can effect this as conflict is unavoidable among humans. As long as people cohabit and share common interest, there must be power struggle and rivalry. These are rarely resolved through dialogue; they are managed by the state’s security agencies or adjudicated on by the court. Nigeria has the capacity to manage conflict, but Buhari’s ethnic affection and police indetermination to curb the unjust killings and arraign offenders is enflaming tension and encouraging wrongdoings.
Appropriate sanctions and justice deter wrongdoings. When these are missing, the oppressor’s sword wreaks havoc insanely and the oppressed jettisons justice for sword. Sword connotes any unlawful means of defense, attack, enforcement or oppression. A killer herdsmen/farmer walking free is always encouraged that crime and the sword way is right. Those who have lost properties and families and can’t get justice would definitely also be provoked to go the way of the sword. As the sword slits, anarchy is taking over Nigeria and staying alive is gradually becoming a contest of the fittest.
Sinking justice is mainly responsible for the incessant killings and insecurity across the country. When justice is unsure, the aggrieved goes for the sword. A farmer whose crops has been destroyed by cows and a herder robbed of his cattle would rather retaliate than hope for a justice that would never come. The inability of government to bring successive perpetrators of dastardly acts to book is making the farmers-herders in conflict and so many aggrieved Nigerians embrace sword. The resultant effect is the wanton killings and destruction of lives and properties across the country. Sadly, this would not stop anytime soon.
The pains and hatred rooted in the minds of those whose have lost their nearest and dearest would naturally make them avenge violently. Aside justice, what can really pacify someone like Ezekiel Del whose mother, father, wife and four children were massacred by the killer herdsmen? Ezekiel would surely avenge, if such killer herdsmen are not arrested, prosecuted and jailed or sentenced to death. The onus lies on the Nigerian state to appease him with justice. Attacks and reprisals is fueled by the fact all what Nigerian government offers after bloodshed is condolence. No justice!
Ethnicity and religion are man’s most cherished forms of identity and people are always ready to die fighting against whatsoever they interpret as an injustice against their tribe and faith. This almost snowballed the Plateau massacre into a devastating ethno-religious conflict. Herders are largely Fulani Muslims, while the native agrarian communities attacked by killer herdsmen are dominated by Christians. After the killing spree, the Christian indigenes reportedly began to attack people who share religion (Islam) or ethnicity (Fulani) with the herdsmen.
The attack reportedly claimed the life of Zayyan Gwandu, son of Haliru Gwandu, the Commissioner of Police in-charge of Special Anti-Robbery. Zayyan was murdered in a retaliatory stop-and-kill operation at a roadblock. The dusk-to-dawn curfew ordered by the Plateau State government halted the retaliatory killings. Nonetheless, the aggrieved are still hungry for vengeance and the volatile areas cannot be under curfew forever. What can curb further attacks and reprisals is an unbiased arrest, prosecution and sentencing of wrongdoers on both sides of the divide – farmers and herdsmen.
The ruling and the opposition party playing politics with casualty figures are insensitive to the plights of Nigerians. The opposition PDP’s target is to devalue the APC and grab power. Unfortunately, all APC cares about is retaining their hold on power in 2019. Fulfilling the 2015 campaign promises matters no more. Only that which magnets political credits or guarantees reelection is important to Buhari. Innocuous citizens were being massacred across 38 Plateau villages with no one to rescue them, while the APC national convention was heavily guarded by 5000 policemen. It is shameful that the Nigerian Police deployed the best human and material resources to secure the ruling class, when defenseless citizens in volatile areas lacks protection.
A herder aggrieved for loosing cows to rustlers would rather unleash terror than report to an incompetent police force that is mainly designed to protect the rich and the powerful. Such herder would rather take justice into his hands than rely on a government that is only passionate about defaming the opposition and getting reelected. The aggrieved farmer whose people have been attacked and killed would rather retaliate than hope on the justice assurances of a dishonest government that promised political-economic restructuring, but renege when elected.
The outpour of condemnations on Buhari over the Plateau killings is well deserved. If Nigeria had been restructured as promised, the federal government would not be blamed for every mayhem that happens in the polity. In a true federal system, with state police, the President would not be solely blamed for the unrest in the troubled states. Buhari is on every lips because the security agencies are sternly under his control.
Buhari and his team need leadership training. The ruling class needs to be tutored that the physical life determines the subsistence of the political life. Campaign and electioneering cannot take place when there is no peace. It is atrocious that defenseless children, vulnerable elderly people, women and men were being murdered, while the President, Governors, Ministers, and other political heavyweights were busy dancing and installing new party executives.
The failure to appropriately tackle the then security challenges made Nigerians kick ex-president Goodluck Jonathan out of power and Buhari might suffer the same misfortune. People are killed daily by Fulani herdsmen who believe they own the monopoly of violence and Buhari is reluctant to wield the big stick. The Fulani herdsmen are being pampered as if they are more human than the non-violent Biafra restoration advocates that were declared terrorists and crushed by the military.
Every government has a praise singing band no matter how bad they perform. PDP maniacs would always defend their 16 years misrule. In the same order, the APC fanatics are shamelessly defending the ineptitude and poor performance of the Buhari government. You’ll always find one poverty stricken man screaming to defend a corrupt politician. One unemployed graduate is always ready to defend the government officials hijacking all jobs (and Chinese railway scholarship) for their families. One sick person lacking medical attention is always ready to praise-sing a President spending public funds on medical tourism abroad. Our ability to reason logically is abysmally shrouded by ethnic, religious and party affiliations.
Famine and starvation is imminent. The farmers and herders who feeds the nation with their fruits and meats are murdering themselves to protect crops and cows. Benue farmers are languishing in the displaced persons camp instead of than cultivating. Herders are also complaining that their cows are being killed en-mass. If this is true, the cattle breeders need to fish out the Judas amongst them. The native farmers accused of cow rustlings cannot do so successfully without conniving with a Fulani man who understands the psychology of cows.
To say all herdsmen are killers is like concluding that all Nigerians are corrupt. Christians and people who are not Hausa-Fulani must be regularly enlightened that not all herdsmen are violent. The law abiding herders’ also need to protect their name and profession by pointing out the killers amidst them. The media need to always investigate the source of their information and report in a fair and unbiased manner. Buhari must bury his ethnic affection and ruin the killer herdsmen before they ruin his government. Justice must be served and seen to be served on all the perpetrators of heinous acts. Only this and adequate compensation can calm those aggrieved and prevent future occurrence. If justice sinks, the sword would slit.
*Omoshola Deji is a political and public affairs analyst. He wrote in via firstname.lastname@example.org