Only justice, fairness will stop Fulani herdsmen, farmers clashes


(Kingsley Oneyebuchie sits in a Nsukka hospital  on May 5, 2016, after surviving a Fulani herdsmen machete attack in Nsukka, southeast Nigeria. Over the past year Biafran independence protests have erupted across Nigeria’s south-east where many protesters where injured or killed during clashes with the Nigerian Police and army. File photo)

My initial plan this morning was to chat on the national youth service corps (NYSC) scheme which has been around since 1973/’74. I was motivated to do so because my daughter, whose 3 months old baby boy, Jabir is much too tender for the hustle and bustle of camp life, has been posted to the middle belt state of Plateau as part of the batch meant for camp on Tuesday 16th January.

These days even the core Northern state of Taraba is not quite safe, especially for Fulani maidens. Youth and the aged and even babies in their mothers’ wombs are not any safe either once they are Fulani. And my daughter and grandson are fullblooded Fulanis. I have asked her to shelve the camp and wait for another batch, expected to come up in March. And certainly not in any unsafe state.

As if on cue, I read a report somewhere of a clash in Plateau during the course of the week. This is so pathetic. Shows too clearly that the North is allowing itself to be torn apart. That Northern Elders Forum (NEF) Chairman, Paul Unongo, a Christian from Benue had to step down over unpalatable biased comments since the Benue killings reemphasises the North is in such pain. The agenda to Balkanize the North is believed to be a well tooled plan deployed by the South. The misuse of religion and ethnicity is a major tool the elite of the North have allowed the South unfettered use up here to destabilize the region.

That was what made me start to write, up there in the KMG Muse Bank, on what I believe should happen to NYSC. That it be scrapped.

That the Change Begins with the NYSC in our Change Government should turn it into an aid corp type program or an N-Power type scheme with voluntary choices of exchange between States within zones or mutually agreed states no matter how far apart, to cater to their needs and interests. But not that redundant idea, long rested, of integration and what-not that gave birth to the then noble concept. All the integration we need has been done. Sadly, we now have cases of extreme bigotry and ethnicity despite the effort at integration through NYSC.

However rather than dwell on the NYSC, which I hope we shall one of these days return to, today’s topical hullaballoo has to do with the heartless murder of 73 Benue farmers by an alleged gang of criminal Fulani herdsmen and women too.

It is the topic on all social media platforms the whole of this rested even when it is alleged to have happened on New Year’s Day. It is likely to dominate the media for a lot longer. This is due to the massive mobilisation in the formal media, in churches and social media suggesting it was a targeted pogrom against christian minorities of the North by Fulanis. That campaign has completely ignored the pogrom against Fulanis in other areas, notably the one in Taraba where a war tested serving General of the Nigeria Army, an Igbo officer and gentleman, was caught of video lamenting that he’d never seen such merciless mayhem against defenseless civilians. Pregnant women had babies viciously torn oweeks their wombs and carved up for good measure. The Military General is GOC of 3rd Armoured Division.

To me what is pleasing flowing from all these is the report by The Nation newspaper that, “President Muhammadu Buhari has directed security agencies to fish out the herdsmen who killed no fewer than 73 farmers on New Year’s Day in Benue State”

The newspaper reports, “Governor Samuel Ortom told reporters that the President gave the order during a meeting with the state’s leaders of thought on the security situation”.

“At the meeting were Deputy Governor Benson Abounu, Tor Tiv Prof. James Ayatse, Ochi Idoma, former Senate President David Mark, Senator George Akume, Senator Barnabas Gemade, Gen. Lawrence Onoja (retd.), Speaker Terkimbir Kyambe and Senator Joseph Waku, among others”.

On the other hand the same publication reports the president, appealing, “I ask you in the name of God to accommodate your country men. You can also be assured that I am just as worried, and concerned with the situation.’’

“The President told the delegation that his administration had already begun a process of finding lasting solution to the perennial challenge of herdsmen conflict with farmers and communities around the country”.

Other reports of related content since what many consider the orchestrated “designer” outrage, if you will, on the Benue killings are the apt reminder by Kano Emir, Mai Martaba Sarkin Kano Malam Muhammadu Sanusi II CON that whereas it is claimed 73 persons have been killed by an alleged criminal gang of Fulani herdsmen in Benue more than 800 Fulani women, children and the aged were mercilessly massacred in Taraba since June last year. Yet nothing has been heard of those who crafted that sacrilegeous genocide or any aid to remaining victims.

Vivid documented evidence was handed over to then Acting President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and the nation’s security top guns. There are detailed records of the perpetrators also presented on behalf of the massacred Fulani victims by Sarki Muhammadu Sanusi II (SMSII). Yet there are reports now suggesting surreptitious plans to release the alleged culprits nabbed while one of those alleged to have orchestrated the massacre right from the time he was campaigning for public office in Taraba state has been removed from a lower office and elevated higher obviously for serving a common script of the powers that be in that State.

Then the alarm raised by Wazirin Katsina Alhaji Ibrahim Coomassie, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) Chairman and retired IG of Police. He’d warned at the impending disintegration of the Nigerian union while speaking at the 52nd year of the remembrance of the massacre of Sardauna Ahmadu Bello and scores of top Northern leaders by a Southern Igbo christian led military gang of coupists. That was the beginning of the derailment of good governance whose loss has led the nation down the path of perdition we suffer today.

All of these reports despite the unfortunate fact of loss of lives, are useful if properly addressed. The massive reportage of the Benue killings whether the number is 70 or the much less some media commentators speculate is indeed useful, very useful. That all notable stakeholders of Benue, where some of the best traditional friends of the Fulani, the Tiv are, is a welcome development. Unfortunate though the loss of even a single life may be, this one should now hopefully force a more serious look at the bloody massacre of Fulanis last June in Taraba. Don’t mind the tantrums of Taraba Governor Darius Ishaku who has the impudence to suggest that Sarkin Kano was not telling the truth, a truth Sarkin Kano presented with facts and carefully documented evidence of a gory premeditated genocide never seen in recent times.

This should force the Central Government and indeed Governments at other lower levels, and stakeholders to ensure justice is done to those 800 massacred Fulanis and their cattle wickedly mutilated and destroyed by their own neighbors. Since the sadly trending Benue issue it appears the Fulani also now have a voice by default. Previously they have always been massacred and ignored by Government. They are only normally on the front burner when they retaliate because Justice is not done when they are on the receiving end.

A Hausa community chief speaking on Freedom Radio, Kano from Makurdi, Alhaji Bello Sale Warawa said yesterday, Thursday (18/01/2018), the main problem why such clashes recur is because of lack of Justice and fairness. If it is the Fulani who kill farmers they must be fished out and punished. He said reasonably too that if on the other hand farmers kill Fulanis the killer farmers should be fished out and punished.

At the same time we must also keep in view that Fulani herdsmen are clearly being unjustly discriminated against. And I am not of this view because I am Fulani. It is because  for them rearing cattle the way they do is a way of life. And like University of Abuja Lecturer, Prof. Nazifi Abdullahi Darma told Channels TV a few days ago to stop them without recourse to any worthwhile alternative the nomadic Fulani’s human rights is trampled upon.

To  simply stop the Fulani from grazing after their ancestral grazing routes have been taken over by settler farmers is unfair and unjust. To say the Fulani grazing routes encroached upon by settler communities should not be respected is similar to denying right of way to the many expressways and Rail Lines that crisscross Nigeria. Imagine some settlers who may have happened onto the Kaduna/Abuja or Lagos/Ibadan Expressway hundreds of years after the roads and rail lines, blocking cars, trucks and trains, simply because they pass through their community.

In addition to all this is the extensive bad faith in the concept of ranching, cattle colonies and grazing reserves mooted for the Fulani by the many later settler communities with whom the nomadic Fulanis have their regular conflicts. Such conflicts are aggravated by wicked manipulation of religious and political differences even when there is actually no real difference to talk about, when issues at hand are critically examined.

The essence of such manipulations and talk of ranching leads to thoughts of the original owners of America, the Red Indians who had to be forced into colonies for later settlers, the Whites of the US, to take over what is rightly the Red Indians’ ancestral property.

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