In the early hours of Tuesday the 24th of April, 2018, suspected herdsmen invaded St. Ignatius Catholic Church, Ukpor-Mbalom Parish, Gwer East Local Government Area, Benue State, and cruelly snuffed out the lives of two priests and 17 other faithful worshippers. Less than 24 hours sequel to this sadistic bloodbath, three communities in Guma Local Government Area of the Benue State were attacked, resulting in the razing of 160 houses, death of approximately 39 persons, and injuries to scores more. These gruesome attacks in Benue were the most recent in a bloody spectrum of vicious attacks on defenseless Nigerians by killer herdsmen.
As the body count in Benue and other parts of the country continues to astronomically burgeon, consequent to the nauseating specters of blood that have become normal, everyday realities in these parts, with no respite in sight, yours sincerely joins other concerned stakeholders in calling on the Nigerian authorities to move with dispatch in order to put an immediate halt to these barbaric killings which have lowered national moral, due to the sense of insecurity engendered within the populace, and brought the country’s leadership out in very bad light in the international community, as incompetent, irresponsible and rudderless.
The truth is that the Nigeria State is gradually losing its capacity to continue being a state, consequent to the escalating intensity in the circle of violence being unleashed on Nigerians by violent groups – such as the fundamentalist Islamist insurgent group, Boko Haram whose war of attrition with Nigerian Security forces has turned the North-East into a killing field, killer herdsmen whose murderous activities across the country have spread dark clouds of fear over the country, in tandem with the activities of other violent groups – who are challenging the state’s supposed monopoly of the legitimate use of force; a dangerous development, which if not checked, could result in worst case scenarios. Nigeria looks like another Somalia in the making, considering the braggadocios manner violent groups have been operating uncensored across the country.
The lackluster, lackadaisical, confused and apparently blunted approaches of the government to the wanton destruction of lives and property by killer herdsmen, has left extremely sore tastes in the mouths of Nigerians. Apart from traditional condemnations in the media (regular – print and electronic – and social) by the Presidency, security eggheads and other top government officials, belated visits to affected communities to supposedly commensurate with victims, routine summoning of security eggheads before adhoc panels set up by either the Executive or any of the two arms of the National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives), mostly shallow promises by the security arrowheads to bring perpetrators of these heinous crimes to book, and largely belated, half-witted deployment of troops to troubled spots, nothing concrete by way of deliberately crafted stratagems, based on a careful analysis and understanding of the issues at stake, have been hashed out by those within whose purview it is to secure the lives and property of Nigerians, to confront, with a view to comprehensively nipping this menacing phantom in the bud. This has inadvertently emboldened the herdsmen who have continued to accelerate the intensity and regularity of their sneak attacks on defenseless Nigerians, especially women and children.
Some professional, academic and casual analysts have postulated divergent theories to explain this disturbing national security threat which is gradually pushing Nigeria closer to the precipice. From those who view the development from the binoculars of an economic crisis between cattle herders and farmers, and have gone on to suggest palliative measures such as creating legislations on grazing, ranching et al as solutions to these crises; those who see the attacks as politically motivated, and have muted the idea of a political settlement of the issues at stake; those who see the phenomenon as the metamorphosis of Boko Haram’s armed struggle with the Nigerian State, and have suggested the need for a more forceful military approach; and those who have suggested that the attacks are not being perpetrated by Nigerians, but external actors, and have suggested the need for improved security at our borders to stem the tide of these attacks; in tandem with other attempts at explaining this ugly phenomenon, one common cord that runs through these narratives, which the authorities should be more concerned with rather than the extraneous variables they are more inclined to focusing on, which are mostly superfluous, is the fact that the territorial integrity of the Nigerian State is being compromised by the violent activities of an itinerant occupation force that seems able to project more force than the state’s armed forces.
From a strategic standpoint, what the world is witnessing today in Nigeria in the form of Farmers-Herders conflict is a new form of terrorism that has been unleashed on the country by cowardly criminals dressed in military fatigues who attack villages at night with AK 47 Assault Rifles, rape young girls, disembowel pregnant mothers, kill children, and torch houses. It is not a mere economic conflict, but a full scale war against Nigerians by a band of demented minds sponsored, equipped and urged on by equally depraved minds. The ferocity, consistency and intensity of the attacks, is a pointer to the prime motive of their perpetrators: to create an asphyxiating state of insecurity across the country. Farmers and cattle herders have had conflicts in the past without any of the parties resorting to the apocalyptic use of violent force as is being witnessed in the current dispensation.
More worrisome, however, is the federal government’s unwillingness to take an objective stand on the herdsmen issue. Why, for instance, is the Presidency foot-dragging in coming out with an operational conceptualization of herdsmen and their violent activities? If the government could deploy its military forces to the Niger Delta and South-East to supposedly curtail the activities of militant groups and Pro-Biafra agitators respectively, whose activities were said to be threatening the peace and security of the country, but which – especially in the case of the later – were largely non-violent, why treat herdsmen who commit crimes against humanity on a regular basis with so much levity? Why the double standards in the handling of a security issue that requires the urgent attention of those vested with the tasks of securing the lives of Nigerians? Questions! Questions!! Questions!!!
Here is calling on the relevant authorities, especially those tasked with the country’s security to do the needful by immediately coming up with a well thought out security stratagem to combat, with a view to defeating this menace once and for all. The violent characters currently masquerading as Herdsmen are nothing but soulless terrorists whose appetite for bloodletting cannot be assuaged by the docile and placatory stance of the government. They should be treated the same way as Boko Harm – a violent group that must be obviated in its entirety.
Providing security is the most cardinal and sacrosanct responsibility of any state to its citizens. Individuals and groups give up their natural rights to self determination in order to join a larger group – the state – where they believe their rights would be better protected. But when the reverse is the case and situations arise where their safety can no longer be guaranteed under the subsisting arrangement, they begin to question the wisdom in their continued membership of that larger group, and subsequently start seeking for other alternative means of security.
On Atiku’s El Dorado
Former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar seems full of confidence that he has the magic wand to turn around the sorry fortunes of Nigeria overnight. His Excellency has turned every available media into his mouthpiece as he tries to convince Nigerians that he is the messiah they have been waiting for.
In several, mostly sponsored, media – print and electronic -interviews, Atiku has boasted loudly of his intention to restructure Nigeria, probe the incumbent, Muhammadu Buhari, defeat all irredentist groups, unite the country, and fix the moribund economy, if elected as President in 2019. But it must be pointed out that, while His Excellency has his right to free speech as enshrined in the constitution and other extant laws of the country, he has no moral right to brazenly insult the collective intelligence of Nigerians by trying to convince them that black is white, foul is fair and vice versa.
The untainted truth is that neither Atiku nor any of the Neanderthals currently angling to preside over the affairs of Nigeria after the 2019 Polls have good intentions for the country. This is not a subjective argument if the antecedents of these narcissistic characters are put into perspective. The former VP’s sudden volte-face from being a devil incarnate whose infamies while in office as the country’s second in command contributed to the sordid mess the country currently wallows in, into a zealous patriot ready to stake his all for the country, is a red flag that should not be ignored by any sane Nigerian.
Sadly, as we approach the 2019 polls, bland characters like Atiku, as has become the tradition, are again in the forefront of those clamouring to lead Nigeria, while the so-called “patriots” continue to occupy the backseats, shrilly barking without intentions of biting. What this portends for the country is a worst case scenario of frightening proportions. The Atikus of this world will continue to dominate Nigeria’s political space because there are no formidable countervailing forces to oppose their hegemony. That’s the bitter truth!