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WAR AGAINST FULANI KILLER HEADSEMEN

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… Kanu and Igboho spit fire as time gradually runs out on the nation

By Jeffrey Orji

“It has been proved beyond reasonable doubt in the minds of Nigerians that the Muhammadu Buhari administration places more premium on the lives of Fulani herdsmen than any other in the country and this is the crux of the matter. Again Nigerians have continued to suspect a kind of destructive conspiracy strategies like ethnic cleansing, genocide, or even Islamizing the country”

The Roman expression “Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum which is translated as “if you want peace, prepare for war” from the book “Epitoma Rei Militaris written by the Roman general Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus comes to mind at the thought of the eviction declaration of Fulani killer and rapist herders from the bushes of Western and Eastern states of Nigeria by Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and Chief Sunday Adeyemo, popularly known as Sunday Igboho. And their efforts have been applauded and seen as a sign of hope for so many Nigerians who have long lost hope in the government of the day that seems insensitive to the plight of Nigerians especially on security.

According to the popular Cicero, “Governing a country is like steering a ship. If the captain is not able to hold a steady course, the voyage will end in disaster for all” The cabal controlling Nigerian ship is indeed determined to steer it into a disaster. And as you know, injustice and oppression breed rebellion and war. Those who rule Nigeria have failed to enthrone justice and equity and nurture it to make for the peaceful co-existence of Nigerians from different ethnic nationalities. With the ferocity of the herders’ attacks spreading all over the country, even the blind can interpret the handwriting on the wall.

As a matter of fact, insecurity is the fundamental challenge undermining the political and socio-economic development of African states. Since the 1990s, terrorism, insurgency, and religious extremism have been the hallmark of growing security challenges in the continent, particularly in the West African Sub-region. In Nigeria for instance, while the Boko Haram pandemonium predominantly in the Northeast part of the country persists, there was increased militancy in the Niger Delta region which poses a grave security threat. Again, as at the time of filing, this reports the violent conflicts involving herdsmen and farmers in Nigeria stand out as one of the most unsettling security concerns for Nigeria as a nation. The emerging trend of cattle rustlers and disputes over land use between host communities and Fulani cattle herders which have left thousands of people dead and millions homeless. It is said to have claimed six times more lives than the Boko Haram insurgency and could affect the 2023 general elections.
Fulani-herdsmen-on-rampage
Appraising the factors that led to the migration of these herders to western and eastern Nigeria brings us to the drought and desertification which degraded pastures, dried up many natural water sources across Nigeria’s far-northern Sahelian belt hence forcing large numbers of herders to migrate south in search of grassland and water for their herds. Again, the consequence of the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast and rural banditry and cattle rustling in the north-west and north-central zones is another factor. Then the growth of human settlements, expansion of public infrastructure, and acquisition of land by large-scale farmers and other private commercial interests. These factors have equally aided to deprive the herders of grazing reserves designated by the post-independence government of the former Northern region which is now divided into nineteen states.

Be it as it may, you know very well as I do that, Cattle rearing is not new. Cattle herders have lived amongst other Nigerian communities for centuries. The real owners of the cattle are the big men in high places – and they are not all Fulanis little wonder they have graduated from stick to the carriage of guns and other sophisticated weapons. In all these the major contention is the side vocations of gun-wielding, banditry, kidnapping, raping, and crop-damaging adopted by these herders with reckless abandon. And these barbaric and insensitive behaviours are aggravating already fragile relations among the country’s major regional, ethnic and religious groups. The South’s majority Christian communities resent the influx of predominantly Muslim herders, portrayed in some narratives as an ‘‘Islamisation jihad force’’. As these conflicts increase in frequency, intensity and geographical scope so do their humanitarian and economic toll.

The increasing availability of illicit firearms, both locally-produced and smuggled in from outside, worsens the bloodshed.
The action of the government so far is either not proactive enough or ill-intended like a conspiracy theory. The government has deployed additional police and army units, and launched two military operations to curb violence -Exercise Cat Race, and subsequently Operation Whirl Stroke. Even with these deployments, killings continued and bloodshed became worse. President Buhari and other senior officials have consulted with herder and farmer leaders, as well as relevant state governments, to discuss ways to halt the attacks. As a long-term solution, the government has proposed establishing “cattle colonies”, which would set aside land for herders across the country, and more recently unveiled a National Livestock Transformation Plan (2018-2027). For me, this particular strategy is ill-intended. There is no how the government will expect other Nigerian regions to give their lands to vampires whose hostility knows no bounds

The government of the day has failed woefully in as much as it pays lip service to the major responsibility of governance which is the protection of lives and properties of Nigerians. The reaction from Nigeria’s federal and state authorities, so far, has been wanting hence, President Buhari’s government is increasingly viewed with misgivings by many in central and southern states for not making it a priority to take firm and transparent steps to ensure better protection of both herders and farmers. Federal security and law enforcement agencies have established neither early-warning nor rapid response mechanisms. They have not arrested and prosecuted perpetrators of violence or offered redress to victims. State governments’ responses overall also have been short-sighted; most have failed to encourage community-level dialogue. Hence, both herders and farmers are taking laws into their own hands.

History will ever remember it, no matter what government spokespersons say that the Buhari administration has created an impression that it is pro-North, pro-Islam, and pro-Fulani and that anything to the contrary is not likely to attract the same empathy. It has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt in the minds of Nigerians that the Muhammadu Buhari administration places more premium on the lives of Fulani herdsmen than any other lives in the country and this is the crux of the matter. In Igangan, Sunday Igboho the Babalaje of Oyo State was told that only President Buhari can ask the herdsmen to leave Oyo state. In Ondo state, similar sentiments were expressed to the eviction order of Governor Akeredolu. To an average Yoruba audience, this is bound to throw up primordial attachments about the ownership of land.

You must have heard of the Ondo state chief executive officer’s order to the herdsmen converting the state’s forest reserves into a criminal space for kidnapping, extortion, and killings. Governor gave a seven-day ultimatum to the herdsmen in the forest reserves to vacate the place immediately. He also directed that the open grazing of cattle on main roads and within the city has been outlawed. He asked for a proper registration of all herdsmen within the state. Governor Akeredolu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria has been praised for his courage and assertiveness by Yoruba socio-cultural groups and leaders of thought. He has been condemned by groups and stakeholders from the North who classify his objection as a case of ethnic cleansing. The Governor insists, however, that his directive is based on security considerations.

In his usual outburst, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOD, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu has told Yoruba Youths that the security of their lives and properties including those of their parents is their responsibility and therefore, should not rely on their governors because they will not protect them. He made the statement through the group’s media and publicity secretary Emma Powerful who reminded the Yoruba youths that the Southwest governors did nothing when killer herdsmen kidnapped and killed a Yoruba leader’s daughter Pa Fasoranti’s daughter on Yoruba soil. He also noted that the Southwest governors particularly the Ondo governor cannot sustain any pressure against the killer herdsmen’s activities because they all belong to the same political party hence urging the youths to take their destiny into their hands like the Eastern youths and the Eastern security Network.

President-Muhammadu-Buhari

“Defend your land and forests with your lives. If you surrender your future to these unstable politicians, your children and those unborn will be slaves forever. If in doubt look at what became of the once-great Hausa race. Today Fulani Oligarchs have reduced them to nothing, absolutely nothing, a once-proud, tolerant, loving, and technologically advanced race like the Hausa is now a shadow of its self because they made the same mistakes Yoruba youths are about to make today. Sokoto was once a thriving Hausa city called Gobir until Fulanis from Sene-Gambia asked and were given permission to graze their cattle in their bushes. Before they realized what was happening their land was taken over and renamed before their eyes,” he concluded

More so, it is suicidal and irrational to pretend that Nigeria is not on fire over insecurity. There are protests here and there in the South by youths, farmers, and women because they can no longer go to their farms because of the possibility of being raped, killed, or kidnaped by criminals who have consistently been identified as herdsmen. And these demonic and atrocious acts have been politicized by politicians for the political calculations of losing votes. But come to think of it, those who lost their loved ones, the women who were raped, the farmers whose farms were destroyed, the families that paid the ransom and still had to pick up the corpse of their loved ones by the roadside, the many untimely widows and orphans in all the invaded communities in Nigeria will forever remember their loss and the pain that they now live with hence the grudges against the government remains immortal. The question is, Will they ever get justice?

Furthermore, in recent weeks the criminal activities of herdsmen in south-west Nigeria have risen once again to alarming levels. But the music seemed changed in recent time as a Yoruba warrior named Sunday Adeyemo aka Sunday Igboho has championed a cause to exile the herdsmen out of the region in a popular but widely-criticized move. Since those who are receiving the bullet and swords are crying out but all seem to be falling on the deaf ears the police, the army, and other security agencies appointed by the constitution to protect them hence they have risen to defend themselves. It is really shambolic for this present administration. In fact, the truth must be told that the sooner we came to a round table and honestly discuss the future of the geographical space called Nigeria the better for everyone to avoid dragging the country to another civil war because this time it will not be funny for anyone.

Talking to the press chief Adeyemo said, “You cannot see a Yoruba man going about killing people in Kano. In the North, they can behead a Yoruba man for slapping a Hausa/Fulani not to talk of destroying their farmlands,” And after, the destruction of his house recently, chief Adeyemo said “They can’t distract my attention from what I am pursuing. All the Fulanis who are causing havoc on our land, kidnapping our people, and raping our women should leave now. We want humane and peaceful non-natives regardless of the tribe to live with us in peace and not people who will bring sorrow to us on our land in the name of national unity. Imagine, the number of innocent people who have been killed by these heartless people!”

Following persistent attacks in the Ibarapa area of Oyo State by suspected Fulani herdsmen, Mr. Adeyemo issued an ultimatum to the herdsmen to vacate the area. When the ultimatum expired, he led some youth to the house of the head of the Fulani community in Igangan town, Abdulkadri Saliu, chased him out of the community. The Seriki Fulani has since relocated to Kwara State with his family. Mr Adeyemo subsequently visited Ogun State and ordered herdsmen out in his self-appointed mandate of chasing Fulani herders out of Yorubaland. Believe me when I tell you that more people like Sunday Igboho will surface soon. Recently, a traditionalist from Modakeke, Osun State has vowed to support Sunday Igboho in his battle against killer herdsmen in the South-western part of Nigeria. The old man rumoured to have strong spiritual powers calls himself a warlord who has fought several battles successfully. The chief hunter laid curses on those who are against the efforts of Sunday Igboho. He promised to give Sunday Igboho all the needed support to weed out the killer herdsmen.

In the same vein, the Eastern Security Network (ESN) established on December 12, 2020, by the leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, are equally up and doing towards protecting the Eastern region against Fulani raiders in as much as the Nigerian government was said to have deployed the army to locate ESN camps. This is what happens when the state fails the citizens, people like Isaac Adaka Boro, Odumegwu Ojukwu, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Dr. Frederick Fashehun, Ganiyu Adams, Nnamdi Kalu, Sunday Igboho, etc emerge to provide leadership.

With the federal government’s failure to define a clear and coherent political approach to resolving the crisis, or even acknowledging its scope, hence putting Nigerian citizens at risk, Nigerians have continued to suspect a kind of destructive conspiracy strategy like ethnic cleansing, genocide, or even Islamizing the country. This has prompted the regional government’s establishment of different security networks. The six governors of Nigeria’s southwest region are still counting on the newly-legally recruited local police force ‘Operation Amotekun (a Yoruba word for Leopard) for solutions to complement the efforts of the police and civil defence units. In Oyo State, Governor Seyi Makinde deployed 200 Amotekun officers to criminal hotspots. In neighbouring Osun, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu approved massive recruitment into the outfit.

Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti allocated N1.4bn ($3.5m) to Amotekun in the state’s 2021 budget. According to him, “Amotekun is a compliment that will give our people confidence that they are being looked after by those they elected into office,” Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State said at the time. “So, we do not want this to create fear in the mind of anybody as we are not creating a regional police force and are fully aware of the steps we must take to have state police.” However, it is still very strange that Attorney-general Abubakar Malami deemed the outfit as illegal, pointing to abuse of other state-run operations like the states’ independent electoral commissions. It required the intervention of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo before it could finally kick-off.

As a matter of proffering workable solutions, the northern regions should reawaken and sustain the grazing reserves in the north which were above 417. Of cause, it was a formidable remedy then during the post-colonial era when the then Northern region government in 1965 created a grazing reserve system. Then, the government created over 417 grazing reserves in the north under the grazing reserve system. The government provided space, water, and vaccinations for the livestock while the herdsmen paid taxes to the government in return.

Another sincere approach is for the federal government to charge these herders to gradually embrace ranching because Nigeria is not an animal kingdom and cattle rearing is equally a personal business.

Finally, as a matter of my opinion, It has become very clear that Nigeria cannot exist as one nation. It is not working. For crying laud, it takes two to tangle and two cannot work together or else they agree, hence dissolution along ethnic boundaries is the best so as to encourage healthy competition.