The problem of Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria has assumed a very worrisome dimension, especially with the recent massacre of over 50 persons in Benue state. The death toll arising from Fulani herdsmen attack on innocent Nigerians since it started is well over 7,000 across the length and breadth of the country. They have destroyed farmland worth millions of naira and anyone who attempts to resist them or question them is killed with dangerous weapons that they parade, including AK 47 riffle.
The attacks and killings by herdsmen have attracted comments from cross section of Nigerians and different organisations. The various media houses are inundated with reports on the atrocities committed by Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria almost on daily basis. These herdsmen have no respect for the law of the country, they have no respect for the sanctity of human life. Pregnant women, children, the young and old have become victims of Fulani herdsmen.
Many Nigerians at home and abroad have expressed their dissatisfaction with the attack and killings. The group that did so recently was the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria led by Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama. They have also expressed disappointment over the way the Federal Government is handling the matter. They hinged their dissatisfaction on the fact that it seems there are separate laws for the Fulani herdsmen and other Nigerians, otherwise, the Fulani herdsmen would not have been going about with their cattles , destroying people’s farm , attacking and killing people with AK 47 riffle.
The questions on the lips of many Nigerians are numerous. First, who supplies the Fulani herdsmen with AK47 riffle, considering the high cost of purchasing the weapon, which is far beyond the financial power of an ordinary Fulani. Besides, are the AK47 riffle licenced for the herdsmen, considering the fact that it is a military riffle. Even if the AK47 riffles are licenced, were they licenced for them to kill innocent Nigerians? Why is it difficult for the security agents in Nigeria to arrest and prosecute these herdsmen who kill, rape and maim the people? Why has the Federal Government not shown enough concern over the killings, and has failed to take drastic action against them? That explains why the Federal government led by President Mohammadu Buhari has been accused of ineptitude as far as the killings by herdsmen are concerned. It appears the Federal Government has given tacit approval to the Fulani herdsmen to continue their attack and killings of the people.
To say the least it is very sad to know that the Fulani herdsmen value their cattles more than human life. However it is never to be done at the expense of other people’s lives and means of livelihood. Obviously, President Buhari is a Fulani and owes cattles in large numbers in Katsina, which makes him to be the number one herdsman in Nigeria. Therefore, he has very close affinity with the traditional Fulani herdsmen, some of whom are attacking and killing innocent Nigerians across the country. Many people are forced to believe that is why President Buhari is complacent in dealing decisively with the attacks and killings by Fulani herdsmen across the country. Invariably, the President would have acted if the story was the other way round, considering the fact that he is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
So, the security of lives and property of Nigerians is the primary purpose of government, especially in a democracy. Therefore, it is the responsibility of President Buhari to protect every Nigerian irrespective of tribe, religion or political affiliation. Mr President should realise that the Fulani herdsmen are worse than the Boko Haram and the Niger Delta militants. This is because the Fulani herdsmen are everywhere in the country, but Boko Haram and the militants are confined to their various regions. That explains why people have given different coloration to the incident. Some say it is an attempt by the Fulani to completely annex the country and make it an Islamic state, while others viewed it as a calculated move to subjugate the people to the whims and caprices of Fulani authority.
Be that as it may, if the Federal Government refused to do anything drastic to stop the Fulani herdsmen from further killings and attack on the people, a time will come when the people will collectively revolt against it, and the consequences then may be better imagined than told. It must be realised by all that nobody or particular race has monopoly of terrorism and violence. The Federal Government and indeed President Mohammadu Buhari should know that when you push a person too far to the wall, he is likely to act in self-defence.
Mr President should let the cooking pot for the lizard be the same cooking pot for the chameleon with regard to the application of the Nigerian laws which are enshrined in the Nigerian constitution. Frankly speaking the Fulani herdsmen have no right under the Nigeria law to carry AK47 riffle recklessly. Imagine if it were the rest Nigerians that are parading AK47 and killing Fulanis with it, what would have been the action of Mr President? Would Mr President have be lukewarm, lackadaisical or proactive and serious?
Little wonder why the government and people of Benue state accused the Federal Government of been insensitive to the plight of the victims of the Fulani herdsmen attacks.
With regards to the call for the establishment of cattle colonies in the country, the international practice is for cattle owners to establish their individual ranches. This is because, cattle business is not government business, therefore, the individual cattle owners should acquire land and develop it as ranch for their cattles. By so doing they would even be creating job opportunities for those who will work in the ranches or supply grasses for their cattles. The Federal Government must not be seen to be oppressing some segment of the society for the benefit of Fulani cattle herdsmen.
Desmond agbama is a journalist and chief press secretary to Oba of Benin.
Opinion contained in this article is strictly the writer’s and not Aledeh’s.