Fulani Herdsmen: Is President Buhari Still Fit To Lead?
There is a growing perception down the south and north-central regions of Nigeria, that the federal government’s silence, to incessant killing of natives and farmers in their farm lands, and the rumoured bill to introduce grazing routes to encourage further roaming of herdsmen across Nigeria, are signs of failure, sectarianism and favoritism by President Muhammadu Buhari to his Fulani tribesmen over other ethnic nationalities of Nigeria.
Some opponents say that it is because like most of the herders in the region, he is a cattle-owning ethnic Fulani man, while some others accuse him of religious bigotry.
Many have wondered why the same president and security forces cracked down heavily and sternly on pro-Biafra activists in the south-east and oil militants in the south-south Niger Delta regions are reluctant to take same stance on killer herdsmen.
The violence between herders and farmers that has marred the country for generations seems to be worsening, with some analysts saying it is due to the proliferation of weapons and the southward advancement of the Sahara Desert that is intensifying competition for land and water.
However, many are of the opinion that compared to previous skirmishes witnessed under previous administrations, herdsmen have become emboldened and deadlier in their attacks under the present regime.
Marauding herdsmen have reportedly terrorised, raped, kidnapped, and killed hundreds of people across farming communities in the southern and north central states.
Between 2015 and now, more than 2,000 persons have allegedly been killed by Fulani Herdsmen with more than 10,000 displaced, according to the Institute for Economics and Peace’s Global Terrorism Index 2015.
Out of the 23 local government areas in Benue state, armed Fulani herdsmen, rated the fourth deadliest terror group in the world, have invaded and occupied 14.
In Nimbo, a border town in Uzo-Uwani area of Enugu State, Nigeria, seven villages- Ekwuru, Nimbo-Ngwoko, Ugwuijoro, Ebor, Enugu-Nimbo, Umuome and Ugwuachara were invaded, and scores massacred by over 500 heavily armed Fulani herdsmen, in 2017.
“The itinerant herdsmen are Fulani. They are killing and maiming innocent people. The silence by Nigerian Federal Government is alarming. I hope there is no extra constitutional agenda to this”, remarked Ijaw Council for Human Rights, ICHR, while debunking the claim by Northern governors that these herdsmen should not be labelled criminals despite the carnage they leave in the wake of their apparent wicked, lawless and provocative acts.
The most impacted states where the attacks have occurred are in Nigeria’s Middle Belt region, particularly in the states of Benue, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Plateau and Taraba.
In addition to terrorist attacks, Fulani militants were also involved in non-state armed conflicts with groups from Eggon, Jukun and Tiv farming communities.
Despite his often slow condemnation of the attacks, many believe a performing president would promptly visit the affected areas, but this has not been the case with President Buhari.
Irked by the seeming indifference to the raging issue, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), accused the president of bias, stressing that the president’s lacklustre attitude towards the herdsmen crisis was a hidden agenda to Islamise Nigeria, as the most affected states are predominantly Christians dominated.
It is estimated that no fewer than 200 persons have been killed in Benue and Taraba States by suspected Fulani herdsmen in 2018 alone.
Benue state government in May 2017, promulgated an Anti-Open Grazing Prohibition and Establishment of Ranches Law, which outlawed open grazing in the state and compelled livestock breeder to ranch them. Fulani cattle rearers under the aegis of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, MACBAN, kicked against the enactment, arguing that the law was made to exclude them from the state and thereafter vowed to frustrate its implementation.
The herdsmen promise to frustrate the implementation of Benue’s Anti-Open Grazing Prohibition and Establishment of Ranches Law which came into effect in November last 2017,culminated in the New Year Day massacre of 73 people in Logo and Guma local government areas.
Benue governor, Samuel Ortom, blamed the killings on the Federal Government’s “silence”, lamenting that the ugly act would have been forestalled if the Federal Government had acted on the reports he submitted concerning the threats of attacks by the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore.
Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, in an essay berated President Buhari over the failure of his government to act decisively against the group.
“President Muhammed Buhari and his government – including his inspector-general of police – in near identical denial, appear to believe that killer herdsmen who strike again and again at will from one corner of the nation to the other, are merely hot-tempered citizens’ whose scraps occasionally degenerate into ‘communal clashes’ – I believe I have summarised him accurately. The marauders are naughty children who can be admonished, paternalistically, into good neighbourly conduct. Sometimes, of course, the killers were also said be non-Nigerians after all. The contradictions are mind-boggling,” Soyinka wrote.
Responding to the attacks and criticism that followed it, the president invited a delegation of Benue state leaders to the Presidential Villa led by Governor Ortom, and urged them to accommodate the “their killers”.
“I ask you in the name of God to accommodate your countrymen. You can also be assured that I am just as worried, and concerned with the situation,” the president said.
Buhari’s statement that the herdsmen are “countrymen” deserving to be accommodated, may have further raised more concerns that the president is conflicted.
Recall that in September 2016, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, said that the armed Fulani herdsmen rampaging across some states in the Nigeria, are not Nigerians, but foreign terrorists coming mobilized to cause a breach of the peace.
“They are therefore terrorists and should be treated as such by the Nigerian security agencies. The Nigerian herdsmen are very peace-loving and law abiding people,” the Sultan said.
Meanwhile, the lackadaisical attitude of the government and security agencies towards tackling the herdsmen menace is fueling anger across the country, the image of the administration will be irreparably dented if President Buhari does not take a decisive stand against the rampaging herdsmen.
As the federal government continues to dither, and some say Buhari fiddles while herdsmen have free reign maiming, ransacking, pillaging and raping, the questions in everybody’s mind will remain if Buhari is a latter day Fulani imperialist, a religious bigot that is unfit to lead?