By Fred Nwaozor
The popular saying – make hay while the sun shines – would only be considered reasonable and rational when there’s still hay left in the bush as well as every arena where it’s usually found.
Of course, you can only be conscientized to grab something on time when the stuff in question is still available. For years now, several communities across Nigeria have been subjected to untold hardship and seemingly perpetual torture by the so-called Fulani herdsmen. I can’t forget in a hurry that virtually all the states in Nigeria have tasted at least a bit of this venom at one time or the other. The aforesaid set of farmers, rather than acting as guests while breeding their livestock, end up constituting evitable nuisance in their various host communities.
This domineering and nonchalant idiosyncrasy of these armed herdsmen who parade themselves with unspeakable ammunition and weapons has over time been arguably overlooked by the government and other concerned authorities. Two years ago, precisely on April 25, 2016, a certain group of herdsmen unleashed astonishing terror on the people of Nimbo Community in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State; an attack that ushered in an unimagined massacre. In the said crisis, reportedly scores died, countless persons maimed, about a hundred residents injured, several houses cum churches razed, thereby rendering over two thousand dwellers homeless.
As if that wasn’t enough, that of Nimbo never marked the end of the crisis as we anticipated; rather, it transcended to other states. Recently, it seemed Benue State had abruptly become the headquarters of the cruel herdsmen. Before now, no week that came on board we wouldn’t hear that a certain part of the state had been attacked by them.
The last time I checked, the herdsmen imbroglio was occurring so ubiquitously in the country that it required only a severe and drastic measure to address it. Relocating the office of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to Benue state might be a step towards solving the menace but can never be the complete remedy to it. First, the Federal Government must be very sincere about how it goes about this. If the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) could be proscribed by the government, I wonder why this set of militias operating in the disguise of herdsmen should be spared. It is also appalling that till date, the Presidency is yet to address the Nigerian state concerning a situation that has eaten deep into our bone marrow. It’s worth noting that the continuous silence of Mr. President signals a great danger to the teeming Nigerians that are looking up to his person.
However, it’s noteworthy that it isn’t all the herdsmen that are brutal. The vandals are some of them who unnecessarily intend to unleash terror on their host communities, probably owing to one or two frivolous reasons. To this end, the bad eggs must be fished out via the effort of the leadership of the herdsmen’s coalition, and thereafter brought to book. The relevant law enforcement agents ought to take this step very seriously. Nigerians aren’t just yearning for mere arrest but to adequately prosecute these suspected terrorists in our midst.
I’m strongly of the view that the best way to holistically solve any problem is to duly ascertain its fundamental cause(s), and this very one isn’t an exception. Hence, I enjoin the relevant authorities such as the Police, in collaboration with other related agencies, to embark on a rigorous investigation with a view to ensuring that they ascertain the prime cause of the ongoing unrest. In addition, government at all levels should variously set up committees to look into the problem.
Town hall meetings equally ought to be randomly scheduled to sensitize the general public to their civic responsibilities in this regard as well as to give the affected host communities a sense of belonging. We must note that we can’t completely unravel this quagmire without employing Community Policing, which would be thoroughly effective and efficient only if all the dwellers are carried along. We mustn’t take any action without involving the potential victims of the mayhem.
There is also need for us, especially the security agents, to stop inserting ‘Fulani’ whenever we intend to speak or write on anything pertaining to the herdsmen; we must take into cognizance that anyone could be a herdsman, regardless of his/her place of origin. Besides, anyone who intends to hurt you might come in disguise as anything; needless to reiterate that someone or a group that had been longing to terrorise you, may decide to hide under the guise of herdsmen. Thus, we must be thoroughly guided on how we go about the so-called Fulani herdsmen.
Henceforth, cattle owners should be mandated to own ranches within their respective jurisdictions, so that their herdsmen would desist from defacing the outlook of our various major roads cum farms as it is invariably found whenever they migrate with their cattle. In other words, grazing or colony cannot remedy the plight.
I can’t round off this critique without reminding the various governments of the need to embark on a massive compensation programme that would touch the lives of all the families affected across the federation. Let’s make hay while the sun shines now that hay is still available in the bush.
Nwaozor writes from Owerri via [email protected]