Herdsmen killings: Garba Shehu’s unrighteous indignation, By Jerry Uwah

Garba Shehu is angry with the Nigerian media. President Muhammadu Buhari’s senior special assistant for media and publicity believes that the media is beating the drums of war over the killings in Benue state by herdsmen.
Shehu argued last week that a section of the Nigerian media has dumped the ethics of the profession, resorted to name-calling and may be heading in the direction of the Rwandan media a few months before the genocide of April 1994 which led to the massacre of an estimated 800, 000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
Shehu’s analogy is frightening because that genocide was triggered by the shooting down of an aircraft carrying Rwandan President, Juvenal Habiarimana and his Burundian counterpart. Both men were Hutus killed by Tutsi rebels.
If news of the killings by herdsmen is mismanaged, it could trigger Rwandan-style genocide.
Shehu is worried that some in the media call Buhari a murderer and that a columnist suggested that Mansur Dan-Ali, Nigeria’s minister of defence, was a strong supporter of the gruesome murder in Benue state.
Shehu has a very difficult and unenviable task, despite the influence and affluence flowing from his position. It is very wrong for anyone in the press to call Buhari a murderer. The president does not deserve such a scathing remark.
However, Shehu would find it difficult to convince the world that Buhari has done enough to protect Nigerians from murderous herdsmen. Last Friday, they hacked down many more in Adamawa state.
Fulani herdsmen have taken over farmlands in far away Akwa Ibom state. They are rampaging with impunity.
When I visited home on November 2017 for the funeral of my brother in-law, I expected to return with a bag of garri from my sister. I was shocked when she lamented that herdsmen led their cows into her cassava farm and they consumed everything.
I strolled down the old Ikot Ekpene Road and saw the herdsmen and their cows gleaning what was left in the cassava farms. From all indications, the herdsmen enjoy immeasurable immunity from the law of the land.
Many are worried that the federal government is not moving against the herdsmen with the might and fury it has unleashed on the cult men who killed 21 people in a village in Rivers state on the same day the herdsmen slaughtered 73 people in Benue state.
The president had responded to the killings in Rivers state by ordering the army’s 6th Division to get those who slaughtered innocent people in Amoku. The army did the job within two weeks.
Ironically, the inspector-general of police was ordered to relocate to Benue state to chase well armed professional killers with baton. If the 6th Division of the army was sent after those who killed 21 people, there was a tactical blunder in sending the police after those who killed 73 people. Besides, the government of Benue state is complaining that the IG is not visible.
Those who wrongly tag Buhari a murderer might have misinterpreted his sin of omission in the tepid response to the cruelty of the well armed and professional killers masquerading as herdsmen.
The president is definitely not a murderer. He cannot send his kinsmen to slaughter innocent people all over the country even as he has thousands of cattle. But the time has come when the president must treat the murderous herdsmen the way he treats Boko Haram and the cult men in Rivers state.
When that happens, the president would have succeeded in reducing the chances of the media beating the drums of war and pushing the country perilously close to genocide.
Besides, Shehu as senior adviser to the president must develop the skill of convincing an introvert president to learn to wear the toga of an extrovert. It was rather strange even in African culture for Buhari to invite the governor and traditional rulers of Benue state to the villa for consultation after the gruesome murder of 73 innocent people by Fulani herdsmen. He should have visited Benue to console with the bereaved families.
Rather than rebuking the media for reporting what is wrong, Shehu should advise the president to be more pre-emptive in his approach to the professional killers.
Mansur Dan-Ali is perhaps the most difficult problem Shehu is facing. Buhari hardly speaks. On the few occasions he speaks, he knows how to bridle his tongue. The president errs more on the side of silence than loquaciousness.
On the other hand, the minister of defense speaks like Donald Trump. He speaks faster than he thinks. What he said last week was a provocative defence of the brutal murder of innocent people of Benue state. Those who called Buhari a murderer might have inadvertently transferred their aggression from Dan-Ali to the president.
If Dan-Ali was Britain’s minister of defence, he would have lost his job the day after his unbridled defence of the brutal murder in Benue state.
Shehu’s job today is to advise the president on how to tame those with the tongue of Donald Trump in his cabinet. Except for a few slips of the pen, the media has managed a very bad situation in a very mature manner

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