Events across the country in the recent times, especially the increase in the number of mobile terrorists masquerading as herders in dispensing their nefarious operations have shown clearly that open grazing in cattle business is no longer fashionable. Unfortunately, those entrusted with the responsibility to protect lives and property seem not to have recognised this fact with their continuous polarisation of the issue along ethnic and religious divides.
While excoriating the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, for banning open grazing, and some governors in the South West geopolitical zone for speaking out against the killer herdsmen, the Governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed, on February 11, 2021, said: “The West doesn’t want to accommodate other tribes but we are accommodating your tribe in Bauchi. We have Yorubas who have stayed in Bauchi for over 150 years. Some of them have been made permanent secretaries in Gombe, Bauchi and Borno but because the Fulani man is practicing the tradition of pastoralism, he has been exposed to cattle rustlers who carry a gun, kill him and take away his cows: he has no option but to carry AK 47 because the government and the society are not protecting him.”
Though, this is not the first time the governor will publicly display sentimental skill in a national discourse. it was on record that the governor did the same thing in 2019 when he described Fulani as global citizen that can leave the neighbouring countries and partake in Nigeria’s livestock reform. However, the level at which it has degenerated is what is of concern to most lovers of peace and prosperity in Nigeria because without objectivity and justice to find lasting solution to issue will be difficult.
One of the reasons the country is moving from one crisis to another is the lack of objectivity in addressing issue. This has turned justice to the game of who knows who, when, where and how? A veritable testimony of this, is the justification of the use of unlicensed weapons by Governor Bala and his apostles in their quest to defend armed herdsmen living in the forest.
Before the Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, gave a vacation order to the herdsmen hibernating in his state’s forest reserve, reported cases of kidnapping, killing, rape and others indicated that most criminals use the forest as their dens and training ground for future operation. This is not limited to the South. For instance, the Chibok girls in Borno State, Kankara boys in Kastina State, Kagara staff and students in Niger State among others were taken to the forest after they were abducted from their schools.
In fact, the pictures released by Sheikh Ahmed Gumi, a popular cleric advocating for blanket amnesty for the bandits, showed that most criminal elements like to stay in the forest. This might have been one of the reasons governor Akeredolu ordered the herdsmen to vacate the state’s forest reserve so that the criminal elements among them can be smoked out. Unfortunately, because of the personal interest of those benefiting from the status quo (opening grazing system) the action of the governor was given North versus South colouration.
This ethnic card is responsible for the failure of government in addressing the growing insecurity in the country. It was what ignited the fire of the 1967-70 civil war and it is the strength of those fanning the ember of war by giving eviction notice to people doing their lawful business in the area of their choice. This is further complicated by those agitating for amnesty for the bandits.
Though Gumi tried to justify the amnesty by saying that the bandits carry arms because their members were killed by vigilante groups which further buttresses the point that they are criminals.
It is only a criminal that will confront a vigilante groups with arms. They started by confronting the vigilantes, graduated to fighting Police, now fighting the soldiers, abducting children in order to collect more money to buy arms and increase the number of their membership and create more networks.
That is why different questions are being raised on the justification tendered by the cleric for his blanket amnesty particularly, looking at the ongoing killings in the North East despite the shadow amnesty given to the so-called repentant Boko Haram.
Even, if the government is going to empower the repentant terrorist in order to keep them away from their vomit, it shouldn’t be when they are still at war with them. Doing so will only increase violent ventures in the country because it will motive other emerging terrorist to speed up their quest to gain public attention in order to share from the “national cake” knowing fully well that the money collected will enable them to purchase more arms for future attacks either using the existing name or, new name.
This strategy is responsible for the increase in the cases of kidnapping and other criminal activities across the country. Infact, with the recent increase in the operation of the criminal entrepreneurs, it obvious that there is a division of labour between these criminal elements with the area of jurisdiction well spelled out in an undisclosed operational guidelines.
In the North West they operate as bandit, rustler, insurgent among others while in the North Central they use another method with different names and in the South they operate as Fulani herdsmen in order to deceive the public and use divide and rule method to create an atmosphere that will ignite fire that will consume everyone and bring back the display of 1967- 1970 where millions of lives were destroyed on the alter of ego and personal interest. God forbid.
The agenda of most of the terrorists in the world is to kill, destroy and create an empire where their obnoxious laws will be applied. That is why the Federal Government, National Assembly, State House of Assembly and other stakeholders need to lay down their ego and ambition on the alter of collective security and support the struggle to prohibit open grazing and give room for ranching system so that the mobile terrorist masquerading as herders will not create an atmosphere that will lead everyone to the journey of no return.
Oluwasanmi writes from Ibafo in Ogun State.