Lt.-Gen. Theophilus Yakubu (TY) Danjuma, a former Nigerian Chief of Army Staff and minister of defence, recently stirred the hornet’s nest, accusing the armed forcces of “collusion” with armed herdsmen to kill people in his home state of Taraba, and “other parts of Nigeria”. He urged Nigerians to take up arms to defend themselves. Danjuma spoke in anger during the first convocation of Taraba State University, Jalingo, the state capital.
“The armed forces are not neutral” in the conflict between Fulani herders and farmers in Taraba and several other states, Danjuma complained. “They collude with the armed bandits to kill people, kill Nigerians.”. Now his call to arms: “I urge all of you to be at alert and defend yourselves and defend your country, defend your territory, defend your state. You have nowhere to go. If you wait for the armed forces to stop the killings you all (will) die one by one.” The herder-farmer violence has claimed, on both sides, tens of thousands of lives across states in recent months.
Reactions to Danjuma’s angry reposte have been varied. The government and the military leadership have described it as an incitement to anarchy, while leaders of communities in the affected areas have welcomed it. Minister of defence, Mr. Mansur Dan Ali, speaking for the government, said in a press statement, that Danjuma’s call on people to defend themselves was “uncalled for” because it “is an invitation to anarchy”. According to him, “The efforts of the Nigerian armed forces towards restoration of peace, security and order in Nigeria are evidently clear and Nigerians continue to show their appreciation for the changing security environment from what it was”. On its own part, the Nigerian Army denied that it was complicit in killings allegedly carried out by Fulani herders. Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Texas Chukwu said the army’s position has been to “remain absolutely neutral in the herdsmen-farmers crisis. The Nigerian Army will continue to remain as such.”
We want to state that we understand the difficult position of Gen. Danjuma in this dicey matter. A man not given to political statements, he found himself compelled by the carnage being perpetrated against people in his state of Taraba, and felt the urge to speak up for them. He, perhaps, recognised his status as an elder statesman, a veteran of the war to “keep Nigeria one” required that he be above regional and ethno-religious politics. But he has blood flowing in his veins. That is to say he is human, just as are the rest of us. The avoidable bloodletting in his area must have touched a raw nerve. And so he spoke up, believing his influential voice would give momentum to the government’s ongoing effort at ending the violence.
However, we fault his choice of platform, as well as his call for civilian self defence, to draw the government’s attention to an apparent national security crisis. Did he first seek an audience with President Muhammadu Buhari but was denied? That should have been the right thing to do before mounting the rostrum. He acted more like a politician on a vote catching campaign ahead of an election. That is our problem with TY in this matter. Honourable men should act truly honourably.