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Published On: Fri, Jan 19th, 2018

Farmers/herders clash: When leaders sing discordant tunes

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Lack of unanimity among leaders in the country has played out in their handling of the challenges posed by farmers and herdsmen, who are constantly at each other’s throats, culminating into mass killings across the country.
Even when the President ordered the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, with a charge to investigate, arrest and prosecute those found culpable in the new year cold blooded murder of defenceless people of Logo and Guma local governments of Benue state, the state governor alleged that there are still underground and unreported killings in the area.
The latest killings allegedly perpetrated by herders in Bunue state has further accentuated the country’s fault-lines. These come with their attendant dangerous consequences on national cohesion. All the labour of the nation’s past heroes at building a united country regardless of difference in tongue and culture is being gradually eroded. Of course, Nigeria is now at the precipice and can only be saved by leaders with the highest level of patriotism at the national, state and local levels.
Determined to find a lasting solution to the new year Benue killing, and following the relocation of the IGP in Makurdi, critical stakeholders from the state visited President Muhammadu Buhari where he told them in unmistakable terms that they should learn to accommodate their countrymen. In a swift reaction, Benue state governor, Samuel Ortom, who is currently in the eye of the storm, said they have done everything possible to accommodate the herders but insisted that his government would not sit idle while the people are gradually being exterminated.
Taraba state governor, Darius Ishaku, who is still licking his wounds over the killings in his Sadauna local government last year and the recent one in Lau local government this January, has equally toed the same line.
When the federal government, through the Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, said it has resolved to create Cattle Colonies across the 36 states of the federation as a way out of the quagmire, some state governors insisted that they do not have the measure of land required for such venture.
Benue and Taraba governors, who are presiding over the theatres of war, are kicking against the option insisting that their Anti-open Grazing Law, suffices as the long lasting solution to the crisis.
These governors have their allies in southern state governors.
Kogi state governor and his Plateau counterpart have shown their readiness to embrace the concept of Cattle Colony. Ditto other governors in the northern parts of the country where land may not be a problem.
Meanwhile, some stakeholders equally disagreed with the government proposal of Cattle ranching saying that propitiating the herdsmen with state funds would be counter productive. Some even ‘humorously’ suggested that the government would be using one stone to kill two birds if it could gather the courage to develop the den of Boko Haram in the North East, Sambisa Forest, and designate same as the Cattle Colony.
According to them, the acquisition of the uninhabited forest reputed to be bigger than the entire South East in land mass, would render the place unconducive for the dreaded insurgents while the business of cattle rearing would have been modernized with millions of jobs created in that axis.
The issue of incessant farmers/herders clash has also created a lot of bad blood among governors who are supposed to work together in order to solve the problem. In his initial reaction to the killings in Benue, Ortom had alleged the those killer herdsmen who hacked about 70 of his citizens to death have their hideout in Awe local government of Nasarawa state.
The Nasarawa state governor in his reaction refuted the claim insisting that his Benue counterpart did not get his fact straight.
According to him, those he harboured in the camp in the said local government are thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the neighbouring towns of Benue state. He lamented that his humanitarian gesture had been misconstrued.
Faced with the vituperations that followed the allegation and the possibility of rupturing his relationship with theNasarawa governor, Ortom quickly apologized but even then, the deed had been done.
Similarly, the Plateau state governor, Simon Lalong, after a private discussion with the President, told newsmen that he actually warned his brother governor of Benue against initiating and implementing the Anti-open grazing law. He said he personally advised him to put the ranching infrastructure in place and engage the herders well enough before its implementation.
No a few criticized the Lalong for his comment at a time when 73 persons were being prepared for mass burial which threw the whole world into mourning. Although he maintained that he was misrepresented by the media and apologized to the Benue governor verbally and by delegation, the deed also had been done.
Meanwhile, the herders represented by Miyetti Allah Kautha Hore, have insisted that there would be no peace in Benue until the state government abrogate the Anti-Open Grazing Law. They claimed that they were not adequately consulted before the contentious law was passed and signed into law.
While the herders are being accused of being the deadly killers in Benue and Taraba axis, they are equally accusing the government of arming militia with the mandate to rustle their cattle and kill defenseless herdsmen. The Livestock Guards charged to enforce the Anti grazing law in Benue state have been accused to have been carrying sophisticated arms and killing herdsmen across the state. The new year killing in Benue and Taraba was, according to the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautha Hore, a reprisal attack.
As things stand, the solution to the killings in the North central states of Benue and Taraba seems not to be in sight. Ortom has continued to urge the federal government to hold the leadership of the Miyetti Allah Kautha Hore response onside for the violence in his state. He had called for their immediate arrest and prosecution.
Security agencies feel otherwise insisting on thorough investigation into the matter before any arrest could be made. The people on the other hand, especially families of those murdered in cold blood, expressed the fears that the delay in arrest of the suspected killers was a ploy to shield the culprits already identified by their governor.
This has even become apparent as the federal government and the Benue state government differ in their perspectives on the Benue killing.
While the state government viewed it as ethnic cleansing and the desire of the Fulani militia to grab their lands, the federal government viewed it otherwise as the Inspector General of Police described the killing as ethnic clash.
Critics have also faulted the President for not deeming it necessary to visit both Taraba and Benue states to condole with the governors and victims of the progrom. Specifically, Senator Shehu Sani, the vociferous lawmaker from Kaduna state, has faulted the leaders from Benue state who visited the President arguing that it should have been the other way round since they are the victims of the violence.
The lawmaker also tackled the governors on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) led by their Kaduna counterpart, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, for daring to talk politics at a time people are being mass-graved in Benue.
He alleged that the violence was a political gimmick aimed at dividing the people ahead of the 2019 general elections. He however called on the President to garner the relevant political will to arrest the situation and classified those killers as criminals by not treating them with kid gloves.
Well, the President has insisted that his responsibility is to provide security for the people irrespective of creed, tribe and other subterranean considerations. He had also announced that the government would soon convene a national conference if stakeholders to address insecurity in the country.
Considering the diversity of opinions on the handling of the farmers/herdsmen crisis in the country, it would not be out of place for the President to immediately summon the Council of State meeting where past leaders would interact with a view to providing a lasting solution to the lingering crisis.
Aside this, creating an avenue for national consultations among the feuding parties would also help in preventing the crisis from escalating.

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