The prevailing flow of blood across the country has attained a frightening dimension. It has become a source of worry to both local and international communities.
With the herdsmen hacking scores to death on daily basis, time has come for the people to cry out for help. This is because the implacable bandits, who seemed to have demystified the nation’s security architecture considering the regularity of their strikes on defenseless civilian populace, have continued to have a field day.
There is hardly a day in the last few months when we don’t hear of fresh killings in especially in Bunue and Taraba states. The deadly ‘herders’ operating mostly in the middle belt have become even deadlier than the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents.
The recent gruesome murder of two clerics in Gwer East local government of Benue state when they were busy praying alongside their parishioners for peace to return to the state. Many other worshippers were wasted with the clerics. This should be seen as a precursor for full deployment of the military in Benue state.
Day in, day out we hear numbers of people killed in cold blood in the gruesome attacks by suspected herdsmen. With the attack on worship centres, it has become obvious that the crisis has gone beyond agitation for grazing space. The gruesome murder in the cathedral suggested that the nation may have a serious genocidal issue on its hands.
This therefore calls for a change in tactics by the security agencies. These constant attacks have shown that the nation may after all be facing external aggression and those assailants must not be treated with kid gloves.
The President must however be tactful in dealing with the situation so as not to fall into the hands of some people in the state who may want to exploit the situation fir political gains.
There have been insinuations that there are some elements in the state who have vowed to make Benue ungovernable so much so that the declaration of a state of emergency would be inevitable.
The sin of the state governor, according to them, was the enactment and passage into law of the anti-open grazing law.
It would therefore stand Justice in the head of an emergency in declared in a state where it has been established that some of the assailants in Benue are actually foreigners fueling the fears that the country may be under external aggression.
The possibility of the fact that the country may be under attack by foreign interests was broached by the President himself when he expressed the suspicion that those attacking innocent citizens in the Benue through may be remnants of late Muamman Gaddaffi trained militiamen from Libya.
The militiamen, who have transmuted into mercenaries, according to experts, are being hired by certain interests to unleash terror in the sub-region. But what has become a source of worry to many discerning Nigerians is the fact that the nation’s intelligence, local and external, seems not to have been able to come up with any meaningful information about the motive for the incessant attacks and their possible sponsors.
Revelations coming from the experience of some of the recently released Dapchi girls from Yobe state also point to the fact that some neighbouring countries and powerful individuals may be providing logistics to terrorists tormenting Nigerians. Riddles waiting to be unraveled in the Dapchi girls’ experience include how the Boko Haram abductors got the girls across a ‘big river’; who provided the aircraft allegedly used to fly the girls out of the country and which other country harboured them.
In Zamfara, there were rumours sometimes ago that helicopters are being used to make supplies to bandits in the forest.
These are pointers to the fact that there may be external influences in these incessant attacks in the country. Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, in a recent interaction with journalists corroborated the suspicion that most of those attacking defenseless civilians, especially in Taraba and Benue, are not Nigerians.
The question then is: why has it become difficult for the military to declare full war on the bandits when it had been established that they may not be Nigerians after all. Another puzzle is why the authorities found it difficult to declare the deadly herders, who have been identified as foreigners, as terrorists.
Insecurity, like every other matter in the country, may have been politicized. Recent outburst from Buhari’s media aide, Malam Garba Shehu, showed that the thinking in official circle was all embracing.
Shehu, in a well publicized opinion piece recently alleged that those in opposition against President Buhari had taken to scaremongering by fanning ethnic and religious divisions among the minorities, especially in the Middle Belt, where hundreds of innocent citizens are confronted with violent death.
He wrote “Before they take the words out of my mouth, let me state that the spate of those killings are tragic and unacceptable. They ought not happen and I’am aware of how sad the Presidency is about these unfortunate goings-on. And there is so much that is being done to end the killings.
More, however, could still have been achieved if there is cooperation extended to the security agencies by everyone, and by everyone, I mean especially the political opposition. A political warlord recently ordered the provocative stoning of a Nigerian Air Force personnel as their chopper landed in a Northeastern state.
Today, government has irrefutable evidence that much as most of these killings are arising from herdsmen-farmers attacks, some of it is driven by politicians. The recent arrests by the army in Taraba State point to a clear political sponsorship, and the kingpins, some of whom have been arrested have been handed over to the DSS for further investigation. Others who are being sought have either gone into hiding or they are pulling strings of blackmail to force the hands of government to abandon the search for them.
It is clear by now that the Middle Belt killings even if they are not caused by the opposition are no doubt seen as a political opportunity to set the tone for the 2019 elections.”
But one would expect that the security agencies should have been unleashed on these ‘identified’ opposition elements playing politics with the blood of the people ahead of 2019.
If actually this Shehu’s political hypothesis is true, those politicians fanning the embers of discord should be isolated and shamed. No one person’s political ambition is worth the life of any individual. It is therefore sacrilegious for anyone to attempt to gain political ascendancy by stepping on the blood of another man.
As a way forward, government should immediately identify those herders who are actually in the struggle for grazing space and find a lasting solution. It has been acknowledged worldwide that ranching remains the best solution to this problem. Those herders should be settled in a place with abundant grass and and other facilities in other to minimize, or perhaps eradicate, areas of conflicts with the farmers.
Addressing the challenge of the itinerary herders who cross borders and violate Nigerian sovereignty, the government should push for a review of the ECOWAS free movement protocol. The nation’s neighbours should be encouraged to adopt the modern method of cattle rearing by establishing ranches in order to stem the movement of their herders across the sub region.
As for those criminal elements whom the President categorized as bandit remnants of late Gadaffi of Libya, the nation’s security agencies should wage a full blown war against them. This category of criminal gangs should be forthwith declared as terrorists and should be so treated.
Notwithstanding the above, officials must think out of the box to put an end to these killings. This bloodletting must stop for there can be no meaningful development in an atmosphere of insecurity.