Commentary: Why would herdsmen fleeing Lake Chad ignore Kano and insist on Benue? Asks Terfa Iornumber


It is now clear to me Nigeria is terribly an endangered country under its present national leadership.  Without pretensions, every perceptive Nigerian knows the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) under President Muhammadu Buhari is bizarrely and ironically attempting to console grieving Nigerians by “glorifying” mindless bloodshed.

The tears of Nigerians from herders’ terrorism against innocent people mean nothing to this government.  Its repetitious rhetoric are more on its regulated, feeble efforts to curb the bloodbath; but silence on what it would have obligatorily done to end it.

Saturday Punch’s   editorial of September 4th 2018, captioned, “Herders Terrorism: Buhari At It Again,” nicely pricked the conscience of a deliberately complacent Presidency.   I painfully examined the editorial several times and it intoxicated me with gloom.

The response from the Presidency was more shocking. It buffed over the serious issue of national security; of deaths and wanton destructions raised in the piece.

A rebuttal to the editorial anchored by Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media & Publicity)   Mallam Garba Shehu replayed   hackneyed narratives. He vainly attempted to blight the pulsating sacred truths espoused by the editorial. It was lifeless in explaining the issues at stake, but very pungent on the blame game.

Unfortunately, the Presidential rebut   was tethered on nothing.  It could not deny facts and figures contained in the editorial, which to my mind, were even downplayed.  It rather celebrated it.  The Presidency could not deny the ranking of Fulani terrorists by the Global Terrorism Index, as the   fourth most deadly terrorist sect in the globe and only aligned with the Presidency’s explanation on why they must have commit mass murders in Nigeria.

The Presidency could not contest the figures of casualties from herders’ militant raids of communities in Nigeria from different sources in 2018 alone.  It could not defray the hypotheses  of  herders  public  acceptance of culpability for the killings and  FGN’s  tacit  endorsement, which the newspaper qualified as  the  “repeated postulations of his inner cabinet and of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria.”

Elsewhere,  the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris Kpotum, and some leaders of  Miyetti Allah  and the likes of Prof. Mohammed  Labdo  have  assertively  made it  clear to us  that the menace of herders terrorism on innocent populations is propelled by agenda they must defend.  And they have not flinched for a second.

The editorial failed to even add, the Nigerian Army.   At the kick-start of “Operation Ayem Akpatema,” in Benue state, soldiers displayed pamphlets, which conveyed the unsavoury message of partiality.

 It trumpeted mockingly to the communities under attacks and justified the killings by herders through an unsolicited hurtful advice that they are killed because Fulani cattle are rustled. That was not the role of a supposedly impartial Army.

The Presidency failed to deflate similar narratives by the Minister of Defence, Gen. Mansu Dan Ali (rtd)   who challenged a validly passed anti-open grazing law by the Benue State House of Assembly. He   unapologetically blamed the Benue State Government and other states for instigating the killings by enforcement of the law.

Garba Shehu felt contented by a flip querying of the media for irresponsible reportage, decrying the deliberate attempts to demonize the Fulani ethnicity over the misconduct of a few miscreants.  It is the dullest and uncultured response even by a Presidency in such dilemma.

While I accept that the Presidential media aide has an official obligation to polish the image of his boss, it derides our sensibilities to engage in conscious aggression against aggrieved Nigerians,   just to have “something,” to write about for the sake of “national interest.” It smacks of a government which has completely lost direction. The duty of government is to remonstrate on results of its actions security and not to re-intimate us with actions being taken.

 The Presidency’s claim that the editorial did not disclose any panacea to the herders’ killings of farmers betrays this insensitivity to the victims and feelings of Nigerians.   When a medium explains a problem and concludes that: “Life is sacrosanct and this is enshrined in the 1999 Constitution. As the herders’ killings constitute an affront to the supreme law of the land, the least the Nigerian State should do is to bring the perpetrators to book…criminality, mass murder, arson and rape must be punished, no matter the motive or persons perpetrating them as the Fulani terrorists have done in the last few years.”

I cannot decipher what other solutions the Presidency wants the medium to proffer. It has conveniently ignored this obvious suggestion of remedy to the herder’s carnages because that’s where the knot is tied inextricably by this Presidency.  It is apparent the FGN is unwilling to toe this difficult option of arresting and prosecuting the kingpins of the carnages. And I think that’s why the killings have persisted.

 But curiously the same government finds it expedient to caution on “national interest,” as the media applies its trade. What national interest is greater and better protected when the law is unleashed on killers and their masterminds?

The Presidency is free to load blames on the media. It is even at liberty to preach on the media’s fanning of the embers of discord and violence.  It should continue to exculpate the herder- terrorists, while our people are recklessly killed, slaughtered and dislodged from their ancestral homes.

 Much more, these deserted lands are instantly occupied by the same terror- herders the Presidency seeks to exonerate in hundreds and thousands.  And the same extrication of this prized Fulani ethnicity has led to the re-naming of such occupied territories with Fulani identities.  But the Presidency wants Nigerians to believe nothing is amiss yet.

So, the Presidency should even sustain the narrative of how security agents have been drafted to curtail the killings. But it should be adamant on arresting and prosecuting the arrowheads of the glaring pogroms against our people.

However, what such verbiage cannot obviate or even punch is the sanctity of truth on the herders’ carnages.  This is a cardinal principle of journalism, which The Punch editorial re-echoed defiantly.

If   the media  is confused or sluggish in digging the  age-long historical or economic  reasons which precipitate  the herders killings  of  farmers,  as claimed by President Buhari; is the FGN not more confused?

The editorial was articulate about Mr. President’s very splendidly dynamic positions on the cause of the killings.  The latest being the shrinking Lake Chad Basin theory. It is no longer politicians fuelling the crisis because of 2019 in order to have something to campaign against him?   Now,   the President has alluded to a natural factor and would he be humble enough to apologize to the politicians he unjustly defamed?

But the tissue of the matter is that if land resources have depleted so much in the Lake Chad Basin, somewhere in far Northeast Nigeria, the herders have not found settlement areas in the nearer Northwest, but have to travel down the Benue valley? And our leaders are prodding us to believe a Jihadism conquest agenda is not in the offing?

President Buhari’s latest narrative on shrinking Lake Chad Basin is inconsistent with a February 2018 revelation by the Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduja. The Governor emphatically pleaded with all Fulani herdsmen all over Nigeria to relocate to Kano state, with their cattle, as there is enough grazing land to accommodate them conveniently.

While Ganduje, a fellow Fulani man is contemplating the conversion of the Falgore Games Reserve into a modern grazing land, with modern facilities, in alliance with the FGN and foreign agencies, he notified of the adequacy of existing grazing land.

Hear him; “I am inviting herdsmen from all parts of Nigeria to relocate to Kano because we have enough facilities to accommodate them. We have grazing lands in Rogo, Gaya, Kura, Tudun Wada, Ungogo and other reserved places where facilities are in place to accommodate the herdsmen and their cattle.”

 The natural question is that why would herdsmen departing the “shrinking’  Lake Chad Basin necessarily stray into the Benue valley or other parts of Nigeria, to commit mass murders,  when they have abundant grazing land in Kano State alone?

These are the sacrosanct and impenetrable truths, which cannot be blurred by sentiments of national interest as propagated by the Presidency.

President Buhari is unprepared to do the needful by prosecuting the ring leaders of the herders’ carnages. So, I foresee his endless, but futile search for expositions on this serious insecurity matter in distant lands, while ignoring the remedy right before his nose. This failure would continue to haunt Buhari’s Presidency.

…Iornumbe, a teacher, resides in Naka, Headquarters of Gwer-West LGA of Benue State.