Fulani herdsmen: When leaders play ethnic cards, By Femi Oluwasanmi

Recent events across the country, especially the increase in the number of mobile terrorists masquerading as Fulani herdsmen in dispensing their nefarious operation, 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 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 rifles because the government and the society are not protecting him.”

This is not the first time the governor would publicly display sentimental skill in a national discourse. It was on record that the governor did the same thing in 2019 when he described the Fulani as a global citizen that can leave neighbouring countries and partake in Nigeria’s livestock reform.

The level to which matters have degenerated is what is of concern to most lovers of peace and prosperity in Nigeria because without objectivity and justice, find a lasting solution to issues will be difficult.

One of the reasons the country is moving from one crisis to another is the lack of objectivity in addressing issues.

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 Mohammed and his apostles in their quest to defend armed herdsmen living in the forests.

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 forests as their dens and training ground for future operations. This is not limited to the South. For instance, the Chibok girls in Borno, Dapchi girls in Yobe, kankara boys in Kastina, Kangara staff and students in Niger, among others were taken to the forest after they were abducted from their schools.

In fact, the pictures released by Sheikh Ahmad 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 (open grazing system), the action of the governor was given a 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 their area of choice. This is further complicated by those agitating for amnesty for the bandits. Sheik 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 vigilante groups with arms. They started by confronting the vigilantes and graduated to fighting police. They are now fighting soldiers and abducting children in order to collect more money to buy arms, increase 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 repentant terrorists 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 motivate other emerging terrorists to speed up their quest to gain public attention in order to share from the “national cake”, knowing fully well that the money collected would enable them to purchase more arms for future attacks under new or existing names.

This strategy is responsible for the increase in the cases of kidnapping and other criminal activities across the country. In fact, with the recent increase in the operation of criminal entrepreneurs, it is obvious that there is a division of labour between these criminal elements with the area of jurisdiction well spelled out in an undisclosed operational guideline.

In the North-West, they operate as bandits, cattle rustlers and insurgents among others. 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 fires that will consume everyone and bring back the display of 1967- 1970 where millions of lives were destroyed on the altar 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 Houses of Assembly and other stakeholders need to lay down their ego and ambition on the altar of collective security and support the struggle to prohibit open grazing and give room for ranching system so that the mobile terrorists masquerading as herders will not create an atmosphere that will lead everyone to the journey of no return.

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