Opinion: How Osinbajo’s panel on herdsmen killings can succeed – GBEMIGA OLAKUNLE
“Jonathan should resign if he has no solution to the violence being unleashed on some parts of the country” – Nasir el-Rufai
The above quotation was allegedly credited to Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, (now the Governor of Kaduna State). This salvo was reportedly fired at the immediate past administration of Goodluck Jonathan when the administration was confronted with myriads of security challenges. Notable among such challenges was the Boko Haram insurgency which the current administration is still fighting today even though the capacity of the deadly sect to inflict collateral damage on the nation’s human lives and property has been drastically weakened and downgraded.
The above quoted outburst credited to the outspoken Governor of Kaduna State could be justified in the light of Boko Haram exploits that had claimed most of the landmass of the Local Government Areas in the Northeastern part of the country especially in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. The insurgents even went as far as declaring its captured areas as a caliphate where they hoisted their flag and started to collect taxes, levies/tributes from the traumatised residents of the areas.
In the days of former President Jonathan, Boko Haram insurgents, who were Islamic fundamentalists or Jihadists, spread their tentacles to the North-West and the Middle Belt parts of the country. The Islamic terrorists launched at least seven suicide attacks within the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and neighbouring states with several causalities and loss of properties in millions of naira. The insurgents were so daring in their attacks that they launched attacks on the headquarters of the Department of State Services located within the vicinity of the Presidential Villa on two occasions in futile attempts to rescue some of their members who were in the custody of the DSS then. And of course, the shock waves reverberated and shook the occupants of the Presidential Villa and the State House then. To say the least, the then administration was really overwhelmed and yet the man at the helm of affairs then refused to receive help from the foreign powers like America even when it was offered on a platter of silver. Jonathan was still referring to the insurgents as his “brothers” until he was almost sacked and uprooted from the seat of power in Abuja.
Apart from the issue of monumental corruption in high places which seriously plagued Jonathan’s administration, the former President’s inability to decipher and get the right clues on how to tackle Boko Haram led to the downfall of his administration as the then opposition party, the All Progressive Congress, capitalised on these obvious weak points to outsmart him and unseat him from power.
But has anything changed now, security wise? Your guess is good as ours. As a matter of fact, as it was in the days of the former President, so it is in this present administration in terms of security challenges even though the government has been doing its best to curtail and manage the ugly situations. If anything has changed at all, it is the change of batons from the hands of the Boko Haram insurgents to the Fulani herdsmen assailants who are busy wreaking havoc across the country. While the Boko Haram capacity has been downgraded, ironically, the Fulani herdsmen assailants seem to have been upgraded in their capacity to unleash terror on any one or group of people who dares to stand in their way to annex or colonise the lands of their hosting communities nationwide.
For the past decades, some of these host communities have learnt to accommodate and tolerated the excesses of some of these Fulani herdsmen popularly referred to as the Bororos in the South-Western part of the country. But gone are the days when the Fulani herdsmen used to settle their quarrels amicably with their host farming communities, especially when their cattle strayed into farmlands and destroyed crops. Such disputes used to be settled sometimes without the intervention of the community heads. But nowadays, these peace-loving Fulani herdsmen of yore have suddenly become thorns in the flesh of their hosting communities; sometimes, with unprovoked attacks on their victims. There have been recorded cases when these Fulani herdsmen drove their cattle into farmlands not just to graze on the crops but also to feed on harvested heaps of yam! And so the violence that prevailed and became common place in the days of Jonathan still remains except for the change of the dramatis personae.
In other words, while Boko Haram held sway during President Jonathan’s era, the Fulani herdsmen are the ones that are reigning now in this present regime and giving the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari some sleepless nights or so it seems. Apart from the so-called ordinary folk or peasant farmers, notable farmers like Chief Olu Falae, an elder statesman who was once kidnapped with a casualty and Vice-Admiral Samuel Afolayan, the former Chief of Naval Staff during the first tenure of the former President Olusegun Obasanjo, have been counting their losses in the hands of these marauders that have been on the rampage especially in the past 18 months.
But the last straw that seemed to have broken these attackers’ camel’s back was the New Year Day blood-chilling attacks on some Benue State communities that led to the death of and mass burial of 73 people in one day excluding the subsequent deaths of two members of Mobile Police Force who lost their lives while participating in a peacekeeping mission in the area. Even the relocation of the Inspector-General of Police to the epicentre of the crisis has not stopped the killings.
It was in the aftermath of these ongoing herdsmen onslaught that the Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo-led committee comprising 10 governors was constituted to find a lasting solution to these incessant clashes between Fulani herdsmen and the crop farmers. But it was not made clear whether it was the decision of this committee when the Vice – President ordered that there should be more military presence in these hot spots. If this presidential order is aimed at forestalling the breakdown of law and order between Fulani herdsmen and the crops farmers, it is okay and welcome. But if the order is aimed at checking reprisals after some assailants must have unleashed surprise attacks on their victims in their unguarded moments, then this Presidential Order may need a review. Already, the military and indeed the rest of our security agencies are already overwhelmed by not less than 13 categories of criminal activities ranging from Fulani herdsmen menace, Boko Haram insurgency, kidnapping, armed robbery, cultism, just to mention a few; and so the military cannot be everywhere at every time to prevent certain unprovoked attacks from the Fulani herdsmen since these herdsmen are found in every nook and cranny of the country. And so for the Presidential Committee on Fulani herdsmen/Crop- farmers’ clashes led by the Vice President to succeed, it should take the bulls by the horns and proffer a political solution to the issue holistically.
In our own candid opinion, the way out of this impasse that is threatening the national security of this nation is cattle ranching and not colony. The presidential committee should therefore adopt and recommend cattle ranching so that the rising political and security tension that is shaking Buhari’s second term ambition in 2019 can be doused. If there is no any hidden – agenda or vested interest in certain circles, cattle ranching is the way out and the consensus opinion of the greater section of the Nigerian electorate to which this government is answerable to. To do otherwise may be akin to courting for a poor outing in the 2019 General Elections. We hope the relevant authorities and stakeholders are listening. “You will know the truth, and the truth shall make you free”, says the Scripture in John 8:34,KJV. But this known truth or revealed truth needs to be acted upon before it can do its work: Freedom. Punch
Olakunle is General Secretary, National Prayer Movement , Abuja