Every government definitely has own peculiar problem or set of problems. The most heart-aching problem that this administration has have to grapple with is no doubt the Fulani/Farmer clashes, or succinctly put herdsman/Farmers Face-off. But, the problem has gone beyond the mere Fulani/Farmer clashes that we used to know; it has assumed somewhat a rampaging dimension with herdsman being the major actor in a theatre, the kind that can only be seen during the dark ages of the barbarian clans waging war against each other.
Of course the Fulanis has gotten themselves a bad name in recent time, and unfortunately it is happening during this administration. There is no way you can convince the Tivs and the Idomas of Benue state, the Nassarawa state people and the Igalas of ojuwo-ajomayegbi, Bassa Local government of Kogi state; all in the middle-belt region of Nigeria that it is not the Fulanis that masterminded the massacres that took away their beloved ones. Cattle herders passed through all these places like a hurricane with trails of blood leaving tens of scores of people dead on their path and roars of tales of woes on the lips of the bereaved.
When the issue of mere militancy assumed a dangerous insurgency dimension after the death of its leader Mohammed Yusuf in the north-eastern part of Nigeria, I was one of the foremost advocates then that the issue of Boko Haram might be hijacked when it was only few people that really understood it. Then many people, especially the Christians thought it was the Muslims waging jihadist war against the unbelievers. However, the 2010 independent day bombing that shattered through the peaceful air waves of Abuja was an eye opener. It was initially thought of as a boko-haram terrorist attack, before its mastermind Charles Okah and Henry Nwabueze were apprehended, opening all eyes wide open to reality. I am hoping that the Fulani/farmer case too has not been hijacked?!
The purported Fulanis now go freely about in the bush with AK47 riffle, with virtually nobody challenging them. Aside the difference in names, I see a thin line of difference between the rampaging herders and the Boko harams. They are both terrorists groups of people that were overlooked at different points in time. If not already, the rampaging cattle herders is just a time-bomb waiting to be hijacked. Our leaders must drop sentiments and treat the matters on its merit with urgency. If nothing tangible is done about this new threat, we may end up spending big chunk of our budget containing it.
Their adventures in Benue state, Nasarawa State, Plateau State and other parts of the country is still fresh in mind. The most recent is their entry into Kogi state through the remote Igala enclave of ojuwo-ajomayegbi and other areas, “killing scores of people, looting and burning several millions worth of properties and rendering entire villages inhabitable and vacant” according to Muazim Nuhu Amedu, an Abuja-based indigene of ojuwo-ajomayegbi.
What baffles me most is that the Kogi incidents seemingly starts happening immediately Governor Yahiya Bello declared Kogi state as a safe haven for the Fulani Cattle Herders. Recall that Governor Yahaya Bello took an unpopular stand on the issue of cattle colonies in contrast to other state governors that rejects the idea of establishing cattle colonies in their states; and had slated some parts of Kogi state for cattle herder colonies. Fulanis that has cohabited peacefully with the Igalas for centuries suddenly become a threat to the community they had benefited from for years?
In most accounts and all the post I saw, especially on the social media, it is said that aloko-oganenigu was attacked by the Fulanis. Eye-witnesses account however revealed that the people of ojuwo-ajomayegbi was the actual victim of the Fulani incursion of 14th March 2018. Nobody was attacked in aloko-oganenigu but in apprehension some of the citizens of aloko-oganenigu have flee the village for the fear of possible attack on their village too. As at the time of writing this piece, there is nobody at ojuwo-ajomayegbi where the attacks took place now; everybody is on the run, taking cover and seeking shelters in neighboring communities.
Governor Yahaya Bello however made bold a statement once again to the Igala people that he really cares. He should be commended for his prompt response to the incident. Despite the bad road network leading to the remote community, he was there first hand to access the situation. This goes to show his sympathy and human feeling to the people he lead. He should also endeavor to redeem his promises to rebuild the community in the shortest possible time, as the number one custodian of lives and properties in the state.
This is also an opportunity for him in his quest for a second term in office. Rebuilding ojuwo-ajomayegbi and other villages that saw the fury of the rampaging cattle herders as promised is enough a campaign stunt for him to win the heart of the Igalas in that axis.
And most importantly, he should rethink his stand on the cattle colonies because what we are dealing with might be very complex and dangerous than earlier thought.
Generally talking, the federal government should rethink its strategy and consider deploying military and the paramilitary personnel to the middle-belt region as a matter of urgency. They should be equipped with state-of-the-art firepower and hardware to combat terrorism in all shapes. This is because the middle-belt region might now be a safe haven for the criminal elements such as the uprooted boko-haram members in the north-east.
- Prince Abdulrahman Obaje is a Media and ICT Consultant, Journalist, online marketer, social media strategist, Mathematician and Computer Scientist based in Abuja, Nigeria. He is the Founder and the Publisher of The Informavores!. You can reach me on +234 908 6937 780 or send i-witness report directly to me on firstname.lastname@example.org.