Herdsmen’ve declared war on Nigeria – Soyinka
•IGP apologises to Benue people over his comments
•IPOB condemns killings in Middle Belt, Rivers
•Army deploys special forces to Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa
By Emeka Mamah, Peter Duru & Monsur Olowopejo
Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, said yesterday that herdsmen have declared war on Nigeria and urged President Muhammadu Buhari to stop their activities without further evasiveness.
Soyinka, in a statement, entitled ‘’Impunity Rides Again’’, said the present administration should not make the mistake its predecessor made that gave vent to escalation of ongoing Boko Haram crisis in the North East.
His declaration came as the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Ibrahim Idris, also, yesterday, apologised to Benue people over his comments which described the killings in the state as a fallout of communal crisis and vowed to fish out the perpetrators and get them prosecuted.
Similarly, the Indigenous People of Biafra, equally condemned the killing of innocent citizens by the herdsmen in the Middle Belt, pointing out that the nation had never witnessed this kind of murder since the APC came to power in 2015.
It flayed alleged killing of youths at Igweocha, Rivers State, by security agencies in the riverine areas in the guise of looking for cult members, alleging that the killings were politically motivated.
Army deploys troops
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army yesterday deployed special forces to Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa states, following serial attacks on the states by herdsmen.
The Army in its twitter handle: #HQNigerianArmy, said the forces were deployed to secure vulnerable communities and prevent further attacks.
Soyinka’s statement read: ‘’It is happening all over again. History is repeating itself and, alas, within such an agonizingly short span of time. How often must we warn against the enervating lure of appeasement in face of aggression and will to dominate! I do not hesitate to draw attention to Volume III of my INTERVENTION Series, and to the chapter on The Unappeasable Price of Appeasement.
‘’There is little to add, but it does appear that even the tragically fulfilled warnings of the past, leave no impression on leadership, not even when identical signs of impending cardiac arrest loom over the nation. Boko Haram was still at that stage of putative probes when cries of alarm emerged.
‘’Then the fashion ideologues of society deployed their distancing turns of phrase to rationalize what were so obviously discernable as an agenda of ruthless fundamentalism and internal domination. Boko Haram was a product of social inequities, they preached – one even chortled: We stand for justice, so we are all Boko Haram!
‘’We warned that – yes indeed – the inequities of society were indeed part of the story, but why do you close your eyes against other, and more critical malfunctions of the human mind, such as theocratic lunacy? Now it is happening again. The nation is being smothered in Vaseline when the diagnosis is so clearly – cancer!
‘’We have been here before – now, ‘before’ is back with a vengeance. President Goodluck Jonathan refused to accept that marauders had carried off the nation’s daughters; President Muhammed Buhari and his government – including his Inspector-General of Police – in near identical denial, appear to believe that killer herdsmen who strike again and again at will from one corner of the nation to the other, are merely hot-tempered citizens whose scraps occasionally degenerate into “communal clashes” – I believe I have summarized him accurately.
‘’The marauders are naughty children who can be admonished, paternalistically, into good neighbourly conduct. Sometimes of course, the killers were also said to be non-Nigerians after all. The contradictions are mind-boggling.
‘’First, the active policy of appeasement, then the language of endorsement. El Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State, proudly announced that, on assuming office, he had raised a peace committee and successfully traced the herdsmen to locations outside Nigerian borders.
‘’He then made payments to them from state coffers to cure them of their homicidal urge which, according to these herdsmen, were reprisals for some ancient history and the loss of cattle through rustling.
‘’The public was up in arms against this astonishing revelation. I could only call to mind a statement by the same El Rufai after a prior election which led to a rampage in parts of the nation, and cost even the lives of National Youth Service Corps members .
‘’They were hunted down by aggrieved mobs and even states had to organize rescue missions for their citizens. Countering protests that the nation owed a special duty of protection to her youth, especially those who are co-opted to serve the nation in any capacity, El Rufai’s comment then was: No life is more important than another.
‘’Today, that statement needs to be adjusted, to read perhaps – apologies to George Orwell: ‘All lives are equal, but a cow’s is more equal than others.’ This seems to be the government view, one that, overtly or by implication, is being amplified through act and pronouncement, through clamorous absence, by this administration.
‘’It appears to have infected even my good friend and highly capable Minister, Audu Ogbeh, however insidiously. What else does one make of his statements in an interview where he generously lays the blame for ongoing killings everywhere but at the feet of the actual perpetrators! His words, as carried by The Nation Newspapers: “The inability of the government to pay attention to herdsmen and cow farming, unlike other developed countries, contributed to the killings.”
The Minister continued: “Over the years, we have not done much to look seriously into the issue of livestock development in the country…we may have done enough for the rice farmer, the cassava farmer, the maize farmer, the cocoa farmer, but we haven’t done enough for herdsmen, and that inability and omission on our part is resulting in the crisis we are witnessing today.”
‘’No, no, not so, Audu! It is true that I called upon the government a week ago to stop passing the buck over the petroleum situation.
‘’I assure you, however, that I never intended that a reverse policy should lead to exonerating – or appearing to exonerate – mass killers, rapists and economic saboteurs – saboteurs, since their conduct subverts the efforts of others to economically secure their own existence, drives other producers off their land in fear and terror.
‘’This promises the same plague of starvation that afflicts zones of conflict all over this continent where liberally sown landmines prevent farmers from venturing near their prime source, the farm, often their only source of livelihood, and has created a whole population of amputees.
‘’At least, those victims in Angola, Mozambique and other former war theatres, mostly lived to tell the tale. These herdsmen, arrogant and unconscionable, have adopted a scorched-earth policy, so that those other producers – the cassava, cocoa, sorghum, rice etc farmers are brutally expelled from farm and dwelling.
‘’Government neglect? You may not have intended it, but you made it sound like the full story. I applaud the plans of your ministry, I am in a position to know that much thought – and practical steps – have gone into long term plans for bringing about the creation of ‘ranches’, ‘colonies’ – whatever the name – including the special cultivation of fodder for animal feed and so on and on.
‘’However, the present national outrage is over impunity. It rejects the right of any set of people, for whatever reason, to take arms against their fellow men and women, to acknowledge their exploits in boastful and justifying accents and, in effect, promise more of the same as long as their terms and demands are not met.
‘’In plain language, they have declared war against the nation, and their weapon is undiluted terror. Why have they been permitted to become a menace to the rest of us? That is the issue!
‘’Permit me to remind you that, early in 2016, an even more hideous massacre was perpetrated by this same Murder Incorporated – that is, a numerical climax to what had been a series across a number of Middle Belt and neighbouring states, with Benue taking the brunt of the butchery.
‘’A peace meeting was called, attended by the state government and security agencies of the nation, including the Inspector General of Police. This group attended – according to reports – with AK47s and other weapons of mass intimidation visible under their garments.
‘’They were neither disarmed nor turned back. They freely admitted the killings but justified them by claims that they had lost their cattle to the host community. It is important to emphasize that none of their spokesmen referred to any government neglect, such as refusal to pay subsidy for their cows or failure to accord them the same facilities that had been extended to cassava or millet farmers.
‘’Such are the monstrous beginnings of the culture of impunity. We are reaping, yet again, the consequences of such tolerance of the intolerable. Yes, there indeed the government is culpable, definitely guilty of “looking the other way.” Indeed, it must be held complicit.
Just when is terror?
‘’This question is now current, and justified: Just when is terror? I am not aware that IPOB came anywhere close to this homicidal propensity and will to dominance before it was declared a terrorist organization.
‘’The international community rightly refused to go along with such an absurdity. For the avoidance of doubt, let me state right here, and yet again, that IPOB leadership is its own worst enemy.
‘’It repels public empathy, indeed, I suspect that it deliberately cultivates an obnoxious image, especially among its internet mouthers who make rational discourse impossible. However, as we pointed out at the time, the conduct of that movement, even at its most extreme, could by no means be reckoned as terrorism.
‘’By contrast, how do we categorize Myetti Allah? How do we assess a mental state that cannot distinguish between a stolen cow – which is always recoverable – and human life, which is not?
‘’Villages have been depopulated far wider than those outside their operational zones can conceive. They swoop on sleeping settlements, kill and strut. They glory in their seeming supremacy.
‘’Cocoa farmers do not kill when there is a cocoa blight. Rice farmers, cassava and tomato farmers do not burn. The herdsmen cynically dredge up decades-old affronts – they did at the 2016 Benue “peace meeting” to justify the killings of innocents in the present – These crimes are treated like the norm.
‘’Once again, the nation is being massaged by specious rationalisations while the rampage intensifies and the spread spirals out of control. When we open the dailies tomorrow morning, there is certain to have been a new body count, to be followed by the arrogant justification of Myetti Allah.
‘’The warnings pile up, the distress signals have turned into a prolonged howl of despair and rage. The answer is not to be found in pietistic appeals to victims to avoid ‘hate language’ and divisive attributions.
‘’The sustained, killing monologue of the herdsmen is what is at issue. It must be curbed, decisively and without further evasiveness. Yes, Jonathan only saw ‘ghosts’ when Boko Haram was already excising swathes of territory from the nation space and abducting school pupils. The ghosts of Jonathan seem poised to haunt the tenure of Mohammed Buhari.”
Benue killings: IGP apologises to Benue people
Meanwhile, the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Ibrahim Idris, has apologised to Benue people for describing herdsmen’s killings in the state as a fallout of communal crisis.
Addressing stakeholders of the state in Makurdi, IGP Idris said his statement was misconceived and regrettable and urged Nigerians to learn to be their brothers’ keepers.
The Police boss tendered the apology after all those who spoke at the gathering lampooned him for the statement he supposedly made shortly after briefing President Muhamnadu Buhari on the Benue killings.
Tendering the apology, the IGP said: “Honestly, as a person, I want to apologise for the misconception of the statement I made at a press briefing in Abuja.
“What I tried to convey in that statement was that we should live together and regard each other as our brothers’ keepers and also ensure peaceful coexistence.
“Irrespective of where you come from, we should be seen as one people who should live in peace and love one another.
“So, in essence, my statement should not be seen or regarded as my support for anyone but must be seen to be an advice for the greater unity of our country.’’
The IGP assured that enough men and materials had been drafted to the state to stop the killings and ensure the return of peace and order.
Herdsmen leaders still walk freely on the streets — Ortom
Earlier, Governor Samuel Ortom had hinted that over 73 bodies had so far been recovered from the crisis zones in Logo and Guma local government areas, comprising mainly women and children.
He lamented that the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore were still working the streets free, despite masterminding the invasion and killings in the state.
Ortom said: “If policemen can be killed just like that and their weapons taken away by these people in Logo, where are we going to in this country? IGP, that is a major challenge for you, I know that your weapons cannot be taken away just like that, we expect that you must go after these people.
“Even in my council ward, Nzorov in Guma, they attacked again but the soldiers repelled them. I must state that Nigeria is passing through serious security challenges, I pray we don’t get to the level that our people resort to self-defence, because when people are not sanctioned for their lawlessness, anarchy and confusion would set in and nobody will be safe.
“The grazing law we made in Benue State is for the collective interest of all, irrespective of where you come from and it has come to stay.”
The governor also announced the donation of five pick up vans to the Police for the purpose of the operation and promised to avail security agencies of all needed support to end the killings in the state.
It’s an agenda — Tiv royal father
Also, the paramount ruler of Tiv tribe and Chairman of the Benue State Council of Chiefs, His Majesty Professor James Ayatse, said the killing in the state by herdsmen was not about grazing or the law but an agenda.
He said: “Before this crisis, all the herdsmen in Gboko disappeared, creating the impression that they had foreknowledge of the attacks and killings.”
Speaking on behalf of the Civil Society Organization, CSO, Josephine Habba, lamented that the attitude of President Buhari to the killings in Benue had created an impression that the state was not part of the country.
“We must sound it clear that if the government cannot protect us, we may resort to self help and the constitution allows us the right to defend ourselves.
“If the President cannot come here to sympathies with Benue people, he should also not come to Benue to campaign for the 2019 election.”
Speaking on behalf of the clergy, Reverend Father Solomon Mffa appealed to President Buhari to speak to the conscience of his people since they understood each other, in order to put a stop to the senseless killings of Nigerians and Benue people in particular.
“You know the language of the herdsmen, speak the language and ask them to stop these killings. Also teach these people to respect the sanctity of human lives,’’ he said.
Chief John Antenyi, the Odejo ‘K Apa and paramount ruler of Apa local government, said the proposed establishment of cattle colonies was another plot by herdsmen to colonise parts of the country.
He said: “We must embrace ranching because it is the global practice and it will entrench peaceful coexistence among the farmers and herders alike.
On his part, Speaker of the State Assembly, Mr. Terkimbi Ikyange, said the grazing law in the state passed through due process after the people had agitated for it, stressing that all segments of the state, including herdsmen, also contributed to its making. He vowed that the law would never be reversed.
IPOB berates military, police over killings
Reacting to the killings, the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, said the country had never witnessed the senseless killings currently being perpetrated by herdsmen in the Middle Belt.
It also condemned the alleged killing of youths at Igweocha, Rivers State, by security agencies in the riverine areas in the guise of looking for cult members, saying the killings were politically motivated. IPOB, in a statement signed by the Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, said: “We are still wondering why the Nigerian government could not send soldiers to the aid of its citizens in Benue, Taraba, Kaduna and other states where Fulani herdsmen are rampaging and massacring innocent citizens with impunity.
“We are certain that Aso Rock merely ordered the Inspector General of Police to relocate police headquarters in Abuja to Benue to provide cover for these murderous herdsmen and help them consolidate their hold on new territories they are now occupying.
“The killing of the innocent has become the norm under this present APC government, led by Major General Buhari (President Muhammdu Buhari). More shocking is the fact that world media like CNN, FOX, BBC, AL JAZEERA, NBC, ABC, among others, have remained conspiratorially silent on these horror shows what played out in predominantly Christian towns and villages.
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