Buhari and the herdsmen’s endgame
Of the many traumatic marvels of the President Muhammadu Buhari government, its predilection for crashing deeper into the abyss when we thought that we would no longer be jolted by its blunders, is striking. If his linkage to marauding and bloodthirsty Fulani herdsmen were only a staple of blackmail sustained by his traducers, he has just stoked the suspicion of his fidelity to their ghoulish vision with his response to the killings in Benue State.
Buhari did not bother to visit Benue for a first-hand apprehension of the tragedies that the Fulani herdsmen inflicted on the people. Nor was he seen to have expressed deep regret over the killings, except the platitudes that were regurgitated by his aides after a grudging approval from him. Or is this not a true measure of his lack of humanity and a perverted sense of justice and patriotism that while the nation was gripped by grief, Buhari and the governors from his northern region were preoccupied with his re-election in 2019? Would it not have redounded to Buhari’s humanity and conveyed his sincere sympathy with the victims of the murderous Fulani herdsmen if he had just declared that because of the killings the political visit of the governors was cancelled? Or how about reframing the mission of the northern governors and mobilising them to go with him to Benue where they would have assured the grieving citizens that northern leaders did not by any means support the carnage inflicted by the herdsmen? Of course, all this would have been out of sync with the history of a president who maintains silence amid the havoc being wreaked by Fulani herdsmen in different parts of the country and other forms of injustice sired by his government.
It is this obvious complicity that has emboldened the herdsmen to be hinting of a grimmer apocalypse if they do not have their way. Not for them the imperative of disavowing the murderers among them. Rather, they have been heard and seen gloating on national television and the pages of newspapers that it was the law made by the Benue State government to curb their excesses that triggered the killings. Blinded by his apparent complicity, Buhari deemed it fit to make a case for the accommodation of the killer Fulani herdsmen amid this atmosphere of fiendish hubris and remorselessness. But what Buhari forgot is that nobody, not even the victims of the murderous herdsmen, have ever declared that they would no longer accommodate the herdsmen. They have always been accommodated. But obviously, the kind of accommodation the president has canvassed is the one that would perpetuate the victims’ servitude – the killer herdsmen could keep on destroying farms, raping, maiming and killing without the victims resisting the villains.
Thus, the riposte of the Benue leaders is sufficiently validated. They and other citizens from different parts of the country who have been victims of murderous herdsmen would not accept Buhari’s brand of accommodation. They would not accommodate people who are not remorseful. Nor would they accommodate those who do not value human life. Obviously, it is because Buhari shares the perspective of his fellow Fulani that the victims of their carnage are not human beings that he could talk of accommodation without first of all taking measures that would engender healing and mutual trust.
Among these firsts is the imperative of Buhari branding the murderous herdsmen as terrorists. No one says all Fulani herdsmen should be declared terrorists. But the ones who choose to cause havoc because they are in possession of guns should consider that once they ply their trade in a manner that threatens the comfort and livelihood of others, they have declared themselves terrorists. Again, Buhari should only talk of accommodation after arresting the killer herdsmen in Benue. They are known to the leaders of Miyetti Allah since they have not dissociated themselves from the killers. The security agents need not spend so much energy ferreting them out. They should simply arrest the leaders of Miyetti Allah and let them produce the merchants of death in their midst.
By now, it should be clear to Buhari, the killer Fulani herdsmen and their closet accomplices that they would no longer have their way. Their terrorism has reached a point where the citizens are now telling them that they can no longer tolerate their tragic excesses. The Benue leaders whom Buhari summoned to Aso Rock sent this message to Buhari and killer Fulani herdsmen in clear terms. They were not intimidated by the presence of a president who instead of going to visit and mourn with them summon them to Aso Rock. They told him they would not accommodate killer herdsmen, especially under the terms that Buhari spelt out. Buhari wants them to give up their land to them under the guise of creating colonies for them.
As demonstrated during the visit of the Benue leaders, Buhari cannot pursue a single narrative about the plight of the Fulani herdsmen and expect the citizens to accept it. Buhari can only aggravate the crisis if he insists that the herdsmen would have their way. He must accept that nobody says the herdsmen should stop their business. After all, those they inflict various forms of havoc on are the prime consumers of the beef that their cattle provide. All that is being said is that they should do their business as it is done in other parts of the world through ranching. In the long run, it is everybody who is the ultimate beneficiary when ranching is embraced. It would be a boost to agriculture which the government is projecting as a cornerstone of its economic development agenda. It would give educational opportunities to the peripatetic men and boys being deployed to herd cattle by those who cocoon their children in expensive schools overseas. And for the government, it would serve as a means of producing educated citizens who would no longer be amenable to being deployed as cannon fodder and threats to peace, and thus becoming positive agents of nation building.
If the Buhari government does not accept this option of ranching despite its many benefits, it then leaves room for the proliferation of the suspicion that the Fulani herdsmen do not just want to have their way in order to cater to their cattle. The conclusion, which may not be far-fetched then, is that the Buhari government is insisting on cattle colonies as part of a wider expansionist agenda of Islamisation of the country.
In that case, like the Benue leaders, it is time for all to resist the Fulani herdsmen. This is not the time to fawn on Buhari as Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau did before he recanted. State governors and other leaders should take their own cue from Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose who did not underrate the tragic propensity of the Fulani herdsmen and prepared a bulwark against their onslaught. The developments in Benue are a tragic validation of the prescience of the governor who not a few of his Yoruba compatriots would rather gleefully consign to a comical provenance. It should be clear to Buhari that he is the only one who has allowed himself to be misled by the herdsmen. Other leaders in the nation know that the herdsmen are on the wrong path. He should take note of the position of the Senate and know that other leaders are not with him. Even his trusted associate, Pastor Tunde Bakare, has condemned his inability to resolve this herdsmen’s crisis. It must be noted that Bakare has been a strong ally of Buhari.
At a time the glaring lapses of Buhari alarmed the citizens, Bakare declared that he would not publicly criticise Buhari since he had access to him. Even Prof. Wole Soyinka, whose support for Buhari’s election, made those who doubted his democratic credentials to decide for him, has condemned his position on the herdsmen. These are the people Buhari should listen to their advice and not others with contrary opinions that lead to the path of his perdition. But if he insists that he and the herdsmen would have their way, then he has only succeeded in confirming that he would not mind that the peace of the nation is sacrificed on the altar of his ethnic and religious bigotry.
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