No, not in God’s name

The blame game arising from the Benue debacle continues – though unhelpful, but necessary in the circumstances, if only to let off steam. But what the situation calls for is a quick restoration of normalcy and the return of a lasting peace, not only in Benue State –  the current theatre of madness – but all the states, including Kaduna, Taraba and Adamawa, that had been afflicted by the cattle herdsmen’s murderous engagement with farmers and the local communities.

The Monday meeting of President Muhammadu Buhari with Benue State leaders and the deployment of joint task force will go a long way in calming the restiveness in the community and the jaded nerves of the aggrieved people, especially the angry youths.

The lessons learnt from the Benue tragedy should instruct the security agencies to be more proactive in future and not to wait until the damnable deed is done. 

Mercifully, and no matter how hard mischief makers try to push the view, this crisis has nothing to do with religion. It has more to do with economic survival than the pursuit of any spiritual or heavenly matter. It is no wonder, therefore that many of the cattle herdsmen have abandoned the stick in favour of AK 47, the favourite weapons of armed robber and kidnappers.

Many kidnap victims have testified that their captors were mostly those who herd their cattle in the day and do moonlighting with robbery and kidnapping to supplement. But now that kidnapping has become the most profitable business enterprise, it has taken the centre stage drawing more people into the trade.

The number of these merchants in human misery has, in recent time, grown exponentially, thanks to the influx of the saints and the sinners as well and the Jews and Gentiles and the fact that despite claims by security operatives, most of the rescued victims have had to cough out princely ransom to regain their freedom.
 
Yet, those who stand to profit from any social upheaval, especially the  professional political assassins who fish for political gains even in human tragedy, have insisted that the herdsmen killings have been masterminded by the so called jihadist urge to annihilate ethnic minorities in places like Southern Kaduna, Taraba, Adamawa and Benue State.

In the social media, they have been regaling us with the tales of how the Othman Dan Fodio Jihad started and who betrayed who.

In addition, minutes of meetings held by the so-called jihadists to plan the next phase of attack are beginning to dominate the social media. We are even urged to boycott beef so the cattle Fulani’s economic fortune should nose dive and to deny them the means of acquiring AK 47 and other weapons of mass extermination.

Those who insist that this is the only truth of the matter fail to take cognisance of other truths like the killings in Zamfara where most of the victims were Muslims. How do you Islamise the already over Islamised? Like carrying coal to Newcastle. Agatu in Benue State has recorded more victims than what obtains in many other places, yet the populace has more than a handful of Muslims. And they were not spared by these so-called jihadists.

Last year, an attack by the cattle herdsmen in Yankira, a community in Baruten Local Government Area of Kwara State left four people dead. The killers did not discriminate between Muslims and others. Yet these peddlers of fake news would not spare us the horror of their garish tales.

It is possible that Festus Keyamo, you know him…..our own erudite Festus of very sound legal mind, does not see what these people are seeing. Which perhaps explains his anger when he laments the folly of fellow citizens who simply swallow line, hook and sinker any romantic tale of the bizarre. He says: “I can’t explain the kind of gullibility some people show in issues of religion and ethnicity.”

Says Keyamo: “A graduate will see a message from the wailers saying a serving minister said President Buhari wants to Islamize Nigeria and without even referring to what the constitution says about religion they will start sharing and defending. Can Buhari wake up one day and pronounce Nigeria an Islamic state without the National Assembly amending the relevant laws?”
 
My brother, I say that in the times in which we live, in this veritable season of anomie, there is a thin line between the rational and the utterly bizarre. I guess that it would take the like of Donald Trump’s mental capability and the grace of God to retain one’s capacity for rational thinking and rational deduction. Anything short of that, any little deficit would be leading you to the loony bin.
  
Truth be told, all lives matter. It does not matter whose life, whether it is that of the cheerfully confessed animist or that of a fanatical Muslim or the one of a born-again Christian. Nobody has the right to take another person’s life. Not the Boko Haram, not the cattle herdsmen or the farmer protecting his farm against invasion. And no religion sanctions the taking of life unjustly.
 
When you look at it closely, the sins of the cattle herdsmen are like the ones of the Boko Haram members. When the Boko Haram adherents started their onslaught, they killed unarmed and defenceless citizens, innocent people who had no hand in the extra-judicial killing of their founder, Mohammed Yusuf, an incident which is the genesis of the Boko Haram insurgency.  Many undiscerning people quickly jumped to conclusion that it was the beginning of a new Islamic jihad against Christians.

This mind-set never wavered even in the face of clear evidence to the contrary. Such incontrovertible evidence includes the numerous attacks on mosques and the attempt to kill the former emir of Kano, the venerable and highly respected late Ado Bayero inside his mosque. Not to be forgotten also was the attack in 2014 on Muhammadu Buhari in Kawo, Kaduna on his way to Katsina from Kaduna and the killing of civil war veteran, General Mohammed Shuwa, a devout Muslim, in his residence in Maiduguri.

Today, they know the truth and the narrative has changed. The Boko Haram insurgency is not about Jihad, it is now purely and plainly a terrorist organisation like the ISIS and such other vicious blood suckers. And it is no longer about Islamising the country and killing only non-Muslims as we were wont to believe. They now kill and take hostage any one that suits their fancy.

No, the cattle herdsmen don’t appear to me like people who are out to “complete the work of Othman Dan Fodio” as being widely speculated in the social media.

These herders, with their peripatetic life-style, don’t have the fanaticism and passion for any such crusade except the love of their cattle and their means of livelihood for which they can kill and maim. Plus the fact that Nigeria today is vastly different in orientation and configuration from the situation that obtained during the time of Othman Dan Fodio.

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