Herdsmen, Boko Haram endanger Nigeria, say Soyinka, Ohanaeze
• Urge swift, firm action against attackers, backers
• Arewa leaders rule out ethno-religious motives
• 16,000 cattle rearers killed, says Fulani group
Nigeria is heading towards the precipice if insecurity, reflected in the activities of Boko Haram and herdsmen, is not caged, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Ondo State Governor Olusegun Mimiko, South East senators and some major groups in the country warned yesterday.
The groups included Ohanaeze Ndigbo and Enugu State chapter of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN).
However, Arewa Consultative Forum and a Fulani group urged caution on the part of critics of the herders’ actions, the latter saying that about 16,000 cattlemen have been killed in conflicts with farmers and others.
The apex Igbo socio-cultural Organisation condemned the attack on some communities in Enugu State by suspected herdsmen and urged the Federal Government to urgently address the problem to avoid a situation where ethnic militias will emerge to ensure safety in their environments.
The organization also dismissed the proposed Grazing Bill as anti-federalism and unconstitutional.
The President-General Ohaneze Ndigbo, Dr. Gary Nnachi Enwo- Igariwey, noted in Abuja that the incessant attack on communities by heavily armed herdsmen all over Nigeria threatened national unity and peaceful co-existence as they can destablise the country by a synchronised action if they so decide.
He stressed: “Why is it that the herdsmen are so heavily armed, who is arming them and where are they from? It is time to have proper identification of herdsmen so that they can be tracked. The security challenge is enormous, how do we now know when it is herdsmen and when it is not Boko Haram spillovers from their dislodged bases because the style of attack in some of these communities is the same style of attack by Boko Haram? They sack villages and withdraw. The Federal Government should pay attention to these actions. Government should investigate and find out those behind these killings and bring them to book.”
But the Arewa leaders have asked Nigerians to resist attributing ethnic and religious connotations to the various crises.
They unanimously condemned the attack by some herdsmen on the Ukpabi Nimbo Community in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State, as “most unfortunate and barbaric.”
They ACF, in a statement by the National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Muhammad Ibrahim, said “criminals hiding under whatever guise and committing heinous crimes against innocent people and the state should be treated as such and in accordance with the law.”
ACF called on Nigerians “to be more patient and show understanding with one another, especially now that President Buhari is determined and committed to the war on insurgency and corruption”.
According to the Nobel laureate, the Federal Government’s quest to diversify the economy through culture and tourism is endangered by insecurity.
The literary giant spoke yesterday in Abuja at the National Summit on Culture and Tourism in his capacity as the chairman of the first plenary session with a presentation entitled, ‘‘The killing culture of the neo-nomadic.’’
Soyinka, represented by the Director, Centre for Black Culture and International Understanding (CBCIU), Osogbo, Osun State, Dr. Wale Adeniran, located insecurity as “principal enemy” of the quest.
He noted that “culture is closely intertwined with tourism – the former, in fact, often drives the latter,” stressing that “the destination uppermost in the minds of most tourists we know is – Culture.” Soyinka insisted that both share friends and – enemies.
He went on: “Of the principal enemies, seeing that we find ourselves within the precincts of governance, I intend to engage your attention in this brief address to just one: Insecurity. That inability of any vacationist to let go completely, relax, submit oneself completely to the offerings of a new environment – the sounds, sights, smells, textures and taste. Of Culture itself, in and or out of the touristic intent, there is no ambiguity in the mind of its enemies. They make no bones about their detestation – call them Taliban, Daesh or Isis, al Shabbab or Boko Haram. Their hatred is pathological and impassioned to a degree that goes beyond the pale, beyond insanity and sadly beyond cure. The duty of governance towards such retrogressive outbreaks remains unambiguous.”
Locating a link between the heinous crimes which Boko Haram has perpetrated against Nigeria and Nigerians and incessant attacks by the herdsmen, Soyinka said: “After Boko Haram, what next? In fact, at this moment, Boko Haram has no ‘after’ since it is by no means ended, no matter what technical expressions such as ‘militarily degraded’ mean.
“But let us assume indeed that we are already in the past of Boko Haram. It is now clear that the succession is already decided, the ‘vacated’ space is already conceded, and that the new territorial aspirants are already securely positioned. The entire nation appears to be theirs without a struggle, and the continuity of an established Nigerian necropolis north to south and east to west is being consolidated.
“Some necropoles are actually architecturally fascinating. They attract visitors from distant places, but those are works of veneration, artistry and dedication. They are visual feasts, among whose structures the visitors actually picnic, leave flowers and symbolic gifts to hovering ancestors. Latin America is full of them. The Nigerian widening necropoles leave only the taste of bile in the mouth, the corrosion of hate, stench and rage.
“When I read a short while ago, the Presidential assurance to this nation that the current homicidal escalation between the cattle prowlers and farming communities would soon be over, I felt mortified.
“He had the solution, he said. Cattle ranches were being set up, and in another 18 months, rustlings, destruction of livelihood and killings from herdsmen would be ‘a thing of the past’. Eighteen months, he assured the nation. I believe his Minister of Agriculture echoed that later, but with a less dispiriting time schema. Neither, however, could be considered a message of solace and reassurance for the ordinary Nigerian farmer and the lengthening cast of victims, much less to an intending tourist to the Forest Retreat of Tinana in the Rivers, the Ikogosi Springs or the moslem architectural heritage of the ancient city of Kano. In any case, the external tourists have less hazardous options.”
Soyinka also decried the devastation that insecurity has wreaked on “internal tourism.”
His words: “However there is also internal tourism, to be considered a premium asset – both economically and in spirit of nation building and personal edification. This was an exercise I indulged in in the early sixties as by-product of other engagements, such as research. A lot however was simply under curiosity. I can modestly claim to be among the top twenty-five percent internally traveled Nigerians, acquainted with the smells, textures and tastes of their geographical habitation. I wish the late Segun Olusola were around to testify to the sudden bouts of tourist explorations we made in his Volkswagen Beetle in the pre-war sixties. But now, would the young adventurous set out to visit the mystery caves of Anambra and its alleged curative pools from mere interest? They would think twice about it.”
The social activist decried the inability of government to articulate a coherent policy to tackle the menace, saying: “ It is not merely arbitrary violence that reigns across the nation but total, undisputed impunity.
“Impunity evolves and becomes integrated in conduct when crime occurs and no legal, logical and moral response is offered. I have yet to hear this government articulate a firm policy of non-tolerance for the serial massacres have become the nation’s identification stamp.
“I have not heard an order given that any cattle herders caught with sophisticated firearms be instantly disarmed, arrested, placed on trial, and his cattle confiscated. The nation is treated to an eighteen-month optimistic plan which, to make matters worse, smacks of abject appeasement and encouragement of violence on innocents.
“ Let me repeat, and of course I only ask to be corrected if wrong: I have yet to encounter a terse, rigorous, soldierly and uncompromising language from this leadership, one that threatens a response to this unconscionable blood-letting that would make even Boko Haram repudiate its founding clerics.”
He recalled attempt made “to utilize the Open Forum platform of the Centre for Culture and International Understanding, Oshogbo, to launch a national debate on the topic – ‘Sacred Cows or Sacred Rights.’ The signs were already clear and the rampage of impunity was already manifesting a cultic intensity of alarming proportions. For reasons which are too distasteful to go into here, the forum did not take place. We were already agreed that General Buhari be invited to give a keynote address, based on his long experience in such matters as former head of state, and as a cattle rearer himself who might be be able to penetrate the mentality of this ‘post-Boko Haram pestilence’.
“ That challenge remains open, but should now involve this gathering, which surely includes tourist and educational agencies. They should join hands with human rights organisations, the Ministry of Agriculture, Farming and local Vigilance associations etc. It is a gauntlet thrown down to be picked up, and urgently, by any of the affected or troubled sectors of society, or indeed any capable and interested party at this conference. The CBCIU is prepared to collaborate.”
As a hunter of note, Soyinka laced his remarks with personal encounters with herdsmen during his hunting expeditions.
He said: “I had observed a change of quality in forest encounters with cattle herdsmen over the years. These changes had become sufficiently alarming for me to arrange meetings with a few governors and, later, with the late National Security Adviser General Azazi.
“At the time, we thought that they were Boko Haram, infiltrating into the south under guise of cattle herding. That was then, and of course that surmise has never been firmly proven or disproved.
“Recently however, I returned from a trip outside the country about to find that my home ground had been invaded, and a brand-new “Appian way” sliced through my sanctuary. That ‘motorable’ path was made by the hoofed invaders. Both the improvised entry and exit are now blocked, but interested journalists are invited to visit. In over two decades of living in that ecological preserve, no such intrusion had ever occurred. I have no idea whether they were Fulani or Futa Jalon herdsmen but, they were cattle herders, and they had cut a crude swathe through my private grounds. I made enquiries and sent alerts around, including through the Baale of our neighborhood village. There has been no repeat, and hopefully it will remain the first and last of such invasion. What it portends however is for all thinking citizens to reflect upon, and take concerted measures against.”
Describing herdsmen as humanity’s earliest known tourists, Soyinka added: “They must be taught however that there is a culture of settlement, and learn to seek accommodation with settled hosts wherever encountered.
“The leadership of any society cannot stand idly and offer solutions that implicitly deem the massacres of innocents mere incidents on the way to that learning school. For every crime, there is a punishment, for every violation, there must be restitution. The nomads of the world cannot place themselves above the law of settled humanity. “
Mimiko challenges religious leaders over herdsmen’s attacks
Dr. Mimiko who a raised fresh alarm over the incessant killings of innocent Nigerians and wanton destruction of property by herdsmen, charged religious leaders to pray more for the country.
The governor while addressing members of the state’s executive of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), during a courtesy visit to him in his office warned that, if the heinous crimes against humanity being committed by the herdsmen were not checked, Nigeria would be moving towards a precipice.
He noted that religious leaders must as a matter of urgency and national importance rally round and pray fervently for the unity, peace and development of the country, which at the moment is confronted with challenges.
Against the allegation by the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) that his administration diverted the bailout funds meant for state workers’ salaries, Mimiko told the religious leaders that a letter had been written to the agency to correct the claim.
As against the commission’s claim that only N7.9 billion was paid to workers out of the N9.4 billion bailout given to the state, Mimiko affirmed that his administration added N50 million to the federal lifeline to pay salaries in the period.
He also denied that this administration had spent local councils’ allocations, saying that instead 10% of the state government’s IGR was being remitted to the councils every month.
State chairman of CAN, Rev. John Ayo Oladapo, lauded the governor’s pragmatic leadership in the last seven years, saying that his good works would speak for him after his tenure.
Since 1999, over 16,000 Fulani herdsmen killed, says Fulani group
A splinter group of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), called Gan Allah Fulani Development Association of Nigeria (GAFDAN), through its National Secretary, Alhaji Sale Bayari, spoke to journalists in Jos yesterday on the incessant conflicts.
He claimed: “For the past 15 years, the herdsmen have been crying and they have been losing people, they have been losing human lives, women and children. We have the records. We have the inventory. Within the period of 20 years, we have lost about 16,000 herdsmen in Nigeria from 1999 to date. We have the names, we have the details.
“Just like we said during Niki Toby Commission that we had the names of our people who were killed and that if at the end of the day we bring the list, people would be shocked. As at that time, the cries were that there was genocide against Berom in Barkin Ladi, Riyom and Jos South. By the time we brought names verifiable names of victims including men, women and children, young and infants, the entire state was shocked. Ninety percent of people killed and submitted to the commission were Fulani and not Berom.”
According to him, if there is a national judicial commission of inquiry, and the herdsmen decide to bring out their victims, a lot of the people who are screaming today will go to jail, “some may even be sentenced to death if they are taken to court because it would be found that they precipitated or were responsible for what had happened. The unfortunate thing is that the Fulani man is like the Jew because he suffers one common thing with the Jew, they are always in the minority.”
“Therefore, like the Jews do, when the Palestinian will kill one, they will 100 Palestinians in return may be to serve as a deterrent, may be to have an aggregate of the population, the minority and the majority. If you are to do an aggregate of this thing, maybe it will be one Jew to 100 Palestinians or maybe 50 Palestineans to one Jew. So, if you kill one Jew they will say until they kill 50 Palestinians they wouldn’t have taken revenge,” Bayari said.
“What happens is that if you kill one Fulani person, when he realises that he does nothing, he will always be found to be one and be killed until you cannot find one on the surface of the earth. For the killing of that one, you will see him behaving as if it is 100 that have been killed. May be he is doing that as a deterrent.“
He further affirmed that the Fulani man was not the first aggressor: “I have been with Fulani people, I am their product, I have gone to school to a reasonable level. I have not lost touch with them; I have identified with their cause, especially their lawful cause.”