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Herdsmen, guns, and the end of silence

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Herdsmen

For the many Nigerians who looked on in despair as the presidency maintained an ominous silence over the activities of armed herdsmen across the country, news of the eventual intervention by President Muhammadu Buhari must have been received with a sigh of relief.

Making his comments in Jalingo during his condolence visit to the Taraba State capital over the latest wave of herdsmen violence in the state, President Buhari finally spoke in a manner that at least suggests that the carrying (and indiscriminate use) of sophisticated firearms by supposed cattle-rearers can be criminalised. He said that, “any Fulani man caught with AK-47 should be charged to court.”

While many, perhaps with good reasons, have questioned the sincerity of the President in making these comments (and some might even claim to sniff a whiff of incredulity in his tone), it is important to point out that, for now, this meagre and admittedly belated enunciation is what is available in the way of a position statement by the country’s Commander-in-Chief.

It is also important as it affirms, the existence of these armed killers who saunter along highways and vegetation swathes, brandishing their weapons of death.

This affirmation must not, however, blind Nigerians to the fact that the presence of gun-toting criminals under the guise of cattle-rearing is not a normal occurrence at all.

Nigerians have come out to tell the stories of their experience, historically, with herdsmen, and in the very long time that people have been living with these nomads, scarcely have they been seen to be blatantly displaying AK-47’s.

There is no necessary connection between keeping cattle-herds and carrying military guns. Nigerians, used to seeing only the peaceful, “magical” stick, must reject the implicit weaponisation of the herdsman’s trade.

The Federal Government has also to prove to Nigerians that the deadly activities of these nomads are not a case of state terrorism. The best way, indeed the only way, to do this is to put itself to task to handle the situation. And it is not enough to “quietly reprimand” the Inspector-General of Police, whose incompetence constitutes a disgrace to his uniform and to the country. The President needs to be more affirmative in action.

Instead of leaving a shell-shocked populace to legally pursue a band of terrorists who obviously have been living and acting as if they were above the law, a sufficient force can be deployed to the troubled areas of the country, so that this blight on the sanity of a people can be removed once and for all.

The President also needs to be more proactive, staying on top of the nation’s security situation rather than being surprised, two months after giving an express directive, at the whereabouts of an errant Inspector-General of Police.

If there is anything that General Muhammadu Buhari, as presidential candidate, insisted he could do better than any other person who was vying for the highest office in Nigeria, it is to secure for all the right to live in peace and without the fear of being killed or kidnapped in their homes, schools and farmsteads.

It is now very disheartening to see how, as President and Commander-in-Chief, Buhari is failing terribly at what should be his area of special competence.

Governors, especially in the affected states, must therefore begin to take the bull by the horn. They can emulate the Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, by enacting anti-open grazing laws and meeting with stakeholders in order to promote and begin the enforcement of such laws.

It would also not be out of place to legally set up (or empower) local structures of security so as to enhance the protection of the lives and property of hardworking, law-abiding citizens.

All that has just been said brings to light the necessity of state policing and true federalism. As the almighty centre continues to prove either unable or unwilling to see to the protection and advancement of the populace, Nigerians are realising more and more that the better option lies in the shrinking of the reach of power and responsibility.

Government should be only as high as necessary, and always as low as possible. It is only in this way that true protection and solicitude for citizens can be guaranteed.


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