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Herdsmen and the state of the nation – Part 1


In the present day Nigeria, the herdsmen menace is generating serious heat and there seems to be no immediate solution(s) in sight. The issue took a dangerous turn recently with the killing of over 70 people in Benue State. This incident has dealt a big blow on the bond of unity, love and progress amongst the citizenry. As a result, seeds of discord have been sown in the minds of the people to the extent that even some highly placed and revered individuals are agitating for indiscriminate taking up of arms in self defence and other primitive modes of conflict resolutions.

The most unfortunate aspect of the whole situation is that it has been hinged on religious and tribal sentiments. Today, mutual suspicion is now the order of the day amongst the people and, this is capable of throwing the country into a state of irredeemable chaos if not properly handled. In as much as the killings and such other atrocities are condemnable and should be resisted in our society; it is equally important for the people to exercise restraints in their utterances and outpouring of venoms which could lead to greater damages.

There is no two ways to describing the people that carried out such dastardly act than to label them terrorists and enemies of the nation and humanity. However, it is very pertinent to unravel the true identities of those behind the dastardly acts in order not to punish innocent suspects. Therefore, rather than jumping to conclusion and arrogating the crime(s) to a particular ethnic nationality or religion, we should all come together to support the government with a view to identifying the perpetrators and bringing them to book. Whoever has concrete or substantial evidence or information should endeavour to liaise and follow up with appropriate security agencies and or the government (because security issues should be handled with utmost care), rather than trivialising same on the pages of newspapers and other social media platforms to heat up the polity and even providing alibis for the perpetrators to escape justice.

At this point, one thing should be sacrosanct in the minds of well meaning and patriotic citizens and, that is the fact that the enemies of peace and unity of our country are at work and we should all rise up to support the government in the fight against terrorism and other societal vices. Criminality is not peculiar to one tribe or religion and as such, we should not allow sentiments to becloud our sense of reasoning and judgments. Rather than critically and objectively analyzing the Benue incident (and such others) with a view to proffering workable solutions; some critics and commentators have painted it with political, ethnic and religious tendencies. Presently, the nooks and crannies of the society are buzzing with hate speeches and other unsubstantiated wicked misgivings about an alleged plan by the President and his cohorts to Islamize the country.

In as much as I am not in a position to speak for the president and or the government; there is the need to remind ourselves that security challenges in our society should be devoid of sentimental and parochial postulations. Looking at it closely; the Governor (as the Chief Security Officer of the state) and the Heads of Security Agencies in the state should be the most appropriate person(s) to answer questions that bothers on security of lives and properties under their purviews. It is the responsibility o the governor to work with the state`s Commissioner of Police, Commandant of Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and, other security outfits in the state to put machineries in place towards ensuring that the place is safe for everyone. It is only when things go beyond their control that assistance and supports are sought from the federal level. Consequently, it would have been more result oriented if decisive actions had been taken to confronting and fighting the menace rather than to pointing accusing fingers and trading blames.

A careful study of the incidents has shown that the citizenry contributes more to their occurrences and persistency. This is in view of the fact that we are always quick to apportioning blames without being objective in our assessments and handling of these problems. Instead of supporting the relevant security agencies with useful information and allowing them to do their jobs painstakingly; we are swift in painting the media with myopically parochial and sentimental views about the incidents. In most cases, our commentaries and postulations are so weighty that even the finest security experts will be distracted (if not totally derailed) from making headways in their investigations. In the advanced countries, tactful and coded dissemination of information and support of the people contributes largely to the high rate of achievements in the area of detection and prevention of crimes. In our situations we have even made it easier for the enemies to carry out their dastardly acts.

It is obvious that Nigerians are easily disunited on tribal and religious lines. Thus, it is not impossible for these criminals from `wherever` to disguise as herdsmen or any other persons to attack farmers and peasants in a village and later move to another part of town (dressed like the natives), to attack the real but innocent herdsmen and their cattle, to make it look like a reprisal attack. if thorough investigations and intelligent gatherings are not carried out, the people will just be chasing shadows and come to conclusion that it is a clash between herdsmen and the natives. in this circumstance, the perpetrators would have succeeded in causing chaos and mutual suspicion amongst the people. In the same vein, they could give it religious flavour by attacking places of worship and followers of a particular faith or (as it were in the days of old), use pages of the holy book to clean faeces and drop them at strategic places for the ardent followers of another religion to see it and take laws into their hands against perceived infidels. By now, one would have expected the citizenry to have learnt from the pasts but, the situation is deteriorating by every passing day.

Presently, things are working out as planned by the enemies because the people have been divided along ethnic and religious lines. It is so disheartening that even highly educated religious leaders are not left out in this campaign of calumny. It now a common thing to come across articles in the social media advising their followers to desist from beef consumption in order to paralyze the cattle market and also cripple the purported Islamic agenda. But, my question is `will they also ask their people to wear aprons and uniforms in the sales of other commodities so that Christians will only patronize Christians while, Muslims will also patronize Muslims? Or should we also advocate that the military, police, paramilitary, financial institutions, transportation and other conglomerates should be divided along religious and ethnic lines? If not, why are we then buying into the antics of our collective enemies by promoting hatred and disharmony in the country?
To be continued tomorrow.
• Oise-Oghaede is a public affairs analyst, lives in Lagos.

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