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Muoboghare: Uwheru people are conquered by military, not fulani

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• We’ll Have Our Own Amotekun Someday
The recent massacre of farmers in Uwheru Kingdom by suspected Fulani herdsmen has continued to generate comments. Prof Patrick Muoboghare, a former leader of the Academic Staff Union of Universities in Delta State, and now Commissioner for Higher Education in the state, recently chronicled the farmers’ woes, just as he slammed security agencies and revealed the people’s resolve to resist further attack. He spoke to SONY NEME in Asaba

What is the current situation, vis-à-vis the state police command’s earlier position on the attack and massacre of farmers in Uwheru?
What is most worrisome is the statement credited to the state Police Command that there was no such casualty, and that only one person was injured. The question is: Those corpses that were exhumed, under the supervision of the military and his police officers, where did they come from? A police commissioner should speak in a way that should inspire confidence. Lies should never be associated with a top military officer or a top police officer.

Now, we have nine corpses at a hospital in Ughelli, as at Tuesday, February 18, which is known to the DPO, Area Commander and the military commander. Were those corpses products of cult clashes, witchcraft, or they were drowned? 

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On Saturday, February 16, the military men, who doubted the presence of Fulani men, volunteered to go into the forest with our boys, and behold, they met them there. And we were meant to exhume our own children. You know what it means for a father to exhume the body of his own child?

And even in the presence of soldiers and policemen, we asked the herdsmen to give us our dead bodies, they refused and retreated with them. On Sunday, they went again, but no luck. It was on Monday that the boys went again, and as the Fulani were retreating, they buried our sons in shallow graves. Then we called in the army and police to come and see, and nine corpses were exhumed.

The tenth and only survivor that was shot on Friday, February 15 said he was going to his farm, when they attacked him. His saving grace was that they presumed he had died. We are doing everything we can to ensure he survives.

So now, nine persons have been confirmed dead, and the corpses are with the police. The tenth is battling for his life in the hospital. Two more cannot be accounted for, so they will need to comb the forest further. This is tragic, because even when we had our boys in the military, during the Nigeria/Biafra civil war, we did not have it this bad.

But how did it all begin? 
Uwheru Kingdom is riverine, made up of agrarian communities that produce groundnut, sweet potato and other crops that are planted from the end of November to April/May. Beyond that period, the flood would have started coming into the communities. As a result, we guard our crops very jealously. Sadly, however, this coincides with the period the herdsmen usually come with impunity, fully armed and deliberately feed their cows with our crops. They have been doing this for decades.

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It would be recalled that few years ago, when an attack occurred there, a God-fearing Area Commander, an Assistant Commissioner of Police in Ughelli (names withheld), deployed his men to Uwheru Forest to call the Fulani herdsmen to order, and three of the policemen were gunned down, for daring to come and question their authority.

Yet, none of them was arrested, and the statement that came from the police headquarters in Asaba was that nobody sent any policeman to confront Fulani herdsmen in Uwheru. That means the officers died in vain. And not so long after, the Area Commander was assassinated!

As a result of this, no policeman takes any case concerning Fulani herdsmen from Uwheru, as orders will always come from above to pull out.

When our young men decided to escort their mothers, wives or sisters to their farms, the herdsmen would confront them, which could rage for days, and you will not find security operatives there. But when the boys decide to go and defy them, to retrieve their dead or so, then the military would come in and join the Fulani herdsmen in the shooting. So, the security agencies are aware of developments there.

It has also been established that two of the boys that died in this recent killings were brought down by military men. We have also observed that Bridge 9 is where there is an exchange of arms and ammunitions between the military men and Fulani herdsmen. Everybody in Uwheru knows that. While the Fulani herdsmen are in the forest, you will see the military men patrolling to protect them. So we are conquered, not by Fulani herdsmen, because we can handle them, but by the military.

Yet, these herdsmen are not Nigerians, as President Muhammadu Buhari recently said. They came from Niger, Chad and Mali. It is quite an irony! when we decided to push away these foreigners from Uwheru, why would the Nigeria military not support us and give us medals?

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The answer is quite simple. The same President Buhari has opened Nigerian borders for Fulani worldwide to come and claim Nigeria as home. And the South is their target.

Interestingly, landmass is a factor in revenue sharing. It is also a factor for local government creation, which is why Kano State has 44 local
government areas. Yet, from Uwheru to Agbahro is one local government area. It is one of the largest areas in Nigeria that is trying to survive on their own, as government cannot feed Uwheru women, who take care of their families from their farm produce. Imagine if those women and the youths down tools and decide to relocate to Asaba. So, government must come to our rescue.

What is the state government’s reaction, and why is it difficult for the state Assembly to raise and pass a bill against open grazing, like some states have done?
Ironically, the governor as the chief security officer of the state has limited powers. Though constitutionally that is what it should be, but does the Army GOC report or take orders from him? Or does the state Commissioner of Police take orders from him? Remember the Benue State governor’s recent experience on same issue?

When Governor Samuel Ortom and the State House of Assembly passed a bill on open grazing, the police commissioner had the audacity to say that a law passed by a state House of Assembly and assented to by a governor, the prescribed authority, cannot be enforced!

Do you still call such a governor the chief security officer? Do you know what it means for a governor to lose his people? He was voted in by the same people. He feels the pains more than we do.

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I know Senator Ifeanyi Okowa is on top of the situation, to the best of his ability. He will not allow us to carry arms, because that is not what he swore to. It is a helpless situation that the governors are faced with, which is why the Amotekun concept is a step in the right direction.
So, why are the South-South governors not showing signs of unity in that direction? Why were they absent at the one-day security summit organised for the zone late last year by the Inspector General of Police on community policing?

If I were the governor, I would not attend. The Nigeria Police under the IGP has been used against the people, and the governors who are disobeyed by the police commissioners should come and discus with you about community policing or neghbourhood watch! I do not trust them, so I support the governors for shunning the event. I told the soldiers in Uwheru that the people have lost confidence in them, and they can never have confidence in them, as they were there to defend the Fulani herdsmen. Even the soldiers who came after the invasion were communicating only in Hausa.

As a serving commissioner, I could not communicate with them, as they kept on speaking their language. The Nigerian government knows where every Fulani herdsman is, and how armed they are. Abraka women no longer go to their cassava farms. Abavo and most parts of the state are no go areas as we speak. Yet, the Commissioner of Police feigns ignorance. If you dare make an effort to apprehend any herdsman and take him to the police station, that is the end of the story. It is as bad as that.

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So, what solution do you proffer in the circumstance?
The President and his vice, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo have at different fora said you cannot defend yourself against banditry. Have you ever seen that
kind of slavery, where you have to kneel down and pray for bandits not to attack you, which Prof. Osinbajo has prescribed to Nigerians? A man is attacking you, and you kneel down and be praying that he should not kill you?

I am not competent to speak on security matters. But we did not hear much about Amotekun anywhere, until its launch that has unsettled everyone. So, those saying South-South governors are not doing anything
could be wrong. I am confident that someday, you will see something that is being launched. I am very confident about that, because the secrecy with which Amotekun was planned cannot be beaten anywhere in the world.

We will have our own Amotekun someday. If the states do not have, Uwheru will surely have its own someday, because we disagree with the Vice President, who said we should kneel and pray for herdsmen when they attack us.

He is on his own, as that is the Redeemed prayer point. When the children of Israel were at war, the prophet would raise his hands to pray, and the children of Israel where winning. When the prophet was getting tired, two people were detailed to help further raise the hands, as he continued praying until they won the wars.

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But a Redeemed Church pastor said do not retaliate, do not defend, in fact do not even lock your door, which is a form of self-defence. Are we okay?
Because no normal human being, who is mentally sound, will tell his people that are being attacked, ‘do not defend yourself. Just raise your hands and die happily.’

The question is: What does Osinbajo want? So, I should go to Uwheru as a leader of my people and get a public announcer to inform them that when next they see Fulani herdsmen, they should just run to the churches, fling the doors open and do nothing?

So, what is the way forward?
Killer herdsmen must leave Uwheru territory. That is non-negotiable.
Secondly, President Buhari’s invitation that Fulani worldwide should come and take Nigeria as home does not cover Uwheru. The landmasses are in the north. Sambisa Forest is large enough to contain all of them. He can equally turn it into another Dubai. They have enough opportunities in the North, but the Northern elites have killed the Northerners.

Former President Goodluck Jonathan wanted to bail them out with a well-planned Almajiri educational system, but they rejected education and collectively worked toward his exit from power.

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Because the North is finished, the people are driven to us. When you are talking about corrupt governors, do not bother to look anywhere down South. Just take a closer look up North. In a whole state, you may find only four rich men, while the rest are the very poor, who come to feed from the four rich men.

In Delta State, we do not take that. The moment we notice you are feeding fat on our commonwealth, we take you up on it. The infrastructural projects you talk about in the North are mainly federal projects. How many of such projects do we have here? We are an abandoned people in the South.

At the National Council of Education, do you discuss the Almajiri menace and ways out, using education as a tool?
That is a jamboree. You just wake up one day and add Sharia into the curriculum, because the minister is always coming from that part of the country. Besides, education is on the concurrent list. So, I have my budget by my governor to run education in Delta State. We are supposed to be having our curriculum in our universities. Not bringing all kinds of Sharia related activities that do us no good down South.

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In this article:
Patrick Muoboghare
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