THE head of a sub-national government in the North Central geopolitical zone, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, cut a sorry sight while lamenting the massacre of 70 people in the state by the killer herdsmen of Fulani ethnic origin last week. The armed herdsmen had reportedly killed 70 persons within just two days. The governor is not new to addressing the people of the state on the unchecked, heinous crimes and atrocities of killer herdsmen in the state. On two major occasions in the past, he had had the misfortune of giving funeral orations and supervising the conduct of mass funeral and burial of victims of senseless killings by the herdsmen. On January 11, 2018, about 73 persons who were mowed down by killer herdsmen in the New Year attacks in Guma and Logo local government areas of the state were given mass burial by the state. Again, in May, another 19 people, including two Reverend fathers who were massacred in the April 23, 2018 attack in Mbalomi, Gwer East Local Government Area of the state, were also given mass burial.
If or when the 70 corpses displayed few days ago by the state, said to be victims of killer herdsmen, are given mass burial, that would be the third time in less than three years in a supposedly free country. It must be noted that there have been several attacks and killings by the same assailants in the state with fatality figures probably in excess of the three major ones combined. And there is nothing on the horizon to suggest that fatal attacks will stop anytime soon in the state. It was thus a distraught Governor Ortom who called on the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, to rise up to his responsibilities and check the carnage in Benue State. Sadly, there are many states in the country where similar appeals have gone to the president, perhaps in subdued tones for reasons of political exigency. But the truth is that whether the governors were muted or vociferous in their communications to the president on insecurity in their states, especially that occasioned by the activities of killer Fulani herdsmen, the president has been unable to respond in any decisive manner to allay the fears of the people and engender hope and promise.
Indeed, many are of the view that the president’s seeming taciturnity about serious issues of State has to do with inability and unwillingness fuelled by vested interests, and that can only be a recipe for anarchy. For instance, Governor Ortom identified the killers in his state as Fulani herdsmen, and the leaders of the umbrella organisation of the armed herdsmen had had occasions to claim responsibility for killings in the state, yet they have not been investigated or interrogated, let alone being appositely charged with mass murder. Thus, when the governor noted that the Fulani were acting with impunity and Buhari was unwilling to bring them to book, only partisan observers can fault his claim. Really, how can these non-state actors kill with such ease without fearing that the State could deploy its awesome might against them? Could it be they have the assurances of inaction by the state security agencies?
Not a few Nigerians believe that the effrontery and fearlessness often displayed by the Fulani herdsmen have the imprimatur of state-actors who protect them from the state and enable their nefarious actions. It is unimaginable that Fulanis are now allegedly living in the homes of the people they displaced in Plateau State and other places, yet Buhari is not on record to have condemned their activities, like a leader who genuinely feels a sense of loss arising from their unabated atrocities would have done. On the contrary, and tragically so, Buhari is on record asking the Benue people to ‘accommodate’ their countrymen: the killers! One of his handlers had even suggested to the people of Benue to surrender their ancestral lands to the aggressors in order to avoid being killed. What a perverse recipe for the resolution of a grave, and indeed an existential challenge to the people of Benue by the president and his handlers!
Against the backdrop of the solutions proffered by the presidency to the insecurity in Benue State, it is not surprising that Governor Ortom himself was in fact attacked by the same set of people recently, and only escaped by a whisker. Yet, when the governor called on Buhari to rise up to the responsibilities of his office, the presidency accused him of playing politics with insecurity: a most unfeeling and insensitive accusation in the circumstance. We align with Ortom’s position because he knows what he is saying. Pray, how can the Federal Government fail to protect the people? Is it not strange that the security apparatus seldom goes after these killers while the reports of the Department of State Services typically do not address their activities? It is becoming increasingly clear that it is not for nothing that people keep alleging that the Fulani killers are being protected because of Buhari, and Mr President himself has not done anything to provide a scintilla of doubt in the mind of any dispassionate observer about that grave claim.
Nonetheless, it should be noted that no leader can preside over a multi-ethnic society and be perceived, with virtually verifiable evidence, to be supporting an ethnic group above others: something will have to give in the fullness of time.
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