President Buhari, the man behind herdsmen attack

President Muhammadu Buhari demonstrated his cluelessness
afresh on Sunday when he blamed herders’ act of horrific violence
on the shrinking Lake Chad and alleged biased media reports. His
narrow narrative seeks vainly to explain away the campaign of
terror and mayhem by bandits on the displacement of herdsmen
from the lake area and hang the seeming helplessness of his
administration in curbing the rampage on the mass media. This is
It is inconceivable that Buhari will attribute the rash of herders’
killings across the country to mere fallout of desert encroachment.
But it is all in his character. Buhari has displayed a signal lack of
understanding of issues and demonstrated an embarrassing low
quality of empathy with the larger segment of the people he leads.
For instance, while his Ghanaian counterpart, Nana Akufo-Addo,
called for humane treatment of his countrymen making the
hazardous desert journey to Europe and foreign investment to
create jobs when Germany’s Angela Merkel visited, Buhari’s
response was that Nigerian youths risking it were on their own. He
was equally reckless at the recent Nigerian Bar Association annual
conference where he dismissed the supremacy of the rule of law
as sacred canon of democratic and civilised governance.
Nigerian youths have not forgotten how he dismissed them as lazy
and desperate for quick money rather than hard work. But
justifying Fulani herders’ bloody campaign against mostly innocent
people won’t wash. Insecurity on his watch has run riot precisely
because of such wrong diagnosis and failure to apply the law
On Sunday, Buhari addressed Nigerians resident in China on the
sidelines of the China-Africa Cooperation Summit in Beijing where
he accused the press of being uninformed: “To my
disappointment…the press in Nigeria do not make enough efforts
to study the historical antecedents of issues that are creating
national problems for us” and citing “cultural and historical
implications” of the “misunderstanding, especially between herders
and farmers”, he blamed climate change and the seeking of
pastures by cattle nomads displaced by the shrinking Lake Chad.
This is a patently callous and dishonest argument. This narrative
explains the herders’ deadpan belligerence and why they have
brought impunity to a spectacular climax.
To keen observers, however, his analysis, that aligns perfectly with
the earlier repeated postulations of his inner cabinet and of Myetti
Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, may sound seductive,
but falls flat on even a cursory scrutiny. True; desertification and
shrinking grazing land have prompted herdsmen to move further
afield for their flocks, but the long-running Fulani militant rampage
has first gone beyond isolated disputes with farmers to what
informed analysts have variously identified as ethnic cleansing,
genocide and criminal impunity.
Second; criminality, mass murder, arson and rape must be
punished, no matter the motive or persons perpetrating them as
the Fulani terrorists have done in the last few years. Rated as the
world’s fourth most deadly terrorist group in the Global Terrorism
Index, Fulani terrorists killed over 2,000 persons across the
country this year, according to Coalition for Conflict Resolution and
Human Rights in Nigeria.
A tally by Saturday Punch attributed 3,094 persons killed by Boko
Haram terrorists and Fulani herdsmen between May 29, 2015 and
May 2016; Amnesty International counted 168 killed in January
alone, while the Benue State Government said Fulani marauders
killed over 1,500 persons, including soldiers and policemen, in 47
different attacks in the three years to February this year. At least,
14 persons were again brutally murdered in Plateau State
yesterday. It is inconceivable that Buhari will attribute the series of
herders’ attacks as mere fallout of desert encroachment.
The inescapable truth is that, though the herders’ menace is not
exclusive to Nigeria as they seek grazing land across West Africa
and parts of East Africa, a complex mix of politics, ethnic identity,
religion, criminality and weak political and security environment
has escalated Nigeria’s case to the level of naked terror. The basic
problem is the destruction of farm crops when cattle are left un-
herded by the nomadic Fulani herdsmen or natives. Across the
country, especially in Northern states, churches, homes, farms and
passenger-laden vehicles are brazenly attacked, villages razed and
taken over while police and soldiers are also killed in droves.
In Ghana, Akufo-Addo said that a lasting solution would be to
create ranches, including veterinary centres, in the Afram plains
and the Kwawu areas, for restricted cattle grazing. But here,
Buhari blamed the environment, in June; he later blamed politicians
whom he accused of fuelling “clashes” to gain advantage in the
2019 elections and discredit his government; in April, while meeting
the Archbishop of Canterbury, he blamed the killings on militants
armed and trained by the late Libyan dictator, Muammar Gaddafi,
who were displaced after his fall seven years ago. Like his Defence
Minister, Mansur Dan-Ali, Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim
Idris, Myetti Allah and other Fulani apologists, with no legal
backing, he promotes the fiction of grazing routes and reserves to
all over the country to which herders are entitled, but which have
been blocked. And unlike the Myetti Allah hubris, the National
Council of Fulani Chiefs in Ghana had sought the approval of the
government to set up task forces to help arrest and hand over to
the security agencies for prosecution all Fulanis suspected of
having committed any criminal offences or breached the directives
to confine their cattle in “Kraals” or ranches. One line of thought
that this government is dangerously ignoring is the herders’
transition from vigilantes protecting their cows to jihadists.
Before he became president, Buhari had similarly demonstrated
jaundiced diagnosis of the Boko Haram’s evil mission. For
instance, in 2013, he asked the government to stop its clampdown
on Boko Haram because Niger Delta militants were never killed,
nor were their property destroyed. Comparing the two, he said,
“They (Niger Delta militants) were trained in some skills and were
given employment, but the ones in the North were being killed and
their houses were being burnt.” At another point, he led a team to
Oyo State to protest the alleged killings of the Fulani people by Oyo
farmers. It turned out however that it was the herdsmen who were
actually doing most of the killings.
But many Nigerians have seen through the Buhari government’s
insincerity. Moved by the serial massacres, Theophilus Danjuma, a
retired Lt.-General and former Chief of Army Staff, declared that
what was going on in Taraba State was “an attempt at ethnic
cleansing” and asserted: “Our Armed Forces are not neutral. If you
are depending on the armed forces to stop the killings, you will all
die, one by one.” A Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, rightly described
the herders’ onslaught as a declaration of war, with their weapon of
“undiluted terror”. Even a known pacifist and former military Head
of State, Yakubu Gowon, has had to abandon the call for prayer
and ask the government to act like a government. They can’t all be
The sanguinary activities of Fulani herdsmen, together with those
of Boko Haram, have earned Nigeria the dubious distinction of
being third after Iraq and Afghanistan, in the league of nations with
the worst form of terrorism globally. Others are Pakistan and
Life is sacrosanct and this is enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.
As the herders’ killings constitute an affront to the supreme law of
the land, the least the Nigerian State should do is to bring the
perpetrators to book. In the face of an unwilling Federal
Government, state governors whose citizens are victims of this
appalling bestiality should adopt all legal means to protect their
people. Unless the Fulani terrorism is drastically dealt with,
Nigeria’s survival is perched on the brink.

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