Herdsmen terror as Buhari’s re-election challenge, by Jaafar Jaafar

Daily Nigerian
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Jaafar Jaafar

“The Fulani man that we know was at peace with his neighbour not criminal and diabolic. The Fulani man that we know used a shepherding stick but not an AK 47 riffle. Of course society is dynamic and keeps changing. So a Fulani man may not only walk on foot but move on a motor bike; he not only drinks fula de nono (sic) but drink beer and eat pepper soup. These are indices of a changing society. Hence, we call on the Fulani man to adapt to the modern world view and engage in activities that will be beneficial both to him and to society in general.”

Above is an extract from a homily delivered Thursday by the Catholic Bishop of Gboko, Most Reverend William A. Avenya, at the funeral service/mass burial for 73 victims of the recent killings by suspected Fulani herdsmen in Benue.

In concurrence with the Most Reverend’s words, it is ironic that the Fulani refuse to adopt modern ways of rearing cattle but subscribe to modernity in commission of crime and pursuit of hedonistic trappings of life. It beats me — to a pulp.

Before the advent of this administration, we hammered on the oft-cited Boko Haram point to always argue ourselves out that Jonathan was incompetent and did not deserve re-election. On Fulani issue, President Muhammadu Buhari is displaying the same indifference and/or complacence former President Goodluck Jonathan exhibited to Boko Haram issue.

While I cannot accuse Buhari of backing the militant herdsmen, I cannot, as a patriotic citizen, keep mum over the spate of killings in the country by the Fulani militants. I did not subscribe to the school of thought that believes Buhari condone Fulani excesses, especially in Middle Belt, because he is Fulani. One easily picks hole in this hypothesis when Zamfara killings by Fulani bandits is cited as a case. In a statewide broadcast in the wake of the searing security challenge in Zamfara State on November 20, 2016, Governor Abdulaziz Yari said a total of 155 people were killed by armed bandits in just one month! According to the governor, 53 people were killed in Shinkafi Local Government Area; 50 in Maru Local Government Area; 37 in Maradun Local Government Area and 15 in Zurmi Local Government Area.

In November 2015, the Global Terrorism Index, GTI, ranked Fulani militants as the fourth deadliest terror group in the world. Paraphrasing the GTI report, the UK Independent said “[a]s much as 92 per cent of their attacks target private citizens, reflecting the group’s primary concern over the ownership of farmland. Each attack claims an average of 11 lives, with the largest known in April 2014 killing as many as 200 people after a group of the militants targeted community leaders and residents during a meeting in central province Zamfara.”

To be fair to President Buhari, farmer-herdsmen clashes, especially in North West, predates even his first coming as military leader in 1983. Same can also be said on Boko Haram, which predates Jonathan administration. But it is baffling for someone who made security the signature tune of his campaign rhetorics to allow the situation go out of his grip.

With the security meltdown in the country today, I cannot score the president high on security. He failed, in my assessment. President Buhari may be scored high for his efforts at reducing and containing Boko Haram insurgency to North East, but we cannot but score him low for allowing kidnapping to spread to the Northern parts of the country, and Fulani militancy to cross over the Niger.

I’m not unmindful of the Mambila Plateau crisis in which dozens of Fulani women and children were killed, hundreds of livestock decimated and many hamlets razed down. However, the scale of violence committed by the Fulani militants in almost all parts of the country makes isolated attacks on them a drop in the bucket.

In retrospect, it seems the security situation in the country is a facsimile of the Jonathan era. If this sloth of a government did not act fast, the same way we cited Boko Haram insurgency in the North East to underscore the incompetence of the Jonathan administration, Fulani militancy in the North Central will be a reference point in 2019 to highlight Buhari’s incompetence.