The ruinous activities of suspected herdsmen was a major subject of discourse in the House of Representatives last Tuesday. The debate on the menace rampaging herdsmen across the nation, which was necessitated by the recent killing of 73 people in Benue State by suspected herdsmen, brought to the fore once again, the challenge herders/ farmers clashes pose to the country.
It also exposed the psychology of most of the lawmakers on the issue. After a very robust debate on a motion on the need for the government to declare a state of emergency on security in the country as result of killings arising from attacks from suspected herdsmen, the lower chamber of the National Assembly resolved to interface with heads of security agencies to find out measures been put in place to stem the ugly development. The House also resolved to hold a public hearing on herdsmen/ farmers clash, which has become a regular occourance across the country. However, some of the lawmakers, particularly Hon Sadiq Ibrahim and Aisha Dukku from Adamawa and Gombe states respectively completely missed the point. In their respective contributions, both lawmakers tried to underplay the enormity of the crisis by injecting tribal sentiments.
Speaking on the matter, Ibrahim blamed the crisis in Benue State on the Anti-Open Grazing law recently enacted by the state government. According to him, “the herdsman needs our pity. Nature has been harsh to him and government has not taken adequate care of him.The herdsman needs our protection.They lack the comfort that you and I take for granted. Their lives is completely attached to the animal they rear.
“You cannot make law and ban open grazing while you have not provided alternatives. We have to make sacrifices. The history of mankind is the history migration. We all have to make sacrifices in one way or another in order to address this problem holistically,”
While on her part, Dukku said the problem is as a result of tribal intolerance, stating that the average herdsman values the animal, he rears more than his own life. My deduction from this is that a man who values the lives of the cattle in his care more than his own life, will not see anything wrong in taking the life or lives of anyone, he perceives as an impediment to the wellbeing of the animal (s) in his care. Too bad.
Supposing, but not conceding that the Anti- Open Grazing law in Benue is responsible for the recent attack in the state, is it enough to slaughter defenceless citizens? Before the massacre in Benue, suspected herdsmen unleashed mayhem in Nimbo in Enugu State; the other day it was Taraba and not long ago, students in a primary school in Ikpoba Okha local government area were displaced ftom their classrooms by cattle. These are all states, where anti-open grazing laws have not been enacted. In fact, there is hardly any state in the Southern Nigeria and North Central, where these purveyors of violence have not struck. What explaination would Hon Ibrahim give for this?
Rather than try to rationalise the heinous crimes of suspected herdsmen against their fellow country men and women, the Adamawa lawmaker should be bothered about the security implication of the herdsmen crisis for the country. Hon Ibrahim talked about protecting the herdsmen, what about the farmers, who are at the receiving end of the activities of the herders, don’t they deserve protection too? Should what is good for the goose, not equally be good for the gander?
Like Hon John John Dyegh queried during the debate, is it fair for a herdsman to enter a farmland, destroy the crops, defile women and kill the farmer? Is it right? My take from the last Tuesday debate is that people has lost faith in the government to protect them. This should worry everyone, including those at the helm of affairs in the country. I agree with members of the House that the government lacks the political will to tackle the menace.
During the campaigns for 2015 general election, Nigerians were regaled with tales of how President Muhammadu Buhari as Chief of Army Staff in 1982 fought Chadian rebels, who invaded the country to a standstill. Ironically, same Buhari as President and Commander in Chief of the armed forces has failed in protecting his country men and women from blood thirsty criminals, masqurading as herdmen. It is hard to tell why government was quick in taking decisive steps to stop cattle rustling, but the cannot protect hapless farmers from suspected herdsmen.
I equally do not understand why the Executive arm of government was quick to deploy soldiers to the South East for Operation Python Dance to crush the Indegenous People of Biafra(IPOB) , but has not deemed it neccessary to declare a military operation against suspected herdsmen killings Nigerians across the country at will. I don’t understand. The implication is that the National Assembly is now the last hope of Nigerians as far as stopping these kilings by suspected herdsmen is concerned. It is a challenge the House must not shy away from. I expect the House, as representatives of the people, to take up the gauntlet and stop the killings. It is good the House has resolved to interface with the heads of security agency on the issues. But the question is after the interface with the security chiefs, what else? After the public hearing on the herders/ farmers clash, what else? I expect the Green Chamber to go beyond mere interface with security chiefs and public hearing.
The House must insist that all previous motions, it has passed on the herdsmen crisis are implemented by the government. In getting to the root of this crisis, one expects the House to let Nigerians know who are the owners of the cattle, that has led to incessant clashes between herdsmen and farmers. Where are the herdsmen from? Are they truely Nigerians or foreigners as we are sometimes told. This is because often time, when suspected herdsmen kill defenceless Nigerians,we are told that the herdsman are foreigners. If that is true, then it makes the issue even more serious than we think. For if foreigners can come into the country at will and kill our people, while our security agencies watch helplessly, then the country is serious trouble. That is the say any of the surrounding countries can invade Nigeria if and whenever they want.
The House for once must square up to the executive. It must force the hand of the executive to do the right. The Green Chamber must tell President Buhari in very clear terms that by watching idly why suspected herdsmen unleash mayhem on innocent and defenceless Nigerians, he is breaching his oath of office. The lawmaker must also tell the Commander-in- Chief that the failure of the government to protect the people is a gross violation of the constitution, which he took an oath to defend. And that is impeachable. Just perhaps, President Buhari does not know.
Methinks that federal lawmakers, as leaders in their own rights, irrespective of tribe or religious persuasion should see killings by suspected herdsmen across the country as threat to the unity of the country. This is the time for members of the House to rise up in defence of the people.