There are about 20 armed groups operating in Nigeria, necessitating a string of military operations and exercises in about 30 out 36 states of the federation. From ‘’Operation Lafia Dole’’ that is battling Boko Haram insurgency in the North East to ‘’Operation Awatse’’ that was launched to tackle militant activities sabotaging oil pipe lines and other infrastructure in the South West and ‘’Operation Crocodile Smile’’ against activities of Niger Delta Avengers whose militant activities destroyed much of Nigeria’s oil and gas infrastructure in the oil rich region, Nigeria’s internal security architecture has become overtly militarized. This is a clear but worrisome indicator that Nigeria is in a state of undeclared war; not with an enemy nation but with itself.
Despite this near total militarization of internal security in order to contain the menace of these armed groups, the security situation in Nigeria has continued to deteriorate. The deadly Boko Haram terror group, whose violent activities is estimated to have claimed the lives of over 20,000 Nigerians in the past eight years has yielded its leading position as the major challenge to Nigeria’s security to Marauding killer herdsmen. Whereas, Boko Haram insurgency is mostly confined to the North Eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, the violent activities of Killer herdsmen stretch across the entire length and breadth of Nigeria leaving a higher number of casualties. In 2017 alone, an estimated 598 Nigerians perished in the hands of killer herdsmen. The trend is on the rise as over 1000 people have been slaughtered at different locations in the first four months of 2018 in a daily killing orgy. The killing of over 80 men, women and children in Benue state in January comes close to the daily casualty rate of 160 deaths per day in the on-going Syrian civil war, which according to the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, SOHR, has claimed a total of 360,000 lives in seven years.
The intractability of the menace of the killer herdsmen much like the Boko Haram insurgency is as a result of deliberate distortion, obscuring and denial of its nature, motive and identity of perpetrators. If Boko Haram is a conflict faith and citizenship, with the former triumphant arising from a radical Islamic ideology that denounces Nigeria’s multi-religious, secular constitutional democracy as inconsistent with their brand of Islam thereby seeking its total destruction to make way for an Islamic state with ties to a unified global Muslim community [Ummah] under a single administration by Sharia [Caliphate], then the Killer herdsmen menace is similarly a conflict between culture and law and order arising from a rigid insistence on a nomadic lifestyle that can longer be sustained in the face of modern day economic reality of land redistribution to accommodate other diverse economic interests. There must be a clear definition of cause and effect through a thorough diagnosis of a security situation before the deployment of military hardware to contain otherwise military effort will be greatly hampered as a result of lack of clarity of the security subject matter.
Like the Muslim community in Nigeria denied Boko Haram insurgents are not Muslims, there appears to be a concerted effort to obscure the cultural identity of killer herdsmen by the various interest groups. Conspiracy theories abound that have confused and confounded many about the nature and motives of these killings. These conspiracy theories have been given impetus by a government that clearly lacks the political will to call a spade a spade and hence fails to contain these numerous internal conflicts of ultimate self-immolation is because leading figures of the political leadership in recent times are individually afflicted by these psychological conflicts of either between their faith and citizenship or the imperatives of their cultural practices violates the rule of law and order or both in a multi-religious/cultural secular constitutional democracy such as Nigeria. These conflicts are discernable in the personality of President Muhammadu Buhari as reflected in his internal security and defence policies. From blaming infiltrating Islamists Jihadists from all over the Sahel to invasion by Muamar Gadhafi’s ‘’trained and armed fighters’’ and now ‘’opposition parties’’ the Buhari administration has made futile attempts at covering smoke with a basket. President Buhari’s inherent conflict between his citizenship and his cultural identity in which the latter appears to be triumphant has hampered his ability to uphold law and order firmly as the Commander in Chief thereby greatly undermining national security. While he launched a decisive military operation against cattle rustling in the North West, he has failed to do same in Central Nigeria. His infamous remark about ‘’the need to accommodate one another’’ is a subtle emotional blackmail on farmer communities to yield their land to cattle breeders for unrestrained grazing under the forceful intimidation of killer herdsmen. Another clue as to the identity and motive of killer herdsmen is discernable from the sustained opposition to the anti-open grazing laws in Benue and Taraba states by the umbrella body Fulani cattle breeders in Nigeria, Miyetti Allah, first with threats of violence against the enactment of the law and later justification of mass killings of members of farmer communities on the implementation is a clear indicator this underlining conflict between culture and law and order. The Fulani traditional and political leadership establishment from among who are top ranking patrons of the Miyetti Allah are near unanimous in aligning with this standpoint. The Fulani leadership went an extra mile to take ownership of these killings when it justified the carnage in Benue as a reprisal for earlier mass killings of the Fulani in Taraba by Mambila ethnic militia men. Therefore, it is safe to draw a conclusion that killer herdsmen mostly recruited from Central and Western Africa are carrying out attacks including vengeful reprisals on farmer communities on behalf of Nigeria’s indigenous Fulani cattle breeders with whom they share ethnic and cultural affiliation.
No thanks to government inertia, which the marauders have taking as a tacit approval of their murderous enterprise, the violent activities of killer herdsmen has progressed from being an ethnic self-defence militia for cattle breeders against aggressive farmer communities [farmers/herders clash] to an emboldened attacking force of vicious killers destroying farmer communities in the lush vegetative belt of central and southern Nigeria to make way for unrestrained cattle grazing of cultivated farmlands [terrorists].
By viewing the murderous activities of killer herdsmen through the narrow prism of farmer/herder clashes, the Buhari administration has failed to realize that victims of killer herdsmen are mostly not members of clashing farmer communities but innocent and unarmed citizens who are soft targets because of their shared ethnic affiliation and close geographic proximity with hostile farmer communities. The recent invasion of a catholic church in Benue by killer herdsmen during morning mass, which left 19 people dead including the parish priest and his assistant[ May Allah admit their souls into paradise] is a practical example their raging terrorism against defenceless citizens.
By condescending into the theatrics of ethnic solidarity, President Buhari has neglected his most fundamental responsibility as Commander in Chief, which is the securing of lives and properties of Nigerians and in this instance the prevention of a single loss of life arising from disputes between farmers and herders over the economics of land utilization. This failure of leadership is rapidly transforming the Nigerian territory into a thoroughfare where marauding killer herdsmen pour in unhindered from West and Central Africa and wreaking havoc on helpless citizens.