By Nathaniel Ikyur
Nigerian farmers and herders have really not been too friendly. There has been some animosity between them over grazing activities of cattle. Anytime herds graze on farmlands, destroying crops in the process, violence erupts. While the herdsmen claim rights for their cattle, as their source of economic sustainability, the crops are the source of economic life for the farmers. Somehow, this fragile peace was managed until 2015 when Muhammadu Buhari won election as President of Nigeria. From there, everything changed.
The herdsmen became more violent, taking on communities, daring authorities on all sides. Interestingly, none of their leaders has been arrested for questioning. One wonders whether the audacity of leaders of these Fulani socio-cultural groups has anything in common with the mindset of the federal authorities, or a game plan hatched long ago.
Looking back, we have had former Nigerian Presidents of Fulani extraction like the late Alhaji Shehu Shagari and Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. Yet, we didn’t see this impunity. We didn’t come in contact with a murderous gang of cattle rearers who invaded communities, killed people in their sleep and destroyed farmlands as we are currently experiencing under President Buhari. We didn’t see where a Fulani organisaistion dared a community, issued and carried out their threats, with no one questioning them. Could Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore be emboldened because of the body language of Mr. President?
We were, therefore, not surprised when the national president of Miyetti Allah, Alhaji Abdullahi Bodejo, in an interview in The Sun newspaper, published on Saturday, January 23, 2021, made some scathing remarks against Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom over the governor’s stand on the menace of Fulani herdsmen in the state. Governor Ortom has always stood for the protection of life and property for everyone in Benue. This is the same life that armed herdsmen who are believed to be members of Badejo’s association, the Miyetti Allah, have serially violated through wanton killings, moving from community to community.
Governor Ortom had in 2018 called for the arrest and prosecution of the Miyetti Allah chief, Alhaji Badejo, for making inciting and inflamatory statements. Sadly, Badejo never got any invite from the police or the Department of State Services (DSS).
Badejo’s recent outburst against Governor Ortom could, therefore, be traced to the governor’s stand against open grazing in the state. This is pursuant to the 2017 Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law. The governor has encouraged Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore or anyone who wants to rear cattle in the state to follow the prescription as contained in the law and not to circumvent the process.
It is absurd for Badejo, whose members have serially invaded communities and killed hapless citizens of Benue, from Agatu to Logo, Guma, Makurdi, Gwer East, Gwer West, Kwande and Tarka, among many others, leaving a trail of blood, to come out to cast aspersions on Governor Ortom to whip up sentiments where they don’t even exist.
Instead of apologising to the people of Benue and indeed Nigeria at large for the heinous and murderous activities of Miyetti Allah members in the state, Bodejo has chosen to divert attention to Governor Ortom, who, incidentally, opened the eyes of other governors in the country to the evil agenda of the group to attack, conquer and devour their host communities.
Indeed, we are not surprised at the hatred Miyetti Allah and its allies nurse against the person of Governor Ortom. It is because Ortom resisted the establishment of cattle colonies, also known as RUGA settlements in the state, that has made Badejo and his acolytes hate him more. But it is an open secret that Ortom has exhibited an uncommon courage in the defence of Benue. He has shown tenacity of purpose in administering the state, displayed undying love for his subjects, resilience against forces of darkness and obsession with good governance.
I wish to remind the Miyetti Allah helmsman that the primary responsibility of any government is the security of life and property as well as the welfare of the people. And the people of Benue are proud to have Governor Ortom, who has performed excellently in protecting his people from the criminal activities of marauding and unrepentant groups. Governor Ortom would rather protect his people than kowtow to some blood-thirsty criminals.
Let it be known that this new utterance by Bodejo is another attempt to incite and a direct invitation for anarchy against the state. It is not only a threat to the peace of this country but also a prelude to another round of attacks on Benue. Let it be known that no group should be above the law to stand and be dictating to states on how to accord preference to it at the expense of other Nigerians. Miyetti Allah’s persistence in making these inflamatory statements is capable of stirring crises in the country.
Miyetti Allah, through Bodejo, is known for issuing threats to Benue. Sometime in 2017, he threatened Benue people because Governor Ortom signed the Open Grazing and Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law passed by the Benue State House of Assembly. This threat was carried out on New Year eve 2018 when their armed militia murdered 73 innocent persons in their sleep. The armed herdsmen have severally destroyed properties worth millions of naira and displaced over 500,000 people in Guma, Makurdi, Gwer West, Buruku and Logo LGAs who are still squatting in various IDP camps.
It is not for Badejo to stand in judgement against the performance of Governor Ortom or demand accountability.
But suffice it to say that the governor has performed creditably in his almost six years in all sectors. This cuts across the education sub-sector, agrculture, trade and investments where low interest loans are facilitated for the people in a partnership with the Bank of Industry for small and medium enterprises for their businesses. There has been huge improvement in the construction of road networks across the state, health, security, etc. And the activities of people like Badejo and groups like Miyetti Allah are drawing us backwards.
It has become glaring that when we don’t sanction those who violate the sanity of lives, but are allowed to walk freely, we are only encouraging anarchy. Miyetti Allah has been too brazen in this. They speak out as if they are authorities unto themselves. It is high time the likes of Badejo and his co-conspirators are made to pay for the crimes they aid and abet. Or do we have two sets of citizenship in Nigeria? Except we’re being told that some individuals are greater than the law.
•Ikyur is principal special assistant on media to Benue State Governor