Opinion

Benue did not evict Fulani

In the last few days, the Nigerian media has been awash with news reports, credited to the Governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed wherein he made spurious deductions on the raging insecurity in Nigeria, propelled by the territorial conquest by armed Fulani herdsmen across the country.

In his speech at a public function in Bauchi, Governor Mohammed went a step further to directly accuse the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom of in hos words, “starting all this.” This is a fallacy.

Let it be known to Governor Mohammed and all who share his line of thoughts that the government of Benue state under Governor Ortom never evicted anyone, not tribe or ethnic group from the state for whatever reasons. And accusing Governor Ortom for poor handling of the farmer herder crisis is just but sitting truth on its head.

It is uncontestable that Governor Ortom was the first to sign the Open-Grazing Prohibition Law in Nigeria in 2017 when it was not fashionable to do so. This bold step was informed by the killings, raping and destruction of communities across Benue State by armed Fulani herdsmen.

The people of the state rose up to put a stop to this and demanded that the government enact a law banning open grazing in the state. Public hearings were conducted in the three senatorial zones where all stakeholders were given opportunity to make input. Thereafter, the Benue State Assembly passed the law which was assented to by the governor in July 2017.

The decision by the Governor and the people of Benue state was to find a lasting solution to the farmers-herders crisis and has nothing to do with ethnicity or religion. It is about the sanctity of human life. To Governor Ortom, every human life matters, whether it is Tiv, Fulani, Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, Jukun, Idoma, Igede, Etulo, Ijaw, Tarok, Mada, Urhobo etc.

When we say killer Fulani herdsmen, we are not referring to Fulani as a race but we are referring to those criminal elements who are hiding under pastoralism to commit murder, banditry, kidnapping and other crimes. Anyone who willingly and deliberately terminates the life of another human being can never be our friends or neighbours. And if you kill and we know, we must surely speak out.

The government of Governor Ortom did not and will not profile or disparage the law abiding and peaceful Fulanis. We refer Mr. Governor Mohammed to the backpage of Daily Trust of Thursday, February 11, 2021, written by a Fulani woman who knows the truth and is saying the truth.

It is shocking that a governor who once served as the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, a position similar to governing a state will choose to be blind to the atrocities perpetrated by killer herdsmen who do not only carry AK-47 but invade communities across the country, kill, maim, rape our mother’s and daughters. This is a governor who swore on oath to protect lives and properties but want this to be swept away.

If truth must be told, tribal or religious sentiments will not do this nation any good. We have a challenge on our hands and we must not allow clannish interests to defeat the efforts Governor Ortom and other patriots have been making to end killings in the country.

The Bauchi state governor also made a loose reference to the Tiv people who are in Bauchi state farming in various communities. The question we would want to ask is this: are these Tiv people also killing their host communities and seizing up their lands as is the case with these murderous Fulani herdsmen?

If Governor Bala Mohammed is justifying that killer Fulani herdsmen carry AK- 47 for self-defence, why is it that they do not defend themselves against bandits who rustle their cattle but instead chose to vent their terror on innocent and hapless farmers who neither rustle their cattle or attack them?

If they are carrying AK-47 for self-defence, why can’t the AK-47 carrying herders rid the forests of those deadly bandits that rustle their livestock and kill them? Is it legal for the herdsmen to bear arms? It is surprising that Governor Mohammed has no empathy for the victims of the murderous and criminal activities of killer Fulani herders.

Again, since herdsmen are now carrying AK-47 for self-defence, should we also allow our farmers and other Nigerians who are being robbed, kidnapped and killed everyday to bear arms in self defence? Or is Governor Mohammed denying the many deaths of innocent Nigerians in the hands of the French speaking Fulani herdsmen?

It is interesting now that even the northern governors and indeed the 36 governors who refused to take sides with Governor Ortom that it was impracticable to have ranching in Nigeria have now endorsed the ban on open grazing. This is a welcome development for the peace and unity of this country.

Nathaniel Ikyur is a Principal Special Assistant on Media to Governor of Benue State

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