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Doctrines & Morals
 
 
General…

HERDSMEN KILLINGS, A STATE SPONSORED TERRORISM?

A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping.

Rachel refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.  (Jer 31:15)

As a small boy in my village parish, I used to hear this biblical passage during Stations of the Cross. Later I heard people making reference to it and at a time I found myself also using it. The context of its usage was never a joyful positive one. Sometime in 2016, after the herdsmen killing at Uzo Uwani Nimbo, I heard Bishop Godfrey Onah using this same passage to begin his broadcast. I have never come across the use of this passage in a positive sense. Now let's go to its biblical background. The passage was uttered by God himself as a kind of consolation to the people promising them that they will soon return from exile. This is because of the context and what follows in the next verse. "Thus says the Lord: Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for there is a reward for your work, says the Lord: they shall come back from the land of the enemy; there is hope for your future, says the Lord: your children shall come back to their own country (vv. 16&17). But wait! This message of hope also has a painful background. Journeying from Bethel southwards, Rachel (the beloved wife of Jacob and mother of Joseph) was under a prolonged labour at Ephrath near R?'mah, between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. She gave birth to her son and died on the spot. Before then, he named him Benoni (son of my pain) but Jacob named him Benjamin (a southerner). Rachel was buried here and a monument set (cf. Gen 35:16-21). Many years later, while the Israelites were been taken to exile, they passed through this spot. At that point, the prophet believed that Rachel was weeping from her grave because her children were being deported. Hence, exile in this context becomes a metaphor of death and God's promise of return a metaphor of resurrection. This metaphor of death became a painful prophecy that was fulfilled during the killing of the Holy Innocents in Matt 2:18. Today Rachel the matriarch weeps for Nigerians. Until the day of the resurrection, we have to stand on our two feet and question the agent of death. 

Who is killing us? Who has refused to hear the cry of Mama Rachel? Who is the backbone of the killers? These are the questions we have to ask ourselves. We have been hearing of the Fulani herdsmen killing. Arguments for and against this abound. That there is fear hanging on the air is indisputable. But what are our leaders doing? The body language of the Nigerian government in response to this wanton killing has made many a Nigerian to tag these ugly incidents a state sponsored terrorism. Here, we are not arguing whether or not it is the case. Our main interest is to raise some sensitive questions meant for Buhari led administration and then some words of advice. Not only that state sponsored terrorism is a difficult concept, even the definition of the word terrorism is also a difficult one. Some have seen terrorism from the angle of a non-state group taking up arms. Hence here approval and recognition by a competent authority are lacking. But the idea of a state sponsored terrorism poses a problem to this definition. To avoid all these mental arguments, we look at the etimology of the word which has to do with fear. Hence terrorism is the action of a group aimed at an unarmed population so as to instil fear in them. It is usually carried out for a political or religious aim. When this group is sponsored by the government directly or indirectly against their political opponents, it could be called a state sponsored terrorism. Now we fall back to our question, is the herdsmen killing in Nigeria a state sponsored terrorism?

There have been different opinions on the true identity of these killers. The commonly accepted is that they are herdsmen clashing with farmers when the latter react against the destruction of their farm produce by the cattle. Another group says that the killers are an extension of Boko Haram disguising as herdsmen because ordinary herdsmen are not armed with AK47. Recently Chinua Achebe Centre for Leadership and Development carried out a research with the outcome that the herdsmen with sticks and bows are not the real attackers. The killers operate within the day on buses along the road wherever there are Fulani settlements. Wherever the farmers confront the herdsmen, the latter give information to this their militia operating along the road. Then a day of attack will be fixed. They attack and withdraw before the arrival of the police or the army. Usually these security forces work hand in hand with them. It is very difficult to say who the real killers are. However, this will not be a problem if the government is out to tackle it. The looseness of the truth and instances of the group claiming responsibility for the killing melt any coating attempted at covering the Fulani herdsmen's link to the killing.  The issue further here is that the obvious link of the killing to herdsmen and Fulanis as well as the entire security appariti resting with the Northerners is enough index of a government patriotism.

Recently, the presidential adviser on media and publicity, Femi Adesina pointed out that the herdsmen killing predates Buhari's administration. According to him, more than 700 people were killed by the herdsmen during Jonathan administration. While it is true that herdsmen killing predates Buhari's administration (and in fact it also happens outside Nigeria where there are Fulanis), his statistics of more than 700 casualties during Jonathan's regime is an exaggeration. The recorded death in Jonathan's administration is between 300 and 400. More exaggerated is also his claim that in 2013 alone, there were 9 cases of herdsmen attack in Benue alone and more than 190 people killed. Record has it that there were only 5 attacks in 2013 and out of these only one took place in Benue State namely that of October 7 at Eguma Settlement in Agalie Local Government Area where 6 people were killed and properties destroyed. All the attacks in 2013 that took place in Plateau, Ogun, Benue and Kaduna States, according to statistics, claimed 128 lives. Contrary to his claim that there were about 16 occurrences in 2014, record has it that there were only 3 that year in Kaduna, Benue and Plateau all claiming about 17 lives against Adesina's figure of 231. Adesina also claimed that before the 2015 transition, there were six attacks between January and May 29 claiming 335 lives. Record has it that there was only one attack and that was on May 10 in Benue State claiming the life of a resident even though houses were burnt down. Inasmuch as we have a problem with documentation in Nigeria, herdsmen killing is not something that can easily be taken for granted. Figures may vary. I therefore put it to Femi Adesina to give us the source of his statistics. Research shows that the herdsmen killing came to limelight in July 1999 with the invasion of a village in Karim Lamido in Taraba State. Between 2003 and 2009, the killing subsided. That was the time of Obasanjo's second term in office. On April 21, 2017 Umaru Musa Yar'adua was elected as the president of Nigeria. He went to hospital in Saudi Arabia on November 23, 2009 and the next month the herdsmen killing resurfaced. All these while, the killing has been in North Central. With the emergence of Buhari on the presidential throne, the herdsmen killing entered Igbo land. Today the moribund map has been enlarged to embrace, Adamawa, Nassarawa, Enugu and Imo States. It is also good to bring it to Adesina's notice that the December 2015 attack in Southern Kaduna alone claimed 880 lives with 1,422 houses, 18 churches and 1 primary school torched. Abdulsalami Abubakar on the 30th of October last year in his farm revealed a disturbing statistics that only in 2016, about 2,500 people were killed by the herdsmen. What boggles the mind each time there is an attack is the appearance of police to prevent the herdsmen from a possible reprisal attack.

We have some questions to ask. How come that the killings are taking place wherever there is a Fulani settlement? How come the police is too slow in arresting anybody whenever there is an attack? How come that those arrested even as far back as 2016 have never been brought to book? How is it that the Federal Government quickly labelled IPOB a terrorist group but nothing has been done about the Fulani herdsmen even when they have been globally acknowledged as a terrorist group? Why is the government silent over the recent killing in Benue State? All these throw people into doubt and diminishes the confidence they have in the government to protect them in accordance with Section 14 of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria.

At the end I have some pieces of advice for President Buhari and his government. He must prove beyond reasonable doubt to Nigerians that the herdsmen terrorism is not state sponsored. He must speak out in condemnation of this killing and be more proactive in stopping it. Saying that the killing predates Buhari's administration is begging the question. This is a government that promised us change and part of this change is in the area of security of life and properties. Until this is done, no one should be blamed for seeing all these killings as a state sponsored terrorism. Time may come when the people will take up arms to defend themselves. Till them, let us remember that defense and offence are separated by a thin perforated paper. The end product affects every body. Remember the voice of Mama Rachel. We are children of her pain.  Nigeria will live again.

 


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