After the New Year day Benue massacre by armed herdsmen, the Minister of Defense, Brigadier-General Mansur Mohammed Dan-Ali said the massacre took place because the cattle routes were blocked. He unequivocally asserted that the killings were provoked by the Benue State’s anti-grazing law which he described as deliberate and unfavourable state policy.
This statement did not go down well with many Nigerians. He was accused of speaking the mind of the Nigerian government given the fact that not even a member of the Buhari-led government nor the President himself, could see anything wrong in such a statement.
Ever since, killings and maimings of Nigerian citizens by these herdsmen have continued, not only in Benue State, but across the North-Eastern States and is now spreading to the Southern part of the country.
The indifferent posture of the Federal Government to the plight of the victims of these herdsmen’s attacks has rather illicited statements and reactions from notable Nigerians who have suggested self defense as possible solution to the incessant attacks.
General Theophilus Y. Dannjuma, former Minister of Defense, had in March this year, asked Nigerians, especially the people of Taraba State, his home state, to protect themselves or risk being killed by herdsmen.
Danjuma said, “you must rise to protect yourselves from these people, if you depend on the armed forces to protect you, you will all die”.
The former Minister of Defence accused the military of colluding with the herdsmen and creating routes for them to carry out the attacks. His statement, though some have condemned it, is capable of causing anarchy in the land. Yet, some well-meaning Nigerians hold the view that the precarious situation makes his advice for self-defense inevitable and well timed.
While Nigerians still expect the Federal Government to come hard on perpetrators of these daily killings, the proposed meeting of the service chiefs with President Muhammadu Buhari, barely a week ago raised so much hope in that direction. Unfortunately, the meeting was held with nothing to show that the President and his service chiefs ever met, let alone taking a look at the killings going on in some parts of the country, particularly the Middle Belt where herdsmen have been accused of masterminding blood baths over grazing routes and farm lands.
As if trying to express an inability of the Federal Government to manage the herdsmen crisis with the even handedness expected of it, the Defense Minister again was bold to reiterate the point he made earlier in the year.
This time, he did not only re-echoe his earlier stand that the passage of anti-open grazing law was responsible for the killings in Benue, Taraba and Ekiti states, he advocated for the suspension of the implementation of the anti-open grazing laws.
For such a statement to come from the Defense Minister, after a meeting that had no communiqué, one wonders if Mansur Dan Ali is relating the resolve of the meeting. Could he be speaking the mind of the Federal Government?
If that is the case, then, were the laws not more likely a consequence of the killings in those states than a cause? How then can Dan Ali explain the cause of the killings in states yet to pass the same law? Why justify herdsmen’s strong-arm antics, probably because one is a stakeholder in the herding business?
I do not want to believe that the so-called Fulani herdsmen are stronger than Nigeria, neither has it become clear that President Buhari is unable to manage the herdsmen crisis squarely. I rather smell the ever intimidating presence of a cabal in the herding sector for which some notable names in Nigerian politics cannot deny membership.
Otherwise, how do these talakawas who move about with the herds get sophisticated wea-pons? What strengthens mere herdsmen to revolt against the law? And why would the authority be so weak to the point of justifying deviants’ actions and calling for pacifying measure instead?
However, whether the Federal Government likes it or not, Nigerians and internationalcommunity expect it to proactively curb the killings and then address the remote and immediate causes of the crisis. It is expected of the government to bring the killers to justice and quickly stop the blood bath and not to fiddle with who or what to blame.
After all, laws are made to be obeyed while the hurt seek redress from the court. The Federal Government must be compelled to find lasting and structural solutions to this flow of blood and not to keep blaming the anti-open grazing law for the carnage.