Recent developments in Plateau state have reminded us that the issue of security and national coexistence is increasing becoming more tenuous and challenging in spite of the claims by the Army and government about its success of securing the nation. This follows another herdsmen attack on villagers sequestered in a school for protection in Rotsu village Nkyie-Dighuro of Bassa local government, despite dusk to dawn curfew and the presence of soldiers.
The problem of violent clashes in Plateau and most parts of the Middle Belt between herdsman and indigenous farmers escalated early in the life of this administration, and boiled over last week with an invasion that left about a 100 people dead, according to the youths of the village.
Conflicts and ethnics clashes in Plateau have been perennial and began in 2000 when Fulani settlers and their host communities embarked on killing each for the rights of control and domination. It was so serious that a state of emergency was eventually declared in the state to allow the military take firm action to resolve the crisis. A Special military Task force was set and has been in operation since then. Relative peace returned to Plateau with only occasional skirmishes until the election of President Buhari in 2015.
However, the emergence of herdsmen as a new threat to life and property in the entire north central region also began in Plateau, and spilling over to southern Kaduna and Benue state especially Agatu where over 700 people were killed including a convoy of security personnel. Beside the immediate cause of the conflicts which is rationalized as control over grazing and farming rights between the indigenous people and herdsmen, there is also the question of religion: Most of the affected regions and areas are predominantly Christian communities.
For this to be happening in a government that came to power on the mandate to guarantee security in the country is worrisome; and for government to only make statements of condemnation about it and practically do nothing effective to stop such orgy of violence is irresponsible and even criminal. For the president to describe it as reprisal attacks gives it a certain colour of justification and legitimacy, which is not only disappointing but an abdication of constitutional duty sworn to protect all Nigerians.
There is no justification for the reign of terror in Plateau and most parts of the north central, whether reprisal or not. Government is in existence to ensure that people do not take laws into their hands – that is self or jungle justice – the law of might is right; it negates the existence of the state and undermines the very election of President Buhari.
Although the military had set up a special task force in the region and created new battalions in southern Kaduna and environs, it is unfortunate that the recent killings took place under the military’s nose and affected people in their direct protection, leaving suspicions and insinuations of complicity and sabotage.
It is even sadder that the Myatti Allah, the umbrella body of herdsmen, is threatening to unleash mayhem if Benue state implements the Anti grazing law passed by the state House of Assembly and expected to come into force by November 1, 2017.
For this reason, Gov. Ortom had to visit President Buharu to obtain assurances and support for the law. This is not only reckless, but lawless and unacceptable. It is a further proof that the president is not neutral and our federation is toothless and ineffective and cannot provide an effective and sustainable basis for peace and unity.
What is happening in Plateau and elsewhere must stop and both the government and the military should take responsibility for this ugly development. Until people are sanctioned for failing in their duty they may never be alive to their responsibility. Soldiers are sent to a place to protect life and property and when this goal is vitiated either through acts of commission or omission, somebody must be held accountable. The life of every Nigerian should be precious to security officers.
It must be said that President Buhari has not shown sufficient commitment, determination and neutrality in stamping out this menace that is posing greater danger to collective existence than even the Boko Haram insurgency. Whether this perception is real or imagined is secondary because action speaks louder than voice and his action against the herdsmen has been tame and tendentious. If he could send a whole battalion against an armless group like IPOB, the president has no defence to be reconciliatory toward to the herdsmen. He should renounce his position as patron of Miyati Allah because he is president of all Nigerians.
This newspaper joins others groups and well meaning Nigerians in condemning such carnage and demand that the killings in Plateau must stop and call on President Buhari to find a permanent solution to it. He must remember that power is transient and his tenure will definitely come to an end; and his tacit support for the herdsmen is hardening positions and may become a source of future reprisals against the herdsmen setting the stage for more ethnic conflagration.