Fiddling with cobra's tail By Dele Adeoluwa - Paul Ukpabio's Blog


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Friday, 5 February 2021

Fiddling with cobra's tail By Dele Adeoluwa

There is a dangerous rumble from the damp sky. The clouds are heavy, threatening to rain. But it is in the interest of everyone that the looming rain does not fall, because if it does, the devastation from the accompanying storm will be quite imponderable.


The murderous activities of herdsmen began like a flicker. It started with isolated clashes between the herders and farmers in local communities. The former, more often than not, would, in a fit of audacity, invade farmlands with their cattle. And by the time they leave, all the months of sweats of the particular farmer-victim would be gone.


Any dare from the farmer to raise a whimper could cause him his life. Many farmers have been hacked to death this way.


The murderous dimension to the herders’ activities is, however, a recent development. In the past, herders used to live peacefully with their host communities. I grew up in the village, for example, to know a place we called Gaa, a Fulani herders’ settlement in the outskirts of town. And I recall with nostalgia how we looked forward to consuming Wara Kashi, a rich delicacy produced from cow milk, after school.


The Fulani settlers were very friendly with the locals. On market days, their women would go peacefully to sell their Wara Kashi and other items and return in the evening. They would mingle with the locals, chatting excitedly together.


And most times, on our way to the farm, we used to exchange pleasantries with the herders as they grazed their cattle, clutching only sticks and machetes without hurting any fly. They avoided farmlands as they plied their trade. And I suppose that was the situation in most communities in the country then.


However, this beautiful communal spirit has been largely strictured. The story has since changed. At a point, foreign herders began to seep into the country like torrents, infiltrating the locals. The violent-inclined, AK-47-clutching herders soon emerged to change the whole narrative.

As they say, where there is no law, there is no sin; because the gun-toting herders were hardly checked, they grew more daring and vile by the day. They became lords onto themselves.


From merely brazenly marching on farmlands, they graduated into raping, kidnapping and killing outright. And from isolated cases, the herders’ vicious activities became recurrent. Today, the murderous herders are ubiquitous, despoiling communities.


The scary dimension their challenge has assumed is a pointer to how a flicker of fire you set yourself can end up consuming a whole edifice with your eyes wide open, if you just watch it grow and lap its way into an inferno.


True, the violent activities of herdsmen presaged the Buhari administration. But they were not this pronounced until this administration mounted the saddle. And this is an administration came in with a lot of goodwill. Candidate Muhammadu Buhari was a phenomenon, widely accepted in the runoff to the 2015 electoral contest both in the North and Southwest. He had ardent followers, even in some South-south and Southeast states.


Change was the mantra. Everybody wanted the “wobbling” and “fumbling” Goodluck Jonathan administration out by all means. And fondly loved candidate Buhari was the rallying-point of that popular desire for change. The rest, as they say, is history.


However, a chunk of the administration’s goodwill is being frittered away with its loud reticence in handling the activities of killer-herders.  With security agencies treating the violent-inclined, gun-toting herders with kid gloves, probably reading the administration’s ‘body language’, any wonder that they continue to grow in their cavalier and haughty carriage. They carry on with a kind of ’this-is-our-government’ mentality and ride roughshod over local communities.


This is the crux of the matter. The administration has not shown a demonstrable will to tame them. That is why the problem festers and the herders gallivant as if they are above the law.


The ultimatum served the herders in Ondo State and the attack on their leaders in Oyo are both symptomatic of the inevitable result of pushing the people to the wall. The elders say when you chase a goat to a blind alley, it will turn and face you.


Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu(SAN), is a die-hard Buhari supporter and is not known to be a frivolous person. But he has the onus to discharge his electoral mandate of ensuring the security of lives and properties, which is the first responsibility of government. Murderous herders have almost turned Ondo into the headquarters of kidnapping. No responsible government will fold its hands and watch things degenerate further. So, I believe the governor is in order as long as the action is aimed at ridding the state of criminals, while genuine ones ply their trade in peace.


So, from my reading of the quit notice, it was not a blanket order. It was primarily targeted at the criminal elements among the herders. At least, genuine ones were not included in the quit order; they were only enjoined to register with the government.


As for the Oyo attack, it was ostensibly a desperate reaction to a desperate situation. Kidnapper-herders simply went haywire in Igangan and environs in Oke Ogun, Oyo State. The situation was despicable. People were frequently kidnapped and made to pay huge ransoms. Worse still, women, including housewives, were being raped, many times in the presence of their husbands!


However, I will not support jungle justice in whatever form because not only is it primitive, it is fraught with dangerous repercussions. You only know the beginning; it is difficult to predict the outcome. That is why I believe that Governor Seyi Makinde deserves kudos for his mature approach to the crisis. Let the folk hero, Sunday Igboho, and the others ally with the government’s security apparatus like the police, Amotekun, local hunters and approved vigilance groups to constantly raid the forests; just like it was done some weeks back when some of the criminal elements were flushed out of Ibarapa forests by a combined force of the police, Amotekun and others. Genuine and peace-loving herders were even said to have joined  in  that operation. Let Oyo State government invest more in this strategy that co-opts genuine herders, who, in fact, can be useful in intelligence since they know the bad eggs among them. This is Governor Makinde’s commendable approach. He should consolidate on it to rid the state of these villains and ignore detractors. The results will in the long run vindicate him.


Thank goodness that reason eventually prevailed in both instances when the critics of the developments were availed of the true picture of what really happened.


The Buhari administration has made some commendable strides in many sectors for which it will be remembered for good, but its reticence over the herders challenge has been a serious blight. Let it shore up its waning goodwill on this score by frontally checking the herders’ egregious tendencies for once.


The change of service chiefs, coming after strident calls for it, is commendable. At least, two of the security chiefs are southerners (Edo and Delta). Mr President should, however, go the hog by diluting his security ‘cabinet’ further with more appointments from other sections of the country, if only to prove that he listens after all. He should jettison security chiefs who are not helping the administration’s image by pandering to ethnic sympathies and replace them with those who will muster the courage to clip the herders’ overgrown wings.


Things must not be allowed to degenerate further because the patience of the people is being stretched almost beyond breaking points. They are getting to the stage of reacting spontaneously. This is patently dangerous. We cannot, therefore, continue to carry on as if all is well. Otherwise, we will be fiddling with the cobra’s tail. Remember: no nation can survive two civil wars!

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