There is a narrative that I am yet to understand about the on-going armed invasion of Middle Belt States by Fulani herdsmen. Those in government say we must not address them as FULANI HERDSMEN but simply as herdsmen; they say it is hate speech to call those murderers Fulani herdsmen. So it is hate speech to call those who killed hundreds of our people in Agatu, Guma, Logo and other States of the Federation. Fulani herdsmen, even when their leaders have claimed responsibility for the killings? Do we have Berom herdsmen, Tiv herdsmen, Igbo herdsmen, Akum herdsmen, Ebira herdsmen, Fali herdsmen, Izi-Ezaa-Ikwo-Mgbo herdsmen, Iyive herdsmen, Izere herdsmen, Kubi herdsmen or Etulo herdsmen? Just like trading is associated with Ndigbo and we often refer to them as Igbo traders, so is cattle rearing associated with the Fulani. So where is the malice when people refer to them as Fulani herdsmen? For as long as we continue to shy away from the realities of our problems, so shall we have the scenario playing out in Nigeria where cows command more respect than human beings.
When cows are rustled, 75-year old President Muhammadu Buhari will appear in military uniform to launch a special military task force to checkmate rustlers. But when Fulani herdsmen kill people in Benue State, the President will send a minister to commiserate with the people of the State. What the people of Benue need is not commiseration but action. They are tired of condolence messages. These evil men who wear the garb of Fulani herdsmen must be exposed, arrested and prosecuted to assure all Nigerians that the President is indeed the President of all Nigerians.
The official protection being enjoyed by Fulani herdsmen could lead to a major crisis in the country. The flawed impression being created by the Federal government and its security agencies is that people would continue to bear these injustices without resorting to self-help but the unwarranted and highly destructive attacks on indigenous communities in the country will reach a stage when the people will pick up arms to defend themselves because they can’t get official protection. President Buhari has not shown enough courage in handling the wayward and destructive behaviour of his Fulani brothers.
As John Kenneth Galbraith once said, great leaders are usually willing “to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership”. Nigerians are anxious to live in peace and harmony with their neighbors but is President Buhari willing and in a position to guarantee that? Given his age and experience, people thought that he would become a Nigerian President instead of a sectional one, in order to provide quality leadership that would enhance efforts towards building a united nation. But alas, he has failed woefully in that regard. Did I hear some people, ministers I think, struggling to be Buhari’s campaign manager for the 2019 presidential election? They should stop playing God and face the realities on the ground. Nigeria is now more divided along ethnic lines than at any other time in its history and is in dire need of a new leader that will heal the wounds inflicted on Nigerians, especially by Fulani herdsmen, in the past two years.
No matter the blackmail or pressure from the Federal government and its organs of misinformation, the people of Benue State and other Nigerians who have been targeted for annihilation know who their attackers have been: they are FULANI HERDSMEN, not just herdsmen.
Mr. Agbo is a Lagos-based veteran journalist