Home Opinion [OPINION] The bewildering sacking of multiple communities by Fulani Herdsmen in Benue South

[OPINION] The bewildering sacking of multiple communities by Fulani Herdsmen in Benue South

by Tom Chiahemen
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By Adaji A. Apochi –

A good number of villages in Apa Local Government Area of Benue state have been sacked by suspected Fulani herdsmen. The villages are Ikobi, Imana, Ugbobi,  Ijaha, Olegogba, Inyapu, and Akpete. The ripple effect of which has greatly destabilised nearby villages such as Ojantele, Ataganyi, Odugbo, Edikwu and Ugbokpo, the Headquarters of Apa Local Government Area.

The attacks, which are well coordinated, usually take place in the early morning hours and in the evening of such days with high impact shootings and burning of houses. The casualties are mounting and the Apa Local Government Council, the Idoma Traditional Council under the chairmanship of Och’Idoma, Agabaidu John Odogbo Elaigwu, and the Benue State Government appear to have no answers to the catastrophe that is sweeping away these densely populated communities. 

The sophistication of the lethal weapons being used by the suspected Fulani herdsmen and their daring in killing  and burning the villages bespeak a well planned war of attrition. So far, there is little or no proportional response from government. Long before now, the villagers were stopped from going to their farms, as cows were let loose to feed on yams, cassava, and other crops in all these villages. For some years now, there have been no farming activities. And now is the final sacking of the people from their ancestral lands. 

The most pitiable sight, beside dispossession of their homes, farms and other forms of livelihoods, is their aimless wandering,  no food to eat and no place to lay their heads. The ominous signs of acute  hunger and weariness in the children and the elderly make a compelling case for immediate government intervention. For days on end, the people are spread across bushes and open fields with total hopelessness and fear of what will come next. 

The questions being asked are why the obvious absence of Apa local government council and the state government in the plight of these people, and what is the role of the Och’Idoma in a near-death situation of his subjects as presented by this massive dislocation. The absence of a coordination framework by Samuel Ortom’s government in addressing this situation shows a clear abandonment of the people to a state of nature, with all its brutalities and nastiness. 

The centrality of governance in the Idoma Traditional Council area can not and must not be located outside the people. But it appears as if the locus of power and mediation in Idomaland is misplaced. The Och’Idoma does not appear to have understood his brief, if any. Or maybe his area of concentration is dictated by anti-Idoma interests because of the inclination of the appointive authorities that gave him the throne. If this is the case, then, he should start contemplating the possibility of being dethroned in the earliest possible future.

How can a people be so abandoned in their greatest moments of acute pains, hunger,  hopelessness, homelessness, and death? The misbegotten concept of an accession and/or ascension of the Och’Idoma throne without the traditional rites, and by extraneous forces would soon be challenged. The Idoma people want a full restoration of their identity,  honour and culture. 

It is all clear that the Apa local government council does not know what the essence of local government is. There is no intervention of any sort in the mass sacking of these communities, as there is no administratively structured response or action from the local council, by way of mediation in the unbearably murderous plight of these people. Then, what makes it a government?

In the absence of concerted efforts  to help provide succour to the debilitating circumstances of these people, the Benue state government appears to have lost its raison d’etre in governing the people. A government with purpose and direction and a sense of mission can not abandon its people. A clear absence of a coordination framework for action in organising the people for immediate rehabilitation is an unpardonable failing. Does a government serve some hidden purposes away from the provision of security and welfare of its people? If the state house of assembly were to be alive to its duties and responsibilities to the people, this particular situation is an emergency of public interest that necessitates immediate solutions. 

A good government must serve the people till its last day in office. To abandon the people is a definite admission of failure to govern well. All around the villages are sad appearances of loss, grief, abandonment and death. If a sitting government has no enduring solutions, obviously it’s time to vote for a new government with a new slate. This hopeless situation requires creative thinking to end the wilderness encounter. Perhaps, the Ondo state solution of establishing feedlots in its anti-open grazing law should be studied to improve the implementation of the Benue state anti-open grazing law. The creation of the feedlots in Ondo provided the elixir in solving the problems of random grazing. 

In implementing a law, if there are unforeseen consequences, the process of adjustment or alteration or amendment is a reasonable course of action. No law is cast in stone. And if a sitting government is lethargic or overwhelmed by its own failings,  there’s no alternative to changing it. And changing it with the immediacy of available opportunity to do so. For how long will the Benue people continue to suffer for a government’s purposelessness and/or directionlessness? For how long, really?

A vast number of communities sacked with impunity, and the people roaming about the bushes, dying of hunger,  hopelessness and fear; and the state government is not responsive to their collective plight. What this means is that the government has lost its legitimacy to govern. A dysfunctional house of assembly, that is the Benue house of assembly, does not even know what to do in the circumstances of these sacked and abandoned villagers in Apa Local Government Area. What a shame!

The long suffering people of Benue have a date with their fate. What is required is a wholesale re-tooling of the essence of government in the state. A government that is both responsive and responsible to the people’s security and welfare. A government that is run on the basis of collaboration and cooperation, rather than antagonism and mutual hostilities. It’s amply wrong to think that sustained antagonism is courage or strength. Governance and mutual cooperation are products of wisdom and strategy. Some staccato and/or  endlessly quarrelsome tactics or methods fetch no good. A government run on the planks of wisdom gets a lot more done. What is the utility of permanent quarrel or hostility? Is modern government run on the principles of antagonism? No. Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers state had his sour moments with President Buhari but he had back channels of reaching the president over matters of state or governance. 

Taken together,  the Apa Local Government Council has failed its helplessly homeless and dying people from the many communities sacked by suspected Fulani herders. The Local Council does not have a structured governance approach to intervene in the sufferings of its massively dislocated people. Also, the Och’Idoma, John Odogbo Elaigwu,  has shown that he’s bereft of administrative knowledge and action necessary for mediation and adjudication in the affairs of his people. So, he has stubbornly refused to intervene in the ongoing crisis of a people abandoned to the most cruel fatalities, imaginable. 

Reinforced by absence of imagination,  knowledge and wisdom, the Benue state government has abdicated its responsibilities to the people. The sacked communities are left to wander about like gypsies in their own state. The government has shown that it owes them no duties of care or protection. The very absence of dutiful commitment to the people is an unpardonable failure of government. Why would the people reward an unresponsive and an uncaring government, where it has shown that it is grossly anti-people. This is a rallying cry to the people of Benue to radically free themselves from excruciatingly degrading life under this government, or continue in permanent surrender to the callous conduct of the government.

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