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Between Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen By Tayo Ogunbiyi

An armed Fulani herdsman
An armed Fulani herdsman

These, indeed, are strange times for our beloved nation. Harsh economic realities occasioned by sharp decline in global price of oil coupled with incessant fuel scarcity, unemployment, inflation, hunger and poverty have continued to make life tough for the people. To complicate things, political situation remains as charged and volatile as ever. However, of all our nation’s current troubles, insecurity is, perhaps, the most complex.

Until recently, terrorism is alien to our culture. But recent occurrences have since altered the equation. No thanks to the dastardly acts of the Boko Haram sect, Nigeria is, today, a focal point of global terrorism activities. Through a series of callously designed and devilishly executed bloodletting operations, unrivalled in the annals of the country, the sect has thrown the country into protracted volatility.

To underline its wide acclaim as a globally recognised terrorist body, the sect was designated by the U.S. Department of State as a terrorist organisation in 2013. In the first half of 2014 Boko Haram killed more than 2000 innocent and hapless civilians, in about 95 attacks. In the last three years, more than 3000, people have lost their lives as a result of Boko Haram operations. A recent research claimed that Boko Haram attacks have left at least 12,000 people dead and 8,000 crippled in the last three years while Hundreds of thousands have fled their homes for the fear of the insurgents. Presently, over 260 secondary school girls, kidnapped in a most notorious manner, from their school, Government College Chibok, Borno State, have been in the den of the Boko Haram sect for well over 200 days.

As the nation continue to grapple with the arduous task of containing the activities of Boko Haram, out of the blue came yet another menace of a different kind, but with an equally potent capability to coldheartedly waste human lives. Take the back seat Boko Haram; enter Fulani herdsmen, the new merchant of blood in town! Though the bloody acts of Fulani herdsmen have been around for quite some time, but its intensity, of late, is becoming quite alarming.

From Agatu in Benue State, Akure in Ondo State, Bukuru area in Plateau State, Oke Ogun area in Oyo State, Gassaka and Bali local government areas in Taraba State to Nimbo in Enugu State, rampaging Fulani herdsmen seem to be on a mission to draw blood. And blood they are getting. Everywhere they go, sorrow, tears and blood trail them. Curiously, they operate in such audacious fashion that makes mockery of our national security arrangement.

From the way things are, there seem to be a thin line between Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen. Both are agents of death that regale in inflicting pains and sorrows on their victims. Think about many orphans and widows that the duo have unleashed on the society. Perhaps more fearful, is the fact that they both seem to be above the laws of the land. So it seems.

Sadly, as it was the case at the onset of Boko Haram insurgence, the dastardly acts of Fulani herdsmen have not been accorded the requisite handling by appropriate authorities. For instance, it took President Buhari something akin to ages before he eventually came out with a precise position on the appalling activities of the Fulani herdsmen. The motive behind such costly silence, in the face of acts capable of disintegrating the country, remains a mystery to ordinary Nigerians. It is exactly same pattern of belated response that gave Boko Haram the necessary impetus that turned it into such a monstrous group in the country. The reason(s) why our leaders often wait pointlessly for the blood of hapless compatriots to be spilled in needless circumstances before stemming the tide would continue to be a mystery.

This brings us to the thorny issue of modus operandi of both Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen. The method of operation of the two groups is quite curious. As for Boko Haram, since it has now assumed the status of a global terrorist body, the sophisticated nature of their arsenal and operation is no longer unusual. What is, however, odd is the kind of riffles being reportedly used by rampaging Fulani herdsmen across the country. It becomes curious as to what Fulani herdsmen could be doing with such combat- purposed assault rifles.

What could be the source of such dangerous ammunitions? If there is, indeed, a source, then, like Boko Haram, there would definitely be sponsors. If there are sponsors, the next puzzle is: what could be their motives? Could it be that purported skirmishes by Fulani herdsmen across the country are just clever ploys by some ‘evil genius’ to further throw the country into prolonged chaos? Could it be that recent upsurge in Fulani herdsmen atrocities is being orchestrated by some ‘powerful’ people with sinister intent to derail the country?

The implication of the foregoing is that appropriate authorities need to methodically investigate recent increase in the reprehensible activities of Fulani herdsmen. In as much as recent directive by President Buhari for relevant security agencies to appropriately deal with unruly Fulani herdsmen is a welcome one (though rather belated), it is vital to emphasise that military or police action alone might not suffice in thoroughly getting rid of the nuisance of Fulani herdsmen. Sufficient intelligence must be gathered to really understand their motives, sponsors (if any) and grouses. It has been argued in some quarters that some of those at the forefront of current herdsmen ‘insurgence’ in the country are from neighbouring countries. This claim must be properly verified and appropriate action taken if it is found to be real.

Before Fulani herdsmen transform into another Boko Haram, thereby complicating our peculiar socio-economic and political situation, now is the time to decisively deal with them. According to Aristotle and Plato, what it takes for evil to triumph in a given society is for evil to continually go unpunished. Therefore, appropriate government agencies must rise up to the occasion by reprimanding Fulani herdsmen and their promoters. We have had enough of impunity in the country. This is the time to act determinedly act against Fulani herdsmen. Enough is enough!

Ogunbiyi is of the Features Unit, Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.

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