By Muyiwa Olayinka
‘Beware Of naked person who offers you clothes’, an African proverb
On new year’s day in Nigeria, while everybody was enjoying the euphoria of the new year, a sad event took place at Guma and Logo local government area of Benue state. Villagers and farmers were being killed in their homes by the marauding agents of darkness, the Fulani herdsmen.
By the time the day broke, the second day, more than 73 men, women and children were slaughtered like rams.
It was a sad day in Nigeria, the whole nation was shocked when the news filtered in. As usual notable Nigerian personalities condemned the attack.
This is not the first time such a dastardly act will take place in Benue state.
Dated back since February 1st 2013, Fulani herdsmen attacked Agatu and other environs, many lives were lost.
There’s a timeline of more than 46 attacks claiming many lives, destruction of properties resulting to internal displacement. It is true that this crisis predates this government, but it would have been politically correct to solve this problem.
The recent crisis was caused by the new anti grazing law passed into law by the state house of assembly. The cattle rustlers believed there are some sections of the law that is against their commercial activities. The state government sensed danger from the security report, ran to President Buhari to forestall the looming calamity.
According to Governor Ortom, he said the federal government did not respond immediately, resulting to this tragedy of loss of lives and properties.
The attitude of federal government to these incessant attacks fall below expectations. The sole responsibility of the government is to protect lives and properties, and it was enshrined in our constitution.
This is what President Muhammadu Buhari swore to when he took oath of office in 2015.
Even if there are security breaches, that could claim lives, Mr President is expected to identify with his people and show empathy to those that lost their lives and loved ones. He should have visited the trouble spots in Benue state.
Since the said incident took place in on January 1, the President did not deemed it fit to visit the state until Monday March 12th. By the time he visited, it was obvious that he was reluctant, goaded, criticized and influenced by condemnation from a broad spectrum of Nigerians, civil society groups and the opposition party. By his taciturn disposition to the crimes against the people of Benue state, he allowed the issue to fester for too long and got out of control. At a time the Governor Ortom and the inspector general of police were shifting blames. This is as a result of Mr President not waking up to his constitutional responsibility.
Even the mass burial of the victims, on January 9th televised on national television could not ruffle feathers of powers to be in Abuja.
Timing of the visit
‘What I did was to call him (Inspector General of Police) and give him the directive. But I did not know that the IG did not stay in the state (Benue), and he didn’t spend his time here but moved to Nasarawa. It’s only now that I am knowing that’
This is the statement made by President Muhammadu Buhari, the commander in chief of the armed forces of Nigeria, at the stakeholders meeting held in Government house, Makurdi on the 12th of March, 2018.
I still do not understand the significance of his visit after two months that lives have been lost. He made this infamous remark at the stakeholder meeting, in Makurdi, the state capital.
Governor Fayose of Ekiti state asked for the relevance of telling Nigerians on March 12, 2 months after the IG disobeyed his orders. The opposition party, PDP said maybe Mr President went to Makurdi to commission the Cemetery where victims were buried.
I shudder at the kind of government we have where the President’s directive can be flagrantly flouted and disobeyed by a political appointee like the IGP Ibrahim Idris.
It gives a fillip that Mr President has never been in charge of this government.
President Buhari seems to have been caged. Even few days after making the public declaration by the President, Ibrahim Idris is keeping his job.
If Mr President visited for political considerations, the outcome has left sour tastes in the mouth of those that organized it.
Reports showed the indigenes of the state were prevented from the meeting. There were security cordon, security operatives from Abuja practically took over the activities at Benue state’s seat of government. The whole street was deserted. It was as if Makurdi was under siege by the presence security forces such as the Department of State Security Services DSS, the military and others.
Many invited stakeholders were turned back from the venue.
Some protesting youths who had stormed the venue to register over the incessant killings were turned back, while their placards seized.
The itinerary of the President was adjusted. He did not visit the Chairman of the traditional council , Tor Tiv Torkula in his palace, and the camp of the internally displaced camp at Gbamjiba, in Guma local government.
I wonder what the handlers of Mr President wanted to achieve by taking on the fourth estate of the realm, the media.
Many media houses were shut from covering the Presidential visit. Correspondents of The Punch, Thisday, Vanguard, The Nation, Tribune, New telegraph were shut out, only seven were allowed.
His visit was meant to assuage feelings and douse tension but has polarized the state.
What manner of Presidential visit is this?
A presidential visit to exclude the mainstream of people of Benue state?
A stage managed visit to shut out some shade of opinions?
An arranged gathering to cover up lies and the intransigence of Mr President.
Sadly, the killing field is going on in Benue state.
According to Governor Ortom, 65 more people have been killed after the mass burial of 73 victims of the new year attack. 26 more from Okpokwu with over 5,000 displaced in Mbatoho community.
170,000 people live in the IDP, and 65% of them are school children who should be in school.
The Buhari led government has not shown genuine commitment to solve the problems. The visit was more of a political jamboree that has failed to achieve its purpose.
Unfortunately for the people of Benue state, the farmers/ Fulani herdsmen crisis will continue to claim more lives despite the military exercise code name ‘Ayem Akpatuma’ that has been deployed to the state. Military exercise does not solve crisis, it exacerbates.
Again I ask: what is the relevance of Mr President’s visit to Benue state?