It is no news that the state of farmers-herders crisis in the country has escalated almost to the verge of plunging the country into a state of civil war. The clash between traders from the Yoruba and Hausa ethnic groups in the South-Western state of Oyo was the height of it all. President Muhammadu Buhari, while reacting to the clash that claimed many lives in Shasha, appealed to religious and traditional leaders as well as elected leaders, “to join hands with the Federal Government to ensure that communities in their domain are not splintered along ethnic and other primordial lines.” The president further noted that his administration will not allow any ethnic or religious group to stoke up hatred and violence against other groups.
Clearly, there are Nigerians who speak and incite violence that is escalating ethnic tensions within the overarching polity. For minor conflicts to rise to the point of tearing the country apart, reveals that many leaders have failed to show adequate maturity, restraint, and actions that can douse rising tension. Ironically, there are visible proofs that many politicians try to capitalize on lingering crises to score cheap political points.
There is no doubt that some local leaders have resorted to ethnic chauvinism by literally adding fuel to the farmers-herders crisis to ramp up support among the local populace, just to enhance their popularity.
Yinka Odumakin, National Publicity Secretary, Afenifere Group
One individual that has shown very little restraint in his comment on national issues is Yinka Odumakin, Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary. He fans the embers of hostilities without compunction. He would openly declare that the Fulani are looking for war, hence their orchestration of violence in some South-West states:
“Fulanis are looking for war, that’s why we have seen increased and orchestrated violence in Ondo and Oyo States. These are clear signs that they are looking for war at all costs.
“Their Herdsmen are in the forests, their market men and women are causing violence in the market places… So it’s clear what they are looking for.
“That was what Abacha was planning to do in his days while he was throwing money all over the world and people are saying Abacha did not steal, he was throwing money to fight the South-West. They want to perpetuate that agenda, so we know what they are planning to do.”
In a similar situation a few years ago, the Afenifere leader accused the police of being sectional following the crisis that erupted between the Yorubas and Hausa- Fulanis in Ile Ife, Osun State, in 2017.
Accusing the police of bias, the Afenifere spokesman stated that those arrested by the police over the crisis have been ridiculed, harassed, and coerced, while there was no single Hausa Fulani among those arrested and paraded at Abuja.
While reading the riot act to South West governor following the Ile Ife crisis, Odumakin described the Fulani people as “people who roam around with cattle destroying farmlands, attacking our villages and killing our people.”
This must have set the precedence for the recent clash in Shasha, Oyo State.
Samuel Ortom, Governor, Benue State
Another personality in this league of violence promoters is Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State. While some governors have made concerted efforts to entrench durable peace between farmers and herders in their domains, Ortom continues to fuel hatred among the people, probably, due to the political benefits he stands to gain from the crisis.
When asked about the call by Sunday Igboho for Fulani herdsmen to vacate the state, Samuel Ortom applauded and said he was “happy that the South-west people are responding squarely to it and they are committed to it.”
“What else would you do when you see your people being killed and their farms being burnt by herdsmen? It’s just the same thing.
“There’s this Fulani socio-cultural organization known as FUNAN who came out and claimed responsibility and said that they were going to mobilize Fulani from all over the world to come and take over Nigeria, that it’s their ancestral land. The presidency did not say anything.
“But they quickly ordered the arrest of an activist who stood up to speak out and defend his people. The world terrorist index has named Fulani herdsmen as the fourth deadliest terrorist group in the world but up till today, the Federal Government has not cared to declare herdsmen as a terrorist organization.”
Speaking further Governor Ortom asked that the Miyetti Allah leaders be arrested and prosecuted for the crisis and that the government is simply playing ostrich with the Herdsmen crisis.
Some middle-belt leaders under the auspices of the Middle Belt Conscience Guard (MBCG) equally carpeted the Benue State Governor for what they consider as habitual incitement of Nigerians against Fulani herders. The MBCG described Ortom’s assault on President Buhari and Fulani Herders as “uncomplimentary and a grand plot to orchestrate widespread violence in Nigeria.”
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In body language and utterances, Ortom has revealed so many times that he is not really a peace advocate. The Benue State governor was recently seen on National television demanding that Fulani herdsmen respect Benue laws or go to Bauchi and carry AK-47. This and other related issues have resulted in a war of words between Gov. Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State and the Benue State governor.
Ortom also openly accused his Bauchi counterpart point-blank of being “part of the terrorist Fulani organisation that is terrorising the country”. He equally asked that Mohammed be held responsible if any harm comes to him, for the error of supporting the bearing of arms by Fulani herdsmen. Clearly, the words of the Benue Governor are not compatible with those of statemen who want to genuinely promote peace and unity.
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