Herdsmen Attack: Between Myetti Allah And ISWA
Nigeria News takes a look at the emergence of another group ISWA as Nigeria battles herdsmen and Boko Haram.
The Department of State Service, DSS announced that members of the Islamic State in West Africa, ISWA have entered Nigeria and that many of the killings in some states were actually carried out by the Jihadists.
As flimsy as this excuse may sound, it is true and it is due to government failure. Fulani herdsmen had been accused of carrying out various attacks mostly in the middle belt of Nigeria where no fewer than 73 innocent people were killed in Benue State alone.
President Muhammadu Buhari had received numerous reports over the killings and on Monday a scoop was released from the presidency that ISWA fighters were in Nigeria. The report reveals that some of those arrested speak the French Language.
The confession of the leader of Myetti Allah is not in the report. Myetti said after the killing in Benue that it carried out the massacre to protest against the open-grazing law of Benue State Government.
Myetti Allah, which is the umbrella body of the Cattle Breeder Association, herdsmen also said that 1000 of its cows were stolen and had to kill human beings to replace it.
Instead of the DSS to invite the leader of the herdsmen who made a confessional statement enough for the government to arrest and prosecute him, it begins a probe on ISWA fighters.
Why is it difficult to apprehend that man and put him behind the bars having confessed they were behind the Benue massacre? Why should cattle rearing be a national concern? Why don’t we show similar interest in other animals? Will the economy of Nigeria collapse without the cattle?
The first time I saw a mass grave was in May 2010. I was in the team of the Living Letters of the World Council of Churches. It was a deeply moving experience for the Living Letters team visiting Nigeria on behalf of the World Council of Churches (WCC) when they gathered to pray around a mass grave in Dogonahawa, near Jos, in the Central Plateau State.
About 501 people, mostly women and children from two adjacent villages, Dogonahawa and Bukuru, were killed in their sleep during an outburst of communal and ethnic violence. They were buried in the mass grave. Then, there was religious colouration to the crisis. I remember we visited both the Christian and Muslim communities in Plateau State with the intention of hearing from both sides. There was dialogue and attempts to make the people divorce religion from what happened.
The efforts yielded some result as the parties agreed to sheath their swords and learn to tolerate one another, But the truth is that it is always difficult to advise victims of religious and sectarian violence when you yourself have not been in the frail. It is always easy to pontificate and makes recommendations from outside while not experiencing what the people are experiencing.
If you listen to Paul Unongo after the Benue massacre, it will really be difficult to fault him. Unongo had noted how the people of the middle belt sacrificed their lives for the unity of Nigeria and had even participated in the Second World War. For him, it was a disgrace that a community of warriors was being pummeled to shreds by some ubiquitous fellow. He had also threatened in his reaction that he would be forced to raise an army that would protect the people if the government is not doing anything.
But beyond the lamentation what really should be the right approach? What is happening today is a failure of government no doubt. And this did not start with this government. As a matter of fact, one of the issues that were used to campaign against GEJ was Boko Haram. His handling of Boko was his albatross. Though he tried to deal with the issue towards the end of his government, it was too late.
Today, president Buhari is threading that same path. His handling of the herdsmen crisis may well be his albatross. It is no longer news that some villages and towns in Nigeria are in the bowel of violence with the activities of these herdsmen.
The question agitating the mind of many is: Why is it difficult to apprehend herdsmen who carry arms? That should be the starting point. But nothing has been done in that direction. Why is it difficult to designate these marauders as terrorist by this government?
While these questions continue to agitate our minds, it is important that we look at the issues with a clear mind. There are wonderful Fulani men and women. They are not our enemies. They have a right to live. It is not about Fulani herdsmen as it were. It is about a third force using the cloak of Fulani herdsmen. Those carrying out these murderous acts go in the garb of herdsmen. Certainly, nobody will be happy in a situation where lives are being reduced to mincemeat.