By JUDE NDUKWE
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At the advent of renewed mindless attacks by Fulani herdsmen on fellow Nigerians with the height of it all coming in Agatu and Enugu where, as usual, hundreds of innocent and defenceless citizens were mowed down in cold blood, invasions which caused a huge outcry among well-meaning Nigerians and the international community, several eminent Nigerians have risen in defence of the herdsmen designated the fourth most dangerous terrorist group in the world by the Global Terror Index, claiming an alibi for them by saying that they are not Nigerians.
Sometime earlier this year, Lai Mohammed, the nation’s Minister of Information and Culture, had claimed that the violent herdsmen were not Nigerians but that they migrated from countries like Mauritius and others.
About the same time, Heineken Lokpobiri, the Minister of State for Agriculture, had also claimed, during a public hearing set up on the Fulani herdsmen attacks, that “…the herdsmen attacking Nigerians across the country are not Fulani but another gang of Boko Haram insurgents from other countries”.
Not done, another high-ranking government official in the person of Audu Ogbeh also came out to say that many of the herdsmen were not Nigerians .
Although Nigerians have insisted that the herdsmen were not only Nigerians, but also terrorists of Fulani descent, there seems to be an ill-thought out script by the oligarchs of Fulani origin and their misguided collaborators from the Middle Belt and the South to push the heinous crime of these terrorist herdsmen to places of no connection with the sad development all in a bid to continue to shield the criminals from scrutiny while they have a field day executing the evil agenda of the script writers against their southern brothers using the Fulani militia.
As if to confirm the existence of such a script meant to create an alibi for a murderous lot, the Sultan of Sokoto, a foremost traditional/religious leader, during the last Sallah festivities, and in his usual message to Nigerian Muslims as part of activities marking the religious observances, had declared to the consternation of many that the rampaging Fulani herdsmen terrorists are not native Fulani whom he described as “very peace-loving and law-abiding” people.
When a man of that calibre makes a pronouncement, it has to be taken seriously especially as he is known to have also caused the extension of a national holiday by an extra day single-handed through instructions to the federal government.
However, the fact of the matter remains that these terrorist -Fulani herdsmen are not only Nigerians, they are exactly who they are: Fulani! The facts are there for all to see.
In an exclusive interview with Premium Times, Saleh Bayeri, who was (as at the time of the interview) the Interim National Secretary of Gan Allah Fulani Association, had narrated the reason behind the gruesome attack on the people of Agatu community in Benue State, claiming that the attack was actually a reprisal for the killing of one Ardo Madaki, a prominent Fulani man back in 2013. The newspaper confirmed in its piece that the Gan Allah Fulani Association is an umbrella body of Fulani associations in Nigeria.
Also, sometime in May, one Muhammadu Zurai, a Fulani reported to hail from Taraba State, and among the major actors of the massacre carried out on Nimbo community, Uzo-Uwani, Enugu State, confessed to the killings, describing it as vengeance on the people of that community. Narrating how the attack was coordinated, Zurai “confessed that they were more than 100 and were selected from different states especially from Taraba , Kogi, Benue, Nasarrawa , Kastina , Niger and Kaduna states” to execute the mass murder. These states are not in Mauritius or Libya, or Mali, or Niger, or Chad. They are all Nigerian states.
Therefore, it becomes a subject that everyone should be sincerely concerned about that despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, some northern leaders and elders are still living in denial. This has further widened the gulf of suspicion among the various parts of the country as there are now genuine fears that those who perpetrate these heinous crimes would never be made to face the wrath of the law.
This also does not in any way present the northern leaders as sincere especially as the president who himself is Fulani hardly spoke against the nefarious activities of his kinsmen but only made a passing reference to them after much pressure from Nigerians. This is unlike the well publicized tough words and stance he has taken against IPOB and the Niger Delta Avengers.
The implication of this is that these leaders have deliberately turned a blind eye to a major sore in national peace and security, and the unfortunate situation continues to endure since no problem is solved that is not identified. Not to admit that the perpetrators of herdsmen attacks are Nigerians is a way of sending messages to security agencies that the real culprits who are obviously Nigerians are untouchable.
This is most unfortunate!
These Fulani leaders, whether religious, political or traditional, must learn from their southern counterparts, who, instead of denying the existence of hostilities and their perpetrators in the southern part of the country, have since constructively engaged the aggrieved fighters on ways to ensure that all hostilities cease as soon as possible. They have not only acknowledged the hostilities, they have always had the courage to even refer the perpetrators as ‘sons’, promising to help bring the hostilities to an end, hence, Pa Edwin Clarke has been seen and heard calling his ‘sons’ to order; governor Seriake Dickson has been seen organizing town hall meetings on how to stop the hostilities; governor Nyesom Wike has been issuing warnings and threats to whoever is involved in giving his state/region a bad name; governors Okezie Ikpeazu, Willie Obiano and other south eastern governors have been seen organizing peace meetings and supporting the security agencies in their respective domains with logistics to root out criminality no matter who is involved. The list goes on and on. That is the way to go!
But what do we have our northern leaders do? They keep denying the ethnic origin of a well established terror group while their acts of criminality go unpunished. Such denials embolden the Fulani militia since their true identities remain covered by their leaders, an act that is easily interpreted as a tacit support for their nefarious activities, or, which some have read to mean an undeclared approval for the terror they unleash on innocent Nigerians. Such denials have also caused criminality by people of the Hausa/Fulani stock to graduate to religious persecution as Christians have now become targets of unprovoked attacks in the north.
In situations like this, one expects all Nigerians particularly the leaders, to rise above partisanship, ethnic or religious considerations in fighting the nation’s common enemies and help bring perpetrators of violence to book no matter who they are.
No doubt, the Sultan has the moral and religious clout to call on leaders and members of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, Gan Allah Fulani Association and such similar groups whose members have been accused of being behind this terrorist acts to order just the way his southern counterparts are doing.
This is the least expected from the Sultan and other leaders of Hausa/Fulani extraction! The tension in the land is too much for leaders to continue to live in denial!
—firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @stjudendukwe