By Benjamin Bala
The Ăsholio have a saying; “If you want to know what is in the woods, throw a stone in it”, and whatever is therein will come out. This seems to be exactly what the recently passed “Anti-Open Grazing Law” of Benue State has done. Benue State and other places like Taraba, Plateau, Southern Kaduna, Nasarawa, Enugu, Edo, Delta, etc., have suffered attacks from armed herdsmen. These armed herdsmen are believed to have destroyed more lives than Boko Haram or ISIS.
Whereas, the then IG of Police Solomon Arase identified them as Fulani herdsmen, but that most of them were however, not Nigerians (Guardian Newspaper 15.02.2016), the Fulani race represented by Miyeti Allah, JNI have consistently denied that the killers were Fulani herdsmen. Hence, the herdsmen killer-Machines have often been masqueraded as “unknown gunmen”. The Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar, once described as “absurd” and “unfortunate” the widespread insinuation that Fulani herdsmen were responsible for the attacks on villagers in Benue, Enugu, Nasarawa and other parts of the country (Premium Times 01.05.2016). This kind of outright denial when investigations were not concluded left much to be desired. Such is capable of watering down the credibility of the victims’ testimonies which should be used as a starting point for the investigations.
In like manner, the “Miyeti Allah Cattle Breeders Association”, denied Fulani responsibility over similar attacks on Southern Kaduna communities and went on to call for the prosecution of a reporter, Mr. Luka Biniyat of Vanguard Newspaper (Premium Times 20.05.2017), a call Governor El-rufai has since graciously responded to. This is a reporter who was merely reporting the experience of the victims of the attacks.
But now, The “Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore“, a Fulani socio-cultural association breaths furry over the recently passed Anti–Open Grazing Law in Benue State, describing it as obnoxious and a recipe for anarchy” (Daily post 30.05.2017). The declaration was made by the National President of the organisation, Alhaji Bello Abdullahi Bodejo and the National Secretary Engineer Saleh Alhassan. He ventilates; “We want to state here that we reject that repressive and oppressive law and will deploy all the necessary legal means as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution to challenge it“.
Furthermore, he threatens; “We will mobilize our people to resist any attempt to enslave them through this wicked legislation even contemplated in the history of our nation” (Daily post 30.05.2017). He insist that pastoralists like other citizens of the country had the right to move freely and to reside in any part of the country. “They also have a right to own property in any part of the country. We view this oppressive law as fundamentally going against our culture, economic interest and constitutional rights” (Daily post 30.05.2017).
The bold step of the Benue State Government in coming up with the Anti-Open Grazing Law which served as the proverbial Ăsholio stone thrown into the woods is laudable. The stern reaction of Miyeti Allah leaves so many questions on rational minds. Could it be that the dangerous killer snakes are beginning to come out of the woods? Is the Masquerade finally gradually unmasking? Does Miyeti Allah by this press statement not put itself in a state of high suspicion that they, at least, either know the identity or/and are beneficiaries of the killer herdsmen? Does Miyeti Allah not bring one close to the conclusion of who the killer Herdsmen are? What solutions is Miyeti Allah putting on the table to address the open grazing problem which has resulted in clashes from which many losses have been counted? Why is Miyeti Allah almost silent on the harm the open grazing has brought about?
Benue State, and by extension, other areas like Taraba, Plateau, Nasarawa, Southern Kaduna, Enugu, Delta, etc, where similar killings in a similar pattern have taken place, now seem to have and idea of whom they could get information about their killers from. An opening towards identifying and unmasking the killer masquerades whom the Nigerian government has all these years referred to as “Unknown Armed Herdsmen” is been finally provided.
Quite surprising, the Miyeti Allah leadership, who spit the threats are going about freely after such most inciting comments while those who merely declared the inalienable right for victims to embark on Self-defence are been arrested, detained and prosecuted for hate speech. Funny it is. And the body language of Government is now very clearly visible to all like the biblical “Tekel Tekel Mene”. We are perceiving how the Benue State Governor’s stand against the Fulani herdsmen killer machines have made him very unpopular all of a sudden before the government at the center.
Time shall tell.
By Benjamin Bala