Sir: Nigeria is plagued with a new disease, a new pandemic that needs no introduction and it’s called Fulani herdsmen. In those days Fulanis came as harmless people who just wanted their cattle to feed on what we had in abundance and really didn’t care about – grass. Nowadays they want full control, fight and kill over territories they were once welcomed as visitors; a typical example of a handshake that has exceeded the elbow.
Also, back then, a “Fulani question” would frankly mean a foolish question because Fulanis were oftentimes strangers who would ask annoying questions, even in the face of glaring answers. Nowadays a “Fulani question” is a puzzle of death as terrorists under the decoy of cattle and guise of herdsmen have pushed southwards in a frantic quest for blood, and maybe grass.
Entire farming communities have been wiped out by these marauding murderers. Benue State alone has witnessed over 50 attacks in the last three years with over 1000 people killed and tens of thousands displaced, most notably the massacre of over 300 in Agatu Local Council barely two months ago. In fact, 15 out of the 23 local councils of the food basket state are under siege by these killer-herdsmen.
Same could be said of Taraba State where the Fulani herdsmen killed 44 people a few weeks ago. Then there’s Plateau, Nasarawa and other states in the middle belt who are already accustomed to these killings, but it is the recent surge of attacks more southwards that will be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
It is , therefore, incumbent on the Federal Government to ensure that innocent lives and property are protected and also ensure that all herdsmen and their cattle return to their respective places of origin pending the complete resolution of this crisis. Needless to even say the legislation for nationwide grazing routes and reserves should be halted forthwith, for it is only in Nigeria that the lives of cattle are placed at par or given high value than those of humans.
If President Buhari and by extension the Federal Government continue their lackadaisical attitude towards solving this problem, we can all be rest assured that communities in the South will one day rise against the Fulanis and other people of Northern ethnicities, guilty or innocent, just as happened before the civil war. As bodies of their dead loved ones arrive, the other party will surely retaliate by engaging in reprisal killings and on goes the vicious cycle of death.
This is how a civil war starts. With 500 fully-armed ethnically homogeneous fighters attacking a community in a distant territory, a civil war may have already begun.
By Usha Anenga, Benue, Benue State.
The article first appeared on The Guardian Newspaper