The past two weeks have been tense, very tense in the country. From Kaduna to Katsina, Benue to Borno, Kano to Kwara, Ondo to Oyo, Edo to Enugu, it is tension all the way. The reason for these tensions remain the banditry, killings, kidnapping, herders/farmers clashes going on in many states of the federation. Although, it seems that the herders/farmers clashes have abated, the same cannot be said of the atrocities being perpetrated in some places by herders.
These herders invade farms and houses to kidnap, rape and loot. They collect ransom before releasing their victims. In some cases, they kill their victims even after collecting huge ransoms. The story of a victim, Dr Fatai Aborode, a farmer who was killed on his 300-acre farm, which led to the Igangan, Oyo crisis and the rise of Sunday Adeyemo, aka Sunday Igboho, is bloodchilling. People are no longer safe in their own homes, farms and lands. All of a sudden, settlers have become the lords of the manor. There is nothing bad in settling in a place, but as a settler one must conform with the socio-cultural values of that environment.
A settler must not attempt to displace owners of the land. Frankly speaking, this is what the nation has been experiencing in the past few years, with the government doing nothing to stem the tide. Banditry, kidnapping, killings, raping and other crimes are growing because of the failure of government. The perpetrators of these evils have been allowed a free rein in a country where there is law and order. But where is the law when criminals loot, maim, kill and go scot free? Where is the law when herders invade farms, destroy the crops, kidnap the owners and demand ransom before they are released? Where is the law when bandits or insurgents storm a school, abduct the pupils and their teachers and ask for ransom to release them?
As a country, we have never had it this bad. We have a government as if there is no government. What is the government doing about all these, especially herders invasion of farms to kidnap, rape and loot? The answer, from officialdom, will be things are better than they were about six years ago! Really? Much as the government would like to sing its praise, the people do not believe that. They cannot be blamed for their scepticism because he who feels it knows it. If the government was really up and doing what happened in Igangan and Ondo last week would not have occurred. A serious government would have moved swiftly to nip the brewing crisis in the bud.
It chose to do nothing about Igangan, leaving Governor Seyi Makinde to handle it the way he liked. But the problem is beyond the governor. This was why Igboho came into the picture. The fact is where the government fails in its duty, some strong men will emerge to fill the vacuum. Agreed that you do not tackle criminality with criminality, but what has the government done to apply the law in such cases to restore people’s confidence in their country. Nothing, at all. Instead of being the father of all, the central government seems to be on the side of those fomenting trouble in the land. What happened in Ondo is a case in point.
Worried by the development in his state, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu ordered herdsmen to leave the state’s forest reserves within one week. He also banned night grazing. These measures, the governor said, were taking to curb banditry and kidnapping. All the papers, except the Daily Trust, reflected that statement in their headlines. The Trust said he ordered the herders out of Ondo. That is not correct and the paper itself knows. It probably used that headline because of its northern sentiments. The Federal Government, in its reaction, unbelievably toed the paper’s line. The government’s action did not portray it as an impartial arbiter seeking a lasting solution to the crisis. It showed that it is more interested in protecting certain Nigerians at the expense of others.
That is not how to govern a country. The government must treat all its citizens equally, no matter where they come from or their religion. If the Trust can be pardoned for such mischief, which could lead to a chain of unpleasant reactions across the country, the same cannot apply to the government, which should know better than to set the nation ablaze. Akeredolu did not ask herders to leave Ondo; he only ordered them to quit the forest reserves. And that only applies to the unregistered herders. Perhaps, if only Akeredolu and other governors facing similar challenge had acted earlier, the problem would have been solved long ago. Akeredolu could not have ordered anybody, whether herder or not, out of his state because he has no such power. He, however, has the power to ask unregistered herders to leave the forest reserves so as to sift the wheat from the chaff.
By so doing, the rogue herders will be unveiled. Unfortunately, some governors do not want this matter resolved amicably. They are mouthing peace, but indirectly promoting war, like the national government. At their meeting in Akure, the Ondo State capital, on Monday, they tried to hide behind one finger in their search for peace. Rather than commend the media for its accurate portrayal of Akeredolu’s statement, they found fault with it. What did the media do wrong? The media was not wrong to have reported that Akeredolu ordered herders out of forest reserves. To prove the rightness in those reports, the governor gave it back to the national government which tried to make it look as if he ordered the herders out of the state. Commissioner for Information and Orientation Donald Ojogo said the Presidency’s statement showed unambiguously the central government’s position.
“The Ondo State Government did not ask Fulani to leave the state. The governor said herdsmen who are unregistered should leave our forests. The statement from Garba Shehu is a brazen display of emotional attachments and it is inimical to the corporate existence of Nigeria…”, Ojogo said. Apparently out of fear, the governors’ captain, Dr Kayode Fayemi, could not berate the Presidency for stoking the fire of disunity, at a time, it should be binding the country together. The next best thing for him was to take it out on the media, which had once again, put the country first in its handling of the Akeredolu report. It is unfair of him to have accused the media of misquoting the governor. Akeredolu should have said that if it was so and not him.
Our leaders should stop politicising every issue. Fayemi, who is much loved by the media, should know better than to have spoken the way he did. The media, as a whole, has done no wrong in this matter, the Presidency and the Trust, which is a section of the media, did. He should put things in context next time and not resort to a blanket condemnation of the media because it is a easy target. It will not be too much if he apologises for his faux pas. But will he?