Monday, October 31, 2016

Gov Ugwuanyi And The Rampaging Herdsmen

By Dan Amor 
Like a typical Nigerian nightmare, the incessant attacks on some communities in Enugu state by suspected Fulani herdsmen have generated more heat than light. In March this year, 70 youths on a rescue mission to extricate their people from the vice-grip of Fulani herdsmen at Ugwuleshi in Agwu local government area of the state, were rounded up and detained by security forces. 
President Buhari and Gov Ugwuanyi
On April 25, barely a month after the first incident, several indigenes of Ukpabi Nimbo village in Uzouwani local government area were reportedly killed by Fulani herdsmen. And most recently, a seminarian, Lazarus Nwafor, was killed and four others including a pregnant woman, severely injured by the herdsmen. The woman later gave up the ghost from the injuries she sustained during the attack. Apart from the usual pantomimes by the authorities that they would not tolerate criminal herdsmen, the Buhari-led Federal government appears helpless and lacks the political will to confront this hydra-headed monster threatening the peace and security of the country.

It is this ugly development which has generated sustained tension in the state hitherto acknowledged everywhere as the most peaceful in the entire South East geopolitical zone of the country. Standing in the middle of this tension is Mr. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, the governor and 'chief security officer' of the state on whose desk the buck stops. And since irrational impulses are not surprising in the stress and tension that characterise a demented society such as Nigeria, many furious indigenes of the Coal-City state are calling on the governor to declare war with the marauders. True, in an atmosphere of violence, reason is sometimes abandoned and humanitarian principles forgotten since the inflamed passions of the time lead men to commit atrocities. But the concern here is not with the psychological pathology of those who commit atrocities but rather with what has turned our nation to a slaughterhouse where human beings are daily murdered with intimidating alacrity.

It would, of course, be absurd to deny that the Federal government is implicitly or explicitly responsible for this carnival of anomie enveloping the nation. In the case of Enugu state where some of us virtually grew up, the lamentable absence of development before now, especially in the rural areas, provides an alibi for the germination and cross fertilization of criminals especially of the herdsmen variety. For instance, Enugu state parades some of the most dreaded and deadly forests in the South East. Some of these forests include Ugwuogo Nike, Umuopu Enugu Ezike, Umuogbo Agu, Ette in Igboeze North, Affa Eke Road by Ninth Mile Express, Akpakwumeze, Nimbo, Obollo Afor, Atakwu, Akwugbe Ugwu, Agwu, Ugwu Onyeama, etcetera. In fact, there are so many thick forests in Enugu state that would even make Sambisa Forests, the Boko Haram battle field pale into insignificance. For so many years, the Fulani herdsmen have been living in these forests and nobody cared any hoot to ask why they prefer to live in the forests like apes. It is in these forests that the herdsmen stay to perfect their strategies to unleash terror on their host communities since even the natives lack access roads and rural telephony to alert the police and other security agencies.

In fact, Governor Ugwuanyi's dilemma is understandable. Every state governor in Nigeria is the chief security officer of his state only on paper or ceremonially. He is not empowered by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) to exercise authority over the state police command. The state police commissioner who probably attends his weekly state executive council meeting is only a spy who reports directly to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) in Abuja. If, indeed, a state governor does not belong to the ruling party at the centre, one can appreciate his double dilemma. The only option for a governor faced with this kind of situation is what Ugwuanyi has decided to take: open up the rural areas while at the same time appealing to the Federal government to lend a helping hand.

The governor is also said to have reached out to religious and tribal leaders who have the wherewithal to appeal to cattle owners and the herdsmen to halt their murderous exuberance. Of course, there are leaders who can easily be swayed by hasty, after-dinner conclusions to toe the path of vengeance and unleash a reprisal attack on the aggressors. But check the backgrounds of such leaders. Ugwuanyi happens to be one of the few highly educated politicians in the current dispensation who will not allow primordial instincts to push him to extreme prebendal ambivalence.

As someone who may have experienced the Nigerian Civil War as a boy, Ugwuanyi is intelligent enough to avoid pushing his region once again to a dangerous precipice and turning the South East to another theatre of war. If the plan of the herdsmen and their sponsors is to provoke another bout of civil war in Nigeria, Ugwuanyi possesses the intellectual sophistication not to play into their hands. The Igbo and their brethren from the former Eastern Region (now in the South South) are yet to experience total rehabilitation from the ashes of "defeat" and to be fully integrated into the larger Nigerian society  (see President Muhammadu Buhari's lopsided appointments and deliberate marginalization of the Igbo). We may say that we can survive without Nigeria, as we have always done. The Yoruba also say so. But we can no longer afford to send our hapless people on another suicide mission. In war, action is everything. But you cannot take action without proper planning and putting other principles into action. We must apply zero-based thinking in every area of our lives. 

Thinking is the most important work you do as a leader. The better you think the better decisions you will make. The better decisions you make, the better actions you will take. So far, Ugwuanyi is a thinker. Aside from him, Peter Obi, the immediate past governor of Anambra state, Willie Obiano the governor of Anambra state, and a few others, the South East, a region blessed with some of the best and brightest human resources in Nigeria, unfortunately presented its fourth or fifth rate since 1999 as far as leadership is concerned. It is on record that Ugwuanyi inherited an empty treasury with a huge debt overhang. Yet, within just 14 months in the saddle, he has given the state a new direction by trying to open up the rural areas. This would provide a lasting solution to the menacing herdsmen attacks. 

Nigeria, Africa and the world at large need peace. Everywhere, the nations are feverishly arming; everywhere, the powers - great and small - are regrouping themselves; everywhere, statesmen are openly speaking of Armageddon. History has not only moved back to 1914, but Western civilization stands on the verge of total collapse. And, precisely because of this, the common people of the world, sensitive of the danger which confronts them, are desperately seeking a way of averting this disaster. This way, however, can be found only through a frank, fearless and courageous facing up to the issues involved. Nigeria cannot be an exception. We don't need war no more! More than 46 years after the civil war, the Eastern part of the country which was the theatre of the carnage is still largely underdeveloped. 

Rather than sue for total reconciliation, current Nigerian leaders are still promoting those things that tend to divide us. They should garner adequate wisdom from how the United States put together the Marshall Plan of 1947 which was utilized to rebuild Europe after World War II. Having known the forces making for war and the interest they serve, it is necessary for progressive forces to stand firm against the criminal incendiaries who are constantly plotting and planning to make a holocaust of humanity.

Governor Ugwuanyi therefore deserves our sympathy and support. He should send an executive Bill to the state House of Assembly seeking to outlaw the act of human beings living in the bush instead of cohabiting with fellow humans. Again, Enugu state should borrow a leaf from Cross River state with the formation of forests guards (the Green Police) who will guard and protect the numerous forests in the state. This would help create employment for the teeming youths. It is hoped that the dialogue between the governor and religious/traditional rulers in the north led by the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence Mohammed Sa'ad Abubakar II, would yield fruitful results. It is better to jaw-jaw than to war-war.
*Dan Amor, a public affairs analyst writes from Abuja

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