Sunday, December 11, 2016

Killer-Herdsmen, Igbo Timid Govs And The Fayose Solution

By Tony Nwankwo
Not long ago, the peaceful, self-subsistence farming community of Ndi Okereke Abam, Arochukwu LGA, Abia State, was attacked by the now notorious, AK-47 rifle wielding, bow and arrow bearing marauders masquerading as Hausa/Fulani herdsmen.  By the time they were through with the unarmed, government abandoned community, seven persons, all from Ndi Okereke Abam, were down, fatally injured. 


They are still recuperating in hospitals in the area. According to a report, the affected community and other Ovukwu people plan to protest the invasion and wanton destruction of their farmlands by these herdsmen.  The herdsmen come into the heartland of the Igbo, they lead their cattle into farmlands, here it was the rice farm, they stand akimbo and watch their cattle feast on harvested rice seeds arranged for evacuation.  In some instances, they feed off the rice farm and other farmlands, wasting the crops, the only means of livelihood of the people. In some others, they attack, maim and kill people, rape the women. 

When they are done, they sing their song of triumph and celebrate their victory over their victims as they lead their cattle to yet another community for the same purpose. This is the practice of the Hausa/Fulani herdsmen since they started bearing arms and terrorising local communities. According to the report, the member representing Arochukwu/Ohafia Federal Constituency in the National Assembly, Mr. Uko Nkole, visited the community, paid the medical bills of the injured and appealed for peaceful co-existence.  From the state capital, Umuahia, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu said government has land for grazing for cattle, “but because we are Nigerians, the government would allow some level of understanding to prevail”. 

And the leader of this invading army, masquerading as herdsmen, Chairman, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders, Hassan Buba, is sad about the incident and promised it will not happen again. So, the herdsmen should go home and sin no more. Meanwhile, Governor Ikpeazu, cannot point anywhere in Nigeria, where peace has prevailed between people and Hausa/Fulani herdsmen because an agreement was reached. You cannot get a binding agreement when  one party is politically authorised to carry automatic weapons and ready to use them, while the other can’t.  It is the same stand that Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, adopted when herdsmen invaded a community in his State and massacred  the people. 

The scenario seems the same now, all over Igbo land. But can an Igbo man go to graze his cattle in Kano and elsewhere in the North, and receive the same accommodation these governors contemplate? Over time, the herdsmen have proven that the only language they speak and understand is violence. The communities should seek to ward off these attacks to save themselves the pain of burying their dead and saving their women from rapists.  The herdsmen are an invading force, they are armed to the teeth. The irony is that Ndi Okereke Abam is such a tiny community tucked away at the fringe of Abam with nothing like government presence whatsoever. 

It is doubtful if either the Federal Government or the State Government has ever come to commission any meaningful project in the community, ever.  So, why should they suffer from the indignity of a rampaging military wing of a ‘born-to-rule’ oligarchy, from thousands of miles away. It is usually a sad day when politicians play to the gallery, with their focus directed at Abuja, to the detriment of the lives of their own people. It is degrading and insulting. South-East governors should look across the Niger to Ayo Fayose’s Ekiti, as he creates policies to safeguard his people from the vestiges of these rampaging criminals.  

After all, the Federal Government has openly declared that these herdsmen are neither Fulani nor Nigerians. But, the Presidency is the executive arm of the Federal Government and are under oath to defend the citizens of Nigeria against foreign invaders. They should do this to earn their mandate and make their tenure meaningful. Meanwhile, it is time for the entire Abam clan to find a common ground on how to deal with the menace of armed cattle rearers.  An Abam proverb says, you cannot sit in your bedroom and burst your own scrotum.  

An attack on one should be an attack on all. Abia State has gained nothing from the Federal Government, not from this administration, not from those before it.  The people should, at least, be allowed to exist in peace, lick their wounds in their God-given habitat. That cannot be asking for too much. It is unthinkable that a government in Igboland is seriously thinking of providing a grazing land to Hausa/Fulani herdsmen, probably, so that peace can reign.  A peace that destroys the self-esteem of a people is the peace of the graveyard.  

It should be home for dead dry bones. Those who advocate for such largesse should give lands from their communities, not in the Abam area.  Why should the people of Ndi Okereke Abam, lose their seasonal rice crops to pawns, leading cattle across dangerous terrain, while their paymasters, politicians and businessmen like Chairman Hassan Buba, laugh at our back only to lead another herd to another farm in another part of the State. There is a Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeder in every state with a chairman, a phone call away to make peace while the footsoldiers continue their conquering run. You listen to him to your detriment and subjugation. Enough should really be enough. 
*Tony Nwankwo is a commentator on public issues.

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