It is not an exaggeration to say that the evil works that were over time carried out with impunity against the good people of Edo state by Fulani herdsmen clearly corroborate the candour in the biblical injunction of Ecclesiastes chapter 8 verse 11. The biblical injunction has it that “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is truly set in them to do evil.”
I must confess that this piece was inspired by the recent attacks and killings of two elderly women, Christiana Ikheloa and Fatima Emoyon by suspected herdsmen which no doubt raised palpable anxiety and fear in Ewu community, Esan Central local government area of Edo State. Alas! As if that was not enough, the Nigerian Observer reports on its online platform on June 21 that “There was tension in the university town of Ekpoma, Esan West Local Government Area of Edo State, following the gruesome murder of a community woman, Margaret Odiamehi, by suspected Fulani Herdsmen. It added that “The victim, a grandmother, was allegedly raped and killed while working at her farm in Ukpenu Community”.
Without any scintilla of exaggeration, many people in the state, particularly those that are not favourably disposed to the APC-led government, may have mischievously embarked on a campaign of calumny that suggests that the government has not been strategising or putting policies and programmes in place to address the problem. Without sounding as an apologist of the government in this context, it is expedient to say that right from the immediate past administration under the leadership of former governor Adams Oshiomhole that efforts have been put in place to address the problem.
It is not as if Edo state government and the people in the state have not been fighting against the mayhems perpetrated so far by Fulani herdsmen in the state. Rather, they have ostensibly been on the trenches fighting to tame the bellicosity of the rampaging herdsmen with the adoption of various strategies that have worked elsewhere in the world only that they are yet to yield fruit in this part of the country.
For instance, on February 2, 2016, under the administration of former Governor Adams Oshiomhole, Edo State House of Assembly adopted a resolution that called relevant law enforcement agencies in the state to arrest and prosecute Fulani herdsmen found responsible for the destruction of lives and farm crops across Orhionmwon local government area in the state. The lawmakers in their resolution also directed that the Divisional Police Officer in the Council and the representative of the cattle rearers in the communities affected be invited to parliament. Also, in early April, 2016, the same administration convened a stakeholders’ meeting to engender a peaceful co-existence between Fulani herdsmen and the people of Edo state.
Still in the same nexus, traditional rulers in Edo North in early May, 2016 at a meeting held at the palace of the Otaru of Auchi, in Auchi, Etsako West Local Government Area called on the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency to deploy soldiers to stem the tide of the nefarious activities of Fulani herdsmen in the area.
The Otaru of Auchi, HRH Alhaji H. A Momoh, Ikelebe III who then spoke on behalf of traditional rulers from the northern part of the state bemoaned the menace of the herdsmen in the state, and stated that their activities had continued to generate tension. In a similar vein, in July 2016, members of the Progressives Governors Forum, to which Edo state Governor, on behalf of Edo people, was affiliated to, urged other governors in the country to call Fulani Herdsmen in their states to order with a view to resolving the persistent clashes between host communities and the herdsmen.
Unarguably in the bid to continue doing the good works which former governor Oshiomhole left as a legacy, Governor Godwin Obaseki and his assiduous team had never relented in their efforts to ensure that the rampage of herdsmen in the state is nipped in the bud.
Even before now, precisely in February 2017, when Obaseki was receiving Mr. Ayinla Iskil, who then paid his excellency a courtesy visit at government house as the newly posted State Commandant of the Corps it was disclosed that the state government was involving the Nigeria Security Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) in settling disputes between herdsmen and farm owners.
It was then added that part of their duties will be to help government to formulate policies and find a lasting solution to the problem. He said the Corps is 100 per cent ready to synergize with other security agencies to provide security for the state and rid it of criminal elements.
In a similar move, the governor had recently said the government would set up a database of northerners that live in the state in order to tackle the rampant cases of attacks on farmers by herdsmen.
Mr John Mayaki, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, said in a statement in Benin disclosed that the initiative would allow for easy identification of strange characters within their settlements.
However, it is very obvious that various efforts so far made both by the government and the communities who may have resorted to self-help to tackle the rampage of herdsmen in the state; once and for all have met a logjam. The reason for this cannot be far fetched as the bloody phenomenon called Fulani herdsmen may in this context be likened to the proverbial tse-tse fly that stubbornly perched on the scrotum of an angry farmer. In an attempt to kill it, the farmer may inflict a serious injury on his scrotum. It may also be likened to the dwarfish specie of rat that hid inside an earthen pot; killing it requires a great sense of tact and wisdom, otherwise the pot may get broken without the rat being killed. It is because of this unavoidable state of dilemma that this writer may not completely subscribe to the idea of mob action as some people may have advocated to avoid ethnic crisis. We should not be ignorant of the fact that some Nigerians of Fulani extraction were wont to come to rural areas in Edo state to do other businesses like hawking.
Be that as it may, the proverbial tse-tse fly and the dwarfish rat that were mentioned here still met their waterloo as rational thinking and wisdom were applied in killing them. It goes to say that in the course of time, the bogey called Fulani herdsmen would meet its waterloo if our security agents would think well and apply wisdom, and also if the people would be extra vigilant. This can only be possible with sincere information gathering, like the governor has set to do by gathering information on herdsmen in the state, and exhibiting patriotic and nationalistic dispositions by the various security personnel charged with the responsibility of tracking down the Fulanis that are responsible for the incessant killings in Edo farmlands.
As at the time of writing this piece, many Edolites were still making permutations and conjecturing on whether the cause which Fulani herdsmen are fighting for is political, social or religious. Simply put, many Edolites are yet to come to grips with the cause which the herdsmen are fighting for. The questions that have been flashing through the mind of this writer are: “Are they fighting for the country to be divided just the same way Sudan was divided? Are they agitating that other Nigerians should stop farming, the same way their counterparts in the much dreaded Boko Haram sect are advocating that schools should be closed down in the northern part of the country since they detest western education and its impartation? Or are they fighting to force non-northerners to acquiesce to the islamisation? For God’s sake, the leaders of Boko Haram should be bold enough to speak their minds to authorities and the entire Nigerian people.
Laughable enough, it is very obvious that Fulani herdsmen that have resorted to spilling the blood of innocent and defenceless farmers seem to be at a loss on what they actually want. At the moment, they are yet to tell Nigerians what they are agitating for or the injustice they are trying to address. Rather, they have decided to unpatriotically choose to follow the path of belligerence instead of wisely opting for the path of dialogue. If they had opted for dialogue chances are that concerned authorities and Nigerians would have by now seen reason with them since Nigeria is at the moment under a democratic system of government.
In my view, the sin which Fulani herdsmen are collectively committing is tripartite in nature. First and foremost, it is a sin against God for anyone to be terminating the lives of other fellow human beings in sheer defiance of God’s purpose for humanity. God cannot be happy seeing the lives of his children wasted by anyone irrespective of the genuineness of the reason behind such killings. He demonstrated his disapproval to the killing of fellow human beings when Cain killed Abel, his brother, contrary to His will. God asked Cain in Genesis chapter 4 verse 10-11 “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.” Fulani herdsmen in Edo should not forget that God is still the same yesterday, today and forever. Looking away from the spiritual perspective of the killing of others, it is imperative to opine that every living being, whether an insane being or sane being, has a fundamental right to live. It would be good if people should always have this at the back of their minds before wasting the lives of others.
If there is any common thread that literarily runs through the fabric of religions all over the world, it is that of the sanctity of human life. No religion says that lives of others should be terminated at will. Even die-hard atheists frown at the killing of innocent people. All religions preach peace, love and unity. So which religious message are Fulani herdsmen spreading through the genocide they are perpetrating in Edo state?
Secondly, the activities of Fulani herdsmen in its entirety is a sin against God and Edolites. The book of Jeremiah chapter 29 verse 7 says “And seek the peace of the city whether I have caused you to be carried away captives and pray unto the LORD for it; for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.” The foregoing scripture when contextually translated simply means that no Nigerian (Fulani herdsmen) would have peace until Edo as a state is peaceful. You may have been wondering on why this writer decides to limit his viewpoints to Edo state. The reason cannot be farfetched as he still have his elderly mother, aunties and kinsmen going to the farms in Orhionmwon local government area where the herdsmen have been reported to have held sway or still holding sway.
In the same nexus, proponents of the Boko Haram sect should not fail to realise that the horrifying images and emotions that they are wickedly replaying through their acts of terrorism have catapulted Nigeria to the forefront on news programmes around the world.
It is a sin against the farmer that woke up on at wee hour, brushed his or her teeth, even without taking his or her bath and dressed up for the farm only to be killed in the place of seeking means of survival. Without any iota of exaggeration, the killings in Edo by herdsmen is one killing too many.
Isaac Asabor, a Journalist, writes from Lagos.