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Herdsmen crisis may develop into a civil war – Soyinka


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THE Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, has said that recurring herdsmen crisis may develop into a civil war if urgent steps are not taken by President Muhammadu Buhari to address it.

The Nigerian playwright, poet and essayist  said this while speaking with BBC Pidgin in an interview on Saturday.

The 1986 Nobel Prize winner for Literature also said President Muhammadu Buhari’s silence on the ‘illegal’ activities of herders across Nigeria showed that he was complicit and not ready to stop criminal herdsmen.

President Buhari has been accused of not doing enough to tackle the menace of herdsmen across the country because he is  Fulani and the grand-patron to the main herders’ association, Miyetti Allah.

“What do they expect of us now that the war is on our doorstep? Of course, there will be mobilisation and if we keep waiting for this to be centrally handled, we are all going to become, if not already, slaves in our land. That, to me, is personally intolerable. It is not an acceptable condition,” he said.

“And whatever it takes, I stand ready to contribute in any way and I have made my governor understand this, that we are here not just to live in but to live in dignity. Right now, our dignity is being rubbished. My forest is being taken over, it’s been shrinking, my normal hunting ground is shrinking. My family tells me that if I go in-depth again, they will have me institutionalised.”

Soyinka, in the interview, said Buhari’s first action in trying to find a lasting solution to the menace was for him to address the nation on how the situation would be addressed.

“Yes, I know I am the patron of the Cattle Rearers Association etc., and I am a cattle rancher myself and it is a business. And I do not run my business by killing people. I do not run my business by raping, by displacing, by torturing. I do not run my business by occupying land that does not belong to me… Whatever comes to you for illegal occupation, for trespassing on other people’s property is your business and I am ordering the army, I am ordering all the security forces to back citizens’ efforts in flushing you out.

“It is very late already, but it is not too late. This is a language that we expect from President Buhari and as much as that language does not come, I must consider him as quite complicit in what is going on because the buck stops at his desk.

“We may enter a phase of serious skirmishes which get more and more violent and may develop into civil war and a very untidy mercy one. That’s my biggest fear. Unless action is taken… I am very glad that the governors are coming together and are discussing in all seriousness. I’m happy they are pulling in groups like Miyetti Allah, obviously knocking some sense into the heads of their leaders and they are talking about accepting the decision of governors and agreeing to obey.”

The interview is coming days after Saleh Alhassan, national secretary of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, in an interview with Punch Newspapers, accused President Muhammadu Buhari of doing nothing for the Fulani herdsmen except to create enemies for them.

The Alhassan’s interview came on the heels of the controversy generated by Rotimi Akeredolu, Ondo State governor, who ordered herders to vacate the state forest reserves over rising insecurity in the state.

He had said, “If the President is a Fulani, it doesn’t in any way affect the life of a herder. In fact, they are worse off under Buhari. What are they benefitting? They don’t access any government facility or social amenity, yet they are responsible for the bulk of animal protein we produce in this country. I think it’s deliberate for people to think otherwise.”

SundayAdeniyi Adeyemo, a Yoruba youth leader, also known as Sunday Igboho, had issued an ultimatum giving herdsmen seven days to leave Igangan, Ibarapa North Local Government Area of Oyo State, following cases of increased kidnapping and killings by suspected Fulani herdsmen in the area.

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Soyinka said Igboho responded to the situation in the way he understood.

Read AlsoIbarapa crisis in the face of media abundance

Igboho had stormed the Fulani settlement in the town by ejecting the Seriki Fulani, Salihu Abdukadir, and other herdsmen accused of fuelling insecurity in the area.

He also stormed Ogun State on the 1st of February, insisting that killer-herdsmen must vacate Yorubaland.

Soyinka said, “We’ve never met, I hope people will always report things properly. I saw a byline of one media report that Wole Soyinka calls Igboho a hero, I never made any such thing. Sunday Igboho has responded to the situation in the way he knew how. Now you will see that he’s trying to work with others.

“Somebody, one day, reaches an explosion point and he says I cannot take this any longer and he takes unilateral action. It may be excessive, it may be wrong but what matters is that somebody has responded to an unacceptable situation. Any error which he makes is for the rest of us to correct by calling him and I know that a number of people are doing that.”

Attacks caused by Herdsmen between 2012 and January 2021

Nigeria has seen heightened clashes between crop farmers and herders since Buhari, a northern Muslim from the Fulani tribe, became president in 2015.

Some states across the country have lamented the activities of armed herdsmen who they accuse of grazing their cattle on people’s farmland and also engaging in criminality such as kidnapping, raping and murder.

  1. Deaths caused by Herdsmen between 2012 and January 2021

Samuel Ortom, governor of Benue State, last Thursday, accused President Muhammadu Buhari of only caring about Fulani herders, rather than being the president for all Nigerians.

Addressing a press conference in Makurdi on Wednesday, February 3, 2021, Ortom, whose state has seen a fair share of farmers-herders clashes, as reported by Punch Newspaper, said Buhari should know that he is the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, rather than  president of Fulani.

President Muhammadu Buhari and Gabriel Ortom, Benue State Governor
President Muhammadu Buhari and Gabriel Ortom, Benue State Governor

“Mr. President, in case you are listening to me, I want you to know that your people, Nigerians, you promised Nigerians that you will be fair to all.

“You said that you will be for everybody and for nobody, and now it will appear that you are for Fulani people because nothing is coming from you to give the people confidence that you are their president.

“You are the president of the federal republic of Nigeria, you are not the president of Fulani.

“You are the president of everybody and I owe you a duty as a stakeholder in this nation to let you know that what is going on is wrong and this has the potential of dividing this country which will not be in the interest of anyone –some of us believe in the unity of this country,” he had said.

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