Mark Amaza: Dear Pres. Buhari, you can do better in the fight against Fulani herdsmen (Y! Politico)

By Mark Amaza

The end result now is we have a state where herdsmen are given an ultimatum to leave, and another where the governor has charged hunters and vigilantes to seek out herdsmen and “kill them before they kill”, as though we were a society lacking in law and order.

It feels like it was just yesterday that Nigeria witnessed the first power transition between two political parties having survived the most tense election of its existence while the world with baited breath for violence to break out, to their utter disappointment.

For many Nigerians, myself inclusive, it heralded the start of a new era and the ushering of a government that will meet the yearning desires of its citizens for a better life.

My support for President Muhammadu Buhari was predicated upon the desire to have a government that will be serious on fighting the Boko Haram insurgency that had ravaged huge parts of the North-East, especially my home state of Borno. This also formed one of the main campaign thrusts of President Buhari as a candidate – that his administration will not rest until they defeated Boko Haram.

On that front, he has performed creditably. Even though his predecessor had awoken from his slumber a few months before the elections and recovered territory held by the terrorist group, the military under President Buhari was still able to deal with a resurgent Boko Haram towards the end of last year, and has restored so much confidence in the region that thousands are now returning to their hometowns. These days, attacks by Boko Haram are hardly heard of, and the military is still hot on the pursuit of the terrorists.

However, I also did warn at the start of this administration that Boko Haram will not be the most defining security agenda of the next four years – that ignominious role will go to the incessant attacks by suspected Fulani herdsmen on hapless villages in the Middle Belt. These attacks which go back to even a decade had been increasing in frequency before the elections.

Sadly, the administration did not heed this warning, and in a manner typical of Nigerian governments where they wait until the problem becomes acute before they start scrambling to solve it, the Buhari administration has been extremely slow in responding to this crisis. It has waited until there have been massacres in Agatu, Benue State, and attacks moving increasingly southwards to Enugu, Rivers and Ekiti States.

The end result now is we have a state where herdsmen are given an ultimatum to leave, and another where the governor has charged hunters and vigilantes to seek out herdsmen and “kill them before they kill”, as though we were a society lacking in law and order.

But then, nature abhors a vacuum, and the vacuum here is the inaction of the Federal Government, under whose authority every crime-fighting agency is, to be serious about preventing these attacks, and then to apprehend and try culprits, some of whom have publicly confessed to their crimes with mind-boggling justifications.

There has not only been inaction – there has been silence for a long time from the government; and when the President ended up speaking about it, he came off as a biased party, siding with the herdsmen, with whom he shares ethnic affiliations.

This is in sharp contrast to the response of the President and his administration to attacks by Nigeria’s New Kid on the Terrorist Block, Niger Delta Avengers that has been blowing up gas pipelines and oil installations. Responses have been immediate, ranging from threats to come down on them with force to overtures of dialogue.

It is almost as though that the President has limited his security agenda to two items: crushing Boko Haram and preventing another Niger-Delta militancy, and all other items do not matter to him. His inaction towards the herdsmen attacks has depressed his score on security to a D on my scoring scale for the past one year.

As long as President Buhari continues to drag his feet on ending the attacks by herdsmen by tackling the immediate and remote causes and serving judgment to those guilty of criminal activities no matter what ethnic groups, he will force hapless citizens to organize and defend themselves.

If this should happen, it will bring to reality our worst fears about the ripple effects of the attacks: reprisals upon reprisals along ethnic, religious and regional lines and likely, Nigeria’s next

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