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13 Jun 2018

HERDSMEN KILLINGS: WHERE GOES OUR LEADERS?



By: James Igbudu

I am deeply troubled at heart as I put down these lines respecting the situation in my home state of Benue. I was brought up under the illusion that elders provide shield for the young immatured members of the society, who are bred to takeover from where the elders would have stopped. Sadly, what is happening in my state at present indicates otherwise.

More than ever, the "not me" syndrome has come to the fore as has never before witnessed in the state. Those who would have come out to speak against our tormentors have gone into hidding prompting the question: "Where are the Benue leaders?"

It is no longer news that since 2010, Benue State has come under intense attacks from Fulani herdsmen. These attacks have resulted to the displacement of thousands of local farmers with their sources of livelihood lost as well as loved ones. Today, the motive of the attackers is no longer hidden as they openly declare their intention to claim the Benue valley.

It seems to me that the Governor of Benue State Samuel Ortom, has been left wholly to himself to confront the terrorists herdsmen, who on daily basis are on killing spree in the state. But I asked, is he the cause of the problem or it is his own problem alone? We used to have leaders who would stand up for the people in times like this. Where have they gone to?

What happens to the unity that hitherto existed among us? Is it that politics has so divided us that we can no longer unite to confront a common enemy? The beginning of this year to the present has left me wondering if at all, there still exist leaders in the state who can speak out against the evil done to the people.

We have faced an existential threat as a people. The Fulani herdsmen have vowed as widely reported in both online, print and electronic media beginning from May last year to launch attack on the state and even called out herdsmen from across the world o converge on Benue.

It is worrisome that there appears to be a lack of a united front from among the people of the state to contain this. Given the loud silence from some very important persons, who incidentally happen to be appointees of the present Buhari government, one is left to wonder whether or not they are merely concerned with what comes to them than the safety of the common Benue person.

Imagine the impact if the following personalities are united in one voice with governor Ortom in pushing for a deal for the state: Emmanuel Jime, Gen India Garba (rtd), Prof Mvendaga Jibo, Kamor JT Orkar, Audu Ogbe, Senator David Mark, Senator Ameh Ebute, Senator Iorchia Ayu amongst a host of others. Is it not curious that these supposed illustrious sons of Benue have joined forces with the state government is pushing home the need for ranching.

The situation in the state is beyond visiting the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Yes, that could help in ameriorating the immediate sufferings of IDPs, it does little to addressing the problem at hand.

It is unfortunate that some of these fellows mentioned above even have the termelity to criticise the law ostensibly to please their pay masters. They have therefore, forgotten that no matter how long is the distance, the road must certainly leads to a destination. Is it not after 25 years that June 12 has been recognised even by the people who benefited from the annulment of that election?

I am encouraged by the words of my Governor that like June 12, ranching will one day be accepted by those who, today are opposed to it. Then, they may have ran out their terms of whatever nature but the people would have remained. Those who are dancing on the graves of our people either by their silence or inactions in supporting the people's cause for a peaceful Benue.

Those who are living on the illusion that the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017 is an Ortom affair should be reminded that the people of Benue who flavoured for the law will not all be eliminated. They should also be reminded that the bill, which passed through legislative process and subsequently passed into law was subject of public hearings with full participation of stakeholders in the Benue project.

The law covers sought the protection of both crop producers and livestock farmers. Ranched animals will not trespass on fields while stiff penalties for cattle rustling will discourage those whose trade it is to jettison their evil ways.

Before I forget, the ranching law is not the cause of the killings in the state. If it is, what then is responsible for the killings in Zamfara, Plateau, Ebonyi and Kaduna States? This is a threat to the existence of the people of the state and the voice of our people on the matter is important.

Ortom is the Governor of Benue State and while he is left alone to handle the situation, tomorrow, he is certain to leave the stage. Then, Ogbe would have gone ahead with his cattle colony project while the rest of Benue sons who have maintained loud silence on this matter continue to collude with the herdsmen in their occupation of the state.

James Gbudu writes from Branch Umenger, Guma LGA.

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