Welcome to a New Kind of Tension


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Adeola Akinremi
“Welcome to a new kind of tension” is a line in Green Day’s song, American Idiot.
The killings the other day in Enugu is a precursor to a new kind of tension.
There are many reasons to believe a new kind of tension is brewing in the country and we simply need to look at the statistics of death based on the alleged recent Fulani herdsmen’s killings in Enugu State alone. Scores of people have been reportedly killed at Ukpani Nimbo community, a border community between Enugu and Kogi States.

In a report, the community questioned the integrity of our security service in acting on a tipoff. That has always been the problem. In most cases Nigerian security service responds after an attack.
To be sure in a statement after the attack the Enugu State police Command said, “a full investigation had begun into the alleged killing of six persons in Nimbo…”

That statement also fell short of the figures in circulation. It is only in Nigeria that we report eyewitness account differently from official figure. It’s clear that the police needs a quick reform to change the pattern.

But my concern here is that the problem of insecurity is getting worse and assuming new dimensions under the Muhammadu Buhari presidency.

It’s sad that this government has not been proactive about the alleged Fulani herdsmen’s invasion and ransacking of farmlands across the country, in spite of the banner headlines in our newspapers and on television screen. In fact it begs the question whether things are changing in accordance with our expectations as promised by President Buhari during his campaign.

Yes, change is a process, the president has said, but change is also a project and every project must have a lifecycle.

Long before now Fulani herdsmen have been in the news for bad reasons and one would expect that as someone with security knowledge and as a tribesman, dealing with the issue of killings by the Fulani will be a priority for the Buhari administration, but we are dead wrong in our hypothesis.

Strangely, Buhari rarely makes comment on killings by the Fulani herdsmen. He merely bowed to pressure, when his media men issued a statement on his behalf in the case of the Agatu massacre in Benue State and that was after many days. With the latest killings, he has now ordered the Inspector General of Police to act, but Buhari did not call the herdsmen terrorists as he called those vandalising pipeline in the Niger Delta. His statement on the extreme violence of his kinsmen fell short of standards.

For Mr. President it may be a sensitive tribal issue since he’s a Fulani man himself, but for Nigerians the killings are senseless.

Now, some months back I read in one of the foreign newspapers that the Fulani herdsmen are terrorists group and probably worst than the Boko Haram. I’m sure like I did our security operatives too read the story. It is one of the ways they gather security reports going by what I know about security reports. But what I find missing is their action.

Again, last November, the Independent newspaper in the United Kingdom, published a screaming headline: “Global Terrorism Index: Nigerian Fulani militants named as fourth deadliest terror group in world.”

True or False?  Let’s look into the details.
The disturbing figures from the story will help situate how Fulani herdsmen’s invasion has become an albatross.

As published on November 18, 2015, the Independent newspaper wrote: “The fourth deadliest known terrorist group has been named as the Fulani militant group operating in Nigeria and parts of the Central African Republic.

“The little-known group, formed of individuals from the semi-nomadic pastoral ethnic group Fula people existing across several West African nations, has seen a dramatic escalation of its activities in the past year.

“In 2013, the Fulani killed around 80 people in total – but by 2014 the group had killed 1,229.
“Operating mainly in the middle belt of Nigeria, opposed to the north which is dominated by Boko Haram, the group recorded 847 deaths last year across five states, and has also been known to stage attacks in the Central African Republic (CAR), according to the latest report from the Global Terrorism Index.

“As much as 92 per cent of their attacks target private citizens, reflecting the group’s primary concern over the ownership of farmland. Each attack claims an average of 11 lives, with the largest known in April 2014 killing as many as 200 people after a group of the militants targeted community leaders and residents during a meeting in central province Zamfara.”

And lest we forget, the Agatu killings in Benue community, where about 300 villagers were reportedly massacred in the first killing spree with heavy casualties recorded in communities like Aila, Okokolo, Akwu, Adagbo, Odugbehon and Odejo remain an unresolved mystery for the government, though it is more than clear who did, even at a time when the culprits have owned up to the killings calling it a “reprisal attack”.

According to a report by the Global Risk Insight, a world-leading publication for political risk news and analysis, “the Fulani group poses a serious threat to security, especially since the group’s movements and attacks are opportunistic and haphazard. Its increased propensity for violence has meant that the group now ranks as the fourth-deadliest in the world – more lethal even than al-Shabaab. Buhari may have his sights set on Boko Haram, but he can ill-afford to turn a blind eye to the Fulani militants.”

Of course, unlike the old-time Fulani herdsmen I grew up knowing, who used arrows and cutlasses, the modern day Fulani cattle rearers are ever in combat gears, armed with the trademark AK-47 rifles as they go everywhere daring farm owners and village settlers in broad daylight, gunning down children, women, men and the elderly alike, where they are resisted.

What shall we say then? Shall we continue to say Sai Baba and the deaths continue or kai Baba and we have the real change we want? The Buhari administration needs to respond to the growing insecurity across the country –especially the upsurge in crime wave attributed to the Fulani herdsmen— with moral rectitude.