Farmers/Herders Crisis: Community Leader Exonerates Army Chief, Buratai


A community leader in Benue State, Chief John Apochi, has fired back at Benue ethnic leaders over their recent attack on the person of Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai, in the ongoing clashes between herders and farmers in the state.

The tribal leaders of Benue State had recently slammed Buratai, who called for a review of the state’s grazing law in order to give room for lasting peace in the state.

Speaking through their Chairman, Chief Edward Ujege, the leaders under the aegis of Mdzough U Tiv (MUT), Idoma National Forum and Omi-Ny’Igede who commended the Army Chief for his concern and dogged fight against insurgency in the country, lamented that the call Buratai would embolden the killers.

Chief Apochi said the rejection of the worthy advice by Buratai whom the group also praised for his selflessness and patriotism was a clear indication that the Benue leaders were playing politics and not ready to see the end of the ongoing crisis tearing the state apart.

“I wonder why the so-called leaders of Benue ethnics groups spurned the advice by Buratai, who is not an ethnic leader or politician, but a professional, trusted and time-tested soldier like they rightly posited in heir statement.”

Chief Apochi maintained that the political leadership in Benue State has refused to be truthful to itself and the citizens on the way forward from a delicate issue that should be treated without any form of politics or sentiments to achieve peace for all.

“‎I am hardly interested in commenting on issues which have political and ethnic slant in my home state of Benue for obvious reasons. But I avoid it specifically because of the possibility of our people to easily misconstrue the genuine and good intentions by blending it with politics.”

“But I have decided to voice out on the seeming and raging verbal tussle between the Chief of Army Staff and Benue’s ethnic leaders led by Chief Edward Ujege under the auspices of the Mdzough U Tiv (MUT), the Idoma National Forum and the Omi-Ny’Igede, representing the three major ethnic groupings in the state.”

Briefly, the Army Chief has counseled the Government of Benue State to revisit the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law, 2017, which he believes has ennobled the violent siege of Benue state and opened the floodgate of killings in ceaseless crisis between herders and peasant farmers.

“‎But the Benue ethnic leaders are not comfortable with this advice from the Army boss and in their open rejection of it, they threw wisdom to the dogs, embarked chicanery and buffoonery in a manner that projects these elders and leaders as more interested in the bloodbath in the land rather than enduring solutions to ending the crisis.”

“‎I beg to disagree with my elders and leaders on several scores. But first, let me repeat the obvious, a fact known to these leaders that the COAS, Lt. Gen. Buratai is not an ethnic leader or politician, but a professional, trusted and time-tested soldier, as the elders admitted of his character and personality.”

He canvassed for slight modification of the law to fairly accommodate the interests of all the feuding parties. I don’t think this is a bad bargain and the focus of the tribal leaders should have been on how to save lives, as against the promotion of crisis.

“T‎he manner the ethnic leaders have juxtaposed the explanations appears to me, they don’t even understand the underlying issues at hand, much more think out workable remedies. That our fate is in their hands is a potential risk. From their diction and arguments, it’s clear these elders have muddled this frightening issue with politics because Governor Samuel Ortom is involved. So, every speech or utterance is targeted at impressing him and not tailored towards finding a solution to the crisis.”