Killings by herdsmen in Nigeria have continued to escalate because Fulani herders believe President Muhammadu Buhari, who is also a Fulani man, is their ally and for that reason they can do whatever they want and go scot-free, so says Catholic Archbishop of Jos, Ignatius Kaigama. Kaigama stated this in a recent interview with the Catholic Churchâ€™s humanitarian agency, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), published on its website.
Speaking on the growing crisis in the Middle Belt, where herdsmen have killed hundreds of farmers this year alone, and reasons for the wanton killings, the former president of the Nigerian bishopsâ€™ conference said, â€œOne of the reasons could be that because the president of the country, Muhammadu Buhari, is himself a Fulani, the herdsmen think that they have an ally, and therefore, that they can do what they want and get away with it. Otherwise, people cannot explain why there has been such a sudden increase in destruction.â€
Continuing he noted, â€œHerdsmen and farmers have always had conflicts, but not on this scale. Recently, herdsmen have developed a kind of new audacity to invade and destroy farmersâ€™ crops. They do so with such impetuosity that farmers are forced to react. In the past, there were problems between the two groups, but they were not that frequent.â€
Kaigama, who is one of the pioneers of the interreligious and interethnic dialogue in Plateau State, pleaded with Buhari to exercise the political will to deal decisively with the on-going violence, saying, â€œThat the killings have resumed was a tremendous shock to me. The flagrant and despicable taking of human lives and the continued destruction of homes and means of livelihood is a disgrace to humanity and a shameful projection of a negative image of Nigerians. But even in the midst of violence caused either by Boko Haram, militant herdsmen or yet to be identified â€˜foreign invadersâ€™, I believe peace is very possible as we are determined to sustain the culture of civilised conduct and peace.
â€œNot enough has been done to challenge the herdsmen killings. That could either be because of a so-called â€˜hidden agendaâ€™ or simply the absence of courage, determination, patriotism and political will. Cattle, as important as they are, cannot be valued over human beings. That does not mean that cows should be wounded, stolen or killed. Our president should come out clearly, categorically and courageously to explain to his kinsmen why dialogue is the best solution.â€
The archbishop explained that efforts were constantly being made by the Catholic Church to broker peace and to promote reconciliation among Christian and Muslim youths in Plateau State prior to the latest outbreak of violence in the state.
Kaigama added, â€œI can share the story of multidimensional peace efforts in Nigeria, using our Dialogue Reconciliation and Peace (DREP) Centre in Jos as an example. DREP is an initiative of the Catholic Archdiocese of Jos meant to offer a neutral place where reconciliation of aggrieved parties can take place. There is also the Interfaith Vocational Training Centre in Bokkos, where Muslim youths and Christian youths are trained for two years in vocational skills and helped to appreciate the civilized culture of dialogue as an alternative to the hostile confrontation at the slightest feeling of provocation.â€