Soyinka: Herders-Farmers Crisis Can Degenerate into Civil War

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Wole Soyinka

· Challenges Buhari to address nation
· Abiodun orders probe of clash in Ogun

Gboyega Akinsanmi

Nobel laureate, Prof. Wọlé Soyinka has warned that the conflict between Fulani herdsmen and farmers in different states of the federation can degenerate into civil war if the federal government fails to properly handle it.

Soyinka, a poet and playwright, tasked President Muhammadu Buhari to address the nation and dissociate himself from the activities of those who run their businesses by displacing, killing, raping, torture and by occupying land that does not belong them.

He gave the warning in a recent interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) pidgin, criticising the government’s handling of the situation and accusing some security operatives of taking sides.

Amid the increasing herdsmen violence in the South-west, Ondo State Governor, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu had directed all Fulani herdsmen living in any part of the state’s forest reserves to leave within seven days.

Subsequently, in Oyo State, a Yoruba youth leader, Sunday Adeyemo (a.k.a Sunday Ighogho) issued a seven-day ultimatum to the Fulani community in Igangan, Ibarapa North Local Government area of Oyo state, over allegation that they are responsible for the rising insecurity and kidnapping in the area

The notices of eviction has stoked intense national debate on the constitutionality of such a directive with the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) warning that no one had the right to expel any Nigerian from any part of the country.

However, a human rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana noted that the order Akeredolu issued that herdsmen should leave forest reserves within seven days was legal.

Tension has been running high in recent weeks over the allegations that herders are responsible for killings and abductions in the southwest.

Condemning killing and raping by Fulani herdsmen nationwide, the Nobel laureate said there “is a need to ensure that the matter is settled amicably.”

He said: “My fear is that it could degenerate into violence that ends up in— hate to use the word—a civil war unless we take action. I am glad that governors are already dialoguing with groups like Miyetti Allah (cattle breeders),” he said.

“I am also glad that they are already discussing agreeing to obey the rules and that other groups are already liaising. I think we need to ensure they reach a consensus that will be fair to all parties
“We are struggling against an enemy that believes in acting the way he pleases. They believe they have immunity or that nothing can happen to them. That is why, in my own state, you find a soldier taking the side of an enemy.

“They actually escort killers, rapists, raiders while flogging the victims. That wouldn’t happen if the people are conscious of the nature of their enemy and are encouraged to collaborate with the security forces.”

Soyinka noted he once observed the level of damage done to farmlands by herders while hunting with his colleagues, stressing the need to encourage dialogue between the locals and security forces towards ending the crisis.

He, thus, challenged the president “to address the nation. He should address the nation in unambiguous terms. Say openly that I know I am the patron of Cattle Rearer Association of Nigeria. Cattle rearing is a business and I rear my cattle on a business term.

“I do not run my business by killing people. I do not run my business by raping, by displacing or by torture. I do not run my business by occupying land that does not belong to me,” Soyinka tasked the president to dissociate himself from the nefarious activities of Fulani herdsmen.

In another development yesterday, Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun has ordered the security agencies in the state to investigate the recent clash between herdsmen and farmers in the Yewa-North area of the state that led to the loss of a life and destruction of properties.

In a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Kunle Somorin,
Abiodun was said to have set up a Special Task Force that would maintain presence in all areas of the state prone to herders-farmers conflict to maintain peace and quickly respond to any form of violence or crimes.

The statement said the government “is immediately setting up a joint security patrol team/ task force involving all security agencies in the state to not only deal with the situation, but to also nip in the bud any threat to violence or criminality.”

Abiodun also directed that those behind the recent violence in Egua in Yewa North Local Government Area of the state should be brought to justice.

The statement read further, “We will not condone any act of criminality in the state no matter who is involved. The police and other security agencies have been directed to go after the perpetrators of this act and bring them to book.

“We will not allow anybody to disrupt the peace in Ogun State, and anyone who tries to test our resolve to maintain peace in our state will have himself or herself to blame,” the governor said.