By Jude Atupuluzai
It is now becoming a daily routine. I’m talking about the menace of Fulani cattle herders in Igbo Land. They either plunder our farms or kill the farmers. They are also raping our women. All these at the slightest provocation; that is if they are ever provoked.
Just recently a Fulani herdsman in Ebonyi raped a 54-year old woman to death in Ugwulangwu, Ohaozara Local Government Area of that state. His reason? He said that when he saw the woman walking on the road in the late evening, he made love advances to her and she abused him. He then out of anger raped her!
Now, I ask, was the woman a roadside prostitute that she would not be angry at being made advances at by a stranger? What right had the Fulani man to demand sex from her? Was her refusal enough to infuriate him to the extent of raping her?
There have been many similar incidents across the villages of the Southeast where these goons reside and operate. But the outrageous thing is that most times after they are arrested and handed over to the police, they are let go quietly, only for them to return emboldened to wreak more havoc.
Indeed, the menace of these criminals across the country has been a direct result of the federal government’s refusal (that’s what it seems) to go hard on them. Rather than go after them, the federal government is instead asking host states to accommodate them.
Now, many Fulani herdsmen are living in our midst, right there in the bushes. It is such that many people in those villages are not even aware they are there. But surely, in most; if not all cases, the community leaders are aware. I’m even made to understand that such community leaders either have a share of the cattle which the herdsmen rear for them, or are compromised in order to allow the herdsmen to settle in their bushes.
However, those who know the history of the Fulani settlement in many places know that what will at first look like a harmless settlement of people rearing cattle soon turns into a full blown settlement when they invite their wives and children to live with them. At this stage, they quickly form a community within a community and by the time the host community decides that they do not want them again, trouble starts.
Right now across the Igbo Nation, many of these Fulanis have comfortably settled in the bushes from where some of them sneak out to perpetrate evil against our people.
While the community leaders are directly culpable for allowing them in their midst in the first place, the various state governments seem either incapable of acting to stop the growing herdsmen’s terrorism or downright afraid to do so for fear of losing favour from the federal government of President Muhammadu Buhari.
It is this same perceived fear that has also made the joint security outfit of the Southeast Zone to look like a still-born project compared to the roaring start made by the Western version of the outfit called Amotekun.
Are our governors being too nice about setting up their own joint security outfit, such that they do not want to step on toes? While answers to this are being awaited, the herdsmen continue to plunder, kill, maim and rape our people and women.
Why haven’t our leaders acted first like their Yoruba counterparts and asked questions later? Why did they have to engage in what looked like umunna meeting with the security outfits before setting up their own? Did they not know that they will not get much encouragement from those security agencies who are working for the federal government? Was it then any surprise that our leaders shortly after the meeting cried out that the police did not act according to the resolutions at their meeting?
Right now, apart from individual states’ security arrangements, no one can say for sure if the central security arrangement has taken off or will ever take off.
For me, the Southeast governors have not done enough to secure our land from the silently invading herdsmen. During the lockdown we heard stories of able bodied young men from the northern parts of the country coming into the Southeast, hiding inside trucks and trailers. After the initial noise about their discovery, no one knew what happened. Many of those men were just turned back instead of being arrested to be thoroughly interrogated. Would the north have treated our young men same way if they had been seen entering their zone that way? Your guess is as good as mine; but suffice it to say that our governors ‘niceness’ is not addressing the matter adequately.
For our zone to be secured, there has to be a central security network in the mould of the one in Yoruba Land. It is something that ought to be done now without further delay, lest any time from now, the unexpected will begin to happen.
Now, let’s hear what our governors are doing against this menace from the piece written by Mr Mike Udah, Chief Press Secretary to the immediate past governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi.
Igbo Union in US Hits South East Governors: A Rejoinder
By Michael Ike Udah
Igbo Union, an organization of citizens and residents of Igbo extraction registered in the State of California, United States of America recently accused the South East Governors of Nigeria of “insensitivity to the threat and terrorisation of Igbo by suspected Fulani herdsmen roaming (Igbo) villages with their cattle and Ak-47 rifles.”
That accusation was their reaction to the killing by herdsmen of one Mazi Ozoemena Iriaka, a 65 year-old who hailed from Umuekpu-Agwa Community in Oguta Local Government Area of Imo State.
According to the news story published by DAILY SUN of Monday June 15, 2020 (pages 4 and 6), Igbo Union pointed out in a letter it wrote to the governors that such killing of Igbo citizens by Fulani herdsmen was routine and the order of the day. The body further accused the South East governors of unsatisfactory “response to the influx of Fulani militia into Igboland which skyrocketed during the (COVID-19) lockdown”, urging them to emulate their Western Nigeria counterparts who have appropriately reacted to the same menace by creating their security outfit called Amotekun.
But the truth of the matter is that the South East governors are as committed to the welfare of Ndigbo and other law-abiding Nigerians as ever. There are very clear pointers to this fact. On May 24, 2020 (just last month), the South East governors rose from a meeting and openly expressed their displeasure with the procedure adopted by the Inspector-General of Police on Community Policing. This made the Police boss to quickly convene a meeting with them where both parties amicably resolved their grievances and agreed to work together for the good of the South East Region and Nigeria.
The South East governors are working to have a regional security network. Each individual state in the region has got its own security outfit – Forest Guards in Enugu; Neighbourhood Watch in Ebonyi and Operation kpochapu in Anambra. The scenario is the same in Imo and Abia States.
The governors are working to harmonize the operations of these security agencies. There are some legislative and logistical issues involved here, and they will be sorted out over time. The South East governors are quite conscious of the need to balance the interests of Ndigbo with those of other Nigerians within the Nigerian Federation.
They are in constant dialogue with the Federal Government of Nigeria, as well as their counterparts in other geo-political zones/regions in our country. It is necessary to add here that such dialogue is also extended to Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the umbrella Igbo socio-cultural group; Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association; South East National Assembly Caucus, etc. South East Traditional Rulers’ Council is not left out by the South East Governors who operate under the aegis of the South East Governors’ Forum (SEGF). The same thing applies to other Igbo stake-holding groups: Igbo Leaders of Thought; Igbo Clergy; South East Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture; South East Security Committee; South East Consultative Committee on Health, etc.
The South East Governors’ Forum is pained each time Ndigbo are killed, raped, manhandled or appear to have been short-changed. In this particular instance, their hearts go out to the family of Mazi Ozoemena Iriaka, Umuekpu-Agwa Community, Oguta Local Government Area; Imo State Government and Ndigbo in general. May his soul find solace in the bosom of our Lord, Amen!
One can re-assure South Easterners that our governors constantly engage appropriate Ministries, Agencies and Departments with a view to ensuring that the Igbo man and woman are not deliberately shortchanged in the Nigerian Federation. In doing this, they adopt due process and observe all necessary protocols. They are as Igbo as any other Igbo anywhere in the world. However, it is important to note that security matters are delicate matters, and should be treated as such. Not all security questions are answered publicly. Fortunately, the doors of South East Governors are open through the South East Governors’ Forum Secretariat. Our website is www.southeastgovforum.org and e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
May God bless all of us!
Udah is the Director, Media and Communication, South East Governors’ Forum Secretariat, Enugu.