By Jude Atupulazi
At long last I have heard the news I have been dying to hear. That news which seemed like it would never come was the resolution of the South East governors under the aegis of South East Governors Forum, to wield the big axe against the menace of the now dreaded Fulani herdsmen in the South East Zone.
For some time now, these murderers masquerading as herdsmen had been having a field day in what certainly appears to be testing of the waters in the South East Geo-Political Zone. Within the said period, they had been kidnapping, killing, raping and stealing at gun point in various parts of the zone, particularly in Enugu and Imo States.
Their activities had soon become such that travelling in some parts of the east was becoming a nightmare. That period had seen two Catholic priests killed, a traditional ruler kidnapped and an Anglican bishop’s wife kidnapped. These were notable ones as there were several others involving the not so famous.
While the murderers pillaged, raped, killed and kidnapped, our governors appeared to be either oblivious of the plight of the commoners who were mostly at risk, or incapable/afraid of doing something for fear of being in the bad books of President Muhammadu Buhari.
But on Saturday, August 31, the governors woke from their slumber and came out with a roaring stand on the activities of the herdsmen. And chief among the resolutions reached was the ban on herdsmen/ cattle movement among communities in the South East.
The governors made the disclosure in Enugu during their meeting with enlarged stakeholders that included the Minister for Aviation, the Army, Police, the Clergy, Igbo leaders, Federal Ministry of Works, among others.
In a communiqué delivered by the chairman of the Governors Forum, Chief Dave Umahi, the stakeholders said they deliberated on two major topics on matters of insecurity and the matters arising from the closure of the Enugu Airport.
Umahi said at their discussion it was agreed that their earlier joint air operation to flush out bandits from all forests in the South East would continue.
According to him, the meeting also agreed that measures would be put in place to restrain movement of herdsmen and their cattle from one state to another which the governors and stakeholders identified as a source and point of conflict with the natives and farmers. This was just as they also agreed on the restraining of the movement of cattle and herdsmen from community to community across farmlands.
While commending the Enugu State governor for the establishment of Forest Guards as earlier agreed by the South East governors, the meeting encouraged the remaining South East governors to launch theirs.
Their communique read in part, ”South East governors have banned herdsmen who move about with AK-47 guns and cutlasses and we want our security agencies to implement same. South East governors never invited the army, nor were the South East governors informed of any of their operations on Python Dance until the operations were already started in the states.”
The governors and stakeholders also resolved to write to President Muhammadu Buhari to request for a meeting with him and all the security chiefs on issues of security to douse tension in the region.
It bears no repetition to describe the latest action of our governors as highly commendable. Anywhere in the world, security of life and property is held in the highest esteem. In fact, a government which does everything but fails in securing the lives of its citizenry has failed woefully. Of what use are roads, hospitals, schools and other amenities if there are no people to enjoy them? Human lives are so valued in some countries that they can go to war to protect just an individual.
The silence of our governors all this while had been worrisome; so worrisome that it was beginning to appear as though they were under oath not to raise a voice against the carnage orchestrated by the killer herdsmen.
Now they have spoken, we hope it will not be a mere barking. They should match their bark with bite if need be. Being that the police and army are under the control of the Federal Government, our governors have to sit on their necks to ensure that they do their bidding which is sniffing out the killer herdsmen and expelling them from our land. Perhaps the governors are mindful of the politics associated with the operations of the herdsmen; hence their resolve to meet with the president.
The time has indeed come for us to take our destiny in our own hands since the FG seems reluctant to do the needful against the herdsmen. Last time I wrote that the FG was perhaps allowing the murderous activities of the herdsmen in some parts of the country because they are restricted to areas the FG does not consider as important. I said that if the herdsmen were taking their activities to the North East, just as Boko Haram, the FG would suddenly wake up and declare war on them as they are now doing against Boko Haram.
I also expressed the belief that had Boko Haram been operating in other ”expendable” areas outside the North East, the current war against them would never have been waged.
Thus, the FG’s refusal to acknowledge the dangerous nature of these herdsmen already declared as the fourth most dangerous terrorist organization in the world, speaks volumes of a hidden agenda.
With this known, it now behoves the various states to rally round and set up machineries with which to defend themselves as Gen Theophilus Danjuma (Rtd) once suggested. We should not wait until the storm breaks before running helter-skelter for cover. The time to do that is now.
This is a security matter which is usually not blown open. Thus, I expect our leaders to work out ways of defending our territory if push turns to shove, after all, is it not said that vigilance is the better part of valour?
This is no time to sit on the fence or to defend party interests, for bullets do not distinguish between a party loyalist or opposition. It is the time to take pragmatic, proactive steps to secure our territory. If at the end of the day nothing happens, it will never be a wasted exercise as we would have succeeded in warding off threats posed by regular criminals.
The governors and stakeholders must also insist that anyone arrested because they violated the new directive should be prosecuted. We want to begin to see punitive action taken against these vermin. Failure to do so will only serve to encourage them.
I laugh when some people like Bola Tinubu, former Lagos State Governor and APC chieftain, attempt to down play the activities of the herdsmen by insinuating that other criminals are behind the killings. The question I will like the likes of Tinubu to answer is why the killers only kill in some cases and disappear. Regular criminals usually rob their victims or kidnap for ransom. But why is it that some of the recent killings are carried out without any intention to rob or kidnap?
Take, for instance, the killing of Catholic priests. Recently a Catholic priest was killed and burnt along with his car in Taraba. Do regular criminals act that way? Wouldn’t they have taken the car, probably after shooting the priest? But in this very case, they were only interested in killing him and in that brutal and senseless manner.
It now appears as if Catholic priests have become prime targets for these killer herdsmen. It is becoming all too regular that priests may be considering travelling in mufti.
The irony of it all; most annoyingly so, is that these killers always almost get away with their actions. The few times the security agencies make a show of arresting them, nothing is ever heard of their prosecution.
But once any crime is committed by regular criminals, the police, in particular, parade them before the world and eventually charge them to court. Why isn’t the same treatment meted out to the killer herdsmen?
Our leaders must therefore put their feet down on the punishment of these people once caught. When they visit Buhari, they should not go soft; rather, they should look at him with ”red eye” and let him know that enough is enough. They should let him know that we are tired of this shit and that if the security agents refuse to act, we will act. That will be the fitting way to appease the spirits of our people being killed for nothing in their very own back yard.
ENOUGH is simply ENOUGH!!!