Barely a month since Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Professor Wole Soyinka agreed on the subject of insecurity in the nation – and particularly the recent kidnappings in the South-West – there has been an unprecedented step up in coordinated effort to get regional leaders and other stakeholders on board to take pragmatic action.
Gone are the days when an entire region in the country would leave its security concerns totally in the hands of an under-performing federal government. The North-Central region comprising Plateau, Benue and a few other largely agrarian states in the belt once depended on the national security apparatus to protect them and their interests from marauding herdsmen. They suffered mostly for this lapse in dependence, with the casualties encountered running into the several thousands in less than four years. The South-Eastern region has also experienced some violent incidents related to farmer-herdsmen crisis, albeit not as pronounced as the violence meted out against the North-Central and the South-West zones.
A number of times, alarms have been raised on the reverberatory effect which the southward migration of Fulani herdsmen, who are taking flight not only for the sake of their cattle stock but also for their own dear lives, will have. The gradual dry-up of the Lake Chad Basin has contributed both remotely and conspicuously to this crisis. But while it is understandable that most of these migrating herdsmen are in search of cities of refuge, at what expense is this search for survival? At what cost is their migration to indigenous farmers and residents along their new routes?
For the larger part of the this administration’s past four-year term in office, both new and experienced farmers across the nation have been reluctant to go headlong into bigger farming projects because of the fear that their farms will be invaded by cattle someday and they would not be able to anything about it. The federal government has done little or nothing to assuage the plight of these farmers.
According to figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), agriculture remains the highest employer of labour in Nigeria. The Fulanis, on the other hand, are largely nomadic people traversing the length of the country while catering to their cattle’s needs. It is, thus, unavoidable that there will be clashes between the farmers and these herdsmen. It is a play of survival. There are also growing concerns and fears that the federal government, headed by a President who is of Fulani stock, is unashamedly backing a systemic balkanization move of some errant Fulani marauders. If this suggestion of favouritism is true or not, time shall reveal. But it is still hard to ignore the fact that the lackadaisical attitude of the FG towards proposing workable solutions to this problem has been one of the reasons why rumours of the president’s bias seem to be real.
As it, therefore, behooves the governors in these regions, it is instructive and commendable that the new heads of the South-West states have found it worthy to constitute a security summit in this dispensation to evaluate the crisis at hand and how best to handle it. Feelers from some stakeholder groups in the southwest such as the Afenifere, Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission, Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Council of Obas and the Aare Ona Kakanfo; must have added to the pressure on the governors to convene the security meeting after all.
On one hand, it feels like the federal government, whose security units are largely populated and headed by personnel who hail from the northern part of the country, has abandoned the other regions to their fate. This may likely lead to a call for all of the six regions of the country to coalesce their constituent units, pool resources, and evolve their security strategy by themselves, to protect their people.
Whether we remain in a sovereign nation bound together in unity or not, the right to self-defense whenever personal security is threatened remains a fundamental human right. Whatever comes out of this initiative at improving security by stakeholders in the southwestern region, if at all, may eventually be the holistic template adopted by the other regions which are equally groaning under the weight of herdsmen occupation.
Until we get our security apparatus right from the top, the situation spells “all man to himself”.
Featured image source: Pulse.ng