WITH the shocking news that Islamic State fighters have penetrated some states, the government should now look beyond the farmers/herdsmen rift to discover the root of the grave security challenge confronting Nigeria.
When did herdsmen become killers? Are the unscrupulous elements perpetrating mayhem and using the farmers/herdsmen palaver as decoy? Are they causing violence and using the farmers/herdsmen row as cover-up? Are the killers using the crisis as camouflage?
As the Boko Haram sect is being dismantled in the Northeast, new killers have emerged in Benue, sending government and security agents jittery. Now, in the Northcentral, people are more united by the collective threat to life and property. Indigenes of those distressed villages are having sleepless nights. Who are the new bandits, rogues and killers masquerading as herdsmen?
The frightening discoveries in Benue, Kogi and Edo point to more dangers ahead, if decisive actions are not taken by the government. The news of looming disaster has created more panic. But, they also impose new challenges of intelligence gathering. Security agents have warned that suspected members of the Islamic State (IS) may be on the prowl, planning to unleash terror on some communities. Also, the Taraba State Government alleged that an arms-filled chopper had landed in the state. The veracity are still being investigated.
For centuries, herdsmen have been rearing their cattle. Eyebrows were not raised. The herdsmen do not usually lead the cattle. The cattle know their lines. The job of the herdsmen is just to monitor the weak cattle and prevent them from straying from the routes. Herdsman usually conducted themselves in a peaceful manner, trying to fraternise with host communities. They were never armed with guns.
Cases of cattle rustling were not rampant. There was no strife and rancour. There was no tension in communities that briefly hosted the herdsmen and cows. There was no acrimony.
When quarrels ensued between herdsman and farmers, following the disruption of crops and farmlands by the cattle, the occasional misunderstanding was usually resolved amicably.
Many have cited drought as the main reason for the change of routes by herdsmen. But, why should that be a major problem? There have been droughts in the past, warranting the search for green pastures. The adjustment never fostered farmers/ herdsmen collision.
At what point, therefore, did the farmers/herdsmen relationship turn bloody, especially in recent times? Will herdsmen kill farmers or storm villages to wake up people at night to face the gun? Will they murder people and disappear, leaving their stock behind? Will they drag the cattle along with them with speed after committing mayhem? Can cattle run fast?
This explanation may underscore the new perspective on the killings in Benue. It has been suggested that the killers are foreigners hired from neighbouring countries and imported for the nefarious activities in Nigeria. There is justification for this line of thought. Would Nigerians be murdering their kith and kin in a reckless manner like this? The recent crisis was neither about religion nor ethnicity. What would have been responsible for the mass murder?
If they are foreigners, who actually recruited them? What is the motive? On whose payroll are the killers? Who is their link in Nigeria? Where did they get their riffles? Who supplied the expensive weapons? Is the dispersed Boko Haram sect regrouping? Is a new terror group replacing the insurgents?
The porous border may offer an impetus for the criminals to invade Nigeria and engage in senseless killings. Is the time not ripe again to critically look at security across Nigerian borders?
Some critics have put the blame for the Benue attacks on the Federal Government’s insensitivity. They alleged that the government has maintained a loud silence, despite the loss of lives. There seems to be lack of an understanding of the workings of security apparatus and the feats recently achieved through the successful tracking of terror kingpins in Rivers and Delta, who were justly brought to book. Security is not about mere talking; it is about strategic and decisive action.
Resolving the logjam is the patriotic duty of all Nigerians. The morale of security agencies should be boosted by the collective resolve of the people to liberate their country from the agents of doom. Since security is a collective enterprise, the people should assist security agents with information that could lead to the prevention of attacks.