Nigeria: Fulani Herdsmen – Wole Soyinka Berates Government For Inaction

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Nigeria: Fulani Herdsmen - Wole Soyinka Berates Government For Inaction

Professor Wole Soyinka has lent his voice to the current cries for a firm and decisive action from the Buhari led government against the rampage of the Fulani herdsmen who have been killing hundreds of people around the country.

Speaking at the National Conference on Culture and Tourism last week, Soyinka said “I have yet to hear this government articulate a firm policy of non-tolerance for the serial massacres that have become the nation’s identification stamp,”

“I have not heard an order given that any cattle herders caught with sophisticated firearms be instantly disarmed, arrested, placed on trial, and his cattle confiscated. The nation is treated to an eighteen-month optimistic plan which, to make matters worse, smacks of abject appeasement and encouragement of violence on innocents.

“Let me repeat, and of course I only ask to be corrected if wrong: I have yet to encounter a terse, rigorous, soldierly and uncompromising language from this leadership, one that threatens a response to this unconscionable blood-letting that would make even Boko Haram repudiate its founding clerics.”

While addressing the issue of the federal government’s response after weeks of silence on the matter, he said “When I read a short while ago, the Presidential assurance to this nation that the current homicidal escalation between the cattle prowlers and farming communities would soon be over, I felt mortified,”

“He had the solution, he said. Cattle ranches were being set up, and in another 18 months, rustlings, destruction of livelihood and killings from herdsmen would be ‘a thing of the past’. 18 months, he assured the nation. I believe his Minister of Agriculture echoed that later, but with a less dispiriting time schema.

“Neither, however, could be considered a message of solace and reassurance for the ordinary Nigerian farmer and the lengthening cast of victims, much less to an intending tourist to the Forest Retreat of Tinana in the Rivers, the Ikogosi Springs or the moslem architectural heritage of the ancient city of Kano. In any case, the external tourists have less hazardous options.”

The professor recounted years in the past when they could freely travel to various parts of the country without fear. He however noted sadly that this may not be possible today. He said “but now, would the young adventurous set out to visit the mystery caves of Anambra and its alleged curative pools from mere interest?

“They would think twice about it. It is not merely arbitrary violence that reigns across the nation but total, undisputed impunity. Impunity evolves and becomes integrated in conduct when crime occurs and no legal, logical and moral response is offered.”

Professor Soyinka himself had a taste of the descrtuction that these herdsmen leave in their wake. Speaking of his personal experience he said ”I returned from a trip outside the country about to find that my home ground had been invaded, and a brand-new ‘Appian way’ sliced through my sanctuary,”

“That ‘motorable’ path was made by the hoofed invaders. Both the improvised entry and exit are now blocked, but interested journalists are invited to visit.

“In over two decades of living in that ecological preserve, no such intrusion had ever occurred. I have no idea whether they were Fulani or Futa Jalon herdsmen but, they were cattle herders, and they had cut a crude swathe through my private grounds.

“I made enquiries and sent alerts around, including through the Baale of our neighborhood village. There has been no repeat, and hopefully it will remain the first and last of such invasion. What it portends however is for all thinking citizens to reflect upon, and take concerted measures against.”

Professor Soyinka demanded that serious action be taken. He said “the leadership of any society cannot stand idly and offer solutions that implicitly deem the massacres of innocents mere incidents on the way to that learning school,” he said.

“For every crime, there is a punishment, for every violation, there must be restitution. The nomads of the world cannot place themselves above the law of settled humanity.”

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