Let us save Ortom from temptation

Samuel Ortom

The greatest incentive to the criminal is when he believes he would never be apprehended. That is often the pattern in Nigeria and one is filed with pathos as our leaders entertain us with pathetic wringing of the hands and reckless moralizing.

Some of them even quote the Holy Books. I am sure they would have been quoting verses from Ifa, but for their limited knowledge of the subject.

But our leaders are in an incestuous relationship with other deities of dubious relevance and they cloak themselves with the platitude that somehow, all will be well. But it is not well in the Benue valley, the fertile heartland of Nigeria that feeds the nation with yam, rice and other food products.

The people are groaning, the governor is moaning, the so-called Fulani herdsmen are roaming while the police appear helpless. We expect the police to move now that even the so-called herdsmen are daring the police in their lairs.

Reports say two policemen were killed in an ambush in Logo Local Government Area of Benue State on Monday. If this is not terrorism, I don’t know what it is.

This year, the Nigerian government is going to spend billions of naira on security, especially funding the various arms like the Directorate of State Security, the Police and the Civil Defence Corps. Yet, I don’t think our people have ever felt more insecure. We need to remind ourselves that the primary function of the state is to provide its citizens with security of life and property. The American Declaration explained it to mean the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Yet in a democracy where the Constitution is supposed to be supreme, the criminals are often loaded with rewards. If a criminal is never apprehended what other incentive does he needs to continue on his nefarious path? In recent weeks, it has been the so-called Fulani herdsmen, but Nigeria has become hostage to many other gangs in different parts of the country.

In the closing days of 2017, kidnappers struck in different part of Nigeria. Senator Ayo Arise from Ekiti State spent several days with kidnappers in Kogi State.

As of now, the brother of Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, the Catholic bishop of Sokoto Diocese, is still in the kidnappers’ den. Scores of other Nigerians are being held in illegal custody by kidnappers and yet the arms of law are appearing to become shorter and shorter to apprehend criminals.

Yet it is the impunity with which killers and kidnappers have gotten away with the rewards of their crimes that is worrisome. There are too many instances that have blighted our country. I remember the case of Professor Dele Bamidipo, the medical director of Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Zaria.

On October 30, 1995 Professor Bamidipo was seized from his office by rampaging students of the university who were protesting over certain grievances.

The professor was gruesomely beaten and he fainted. Though he was not dead yet, his attackers took his body to the mortuary where he froze to death. Some people were arrested after the mayhem but I am not certain if anyone was ever convicted for that crime.

So who is going to pay for the senseless killings in the Benue valley? Who are the people arming the so-called Fulani herdsmen? They are the so-called because the police is yet to properly identify them.

Though the group Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, has taken ownership of all Fulani herdsmen across the country, the security agencies are yet to draw a linear line between the group and the killers of the Benue valley. There is also a kind of reluctance by the power that be to draw that linear line.

Though this look apparently like an economic struggle between the pastoralists and the farmers, yet it has the reverberations of ancient battles and unfinished wars. In the pre-colonial times, the Benue valley, the Plateau and the Borno areas were places of fierce resistance against the imposition of Fulani rule. The Fulani jihadist were bent on seizing territories beyond the Hausa plain.

In the aftermath of the 19th Century Fulani jihad led by the great revolutionary, Usmanu Dan Fodiyo, the Fulanis had seized control of most of the Hausa states. Most of the rulers of those states were executed or they died in battle. The Fulanis also seize control of the Yoruba State of Ilorin.

With this they were able to establish states based on Islamic theocracy, with each state under the leadership of a Muslim emir paying allegiance to Sokoto where Fodiyo and his successors had their seats.

The imposition of colonial rule by the British did not weaken Fulani hegemony. Instead, it became stronger through the instrumentality of the Indirect Rule system favoured by Colonel Frederick Lugard.

Things did not get better during the colonial period and by the time of independence, the Fulani were back fully in charge of the old Northern Region where a Sokoto prince, Ahmadu Bello, was the Premier.

Bello was an enlightened man despite his limited education and he tried to create a polity of accommodation for the minority ethnic groups and non-Muslims as long as they were not ready to challenge the hegemony of the Fulanis.

This Tivs of the Benue valley, under the leadership of Joseph Tarka, were not ready to do. They raised the Minority Question during the closing years of colonial rule a
nd this was not addressed until General Yakubu Gowon came to power in August 1966 when he subsequently divided Nigeria into 12 states.

Today, Nigeria has 36 states and many of them in the minority areas. However it is getting increasingly clear that the states are become rather powerless to carry out the functions of a modern state in the area of safeguarding life and property.

The other day, angry citizens of Benue attacked the convoy of their Governor, Samuel Ortom. They seem to be saying that if you cannot defend us, then let someone else do the job. Yet, apart from flying the national flag, Ortom is the Chief Security Officer of his state in name only. He has access to security votes, but not to security men. The police, the army and other security agencies are under the control of the Federal Government.

Ortom needs to help Nigerians get answers to some of the nagging questions on this unending war against his people. Who really are these marauders? Who is financing them? Who is arming them? Why do they appear so powerful that they seem to be beyond the reach of the law? If python could dance in East and crocodile smile in the West when is the dragon going to dance in Benue?

There is a serious danger that if the Federal Government continues to act with evident timidity in this matter, it would be a direct invitation for the people to result to self-help.

Only yesterday, Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State allegedly summoned local hunters to the Government House for a summit on security. I am sure he has the issue of the Fulani herdsmen in mind. Despite its drama, the action has a serious import. If a governor has to result to local hunters to protect his people from Fulani herdsmen then the Federal Government of Nigeria may still be a government, but it is doubtful if it is still federal.

There is no doubt that there would be short term and long term solution to this act of terrorism against Nigerians, especially in Benue, Taraba and Plateau States.

In the long run, cattle-rearing would have to take a more sedentary nature instead of the ancient systems that is pervading now. It is also evident that the Governor Ortom is ready to explore options to bring peace to his land. Said he recently: “Anything that can stop the killing of my people I will go for it. Any policy or directive that will help stop the killing of these innocent will be supported.”

The ball is actually in the large court of President Muhammadu Buhari, the old soldier who is now the Commander-in-Chief. He should do everything possible to protect the people of Benue State so that Ortom would not be tempted to call a summit of the local hunters. Some of them may be ex-service men and they may be familiar with something certainly deadlier than the dane gun.

In this article:
Dr Samuel Ortom
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