Root and reme­dies of the Benue cri­sis

Daily Trust - - VIEWS - By Em­manuel Jime Jime is a mem­ber of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

For­get­ful­ness, and I would even say his­tor­i­cal er­ror, are es­sen­tial in the cre­ation of a na­tion-Ernest Re­nan

Ibe­gin this in­ter­ven­tion on the rag­ing tragedy in­volv­ing the Tiv and the Fu­lani in my home state of Benue with Re­nan’s the­ory of an­thro­po­log­i­cal “for­get­ful­ness”. Not for­get­ful­ness in the ni­hilist sense of al­ter­ing moral val­ues, re­li­gion, tra­di­tion and eth­nics dif­fer­ences, but the kind of for­get­ful­ness that rises above con­flict and the rea­sons there in.

I am a Benue in­di­gene, but a part of my for­ma­tive years were hap­pily spent in Keffi, the then Plateau State, and now Nasarawa State. I shared my event­ful child­hood with the Fu­lani and sev­eral other eth­nic groups; a ver­i­ta­ble melt­ing-pot sit­u­a­tion that we took for granted

As Re­nan’s dis­qui­si­tion on the sub­ject of forg­ing dif­fer­ences into na­tions found, some of the great­est coun­tries in the world to­day are peo­pled by cit­i­zens who do not share lin­eages.

For the pur­pose of this opin­ion, I would like to say there are two kinds of for­get­ful­ness: the one that makes na­tions and the other that de­stroys unions long forged by trade, pol­i­tics and other means.

The lat­ter kind of for­get­ful­ness is the rea­son for the sense­less and un­abated killings in Benue State at the mo­ment. It is shock­ing that in less than three decades of a car­nage wrought by the Mai­tat­sine in parts of the North East and Kano State, a sec­ond round of Mai­tat­sine is with us and lead­er­ship ap­pears to be lack­ing to quell it.

The per­sis­tence of this un­prece­dented cri­sis feeds on the acute lack of lead­er­ship, com­pe­tence and de­ci­sive­ness. Like the Mai­tat­sine in the 80s, and un­like ear­lier land dis­putes be­tween the Fu­lani and Tiv, these lat­est killings ap­pear to be done by mer­ce­nar­ies from the neigh­bour­ing coun­tries of Camer­oun, Chad and some stud­ies sug­gest from Mali, spon­sored by highly placed in­di­vid­u­als in the coun­try.

This time, the sit­u­a­tion threat­ens to con­sume not just my beloved State, but there is a fright­en­ing pos­si­bil­ity that this would soon spread to the neigh­bour­ing South-South State of Cross River and even the South-east through Enugu, which is just a few miles from the South­ern part of Benue.

Taraba State, an­other Benue neigh­bour, is al­ready revving to take the cue.

Al­ready, pock­ets of skir­mishes have been recorded be­tween the Tiv, Fu­lani and Jukun in the area, with the pos­si­bil­ity that Jukun-as­so­ci­ated eth­nic groups like the Etulo and the Ny­i­fon in Bu­ruku and Katsina-Ala lo­cal gov­ern­ments would soon join the fray.

The tragedy is tak­ing no pris­on­ers. Not even the Benue people of the Gu­maMakurdi-Gwer axis who have had long as­so­ci­a­tion with the Fu­lani dat­ing back to 1943, through Mal­lam Audu Afoda are spared.

I n only three months, more than a thou­sand deaths have been recorded, with prop­er­ties and crops worth bil­lions of naira de­stroyed by the ram­pag­ing herds­men and for­eign mer­ce­nar­ies hired to tor­ment, kill, tor­ture, de­stroy our civ­i­liza­tion and re­duce our econ­omy which be­gan to pick up last year to rub­bles.

These spon­sored ma­raud­ers and ca­hoots with Fu­lani herds­men, have gone as far as even at­tempt­ing to take the life of our Gover­nor Gabriel Tor­wua Suswam while he was on his way to one of the af­fected com­mu­ni­ties.

The mer­ce­nar­ies and their in­ter­nal col­lab­o­ra­tors have also taken their mer­chan­dise of blood to the Agatu, the first part of Benue State to em­brace Is­lam and the Hausa-Fu­lani, long be­fore 1928, when some part of Idoma was ex­cised from the South-east and joined to Benue.

The ves­tiges of our long as­so­ci­a­tion with the Fu­lani are there: for ex­am­ple the Yel­wata area in Makurdi is named by the Fu­lani, same for Wa­data and sev­eral oth­ers. But the pol­i­tics un­der­ly­ing the wil­ful for­get­ful­ness of our po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship would not al­low sleep­ing dogs lie.

These ban­dits and ter­ror mer­chants work­ing with pow­er­ful people in the coun­try and out­side it are threat­en­ing to break the leg­endary will power, courage and re­silience of the Tiv in par­tic­u­lar and the Benue people in gen­eral. They are bent on de­mo­niz­ing Is­lam and rub­bish­ing the ba­sis for a long as­so­ci­a­tion of peo­ples of the Benue val­ley and their neigh­bours.

The econ­omy of Benue State continues to slide, as death toll rises even with the re­cent in­ter­ven­tion of the Federal Govern­ment. My own vil­lage in Guma Lo­cal Govern­ment has been sacked, same for the vil­lage of our para­mount chief, Dr Al­fred Akawe Torkula. Makurdi, the state cap­i­tal has be­come a huge refugee camp.

As a mem­ber of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives rep­re­sent­ing Makurdi/Guma Federal Con­stituency since 2007, I have worked with other law­mak­ers to end the cri­sis in the state, but in the course of this pa­tri­otic and very nec­es­sary duty, I and my du­ti­ful team, have found that there are un­der­ly­ing rea­sons for this con­flict be­yond the rea­sons of graz­ing routes.

Some of these rea­sons are dis­unity among the Tiv and Agatu com­mu­ni­ties af­fected, lack of plan­ning and the sheer vul­ner­a­bil­ity for such at­tacks, be­cause of lack of ad­e­quate se­cu­rity mea­sures by the state and federal gov­ern­ments.

The Na­tional As­sem­bly must also en­act a law on cat­tle graz­ing and vest the pow­ers of en­force­ment of the law on vet­eri­nary of­fi­cers and district au­thor­i­ties in all parts of the coun­try, in line with the Uganda model.

The East African coun­try is one of the ear­li­est in the world to en­act a far reach­ing leg­is­la­tion on cat­tle graz­ing.

The Cat­tle Graz­ing Act of Uganda was en­acted on Oc­to­ber 31, 1945. The law pre­scribes puni­tive mea­sures against in­dis­crim­i­nate graz­ing of cat­tle on unau­tho­rised lands.

Sec­tion 2(1) of the Act states in­ter alia: “no per­son shall cause or per­mit any cat­tle be­long­ing to him or her or un­der his or her con­trol to graze on any land in re­spect of which there is in force an or­der made by a vet­eri­nary of­fi­cer pro­hibit­ing graz­ing or in re­spect of which there is in force any or­der or rule made by a district ad­min­is­tra­tion pro­hibit­ing graz­ing”.

An­other sub­sec­tion goes fur­ther to pre­scribe for the im­pound­ment of of­fend­ing cat­tle by a vet­eri­nary of­fi­cer or district author­ity. In the case of Benue in par­tic­u­lar, or Nigeria in gen­eral, it could be a sec­ond class tra­di­tional head.

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