By Nathaniel Ikyur
I read Linus Hagher’s tearful narration on the plight his community, Mbayer/Yandev council ward in Guma Local Government Area of Benue State has been going through in the hands of Fulani herdsmen. The other day, Hagher also told of how his aged mother and other siblings navigated the thick forests in the area to safety because of the rampaging Fulani militia. For this and many other communities across the state, this has been a recurring dark experience for many years. But the upsurge in the invasion, killings, maiming, raping of women and the u imaginable level.
It is no longer news that many settlements in Benue, from Logo, Guma, Kwande, Makurdi, Gwer-West to Agatu, Tarka among many other local government areas have been deserted for the fear of the killer herdsmen. Hagher wrote painfully, “from Yogbo to Tse Hagher, from Anter to Tse Keleke, from Tse Kper to Tse Udo. From Mbayer to Mbalagh to Yandev. All settlements are desolate. Kelnourishes with the remains of those who tilled the soil. The grasses are having a field day, nobody to stay behind and weed them for cropping. Those who dare to see how the vegetation looks like have their blood spilled on the weed.”
In many Benue villages occupied by the herdsmen, the presence of security agencies have not deterred these invaders. The people in the affected communities have very ugly tales to tell. Those who fled their communities dare not visit their villages. They will be lucky to come back alive. Some have deep scars to show. As at the last count, the Benue State Government has been battling how to fend for over one million of Benue people who are living in IDP camps because of the herdsmen activities in the communities. This has led to the abandonment of farm lands and other property. The ugly scenario is giving rise to food insecurity, both in the state and the entire country. The Benue farming community that has been an active, productive and resilient lot over the years has been reduced by the firepower of the killing squad taking over ancestral lands in the state.
From January 2018 when the Fulani herdsmen killed scores of unarmed Benue people in their sleep in Guma and other local government areas, Governor Samuel Ortom has been burdened on how to provide security and shelter for the victims. The state of resources have been overstretched. It has continued to dominate the state government action plans to bring peace to Benue communities. The engagement by Governor Ortom with both the federal government and all agencies is to ensure that the criminal herdsmen are dislodged while the displaced persons return to their homelands. Neither the governor or any Benue indigene hates the Fulani race.
Governor Ortom has repeatedly maintained that he does not hate the Fulani. His administration is also not against the Fulani race. Like many others in Nigeria, it is activities of the militia herdsmen who invade communities, kill and displace the inhabitants that’s the cause of the growing anger and agitations spreading in the country. Ortom, like other patriotic Nigerians believes that the killer herdsmen’s sole agenda is nothing close to grazing of lands but a systematic plan to take over the lands. It has nothing to do with hate as was recently canvassed by Senator George Akume, the Honourable Minister of Special Duties and Inter-governmental Affairs at a wedding reception.
As a former governor of the state with similar security issues in his time, the distinguished minister missed the main ingredient in the security challenges facing the state. He rather politicised the massacre going on in many communities in the state when he attributed the appointment of Benue indigenes into federal agencies as a sign that this particular Fulani leadership loves Benue. Which love? Truth of the matter is that Benue, nay Nigeria is grappling with insecurity challenges like never before. From North to South, East and West, Nigerians have risen to speak with one voice against criminal activities of the herdsmen. So singling out Benue on a very serious issue like this and at the same time lacing it with political biases is unhealthy to the unity Governor Ortom has been preaching among the Benue political elites.
What Benue people want now is simple. Those who have the ears of the president should appreciate him for those appointments. But above all, Benue lives do matter too. We want a peaceful return of our displaced communities to their ancestral lands. Our teeming population wants to go back to their farms. We want to be visiting our communities without fear of the smoking guns and machetes of the herders. So, no one should mock Benue with Buhari’s appointments and care less about the overflowing blood of our slain heroes.
Ikyur is the Principal Special Assistant on Media to the Executive Governor of Benue State