Herdsmen

By Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú

The South-West is primed to be the next theatre of mass slaughter and pillaging. This is not the time to placate killers. To be in a position of weakness is not strength, it is weakness. Those who want the land and blood of others feed on the presumption of cowardice. They think they are the bravest since they have little value for human life.

After the armistice that ended the Kiriji War in 1893, the Yoruba embraced peace and grew in liberalism and pacifism. In principle, the Yoruba places long-term societal progress over short-term harm through physical aggression. From years of fratricidal wars between its sub-ethnicities, the Yoruba learnt valuable lessons in mental strength; that the ability to overcome destructive impulses and exert self-control is a fundamental quality of strength and survival. Before and after the Civil War, this has been misunderstood as lacking the strength to defend themselves.

Over the weekend, a truckload of “herdsmen” had a field day attacking and abducting people on the Ibadan-Ife Road. The battle has been taken to the South-West where principled liberalism restricts the people from harming or ending human life, out of compassion or empathy for another’s religion, viewpoint or way-of-life. Within the Nigerian space, the Yoruba’s high tolerance and live-and-let-live philosophy has been used to cast them as weak, spineless cowards, who would rather lay down and die, than fight to defend themselves.

Well, violence is not always wrong, especially in self-defence.

Afterall, the world is safe for us today because of the warriors of yesterday. Believing in a philosophy that violence is always wrong in every circumstance, even in self-defence is pacifism. Pacifism works only when what is at issue is changing people’s opinions. It does not work in ensuring survival. If land grabbers, killers and territorial expansionists are trying to kill you all on your ancestral land, violence is very helpful. Pacifism or passivism is not!

The government deceives no one by branding the N100 billion ransom payment to MACBAN as an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) thing. It is not. This is a gift to emboldened Miyetti Allah under the administration of President Buhari, a reciprocal sum to balance what was paid to Ijaw militants.

Since this orgy of slaughter started, many have tried to figure out the end game. My theory is that this is a sinister and covert plot towards hegemonic social unification. A peep into history is our guide here. Social unification by the force of arms is a well traveled route. We have examples in the conquest of Alexander the Great, the reach of the Roman Empire, unification of Europe under Charles the Great, the Muslim Caliphate, and the extents of the British Empire, which all demonstrate how military expansions led to unified identities after subjugation. Is the government of President Buhari encouraging this plot? We can hazard a guess from his silence and incestuous security architecture.

It is about time we understand that the Federal government of Nigeria seems to favour some form of fanaticism and/or extremism over the other. While the Federal Government came hard and tough on the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), it has not lifted a finger against the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN). While MACBAN in its negotiation with the government has tacitly accepted responsibility for the pillaging, sacking, kidnapping and slaughter of Nigerians, due to their loss of two million cows, IPOB can only be said to be involved in sedition. Many of the killed, kidnapped, maimed or displaced Nigerian victims of herdsmen have no link to stolen cows. In addition, MACBAN wants free access to anyone’s land for grazing as a right.

The government deceives no one by branding the N100 billion ransom payment to MACBAN as an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) thing. It is not. This is a gift to emboldened Miyetti Allah under the administration of President Buhari, a reciprocal sum to balance what was paid to Ijaw militants. It is unfortunate that this is what Nigeria has become. Building one injustice over another and expecting greatness. When militants were blowing up pipelines in the Niger Delta, we condemned them. These are people who lived and are still living with environmental despoilation for so long! They can’t fish, neither can they farm, yet Nigeria subsists on what we get beneath their soil.

…if one does not die in defence of self, one would still die anyway. The government of this republic has failed in its solemn obligation to safeguard lives and well-being. People should organise, defend themselves or be annihilated! We should not become martyrs due to a liberal identity and principles.

How is Nigeria responsible for stolen cows? This ransom will do nothing but fuel terrorism and make crime more attractive, increasing the risk to Nigerians. Killing and kidnapping for ransom has been widely acknowledged as the most significant source of terrorist financing and has become a very successful tactic. Every ransom paid, provides an incentive for further kidnapping with each transaction encouraging another transaction. Why is the government so eager to pay MACBAN without sanction? Is MACBAN above the law or is the body and its members bigger than Nigeria?

I once wrote in this column that Nigeria has registered almost all the attributes of a failed state. Unfortunately, it is getting worse. The pattern is for any group to take up arms and ask to be paid huge ransoms by the government. The South-West is primed to be the next theatre of mass slaughter and pillaging. This is not the time to placate killers. To be in a position of weakness is not strength, it is weakness. Those who want the land and blood of others feed on the presumption of cowardice. They think they are the bravest since they have little value for human life. To them, all other people are cowards, so they take advantage. They reason that the Yoruba will not want to die in self-defence. But, if one does not die in defence of self, one would still die anyway. The government of this republic has failed in its solemn obligation to safeguard lives and well-being. People should organise, defend themselves or be annihilated! We should not become martyrs due to a liberal identity and principles.

Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú a farmer, youth advocate and political analyst