Wednesday, 27 April 2016

WHEN THE BLOOD OF MEN WATERS THE FIELDS OF CATTLE AND THE PEN SHIVERS: THE SILENCE THAT SPEAKS

BEING A PAPER WRITTEN BY VANGER FATER ON THE ATTACKS AND KILLINGS OF BENUE FARMERS BY THE FULANI HERDSMEN




APRIL, 2016



Introduction
“Contrary to people’s beliefs, silence has been the loudest voice a man possesses” – Vanger Fater.
            The existence of crisis is just as normal as it is to live. As long as there is life, one cannot discard the notion that crisis exists. We, very often, find ourselves involved in arguments which directly or indirectly take us on mountaintops where the inevitability of crisis staring at us with its fangs becomes as clear as the words of a military leader on parade. This alone is not a natural problem, and by this, I mean to dissent from the belief that the occurrence of crisis is an automatic natural disaster. What brings disaster is the action/inaction of man when crisis emerges, for crisis begins with words.
            Man has, over the years, proved, through his actions and inactions, that the loss of lives during crisis is not that crisis itself occurred, but that it was allowed to linger. Here, we must certainly come to understand that by allowing crisis to linger even when it were possible to avert all destructions at the stage of verbal exchange, man becomes responsible for whatever loss recorded.
            In Benue state, countless men and women have, since the last three years, continued to be slain by the swords of Fulani herdsmen; to have their homes razed by fires ignited from herdsmen’s matchboxes; to have their crops and farms fed to cattle while exiling them from their lands to IDCs where to have a day’s meal becomes too tasking than having, drawing from Biblical allusion, a Carmel pass through the hole of a needle. A look at these bestial and beastly attacks explains that though the problem between herdsmen and the Benue people has been the remote cause for the continuation of these attacks, the immediate cause, without missing words, is the heavy utterance of encouraging words contained in the silence of those who, really, posses the verbal power to curtail these excesses of herdsmen, but who, painfully, have chosen a deceitful path aimed at convincing the Benue man that they are equally as helpless as anyone. These are the people whose actions/inactions have seen the blood of butchered Benue sons and daughters fertilise the grazing grasses of cattle.
            Painfully, a good number of such men are Benue indigenes, some whose homes have been razed, relations raped, and families slaughtered. The pains associated with such negligence equal that of a baby being thrown off into a latrine by the baby’s own mother. This is why, as a Benue man, I have chosen to speak through this means and have the senses of those whose voices would return to the Benue land the peace being robbed from her frozen with their guilt.
            One thing I must assure you, at this point, is that as far as the waters of River Benue are intoxicated with blood, I cannot be diplomatic. These polemical words will fly out from this pen like bullets, and whoever has guilt hanging on his neck like a shameless dog tied to a peg must have them pierced through their bodies.  
Marrying the Point behind Herdsmen’s Continuous Stay in Benue albeit the Threat to People’s Fundamental Rights
I have asked the sky a million times,
All in just a tick of a second,
Seeking a plate whose contents
Satisfy appetites of unfed senses –
Not of food, but knowledge –
That I may dine closed doors
With a point to relieve my worry
Whose anger intensifies each second,
Burning my senses to unravel...
To know why a being whose footprints
Have become venomous tusks that pierce,
And ransack abdomens for vultures’ glee,
Is given a seat of welcome unchallenged.  

            There has been no other destructive device ever known whose massacring effect ridicules lies. Lies, for centuries, have stood as what societies, groups, organisations – political or otherwise – have used to cause worst damages the world has witnessed.
            The Fulani herdsmen’s presence in Benue even when it is clear to the blind that lawful citizens’ fundamental right, one of the basic of all rights – the right to live – is continuously threatened and terminated has for a while occupied the thoughts of a few people. We are worried that herdsmen still walk the length and breadth of the Benue land, and to ease this worry, there has been a lie constructed and passed unto the people. The Benue man is told that like every other citizen, these herdsmen have a right to freedom of movement and of settlement. Under this guise, herdsmen have been allowed an uninterrupted stay in a land where no day passes whose rising or setting sun does not cast his rays on the blood of men poured from their blades.
            Such a lie is not convincing; it is destructive. Psychologically, it destroys the trust of citizens on the government, and physically, it destroys the lives and properties of people as we can decipher in Benue state. What such sponsors of a destructive device as this are too shallow in thinking to know is that the Benue farmer is well aware of the factors bracing the stay of herdsmen in Benue whose knives and guns do not see the sun’s setting without drawing blood from a Benue indigene.
            We have always known that the herdsmen who move from North to South, and South back to North with cattle are employees whose employers are those who hope to destroy us with lies regarding the uninterrupted stay of Fulani herdsmen in Benue communities. It is true that citizens of a nation have their right to move and settle wherever their finances permit, but it is also true that citizens’ rights, where they seem to appear as threats on others’ rights, are restrained. That is why we hang robbers, much as the act denies them of their right to live. That is why we ban citizens; exile them; detain people; execute criminals. How  then do these herdsmen who sit in offices and fly first class out and back into the country, not those that move with cattle, hope to balance their lie?
            To dance correctly to this music, we must certainly understand that to move herdsmen out of Benue, we need orders, like a search warrant issued to police, from the employers of these Fulani herdsmen. This will actually not come with mere pleads, and it has remained the reason behind the continuous stay of herdsmen in Benue.
                This may be a little difficult to understand. But blood, as we have learnt, is thicker when faced by water, and for such office herdsmen, their cattle which are being tendered for by their roaming counterparts have become relations; their blood flows through the same veins. Indeed, the spillage of humans’ blood, surely, occupies a second place, while that of cattle, first.   
            This is an undiluted reality behind the continuous stay of Fulani herdsmen in Benue. The lie that they have got a right to settle in all the cardinal points of Nigeria is a destructive device forged by their employers whose hearts throb whenever the life of cattle is halted, but sadly, who laugh and challenge why it is just a human life that has gone down as retribution for the slain cattle. In simple parlance, those who own the legal power to ban herdsmen from Benue until possible solutions are sought also own the cattle that are being moved by herdsmen, and have proved their love for cattle’s wellbeing against the comfort of humans.

Nutritious Grasses... the Power of Blood
            “Nature has created cattle whose feeds, grasses, are braced and nourished by water. Where this natural order is boycotted, and the role of water taken by the blood of men, not only are people called to war – they are called to fight with their last breaths” – Vanger Fater.
            There is no wisdom in subverting truth, however callous it may sound or appear. Truth is no conditional commodity for men of honour where only a truth that sounds appealing to ears is bought. Experience has also taught us that euphemising truth only reveals the doubting mind of a speaker or writer over his desire of having his message received and understood for the gruesomeness it uncovers. Either directly or indirectly, truth told bare – devoid of unnecessary euphemisms – arrests listeners’ minds, and explains the degree of the matter at stake.
            Saying that the Benue nutritious grasses have had a percentage of nutrients from the everyday flowing blood of slain men and women from the swords of Fulani herdsmen is, in itself, an understatement. We all know that our blood – the blood of butchered Benue sons and daughters – have continued to water the greenish grasses for cattle. This is not hyperbole. The Benue grasses have always been known for nutrients, but with blood poured on them as the sun rises and sets, people of sane minds have come to agree that the amount of nutrients in the soil on which the grasses stand is proportional to the amount of blood flowing on the land – this is blood crying out from bodies littered on fields.
            As a people, Benue indigenes have understood these loutish and barbaric acts of the terror herdsmen as a confrontational act aimed at annihilating an entire group of people in their own land. It is genocide. Yet those whose care the lives of citizens legally belong have invented a conditional phrase – “however” – and so a Commissioner of Police would sit and speak to the press: Benue people are being killed, HOWEVER, they began it when they killed the herdsmen’s cattle; and so an Inspector General of Police would descend to say herdsmen are killing farmers in Benue, HOWEVER, the death tolls are being overstated...
            Clearly, if there is any message of concern in such words, it is that the cattle allegedly said to have been killed by Benue farmers – an untrue story not needing intelligence to be debunked – have met an untimely death. This is sad, but it is the situation which the Benue people have found themselves. They are slain, maimed, raped. They are pierced and butchered while on their farms. They are fired with sophisticated ammunitions while in markets with legitimate businesses. They are starved, for their crops and farms are being trampled upon by cattle, and where they are not, the bloods of family members – the decomposed parts of brothers, of sisters, mothers and fathers – are turned into fertilisers that fertilise them! How can sanity ignore this that a man will still consume such crops? Impossible, right? That is the song being sung in Benue to the rhythm of waves and tides caused by the waters of River Benue.
            For every concerned Benue man, every day brings to him fresh memories of slaughtered brothers, sisters; of a father, a mother; of raped sisters; of shot relations. When he goes to bed, only his body lies on the mattress – the mind goes wandering on faraway deserts seeking answers, seeking hope, seeking peace – and when the sun rises and casts his rays on fields, he sees reddened grasses begging to be washed, to be allowed to wear a cloth whose colour is green.
            These killings, the feeding of grasses with the blood and bodies of men and women, have taken the Benue man away from sanity where, concerned about his land and farm, he finds himself talking when all around him are walls and objects. Having a loved one slain by herdsmen for cattle’s happiness, and his blood sprinkled on grasses, on crops, is not an experience a man, any man, forgets too quickly like a dream. For every sight with grasses you see his life, his blood, his mutilated body; for every noise caused by grasses you hear his cries, his wails, his shouts, his screams; for every grass chewed by cattle you see him – his body – being twirled by the jaws of cattle, his head shattered by cattle, chewed, and before your sight, taken down a cattle’s abdomen. That experience taunts you – it strangulates your happiness until you wake up to see that your body is still lying, your spirit looking at it for a brief moment before ascending.
            This is the trauma Benue sons and daughters have been fed from the swords of Fulani herdsmen. But like every other people who have been terrorised – for these acts of Fulani herdsmen in Benue, the killing of our men and women, are acts of terrorism – Benue deserves comfort not only of relief items, but of actions from those concerned bringing the killings to an end, bringing the perpetrators to book. Unfortunately, there appears to be no action with either motive. We have received silence, and an average Benue Man continues to ponder:
Why do my eyes feast on fields
Watered by the blood of slain comrades,
Yet my ears not fed with echoes
Caused by the thundering of soldiers’ boots?
Why do bodies lie on grasses stained
Where only vultures and cattle smile, 
Yet our streets given a thunderous silence
Sealed in packs and cartoons as relief?
Don’t we hear the words echoed by these packs
Sent by cannibals who fast for more lying-in-states?
Isn’t their silence shouting for more stains on grasses...?
Isn’t it sealed in words praying our wailings on?
Haven’t you read the words beneath this silence...
The shouts it brings to boost the carnivorous humans?

Where the Pen Shivers to Complement a Speaking Silence
 “A king, a ruler who sees truth but is too weak, too cowardly to uphold truth, that ruler has fallen low, lower than the most depraved slave in our bushland” – Kurunmi in Ola Rotimi’s Kurunmi.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuant of happiness” – Abraham Lincoln.
            That life, liberty, and the pursuant of happiness are among the unalienable rights all men are being endowed by their creator is a fact not debatable. Every man, as created by his creator, has received these rights – the rights to life and the pursuant of happiness being at the top rungs. Man has been naturally given these rights, but experiences – bitter and sweet – have taught us that while these unalienable rights have been naturally self-evident, they have never been naturally self-executing; that while life is a gift God has given man, it must be secured and protected by his people on earth.
            The lives of Benue sons and daughters are also gifts from the creator which, though blood is drawn by Fulani’s swords and rifles, must be secured. Unfortunately, no action worthy enough to prove that the killings in Benue have attracted the government’s attention, and by law, the lives of Benue indigenes will be secured has been put up.
              First, there is a shivering pen in the hands of journalists. The acts of terrorism which Fulani herdsmen have launched against the people of Benue state have continued to plead for attention from the media. It sounds untrue, ordinarily, but when one pays a visit to communities of Agatu, of Buruku, of Tarkaa, of Logo, of Kwande etc., and sits back to absorb tales of massacre and of destruction from the hands of herdsmen, one would understand that there is a shivering pen in the hands of our journalists which has necessitated the continuous pleads by the Benue killings to be documented and spread; to be broadcast on TV stations; to be aired through numerous Radio stations across the country.
            We refuse to agree that this is coincidental; a journalist’s pen does not just shiver. In our case, there is a speaking silence from different quarters housing some complacent humans which the journalists’ pens are shivering to complement.
            At the top on the list of these complacent humans is President Muhammadu Buhari, the commander-in-chief whose silence has echoed through our ears. One thing must be understood – perhaps two, even three – that I do not believe that to love someone is to agree with whatever they do, say, or believe; that to campaign and cast a vote for someone means to shy away when they take wrong steps; that to laud a leader’s plan A means to applaud his plan B too. These explain why even as I campaigned for Buhari while I was still a Corps Member, celebrated his victory, and have continued to be in love with him over his policies and fight against corruption, I boldly, without an ounce of diplomatic, stand to declare my total condemnation of his actions/inactions over the killing of his lawful citizens in Benue. Truth twisted to soothe ears is no truth, and so the president needs to know that we are well aware that his silence is the mother weapon with which herdsmen have been sprinkling our blood on grasses; that his silence is what law enforcers like IG Arase are drinking to perch their concern on death tolls rather than the actual havoc even if on a single life; that his silence is, to the herdsmen, like a beehive which they pick up stings and venoms to murder the Benue people.
            By implication, the highest authority in Nigeria is yet to bother itself with the Benue killings. If Mr Buhari’s Arm Forces headed by General Abayomi have restrained the dreadful terrors of Boko Haram in Nigeria’s Northeast, how much more will they do with herdsmen determined at denying Benue people of an unalienable right endowed to them by their creator? One thing is obvious: either Gen Abayomi hasn’t received an order from the commander-in-chief, or the tales about Boko Haram’s restraint are fables. Neither of these poses our country to good limelight. In the former, it would show that our government has concluded plans of annihilating Benue as a state, while in the latter, the government’s deceit and insensitive nature would be revealed.
            Now we sit with hands folded as robbers condemned, and thus awaiting hanging or a public shooting, looking up to a president who either our woes are yet to reach his table or has decided to leave us to our fate. This is painful, indeed, but more painful is the fact that even our Benue elder statesmen have joined the president in this speaking silence which has been the herdsmen’s might.
We cannot twist truth!
            The governor of Benue, Mr. Ortom, along other stakeholders, is not yet pained over these killings, and so they seem complacent with mere utterances here and there. This may be distasteful, yet it is the truth devoid of unnecessary cloaking. At some points we are forced to believe that the silence from our elders has emanated from the same source of the Inspector General of Police’ silence: the fear that President Buhari is, himself, a Fulani man. Ignorance has clouded these people to forget about Buhari’s integrity, and to think the President is interested in knowing the ethnicity of criminals or terrorists. Armed with this ignorance, we have received a silence which, for us, is chilled, but at the same time having a resounding echo of strength for these herdsmen.
            I cannot pretend that I am happy with Mr. Buhari. I cannot fake smiles on Mr. Ortom, the IG of police, Senators and representatives of Benue both at Federal and State levels. A good step it was when the House of Representative members from Benue held a session to address the activities of herdsmen, but given the continuous killings after their session, how much concern have they shown? Do they mean to tell us, their constituents, that our Senators too should speak, or that at least they had challenged the killings through the session, and so should be hailed? If, as a Senator, Governor, House of Representative or Assembly member, Minister or party chieftain, you preach to my ears about your anger over the savaged acts of Fulani herdsmen, and on why they still roam the length and breadth of Benue with cattle, I shall be glad either for knowing a coward or a liar, one the world is not pleased with.
            When we say that representatives of Benue at National Assembly and Federal Executive Council have disappointed their various constituents over these killings, people of like-minds with them question and wonder what we expect from a NASS member who doesn’t control nor command the Arm Forces. That is usually what happens when a man’s veins are not touched over horrible atrocities done on fellow humans; on brothers and sisters – his senses are exiled from the court of reality. However, to entertain their doubts, let me tell them – and of course our NASS members because maybe they have not understood how much power they hold – that within them lies the power to command the commander of our Arm Forces whose silence will be turned into an invigorating echo that shall have the boots of our soldiers thundering for a refreshing autumn of peace and happiness for Benue sons and daughters. Senators whose people are being massacred on each rising sun can liaise together and “jettison” the senate; they will definitely find support from colleagues to summon the president. You see, no president summoned by the Senate over the killings of citizens will still remain adamant. So the only problem here will be on how to get the senate summon the President. Whatever means to have your colleagues’ support, grasp it! If it means acting mad by shading tears and sitting on the floor, do that; after all a man whose people are being killed shouldn’t be expected to act sanely.
            The day our woes become thunderous fists into the ears of these NASS members, Fulani herdsmen will be aware of a PYTHON they have played with its tail. We cannot twist truth to soothe ears.

We Are Our Own Problem    
“We live almost every day fighting battles, forgetting that the real enemy we have is in us” – Unknown.
            There is little truth in the words of a man who says at the centre of all the attacks against the Benue people, no one, but them, is responsible. When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood before students of the Western Michigan University and its congress in December 1963, King spoke with a bitter mind whose intensity resulted from the everyday segregation which the then segregationists and vicious racists like the Governor of Mississippi, Ross Barnett, took with passion. In a very touching speech, the great King told the university community, and by extension, the entire world, that “the world in which we live is geographically one. Now we are challenged to make it one in terms of brotherhood... I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality”.
            The failure of Benue indigenes to understand that the geographical and political oneness of the state has called for efforts in making it also one in terms of brotherhood has been responsible for every difficulty we face. From economic hardship to the now Fulani attacks, it has always been this failure of making Benue brotherly one. This is what Nigeria as a country also suffers; but my emphasis here is Benue, not Nigeria. When Martin Luther laid emphasis on the world’s problem of not being made one in terms of brotherhood, he spoke with the notion of two races: blacks and whites. Luther did believe that this failure was because the world had housed two different races; that if it were to be only black men, or white men, then making the world brotherly one would be a task easier than a storm moving an ant. Africa has proved this wrong. Nigeria has dissented from this. Benue has debunked it.
            Since its creation in 1976, Benue state has refused to act in unity, and its people are always segregated along ethnic down to regional lines. When one stands outside, one thinks the state is divided only at ethnic lines, but a stay in the state reveals that among Tiv, there is segregation; that among Idoma, there is a strong division. It is this segregation that has given power to the Fulani attacks which began in a regional area of the Tiv called Minda to now degenerate into what has kept the entire state in panic.
            At the eve of the 2015 general elections, Fulani herdsmen had launched severe attacks against Minda, and other parts of Benue thought Minda was weak. The Idoma challenged their Tiv fellow Benue sons to prove their might against Fulani invaders as it has been proved against them in the state; the Tiv of other regions, in turn, mocked Minda for dining and wining too closely with the Fulani. Idoma indigenes claimed it was a Tiv agenda, the Tiv should better sort out; Tiv, on the other hand, believed it was a Minda affairs, and so Minda should return the monies their Traditional Rulers had received from Fulani herdsmen. Blinded by this tribal/regional sentiments, Benue never realised that the Fulani invaders had a jihadist agenda against Benue as a state; that if Minda Traditional chiefs romanced with the herdsmen, other Benue chiefs had equally romanced and dined (and are still romancing) with them; that if Minda was allowed to be slain, the next neighbouring region and tribe will be faced.
            That was the time Benue would have resisted, on their own, the herdsmen. But when sanity and brotherhood were sacrificed at the altars of ethnic and regional segregation that it became a Tiv issue, not Idoma’s; a Minda problem, not Kwande’s, or Buruku’s, there was no consideration for the law of retribution. Today, this law has surfaced, and the Benue land, from Idoma to the other parts of Tiv, has received massacring swords with death tolls mocking the number of casualties when Minda came under the same fate. This is a practical proof for the interrelated structure of reality: you cannot be what you ought to be, and neither will I, until both of us are what we ought to be. Simply, Benue is not free from herdsmen today because its citizens in Minda were not free even when we had it as a duty to make sure they were.
            Sadly, Benue people have refused to learn from experience, and even as the entire Benue is burning from the fire coming from herdsmen’s rifles, our traditional rulers are still giving them lands to settle. It is true that every Nigerian has a right to move and settle wherever they deem in Nigeria, but it is also true that nobody has the right to compel me, or anyone, to lend my land against my will if it is not for public use as the Land Use Act provides. If the government cannot legislate laws to make it illegal for herdsmen to be seen where they cause loss of lives, then we can diplomatically restrain them from giving out our lands if we have nothing from their purses greasing our palms.
            Today, there are Fulani herdsmen with herds of cattle camped in Nongov, a Tiv settlement from the region of Minda. Suspicion has grown that these are the herdsmen who leave to kill Benue sons and daughters in other parts and then return back to continue with life in Nongov. The question, here, is that are we committed to salvaging our land from the hands of Fulani herdsmen? Like I said earlier, we are our own problem.

How Much Have We Written
“It is time that the African writer stopped being a mere chronicler, and understood also that part of his essential purpose is to write with a very definite vision...he must, at least, begin by exposing the future in a clear and truthful exposition of the present” – Oluwole Soyinka.
            “My dear brother, your story is good, it can wake our youths from a seemingly cursed sleep. But please, hold on with it. It is too dangerous to unveil it”. These were the words of a friend after reading a short story I had finished writing three years ago. Both my friend and Soyinka in the words above have agreed that Literature is a dangerous weapon which writers have to hold if society is to be redeemed. We have equally learnt from America, from Europe, from Asia, and indeed from our own African experience that Literature has been able to break world’s dangerous manacles of racial segregation, of injustice, of slavery, and of barbaric acts against fellow humans. Literature is this powerful, and unless it is used against a problem, it would be thought inessential.
            In the face of the Benue killings, Literature has voiced out, mostly on social media, these atrocities. Writers of poetry have had lines scribed to mourn the dead, condemn the killers, and threaten the speaking silence of our government. Sevhage, a literary house and publishers, had put extra efforts to holding a poetry long night of candle reading in honour of the attacks and the killings in Benue state. I was not within Makurdi, but the images fed to social media by Su’eddie Vershima and Aondosoo Labe got me satisfied and to think I was there.
            Still, we cannot deny that Literature hasn’t done enough as far as the barbarous acts of herdsmen against Benue communities are concerned. There is need to ask our writers, my fellow pen wielders, where the ink in our pens has flown that papers keep staring us in the face, pleading, begging to be decorated with words birthed from the blood flowing on fields; the shattered bodies of Benue sons and daughters celebrated by beasts; the fight over heroism sealed in packs and cartons of relief items; the irrigation of cattle’s fields with the blood of men; the cries from a lad whose hope is slain as his parents’ bodies lie poles apart from their heads, their bellies tusked and ransacked by vultures.
            We, as writers, have failed in being fair to Benue over the activities of these killers, and our guilt is just as equal to that of politicians’ silence. This has discouraged me from taking a trip into any of the very few lines scribed by writers. Instead, I have chosen to appreciate the role of unwritten literature on the plight of Benue land.
            Oral Literature, since writers have been into self exile, has dominated its written counterpart in capturing the present situation of Benue that the future may be exposed – what Soyinka advised in 1967.
            Here it becomes imperative to commend NKST as a church. NKST – the largest church in Tiv – has possessed song composers whose hymns have captured the Fulani herdsmen and their attacks on Benue communities. Emmanuel Shimbayev, a song composer/oral poet, in his “We shall wail as the Israelites...” (Translated), has drawn the attention of listeners to the herdsmen’s attacks from a Christian perspective. This is why he begins the song by declaring a wailing session with biblical allusion of when a similar woe befell on Israelites. Shimbayev believes that Benue state has left the ways of God, and as usual, God has given them into the hands of Fulani herdsmen. It is true that given the Bible’s orientation, God is a jealous Being who is easily given into contempt at the slightest provocation and disobedience whose consequence, surely, is punishment. Braced with this, the song emphasises on the need to cry unto God for possible forgiveness and salvaging rather than calling the government for action.
            An interesting aspect of his song is when he declares the herdsmen as jihadists attempting to conquer Benue. Shimbayev seems to be realistic here since many convincing instances have proved these attacks as having sinister motives more heinous than a mere clash between herdsmen  and farmers. Shimbayev explains that “they now boast to have the land God has blessed us...”, portraying the herdsmen as conquerors masked in the guise of herdsmen . There is not a single doubt against his claims situating the killers of Benue people where only the tags of conquerors suit; what holds doubt is his suggested means of putting these killings to an end which has failed to neither charge the government nor the peasants – Benue people – to action: “there is Christ Jesus whose presence they cannot succeed...”. This seems to be a failure of these songs on the Fulani attacks. These oral poets have not taken into consideration that praying and expecting God’s help is not a guarantee to sit back arms-folded any more than it is praying for food but locking oneself indoor where no man has got access.
            Accordingly, the poet should have charged both the federal and state governments into actions. His lines should have charged the people of Benue too to rise up and fight while praying for God’s strength in the struggle. Being a Christian song, the poet should have noted how Israelites’ victories which he calls from God had always come when their armies would march into battlefields. In essence, Tiv oral poets, particularly the NKST composers, have demonstrated great love and concern toward their land through image-filled songs that lament on the herdsmen’s activities. Yet, being overtaken with religion, their songs have failed to call on the government’s attention, nor to charge the people into action. Nonetheless, the songs’ lines are wonderfully deep in imagery, allusions, metaphors and other poetic devices.
            Indeed, if Nigerian writers give this kind of attention to the killings of Benue farmers as have our oral poets, the world will know that Nigeria is holding contempt against Benue; that the international community has got an urgent trip into Benue. Much as the oral songs appear beautiful and rich with literary wealth, their voices are limited since the language used has a shrinking intelligibility even within Nigeria. I call on writers, particularly the Benue ANA, to do the “write” thing, knowing that failure to do this will find us swimming in pools filled with guilt.

An Agenda beyond Grazing
Come to think of it, we have lived with these herdsmen for ages. When the attacks start, the Fulani herdsmen would also claim that they do not know where the attacks came from. There is suspicion that some of these people are not even Nigerians” – Barr. Emmanuel Orker-Jev.
            Any meaningful and well researched document on the killings in Benue state must certainly denounce the idea of grazing being the herdsmen’s point, and so the cause – either remote or immediate – for their bestial acts against the Benue indigenes. Before now, we were not certain that clashes between herdsmen and farmers were beyond a fight for cattle’s grazing land. Fortunately, at the dawn of these recent attacks, Benue people have been convinced that grazing is neither the remote nor immediate cause of the continuous flow of blood of Benue sons and daughters. The cause for these attacks, as we are convinced, is a Fulani-West-Africa’s agenda of conquer and occupy. Like Martin Luther told the Western Michigan University in 1963, we too are convinced of this because we believe Carlyle is right: no lie can live forever. We are convinced of this because we believe William Cullen is right: Truth pressed to earth will rise again. We are convinced of this because we think James Rusell Lowell is right: Truth on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne; yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown, standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.
            Today, we have unravelled the Fulani agenda which has been the motive behind their restive minds as long as people of other ethnicities continue to enjoy the peace of the lands their creator has given them.
            Today, we have uncovered a ploy by the Fulani to destroy not just Benue, but also other ethnic communities under the guise of herdsmen fighting for their cattle, and this is why either the government does something or the people do that which the government should.
            First, to capture and put to death the lie of grazing being the cause of attacks on people and the destruction of farms and crops, there must be an urgent decree banning the act of grazing in all parts of Nigeria. Those who have called for Grazing Reserves are ignorant enough not to understand that if grazing was possible when Nigeria’s population was barely one hundred million, it cannot be tenable in today’s Nigeria whose population has skyrocketed to a more than one hundred and seventy million – people have increased; the land has not. This is why the 8th Assembly must not pass this Grazing Commission Bill which has already passed first reading. Apart from its uncivilised blood, it contradicts Nigeria’s constitution under the Land Use Act. Let me explain:
            The devilish provisions of this Grazing Commission Bill explain that the Federal Government shall set up a Grazing Commission Board and appoint members who shall be staff of the Commission. That is not a problem. The problem is that the Commission shall be empowered with the right to survey, examine, and cross-examine fertile lands whose grasses are greenish and nutritious in whichever part of Nigeria. The real owners of the lands will have compensations and orders to vacate them for herdsmen. Now this is where there is problem which its urgency of treatment cannot be overlooked. Our Land Use Act explains that the government is empowered to take lands from their legitimate owners to be compensated only if the land(s) so taken are to be put into an overriding public interest or use. This means that when the purpose for the land is not for the public or society, then no individual, not even the President, can compel a land owner to vacate his land for whatever compensation. Cattle rearing, being a private business as is farming, has no benefit whatsoever from this provision of Nigeria’s Land Use Act.
            This bill is heinous because it will take from our farmers their fertile lands for a purpose far from public use; it will favour a particular group of private business men at the expense of others; it will prevent the cultivation of crops by farmers on these fertile lands for a cause not in the interest of the public; it will fail to arrest the attacks on farmers since the herdsmen whose real agenda is cloaked beneath grazing will definitely trespass beyond these Grazing Reserves to ferment trouble. Surely, to tame herdsmen and their attacks, there must be regulations against grazing.            
            We must learn from countries with higher number of cattle than we have got here in Nigeria. India, USA, Algeria, South Africa, and Brazil have been ranked as countries with high number of cattle. Yet, they no longer practise grazing – there are ranches. To put an end on the killings in Benue, there must be laws compelling all cattle owners to ranch their livestock and carter for them. This is not an idea implementable only in some faraway lands, and at least we have so far secured the conviction of representatives at the green chambers and of other well meaning Nigerians.
            In different quarters, there are those who question our decision for ranching against grazing reserves. The Secretary of Miyeti has alleged that the type of cattle they have in Nigeria cannot adapt to ranching, but he doesn’t know that qualified veterinary care can make them to adapt. Others have faulted us that if we claim herdsmen have got a hidden agenda, then legislation against grazing cannot cause them to drop their motives, but they do not know that while legislation cannot cause herdsmen to drop their agenda, it can cause them to tame their actions. This is simple wisdom, for while the law cannot make my enemy to love me, it can keep him far from strangulating my gullet and I think this is pretty much important. We demand, like a King in 1963, that justice should be allowed to flow like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. We demand a law against grazing that herdsmen will have no guise whose buttress they hide their conquering motives. This will not make them love us as humans; it will tame them from lynching us, from pushing us where we shall be forced to bounce back.             
There shall no longer be in place any attitude of condoning herdsmen’s blades whose intent dines more with conquering than a fight over grazing land. Cattle rearing is a private business, as private as is farming, and so there will be no sanity if the government dances to the tune played by those who believe Grazing Reserves will salvage the problem. No Nigerian’s property should be taken for the interest of private individuals. We need our lands for farming; Fulani herdsmen need cattle for rearing. So, and without delay, the government should pass into law decrees against grazing which will force all cattle owners to ranch their cows. This cannot be an option for any civilised society; it is a necessity, one needed to end this prolong impunity of blood flow.

Conclusion
Let me, like Hon. Emmanuel Orker-Jev, restate that I still believe the government can protect us; it is the government’s fundamental duty to protect the lives and properties of her citizens. We have here a problem which we are certain of its death – it is already on a sickbed – what we are not certain is how costly the Federal government under President Buhari is going to make its funeral. The President, in his wisdom, may decide to make a low-income burial for the funeral of Benue killings if he rises up from his current seat on the killings, or to make it costly, too costly, if he remains nonchalant because we shall be forced to defend ourselves. When a man is forced to fight knowing that the only option to live is to fight, he fights dirty.
            Let us, each of us, keep on reminding the government that Benue people are being pushed to the wall, and her silence is a speaking courage to the pushers. All we ask is protection, but if that is too much of a people to demand, then let us also receive the same speaking silence encouraging our strength when dawn sees us fighting back.     
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Vanger Fater is an award-winning writer of Poetry and Prose. A graduate of English from the Benue State University, he is back into the same department where he hopes to bag a Master Degree in English Literature.          
                   
           
                                                                  
                  
    

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