Friday, 5 January 2018

An Open Letter To President Muhammadu Buhari By Chir Msugh Iorwase Armstrong.


Dear Sir,

Mr.President Sir, permit me to begin this letter without the requisite official protocol due to your high office owing to the urgency of its thrust.

I write you today with a bleeding heart knowing fully well that last year and indeed the Yuletide period was a total waste for the people of Benue state as regards to the relationship between farmers and herders inspite the effort of Our state Governor, Chief Samuel Ortom. Before I will draw your attention to the bloodbath of the Fulani herdsmen and the incessant/senseless killings of our people permit me to remind you of the following sir:

1. Sir, you came into office on the drum-beat of change.

2. We exalted you without blemish, and invested in you, what I love to call “Messianic Investment” this I believe was what saw you through the many unsuccessful campaign attacks; ranging from dictatorial past, Extremism, Certificate saga. We created a meme and synopsized as “EVEN IF BUHARI PRESENT A NEPA BILL, WE WILL STILL VOTE FOR HIM’’.

Majority of us just wanted change at the central government, believing that if Buhari controls affairs at the Centre things will get better. All we wanted was for government to work for us or at least what most of us expected: transparency, prudence, probity and responsiveness. To us that still believe, hope and pray for a better Nigeria we knew and trusted that you were ready and capable to usher in a new Nigeria.

As an Agent of change and a patriotic citizen of my country, I have been having sleepless nights the way and manner my people,our people are been killed since you took the Barton of leadership.

Mr. President Sir, Since the inception of your adminsyration more than 500 Nigerians have reportedly been massacred by suspected Fulani herdsmen  in Benue State alone. Also, during this festive period a fresh clash between the Fulani herdsmen and local farmers has resurfaced in the state and has left no fewer than 100 people dead. While it took president Muhammadu Buhari less than 24 hours to condemn the January 2 genocide in Benue, many Nigerians read you condemn the attack in Rivers and Kaduna States respectively on your twitter handle: @MBuhari "I receive with dismay the reports of the killings in Omoku, Rivers State and in Sango LGA of Kaduna State. This violence is unacceptable. Let me assured that security agencies are working to speedily bring the perpetrators to justice. May God comfort the families".

Mr. President so many Nigerians have lost their lives over this time in their homeland, and the president is yet to address this. This has only served to fuels claims that the president’s response to crimes committed by the herdsmen is controversial and highly condemnable.

Many Nigerians have said the sole reason why the Fulani herdsmen are killing our people is because “they Fulani herdsmen want the land, they want to push our people away, so that they can get the land and rear their cattle as they want, that’s all.”

while Nigerians hope that you reacts to the news of these herdsmen, there is need to understand that your silence comes with many direct and indirect implications, most of which threaten Nigeria’s unity and breed instability.

Here are some of the implications of your silence Mr. President:

1.The silence our  President may fuel ethnic conflict in Nigeria: Since the President has not mentioned anything on an incident that left over 500 persons dead, these criminals may find it hard to understand the gruesomeness of their acts. Also, this could lead to deadlier reprisal attacks and, in this way, Nigerians are further divided along ethnic lines.

2.President Muhammadu Buhari will continually seem biased: Just as the president continues to talk tough on the secessionists and militants in southern Nigeria, the Fulani herdsmen from his own ethnic division are ‘spared.’

3.The weakness of the Nigerian security forces is further exposed: The inability of the Nigerian Forces to curtail the herdsmen menace further substantiates claims that the Nigerian security forces are weak and in disarray.

Buhari, numerous reactions have trailed your characteristic silence on the incessant killings by the Fulani herdsmen. Many Nigerians playing the ethnicity card, believe the president has failed to say anything because he, himself belongs to the Fulani ethnic group. Here are some of the responses of Nigerians to the recent Benue massacre.

1.Why is PMB silent on Fulani herdsmen that are killing people? Non of them has been prosecuted.

2.Is this a setup or gang up or what? How can the Federal government just keep mute about this genocide?

3.This Fulani Herdsmen are as evil as Boko-Haram. What exactly do they stand for?why are they destroying innocent lives and property?

4.When your children do well in school and come back home with straight A’s, do you condemn them? Buhari is a fulani man won't allow his people to be killed.

Mr. President is this criminal lawlessness all because you, the herdsmen kinsman is the sitting president?

Why is it seeming as if until you came to power that we never had herdsmen? Suddenly, they have become a huge bone on our collective throats. Suddenly, herdsmen have become sub-terrorists fitted with all kinds of weapons including AK 47, GPMG, etc.

Until now, the herdsmen we knew merely carried short sticks with which they hit and directed the movement of the cows. At other times, they had bows and arrows and catapults with which they warded off wild animals wanting to prey on their cattle. Not anymore. The Fulani herdsmen of today are sometimes more armed than soldiers in “Operation Lafiya Dole or operation Egweka".

How long shall we suffer in the hands of these people called Fulani herdsmen?

For too long, they have behaved as if they own Nigeria, apparently because nobody, not even the military has been able to rein them in. In all the cases of their mindless attacks on innocent Nigerians in Benue state, none of them has been arrested, arraigned or jailed for wanton killing. The security men would rather look the other way while the Fulani herdsmen wreak havoc in various communities across the land. Everyday, we are assailed with ill reports of how Fulani herdsmen are launching ferocious attacks on our people, sometimes unprovoked, on the indigenes of communities where they graze their cattle. And this is across board. No part of Nigeria (except Boko Haram-ravaged parts) is spared. They operate with vexatious brazenness. The story was told, yesterday, of a case somewhere in Logo Government area of Benue state where a landlord not wanting herdsmen to destroy the crops in his farm, sprayed the crops with some substances which are poisonous to cows.One of his tenants took his cows to the landlord’s farm to graze. Some of the cows ate the crops with the sprayed substances and died. In anger, the herdsman rushed back home and slaughtered his landlord. So cows are equal to the lives of human beings? We saw that as the argument in the pogrom launched at Agatu community a local Government in our State last year where villages were attacked because a farmer shot dead a single cow for destroying his crops.

Is this criminal lawlessness all because their kinsman is the sitting president?

Why is it seeming as if until President you came to power that we never had herdsmen?

These same Fulani herdsmen are from faraway lands, sometimes even outside Nigeria. So how can the pursuit of their own business interest be used to despoil the future and livelihood of others, while the state watches on!

These herdsmen, who sit atop a billion naira business, do not pay tax to government. But the poor woman who roasts plantain by the road side is harassed by local government tax collectors on payment of all kinds of rates and taxes.

It took months after the attack on Agatu last year, for Mr President to condemn the killings, and that was after many people had complained about the worrisome silence.

Gov Samuel Ortom of Benue State recently gave an order that all armed herdsmen should leave the state, within 72 hours, since they have become a menace and a threat to the people of the state who largely are agrarian farmers.

I was surprised that the Benue State Commissioner of Police, Mr Bashir Makama, next day, countered the governor, arguing that nobody has the right to order anybody out of the state, adding that Benue State is for every Nigerian. Mr Makama, of what value and essence is a governor if he cannot guarantee the safety of the people he is elected to govern? Ortom did not say all herdsmen should leave Benue State. He said “armed herdsmen”.

Why should a cattle rearer be carrying AK 47 about? How did he get it in the first place? Is it sold in Dugbe market?

Does Makama expect Ortom or any self-respecting governor, to sit ensconced in Government House while some killer herdsmen visit his people with blood and terror?

If the police who should be the ones who would enforce the governor’s order are already faulting the order, it means that the order has failed ab initio.

But what does Makama mean? Benue is for all Nigerians, including unrestrainable killer herdsmen? How many of the herdsmen has Makama arrested for illegally possessing firearms? Or does he not know the herdsmen have AK 47 and other weapons?

In the case of the violent attacks on some communities in Tom-Atar and Umenge, Akor villages in Guma Local Government Area and Ayilamo, Turan, Ngambe-Tiev in Logo Government Area of Benue state by blood thirsty herdsmen had again seemed helpless while the herdsmen rape the women, kill and burn the people and their properties.

This same violence and molestation takes place in other parts of country.
Without statistical backup, I dare say that Benue State has suffered most in the hands of these herdsmen. It even dates back to the days of former governor of the state, Gabriel Suswan.

You will recall that a couple of months ago some gunmen rode into Zaki Biam Yam market in Benue State and began shooting sporadically. They came with kegs of petrol. As they were killing, they were burning down the shops and buildings. They had a free and unchallenged reign. By the time the bullets stopped booming, over 17 people had been killed and many more injured. The assailants were nowhere to be found. That is the same state Makama said was for everyone. Yes, for everyone, but not those who are baying for blood. But even before investigation commenced, Makama had declared that it is not an attack from herdsmen. How did he so speedily conclude? It is remarkable that Mr President promptly spoke out in condemning this round of attack. Good! But we are tired of speeches and condolence messages to victims. Lost lives are not retrievable. If this country will continue to remain one, then those who perpetrate crime must be dealt with accordingly without minding whose ox is gored.

Mr President, you must realise that the way you handles the menace of the Fulani herdsmen will eventually become a campaign issue as 2019 beckons.

You must exercise enough and observable political will to deal with the threat from the herdsmen.

Mr. President sir, I would like to reecho the position of the people of Benue state on Anti open grazing law, We are solidly behind our Governor and the law.

The law is not bias, it protects both the herder and the farmer.

Mr. President, am afraid but the way things has become should in case the Government and all the relevant security agencies fail to protect us against the heinous attacks always meted on our people by some suspected Fulani herdsmen, we will not have any option than take drastic measures to protect themselves against the attackers.

I condole with the families that lost loved ones in course of the attacks.

Yours faithfully

Chir Msugh Iorwase Armstrong.

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