For the umpteenth time, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar 111 has stated that those carrying arms are criminals perpetrating heinous killings, not herdsmen. He argues in his Eid-el Fitr message earlier today that those he called real herdsmen do not carry guns but only move with their cows and sticks. This is the third time the Sultan would say this, each time calling on the Federal Government to treat those carrying arms as criminals. The gap has remained in the apparent difficulty for the Federal Government to carry out the kind of actions that would put to rest the strong belief in an agenda of land occupation and Islamisation under the guise of herdsmen that underpins the current dimension of herdsmen- farmers violence since 2015.
The Sultan’s intervention is coming amidst rising casualty figures in the latest herdsmen – farmers violence in the Mambilla Plateau in Taraba State which Brigadier-General Benjamin Ahanotu, the Acting General Officer Commanding 3 Division of the Nigerian Army has described as carnage. 18 persons have been confirmed killed by the Police while two have been arrested.
The GOC has put politicians from the area on the spot for allegedly fuelling the violence and being aloof from intervening in favour of de-escalation. The politicians have not replied yet. But the Taraba State governor, Darius Ishaku, has dismissed claims that he ignited the flame. Mr. Emmanuel Bello who spoke for the governor said until claimants could produce evidence linking the governor with fomenting genocide, the claim would not register.
Both the military and the police hinted of a difficult terrain as a constraint on a faster reaction time, a permanent feature of peace enforcement in recent Nigerian history. That is beside the issue of power relations underpinning most of these so-called herdsmen versus farmers’ violence as suggested by the GOC’s analysis in this case. What observers are watching out for is whether or not the Federal Government will develop the political and security will to make a move in the direction suggested by the Sultan who is asking the FG to probe herdsmen sources of arms.
Apart from Taraba and heavy downpour said to have complicated the praying ground in Bauchi, all seem to be quiet in Nigeria as far as the Eid-el- Fitri is concerned. Political and religious leaders are reinforcing messages of calm as Nigeria joins the rest of the Muslim world for Eid-el-Fitri celebrations at the end of the Muslim fasting period. President Buhari, his wife, Speaker Yakubu Dogara of the House of Representatives, former Vice-President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, APC National leader Bola Tinubu, Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar 111, the Alafin of Oyo and Dr Alfred Adewale Martins, the Catholic Bishop of Lagos, among many governors, ministers and other leaders who have each sent Sallah message, harping on calm. They are all responding to current disquiet relating to the national question in Nigeria.
The Eid-el-Fitri is being marked in Europe, Asia and the Middle East amidst disasters, violence and pain, involving an attempted bomb attack on the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, an earthquake in China, a tanker fire in Pakistan, a car driven into a praying ground in the UK and a Cholera outbreak in Yemen being described as the world’s worst.