There is a new voice in the market place of ideas about why there is violence in the Middle Belt region of Nigeria, particularly Benue State and what is to be done about it. This new voice is a bit spicy and unrelenting but must be heard as others before it, particularly as it reveals that almost no negotiations might have been going on behind the scene in terms of narrowing the intra-elite gulf on the policy stand-off in the conflict so far.
It is the voice of the Tiv Professionals Group whose Chairman, Professor Zacharys Anger Gundu, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to not only stop the “killings of Nigerian citizens by Fulani herdsmen” but also, along with the Nigerian Government, align with the Global Terror Index and designate Fulani herdsmen as a global terror group as well as proscribe both MACBAN and Miyetti-Allah Kautal Hore as terrorist organizations.
Professor Gundu who addressed the press in Makurdi yesterday called for the immediate removal of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) from office on grounds of incompetence, complicity and open partisanship with Fulani herdsmen. And he wants the Nigerian security agencies, especially the Nigeria Police to arrest and prosecute leaders of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, (MACBAN), and Miyetti- Allah Kautal Hore and stop the infiltration of herdsmen into the country from outside.
Professor Gundu who did not give details about the Tiv Professional Group wants the National Assembly to ensure the reorganization of the security architecture of the country to, in his words, reflect the federal character provision in the statutes. His group is demanding the establishment of a Middle Belt Development Commission (MBDC) and adequate compensation for lost lives and property in the Benue Valley. That is not all as it is cautioning Chief Audu Ogbeh whom it calls a prominent Benue son to guard against being used “in the continued attacks, killings, genocide and ethnic cleansing of our people”.
In a tone clearly suggesting widening of the gulf across the Northern elite fault lines, the group formally put the North on the slaughter slab. It said “If being classified as “North” will always mean Benue people and other nationalities of the Middle-Belt will continue to be marginalized, victimized and enslaved in Northern Nigeria, we can no longer accept to be North. It went on to say that they “We cannot allow our ancestral lands as recently ideated by the Federal Government through Chief Audu Ogbeh, to be colonized and turned into Fulani enclaves. We will not repeat the mistake of the Hausa States”. The wordings here do not show that any intra-elite negotiations are going on towards working out an acceptable solution. Rather, the group declares strong support for the calls for the restructuring of Nigeria which would include the establishment of State Police. On this, it promises to work with other groups to ensure accomplishment of restructuring “as soon as possible”
Articulating a clarion call thus “Our generation and indeed ALL Nigerians have no other country to call their own and cannot allow herdsmen to destroy our nation”, the group asks Governor Samuel Ortom to continue to stand firm and to request all citizens of Benue State to close ranks and rise above partisanship “as we jointly confront the Fulani agenda”
The Tiv Professional Group does not buy the Fulani claim of indigeneity to the Benue Valley unless they can counter-balance what the Chairman calls abundant historical and archaeological evidence attesting to this. The group frowns at contradictory pronouncements of its Other such as the Federal Government agencies as the Federal Ministry of Agriculture talking of importing exotic grasses from Brazil for Fulani herdsmen on the one hand and on the other hand, resuscitating grazing reserves for Fulani herdsmen or talking of cattle colonies in each state of the Federation for Fulani herdsmen. Similarly, they contrasted previous reference to Fulani militias as mercenaries from other West African countries and the Inspector General of Police (IGP)’s labelling of recent killings as communal clashes.
Arguing that if some of the militia elements came from outside Nigeria, they must be coming into Nigeria with the help of other people in the Northern latitudes, it fingers Governor Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa State as the end of the chain in a conspiracy against Benue people, adding that all attacks on Benue communities in Guma, Logo, Makurdi, Gwer West and Agatu are launched directly from Nasarawa State especially from the Doma and Awe axes who is said to have explained away the presence of Fulani militia in his state by alluding to them as ‘international hunters’.
The group poses the impossibility of pastoralism being subsistence farming, saying the sophisticated arms Fulani militia carry and their trans-border capabilities and turnover as the main providers of beef in Nigeria do not support such. Calling the Anti-Open Grazing Law a product of wide consultation aimed at extricating Benue State, it says that is the only way out.
The group selected for commendation Governor Samuel Ortom for his resolute stand and the constitutional measures taken to protect Benue people; His Majesty the Tor Tiv, Orcivirigh Prof. James Ayatse for standing up against the genocide and ethnic cleansing of Benue people; the National Assembly and other socio-cultural groups – Afenifere, Ohaneze Ndigbo, Middle-Belt Forum and the South-South for solidarity with Benue people of the State; Wantaregh Paul Iorpuu Unongo for resigning as Convener and Chair of the Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF), an action described as “good riddance to bad rubbish” and the media for bold and impartial reportage of the genocide and ethnic cleansing of nationalities in Benue, Adamawa, Plateau, Taraba Kaduna and Nasarawa States.