The Fulani herdsmen, ranked by the Global Terrorism Index as the fourth deadliest terrorist group in the world, has, without a doubt, constituted the biggest threat to the lives and properties of Nigerians across the country over the past couple of years. While the worst of Boko Haram, for instance, has been restricted to the North-East region of the country, the herdsmen have enjoyed a license to kill virtually everywhere, from the South-East region to the South-West region and from the Middle Belt to the Niger Delta.
Again, while the menace of the fundamentalists has been on a steady decrease, that of the killer herdsmen has been on the upswing. According to a 2017 report from the Global Terrorism Index, the marauding nomads accounted for over 2,500 deaths in Nigeria between 2012 and 2016. This year alone, over 300 deaths have been attributed to them, including 73 in Benue State on New Year’s Day and 86 in last Sunday’s massacre at the Barkin Ladi Local Government Area of the neighbouring Plateau State.
What is even more worrisome than the increased frequency, magnitude and audacity of their attacks is the reactionary, rather than proactive, approach that the sanctimonious Buhari-led executive arm of the Federal Government seem to have adopted in handling the crisis. It also evokes curiosity that the numerous security agencies that litter the country and feed fat on our taxes and national treasury never seem to get wind of these attacks before they happen. You only hear them talk when the crime has already been committed, urging the populace to “remain calm” and “avoid taking laws into their hands.”
Does it mean that these killer herdsmen are equipped with some sort of metaphysical powers that enable them to waltz in in the dead of the night, perpetrate their dastardly acts, often over several hours, and retreat to their dens whilst entirely evading the attention of the security agencies? Perhaps, the Nigerian military, police force and the civil defence should consider setting up metaphysical departments to combat this evolving security challenge.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s feigned helplessness and powerlessness in tackling this issue once and for all is no longer a tolerable excuse. At the height of the agitation for the secession of the South-East and the restoration of the Republic of Biafra, he unleashed an Operation Python Dance on the entire region, grinding all economic and social activities therein, especially in Abia State, to a halt, in a bid to fish out, cower and subdue the agitators.
One month later, the same President Buhari ordered a sizeable portion of the Nigerian military to relocate to the then-restive Niger Delta region, codenamed Operation Crocodile Smile, to douse tensions instigated by renewed militant activities. Similarly, in January 2018, the Nigerian army launched Operation Karamin Goro to tackle cattle rustling (or cattle theft) in Niger and Kaduna states.
How come the president now wants us to buy the idea that he is helpless, clueless and powerless in baring his teeth to the bloodthirsty herdsmen? How does he expect us to believe that he is doing his best or trying enough? Will he ever summon the courage and will to unleash a similar operation, by whatever code name: Dragon Fire or Lion Pedicure or Gorilla Push up; on the fourth deadliest terrorist group in the world?
Chinedu George Nnawetanma is an alumnus of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Regional Leadership Center West Africa, a flagship program of the former US President, Barack Obama, that invests in the next generation of African leaders. He is passionate about the economic and political renaissance of Africa and he blogs on issues of good governance, the rule of law, human rights, peace building and the strengthening of the institutions of governance in Nigeria.