NIGERIA: It’s Herdsmen Terrorism, Not Farmers/Herders Crisis


The current federal government in Nigeria headed by the Fulani born president Muhammadu Buhari has been accused rightly or wrongly of adopting the policy of favoritism in matters of the raging attacks witnessed in different farming communities by armed Fulani herdsmen.

However, what is not in doubt is that the media office of President Muhammadu Buhari has been misused on many occasions to defend accusations from a multitude of sources pointing towards armed Fulani herdsmen as the major source of the violent attacks resulting in mass murders across the country.

I have on an occasion featured on a national television network with one of the over half a dozen spokespersons of Mr. president and had loud confrontation because this gentleman Garba Shehu who is Fulani/Hausa took all the time to deny the involvement of herdsmen in some of the killings even those cases in which the victims had accused the herdsmen known to them as the mass murderers.

Also, the notorious group of cow dealers representing these herdsmen called Miyetti Allah have clearly demonstrated their affinity with the current powers that be to such an extent that even when some of the officials are seen on the electronic media passing on some toxic messages that demonizes farmers and seeks to justify the multifarious attacks against these communities in Plateau, southern Kaduna, these hate messengers are not arrested.

The federal government has so emboldened the Miyetti Allah officials to an extent that its secretary-general even took to the media castigating this writer for condemning the incessant violent attacks of farming communities in different parts of Nigeria. In this dispensation, Miyetti Allah officials are handled like sacred cows who are above the law.

I also suspect that it is possible that the federal government may have commissioned public relations and media communication agents to spread the misinformation that what is happening in Nigeria whenever farmers are attacked and killed by armed Fulani herdsmen, is to be called “farmers versus herdsmen crises”. Far from this false narrative.

There is no such thing like farmers versus herders’ crises. What is happening and has just happened in Delta state is armed Fulani herdsmen terrorism. Groups of armed Fulani herdsmen are on rampage apparently determined to kill as many farmers as possible so as to take over their lands.

Let us therefore not be swayed by the infantile propaganda apparently funded by the Nigerian government at the moment which seeks to deceive the world that farmers are in a war situation with herdsmen and as if farmers are also well armed like the herdsmen who carry sophisticated weapons of mass destruction.

The farmers killed in Benue state who were given mass burial by the Benue state government were slaughtered by armed Fulani herdsmen in their farms and most were killed in their sleep or in their churches including many Roman Catholic priests. So where did the press get the wrong notion of farmers versus herders crises?

To demonstrate what is the real fact in all of this, we only need to listen to the victims of these mass murders to hear from them who they susoect as their attackers.

There is currently the issue of police commissioners who are of Fulani or Hausa stock turning their eyes away whilst communities in their places of postings are attacked by armed Fulani herdsmen. In Delta the state officials accused some rogue elements in the military of escorting the armed Fulani herdsmen who massacred dozens of farmers in a certain community in the crude oil rich Delta State.

Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State had had to even decry renewed attacks by suspected herdsmen in Avwon, Agadama, Ohoror, and other communities of Uwheru Kingdom, Ughelli North Local Government Area of the state.

According to Okowa, suspected herdsmen accompanied by unidentified armed personnel attacked the communities in what has become an annual routine, killing over eight persons and injuring many others.

He said the crisis started on Thursday and as of Saturday, lives, and property, including farms, had perished.

The governor said, “The unwarranted attacks and killing of innocent locals in Avwon, Agadama and Ohoror communities of Uwheru Kingdom in Ughelli North Local Government Area and the wickedness of suspected herdsmen alleged to be aided by unidentified military personnel are mindless.

“I, however, appeal to the affected communities to remain calm and peaceful. I commiserate with the communities and families on the unfortunate loss of their loved ones.

“I have directed the Commissioner of Police and the Brigade Commander, 63 Brigade, Nigerian Army, to rise to the occasion and bring the culprits to justice.

“As a state, our people have been very receptive to herdsmen and other visitors, but our hospitality and welcoming disposition should not be taken as an act of cowardice.

“The state government will continue to encourage peaceful and harmonious relations between Deltans and their visitors but will not watch outsiders attack and kill our people any longer.”

These same scenarios keep playing out in many states that have recently been attacked by same marauders but because the internal security institutions are controlled and commanded by their people, these mass murderers are roaming the streets free of any murder charges and the government that tolerates impunity has gone full throttle to spread propaganda of a war between farmers and herdsmen. These are lies from the pits of hell!

The media must not be allowed to keep spreading the false narrative of a war raging between two equally armed combatants known as farmers and Fulani herdsmen. This war only exists in tje myopic minds of those in government who are supporters of genocides.

The continuous spreading of this tale by moonlight that appears idiotic, is the fundamental reason the current government has not tackled these terrorists attacks targeting farmers by armed Fulani herdsmen.

However, we must be quick to point out that not all Fulani herdsmen are armed and dangerous.

The fact remains that majority of these attacks against farmers are carried out all over the country by armed Fulani herdsmen who roam about different bushes with their cows and are in the deadly habit of destroying peoples’ farms, and also these aggressors who in some instances do either bear arms or hire armed mercenaries to attacks farmers who try to resist their encroachments are never arrested and prosecuted and the vicious circle has spinned out of control.

So, how do we call these disproportionate infliction of blood cuddling violence by some armed Fulani herdsmen the way the current government wants us to see it that there is farmers versus herders crises? There is nothing like that. Quote me.

I think what the current government does by spreading the above false narrative can be likened to what Daniel Goleman calls “Rader for insincerity”. The current government has the public notoriety for spreading cheap lies.

In the widely acclaimed book titled “Social Intelligence: The Revolutionary new science of human relationships,” the author narrated a story that looks like the manifestation of dishonesty by the current Nigerian government towards confronting the crisis of terrorism of armed Fulani herdsmen and other foreign mercenaries.

The story in that book goes thus: “Two women, complete strangers, had just watched documentary, a film of the poignant human aftermath of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. Both women felt deeply disturbed by what they had seen, a mix of disgust, anger, and sadness welling up inside.”

“But when they started talking about how they felt, something strange happened. One of the women was utterly frank about her feelings of upset, while the other suppressed her emotions, feigning indifference. Indeed, it seemed to the first woman that the second woman, strangely, had no emotional reaction at all; if anything, she seemed somewhat distracted and removed.”

“That was exactly how the conversation was meant to go; both women were volunteers in an experiment at Stanford University on the social consequences of emotional suppression; one woman had been instructed to hide her true feelings. Understandably, the emotionally open one felt “off” with her partner as they talked – indeed, she had a sense that this was someone she would not want as a friend.”

The author then told us that the one who suppressed her true feelings felt tense and ill at ease in the conversation, distracted and preoccupied.

“Tellingly, her blood pressure rose steadily as the conversation went on. Suppressing such disturbing feelings takes a physiological toll; her heightened blood pressure reflected this emotional effort.”

We are then shocked to be told as follows: “But here’s the big surprise; the woman who was open and honest exhibited the same steady rise in blood pressure as the one suppressing her feelings. The tension was not just palpable but contagious.”

“Forthrightness is the brain’s default response: our neural wiring transmits our every minor mood onto the muscles of our face, making our feelings instantly visible. The display of emotion is automatic and unconscious, and so its suppression demands conscious effort. Being devious about what we feel – trying to hide our fear or anger – demands active effort and rarely succeeds perfectly.”

So as we see our government officials continue to sympathize with mass murderers, we also notice that millions of Nigerians including millions of good Fulani people are not happy that these killings are left to spiral out of control.

I think too, that Dan F. Hahn who wrote the classic called “Political communication: Rhetoric, government and citizens,” has provided some clarity for us to understand the irrationality in the propaganda that some media people are busy spreading that there is crises between Nigerian farmers and Fulani herdsmen.

Hear this author: “Political economist J. K. Galbraith has written knowingly about memorable phrases, suggesting that some politicians (he specifically mentions Franklin D. Roosevelt and Adlai Stevenson, but there have been others) have been able, through the persuasiveness of their rhetoric, “to make their audience overlook the fact that the real questions were being avoided.” These phrases are part of our political heritage: Eisenhower’s “military-industrial complex,” Kennedy’s “let’s get America moving again” and his “New Frontier,” Johnson’s “let us continue” and his “Great Society.” If you do not remember any for Nixon that is understandable.”

Memorable phrases he reminds us were not his (Nixon’s) strong point, although “I’m not a crook” may go down in history.

“But certainly any dictionary of phrases would have to include Agnew’s contributions, such as “nattering nabobs of negativity.” Ford? None. Carter? None. Reagan? None, unless you count the borrowed (“Go ahead, make my day”) or the banal (“A new beginning”). Bush? His “thousand points of light” might qualify, though it was actually provided by Peggy Noonan, a speechwriter he “inherited” from Reagan. Clinton? None, assuming we don’t count “I didn’t inhale.”

So I think the current government wants the world to go with the dummy that there is no terrorism of armed Fulani violence but rather what is at play is “Farmers versus herders crisis.”

This may be the memorable lines that the current government dishonestly wants to give to the world. We must never be deceived.

The truth however is that there is no farmers versus HERDERS crisis but what there is in Nigeria now is the constant attacks of farming communities by armed Fulani herdsmen.

Any media spreading the contrary is FAKE NEWS, if i may borrow the often used memorable line of the eccentric President of the United States of America Mr. Donald Trump.

Emmanuel Onwubiko is the Head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria