Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has challenged President Muhammadu Buhari to declare killer herdsmen terrorists.
Soyinka, who spoke at the maiden edition of the Ripples Nigeria Dialogue in Lagos, yesterday, said he was disturbed that the president was treating the killer herdsmen with levity, while those who have committed far less crimes were severely punished.
“We expect the president to have the courage to declare such monsters as terrorists and enemies of humanity with the same dispatch in which he declared the far less violent, albeit, disruptive IPOB terrorists. We expect a culture of even-handedness.
“I have always refrained from labelling the herdsmen as Fulani but since they have publicly come out to admit they are responsible for the killings, we can say they are Fulani herdsmen.
“An organisation has been rampaging the nation armed to the teeth and descending on innocent people. Their spokesman appeared on TV, unrepentant, distorting history, calling on a state government to rescind their laws and proceeding to defy such laws. They went ahead and threatened continuation of the same acts of degradation. The nation has been placed on the defensive simply because of the failing of governance.
“Have you ever encountered a more cynical rendition of the sequence of events when spokesmen of this same organisation came out to say the killings were taking place because of the laws which was made to stop the killings in the first place? I have not heard that the leaders of that group have been summoned the way those who do far less things would have been summoned. Nigeria is not the first country to experience natural disasters but this is not an excuse to take guns to destabilise other peace-loving people in their communities.
“While addressing the victims of the rampage of Fulani herdsmen, the minister of defence asked the victims what they wanted the herdsmen to do when the grazing routes for their cattle were being blocked and that minister is still in Buhari’s cabinet.
“I get impatient when I hear people say that Buhari failed to sympathise with victims in Benue and Taraba. Who needs presidential sympathy? Is it sympathy that will re-order their broken lives? We are talking about security of lives and property and bringing perpetrators to book. We expect the government to respond with massive punitive action when the fundamental security of a people is violated. We expect the president to immediately show up at the scene of these disasters and order his troops into action against these arrogant and blood thirsty people.
“When stung by the criticism that the president rather chose to attend a wedding in Kano instead of being present in Dapchi, presidential apologists said the wedding was a needed therapy for the trauma caused by the abduction of the schoolgirls in Dapchi. That statement is blasphemous. There were so many formula that would have been adopted to ensure that the couple had their wedding without the accompanying exhibition of lavishness so soon after a national tragedy. The nation was in mourning and Buhari would have told the couple that he was not obliged to be there,” Soyinka said.
APC, ACF, Rep, others react
However, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) disagreed with Soyinka.
According to APC’s National Publicity Secretary, Bolaji Abdullahi, it would amount to error of conceptualisation to tag a race like Fulani as terrorists because of the actions of few atrocious elements.
“I understand the sentiment behind his suggestions, but we need to be very careful not to criminalise an entire people just because of the criminal activities of a few.
“Fulani herdsmen refer to a full tribe or people not an organization like Boko Haram. So to say that Fulani herdsmen should be proscribed just the way we proscribed IPOB is to fall into an error of conceptualisation. Fulani herdsmen do not belong to that organisational category because they are full tribe of people. It would be wrong to tag a whole tribe as terrorists. And will he (Soyinka) be happy if, for example, the Yoruba race is branded as terrorists because of some people who are committing some atrocities or to tag Igbo people terrorists because of few Igbo persons committing atrocities?” he quried.
ACF General Secretary, Mr. Anthony Sani, said to declare everybody in the pastoralist profession terrorists would amount to criminalisation of a particular occupation which would offend many people’s sense of justice.
“I believe our inability to fish out the criminals among herdsmen and farmers engaged in the lingering clashes and prosecute them is the major challenge of how best we control the menace posed by the festering clashes. We seem to be aware of the presence of swarm of locust in the land but we are unable to determine the pests. As a result, we do not know which are the best herbicides to control the locust. Professor Soyinka should recommend better way of overcoming the insecurity posed by the clashes between pastoralists and farmers,” Sani declared.
But, the National Chairman of Young Progressives Party (YPP), Bishop Emmanuel Amakri agreed with Soyinka. He argued that considering the mayhem the herdsmen have unleashed in most communities, declaring them terrorists was long overdue.
“We need to put in actual perspective what terrorists means and in this case, I would say that for people or a group of people who have been unleashing attacks on people in every part of this country and whose trademark is bloodshed, killing everyday and slaughtering human being in the manner of the ISIS terrorist group, declaring herdsmen as terrorists group is not something people should be debating.
“Having killed in one community or the other and unleashed mayhem on people mindlessly, the herdsmen have done enough damage to be declared terrorists. In fact, it is long overdue,” he said.