By Wilfred Terlumun
Several years ago, I was invited by a group of Youths in Benue State to deliver a Lecture on the topic, the Herdsmen Militia Invasion of Benue State and it’s implications on the security development of the State.
I delivered the lecture and published same in a monograph and some aspects of the findings in some international journals. Some of the research findings were also part of my Inaugural Lecture titled, Migrations: Social and Economic trajectory in Historical Perspective.
I intend to lift up some of my research findings and share it on this platform as my contribution to the discourse on the topic.
Firstly, that arising from a plethora of factors, mostly environmental, economic and political, there has been an interface of migrations across North Central Nigeria, both within, and outside the region that has come to define identity and political struggle. Migrations of diverse ethnic groups is a product of both centripetal and centrifugal forces over space and time. As a matter of fact, Migrations remains the one economic constant that will never change.
Secoundly, that the Gulf War and the Arab Spring has promoted the consciousness of nomadic Herdsmen armed with sophisticated weapons with a land and racial agenda to occupy the West African subregion in particular, Nigeria. These Nomadic Herdsmen are of diverse ethnic and racial persuasions with a common denominator to unleash voilence on sedentary settlements and rural farmers villages in Nigeria. There is indeed a land grabbing agenda.
Thirdly, in Nigeria, the Herdsmen invasion has been institutionalized with political structures such as the creation of Meyetti Allah as well as their national patrons who are both serving and retired Military Generals with their civilian equivalents.
The patrons of the cattle industry supply the nomads on the ground with both military training, equipment intelligence and financial sponsorship. Using state Institutions such as the political and security architecture, they have a well laid out plan of land grappling with consequent displacement of indigenous population across Nigeria.
This phenomenon is happening and taking place all across Nigeria with the Middle Belt reduced to a theatre of war and genocide.
Fourthly, the Herdsmen Militia leadership has internal recruits who serve as foot soldiers, mercenaries, inside men and collaborators, in indigenous societies, all over the Middle Belt. These internal collaborators, mostly comprising indigenous political elites and retired Military men, provide the military garrison and base for Herdsmen expansion across Nigeria.
There is an internal conspiracy that has abetted the Herdsmen operation with great ease and accuracy. These are Herdsmen masquerading in the form of Fulani and other racial groups.
Looking at our geographical tarrian and also considering logistics reasons, it is near impossible for an invasion of any indigenous community to succeed without an internal conspiracy. In addition, the conspiracy of silence by our political and Military elites of the Middle Belt in the face of the repeated invasions is a futher prove of a conspiracy within.
The Middle Belt has the largest body of both serving and retired Military Generals who have never come out, in public press conferences, to condemn the Herdsmen Genocide. The Middle Belt also have the largest force of demobilized soldiers who came provide the platform for an indigenous security outfit to defend the region similar to Amotekun in the South West of Nigeria and the Volunteers Gaurds in Benue State.
On the Whole, we must move away from the polemics of blame and the consistent circle of helpless lamentations of naked women in protest on the streets. We have long exposed our nakedness to the outside world, both physical and Philosophical.
Migrations is a real economic force but we can regulate our migrations to contribute to genuine economic development and transformation.
It is time the patrons of Meyetti Allah to tell Nigeria what has been, and is, the contribution of Nomadic Herdsmen to the Development of the Middle Belt. The legacy of Nomadic Herdsmen so far is that of Voilent extremism and the decimation of sedentary lifestyle with the attending consequences of food insecurity.
Modern Society embraces ranching with some form of moderation. Herdsmen and Farmers are two social and economic groups that are complimentary in a regulated Agricultural Mechanized State. There is need to deploy best global practices of economic development to deal with the primitive barbarism of Herdsmen Militia groups.
Above all, we must evolve the Indigenous Security Strategic Initiative to provide a sense of Self Defense. There is need for some Peace Advocacy at the United Nations using the oral testimonies of displaced families.
We must avoid the temptation of interpreting the Herdsmen Conflict from a religious angle.