It was typical of punctilious Godwin Obaseki to assume that mere appeal to reason – this pious invocation of the spirit of good neighborliness – would be enough to rein in the Barbarians arriving Edo’s ancient gate.
But as he seemed to have realized with regret at the weekend after yet another hand-wringing visitation to the grieving and the traumatized in Esanland, when gangrene festers to a medical emergency, it is futile expecting healing from a mere therapy of analgesics, other than a genetic re-engineering entirely.
For once, the Edo governor has mustered the political courage to not only call out the murderous herders but also give the police a 7-day ultimatum to fish out the savages behind yet another slaughter of three promising young men in Ugboha including Collins Ojierakhi, a first-year student at Ambrose Alli University.
Even the stone-hearted would melt at the chilling details of the latest in the epidemic of heartless killings. Perhaps in deference to the continued official exhortation to “love your neighbor”, Collins and company had even conceded the right of way to the procession of cows and the shepherd to cross the lonely highway that night.
According to reports, just as the young men made to resume their journey on Okada motorbike, Satan descended. Hot volley of bullets fired by the cowardly gunmen lurking behind the herd in the nearby bush cut Collins and company down brutally.
After the evil deed had been done, the Police came to remove the bleeding bodies to Ubiaja mortuary, thus adding to Edo’s sorrow from mass murder, rape, plunder and pain at the hands of terror herdsmen.
Obaseki’s new anger could be understood. There is finally proof that the herdsmen had violated a generous accommodation which only forbids them from roaming Edo land at night. By expecting obedience in the first instance, the governor stands accused of being too hopeful. You don’t expect lunatics to be reasonable or beasts to willingly submit to the customs of the civilized.
With the communal roost thus being unwittingly stockpiled with ant-infested faggots, it was only a question of time that lizards would begin to infiltrate.
Only a fortnight ago, one had raised the alarm on the creeping terror in Edo, dramatizing elaborately with the heart-rending example of one’s native community, Odiguetue, in which lives were lost, women raped and farmlands sacked.
Much as the the murder of a Fulani man – or anyone for that matter – is very, very condemnable, how could that have become an alibi for Fulani gunmen to, in broad daylight, resort to self-help and levy murder and mayhem on Odiguetue community during which an Ebira man was reportedly killed and many sustained severe gunshot wounds, apart from property destroyed?
To add insult to injury, the community’s emissaries who later went to formally lodge a complaint at the police command in Benin were made to sign an undertaking to “be of good behviour”.
Intriguingly, few days later, the police would storm the same Odiguetue and bundle 22 men away over allegation that some Fulani herders were killed – an occurrence the community members stoutly denied knowledge of. Assuming it took place, they flatly denied such happened on their soil.
But like a farcical play, the “suspects” would still be arraigned in court penultimate Friday anyway and it pleased the presiding judge to order their remand in prison till April!
Unable to accept what they consider gross injustice, members of Odiguetue and Odighi communities thereafter cried to the Oba’s palace and the House of Assembly. It was not until then that the government team invited them for a chat, at the end of which a promise was made to facilitate the quick release of those being detained in prison, if only to reassure them that the government truly feels their pain and is ready to champion their interest.
But at this writing yesterday (13 harrowing days later), that promise was yet to be redeemed. Maybe the Attorney-General is still sleeping over the file.
In the referenced column, one had questioned the notion which officially tends to enjoin the traumatized victims to remain calm – if not to turn the other cheek, but keeps a curious silence on the lethal armada openly deployed by the aggressors, much less a warning issued against further campaign of terror by them.
Such depth of provocation is what must have led the Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, into uttering the following words at a lecture on the same herdsmen pestilence last week: “I do not have to love my neighbor to live in peace with him. But I must demand that he obeys the protocols of co-habitation! If either of us breaks the provisions of such protocols, then there must be penalties.”
So, to forge a united front against a common threat to the continued survival of our people in Edo communities, one had preached a bi-partisan understanding between both APC and PDP, urging a stricter code of conduct for these migrant terrorists, especially given that neighboring states are fast evolving stern regulations to safeguard the safety and liberty of their own population.
For, from records, these marauding savages hardly ever bother to ascertain whether the would-be victim’s birthmark is APC or PDP before drawing blood. Extra-ordinary times call for extra-ordinary responses.
The tone for such a pan-Edo solidarity would, in fact, seem already set by the very progressive Oba of Benin. Discarding the customary royal inhibitions, it is now common knowledge that Oba Ewuare II has been working longer hours, rousing traditional forces to ensure continued harmony and balance of the homeland.
If nothing at all, one had thought these reprobates ought to be seen officially as constituting a real mortal danger to the realization of the lofty inaugural promise by Obaseki – known as the champion of free enterprise – to create 200,000 through mainly the Afro-allied industry, and treated accordingly.
Now, even food security in Edo and Obaseki’s Agric Revolution is increasingly imperiled; people are now afraid to go to the farms. Fear stalks the land. Those with tillage cultivated from loans secured from usurer cooperative are unsure if cows would not consume their tendrils even before they mature for harvest. Just as repatriates from “Libyan slave camps” being rehabilitated at Obaseki-inspired farm settlements are also afraid if, while tilling the ridges, the AK-47 herders would not steal in from behind and bury them alive with the soil heaps.
But in the neighboring Delta State, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa would not mince his words.
Last weekend, he confirmed that some of the Fulani herders had even begun to carry their ritual offering past the proverbial mosque by also indulging in the abomination of forcing local farmers to pay them “tribute” before being allowed access to their farms in their supposed ancestral land!
Already, Okowa has read the riot’s act to these neo-feudalists. Reading the governor’s body language correctly, the Delta State Police Commissioner hardly showed any hesitation before declaring that any herder caught with any gun would be treated either as a kidnapper or armed robber.
In Ondo, Aketi has also tightened the noose.
Of course, in Ekiti, no wayward herder would dare Ayo Fayose whose opposition to the trespass on farmlands is unapologetically militant.
Indeed, I have been in touch with Edo Commissioner of Police, Babatunde Kokumo. By his footprints, he would seem to be working tirelessly to keep the peace in an environment where trust has been broken. Unlike the Inspector Genital – sorry, I take that back – General who would not heed the Commander-In-Chief’s ordinance to remain and keep sentinel in beleaguered Benue.
Rather, he chose to cavort in a less dangerous location, maybe hunting for the next nubile booty in the police force to put in the family way. And if challenged, he would again defend that nothing in the police statute book forbids him from converting female underlining to wife.
On the contrary, Kokumo has been visiting Edo communities and reaching out to leaders directly to keep the peace.
If Kokumo appeared officious, however, we can’t say that of some other rogue cops profiteering on the misery of the traumatized.
Among them are the ones who had raided Odiguetue for two consecutive nights and enacted scenes reminiscent of nocturnal raids last witnessed in Nazi Germany.
They failed to realize that standing for truth or with the cheated in a conflict is not a favour but a moral duty.