I do not intend to report on the disgusting cruel butcher of human lives in Benue state, but I will talk about how such crisis could have been or should be managed. I will also not call it “Farmers-Herdsmen Crisis”, because it is not. Many might have been brainwashed to believe it is, but it is not. Though, there are still possible cases of conflict between cattle rearers and famers, which are not domiciled only in Benue state. Though such conflict is mostly prevalent in Benue, Taraba and Plateau States, however it cannot be as cruel as to the extent of killing 73 innocent and helpless lives in a night.
Though, Farmer-Herdsmen crisis might be the genesis of intolerance, divisions, lawlessness, lack of understanding and social cohesion, but what we experience in Benue state is beyond ordinary Farmer Herdsmen crisis, it is a socio-political crisis. If the Farmers-Herdsmen conflicts were managed well, we will not be contemplating its resultant effect in the current massacres. That is why even the current crisis must be managed properly before it breeds a worst crisis, hence my intention. There are some contradicting theories suggesting the causes of this crisis. Some security agencies suggest that there might be existence of a terrorist group operating within Nigeria, and others blamed it on local authorities that opted for civilian livestock guards, which were alleged to be armed. Though a government official denied that allegation. Some still believe it is the ordinary Farmers-Herdsmen crisis.
Whatever might be the reason, there is a need for proper and decisive problem solving and conflict management strategy. Leadership is about problem solving. Problem or crisis will never seize to exist. Apart from the Benue crisis, we also face kidnapping, armed robbery, thefts etc. We recently came out of the Boko Haram horror. We faced the Niger Delta Crisis, Maitatsine Crisis, etc. Failure to fix one problem leads to a bigger one. As a leader, your goal is to minimise and prevent problem or crisis. For Benue crisis the Farmers-Herdsmen crisis would have been easily managed if there was decisiveness and proactiveness. Authorities should always be proactive not reactive. For each crime, there should be decisive action to investigate, take action, punish culprits, and take measures to prevent its occurrence. But, if a killing takes place, and nobody is punished, and no action is taken, but only condemnation, you are asking the criminal to do it again. For innocent lives to be taken continuously, someone must not be doing his/her job and such person should have been sacked or should resign. Uncountable numbers of people were killed, and yet no body resigned, and nobody was sacked. It is an indication of huge security breach for such massacre to be allowed to happen, and yet nobody is punished for that. Instead of authorities to blame each other, the federal government must immediately take control of the area, and ensure consistent security patrol around the country.
With poverty increasing at an alarming rate, security situation may worsen, and unfortunately the police that is supposed to protect lives and properties are also hit with poverty and inexperience. This will mean that, no one is safe, especially the poor people who cannot hire a security at home or build a tall wall. Everything must start from policing and social cohesion. We must teach citizens orderliness and respect of the law and authority. But this cannot be achieved without credible authorities who will always stand for the citizens at all costs. People take action by themselves when they lose confidence in authorities. It is a clear indication that the police system is not trusted, since state governments now consider hiring civilians for territorial protection. How you respond to crisis like this determines whether it will linger or not. At this stage, there is no room for taking longer time than necessary to reflect before making a decision, because every second counts, and human lives are at stake. Sometimes a leader has to make decisions hurriedly, especially during crisis. Best leaders are best problem solvers, and being decisive does not mean a leader should shoot from the hip.
The porous Nigerian borders make it easy for foreign attack and invasion, and there has to be a renewed immigration policy. There has to be inclusive direct engagement with the herdsmen to explore options for grazing reserves. All animals must be kept in farms, homes or within the graze lands, but not on the street or farmlands. Without understanding of this purpose by the parties involved, there would not be compliance. A herdsman, who may not have a television neither a cell phone, can be difficult to communicate to, yet there has to be committed efforts to reaching out to them. Every herdsman must be identified and registered, and allocated license to the reserve. Both farmers and herdsmen must be educated on civic responsibilities, law and order and social cohesion. People must be taught the culture of patience and forgiveness and trusting authority.
However, authorities must take decisive actions to punish culprits; otherwise people will take their own decisive actions. The president must visit the community in person and sit down with the farmers and herdsmen and give them a sense of importance, and do it by himself. It is going to cost more if a commander in chief is actually locked up in the villa. There has to be permanent deployment of armies around those vulnerable and crisis potential areas. For the establishment of security chiefs, there has to be inclusiveness, so that you can have balanced information, and everyone will be willing to cooperate. Inequality can cause grievances and lack of sense of belonging, which can lead to anarchy.
So, I agree with Obasanjo where he stated, poor of handling of political dynamics can cause insecurity. Finally, there should not be civilian involvement in handling crisis of this magnitude. The security of lives of citizens and their properties is the primary responsibility of the government, and security agencies should be sufficient to provide any protection that would be required. The huge inadequacy of police personnel and inexperience must be addressed immediately, so that we can have police patrol in every area in Nigeria at least four times a day. Politicians must be sensitive to security situations, and watch their actions and utterances during crisis, though they have such right of expression, but many people will feel hurt for lack of sympathy and may take it personal. Appointment into major security agencies must be balanced and based on competency, so as to ensure equity. Appointment based on competency will ensure efficiency, because appointees will work hard to prove their reputation and loyalty.
– Dr Adamu, is a University Lecturer, Petroleum Economist and Leadership and Development Expert.
(Published by Leadership Newspaper, Nigeria, 18/2/2018)