Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, has lashed out at the presidency for its seeming inability to rein in the violent activities of herdsmen across the country.
In his address to the National Conference on Culture and Tourism, Wednesday, Mr. Soyinka said the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government was yet to come up with an articulate solution to tackle the menace.
“I have yet to hear this government articulate a firm policy of non-tolerance for the serial massacres that have become the nation’s identification stamp,” said Mr. Soyinka.
“I have not heard an order given that any cattle herders caught with sophisticated firearms be instantly disarmed, arrested, placed on trial, and his cattle confiscated. The nation is treated to an eighteen-month optimistic plan which, to make matters worse, smacks of abject appeasement and encouragement of violence on innocents.
“Let me repeat, and of course I only ask to be corrected if wrong: I have yet to encounter a terse, rigorous, soldierly and uncompromising language from this leadership, one that threatens a response to this unconscionable blood-letting that would make even Boko Haram repudiate its founding clerics.”
Suspected Fulani herdsmen on Monday unleashed terror on Ukpabi Nimbo, a community in Enugu State, killing dozens of people.
The attack came weeks after a similar wave of violence by herdsmen in Agatu in Benue State.
After weeks of apparent silence on the killings that have spread to other states, the presidency on Wednesday ordered the police to go after the suspected herdsmen.
“When I read a short while ago, the Presidential assurance to this nation that the current homicidal escalation between the cattle prowlers and farming communities would soon be over, I felt mortified,” Mr. Soyinka said.
“He had the solution, he said. Cattle ranches were being set up, and in another 18 months, rustlings, destruction of livelihood and killings from herdsmen would be ‘a thing of the past’. 18 months, he assured the nation. I believe his Minister of Agriculture echoed that later, but with a less dispiriting time schema.
“Neither, however, could be considered a message of solace and reassurance for the ordinary Nigerian farmer and the lengthening cast of victims, much less to an intending tourist to the Forest Retreat of Tinana in the Rivers, the Ikogosi Springs or the moslem architectural heritage of the ancient city of Kano. In any case, the external tourists have less hazardous options.”
Mr. Soyinka recalled with nostalgia how he – in the company of the late Segun Olusola – journeyed across Nigeria in the pre-war 60’s, mostly out of curiosity.
“But now, would the young adventurous set out to visit the mystery caves of Anambra and its alleged curative pools from mere interest?
“They would think twice about it. It is not merely arbitrary violence that reigns across the nation but total, undisputed impunity. Impunity evolves and becomes integrated in conduct when crime occurs and no legal, logical and moral response is offered.”
Mr. Soyinka also said he had a personal experience recently with the cattle herders, right at his doorstep.
”I returned from a trip outside the country about to find that my home ground had been invaded, and a brand-new ‘Appian way’ sliced through my sanctuary,” said Mr. Soyinka.
“That ‘motorable’ path was made by the hoofed invaders. Both the improvised entry and exit are now blocked, but interested journalists are invited to visit.
“In over two decades of living in that ecological preserve, no such intrusion had ever occurred. I have no idea whether they were Fulani or Futa Jalon herdsmen but, they were cattle herders, and they had cut a crude swathe through my private grounds.
“I made enquiries and sent alerts around, including through the Baale of our neighborhood village. There has been no repeat, and hopefully it will remain the first and last of such invasion. What it portends however is for all thinking citizens to reflect upon, and take concerted measures against.”
Mr. Soyinka noted that herdsmen are among humanity’s earliest known tourists and must be taught a culture of settlement with their hosts.
“The leadership of any society cannot stand idly and offer solutions that implicitly deem the massacres of innocents mere incidents on the way to that learning school,” he said.
“For every crime, there is a punishment, for every violation, there must be restitution. The nomads of the world cannot place themselves above the law of settled humanity.”