Soyinka to Buhari: Herdsmen have declared war on Nigeria

Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, yesterday, said that herdsmen have declared war on Nigeria given the spate of killings across the country by the herders.

 The herdsmen have killed hundreds of people and destroyed farmlands in Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa and across the country. “Villages have been depopulated far wider than those outside their operational zones can conceive. They swoop on sleeping settlements, kill and strut.

“The present national outrage is over impunity. It rejects the right of any set of people, for whatever reason, to take arms against their fellow men and women, to acknowledge their exploits in boastful and justifying accents and, in effect, promise more of the same as long as their terms and demands are not met.

 In plain language, they have declared war against the nation, and their weapon is undiluted terror. Why have they been permitted to become a menace to the rest of us?
That is the issue!” he said. Soyinka, in a statement titled “Impunity Rides Again,” particularly cautioned President Muhammadu Buhari to avoid falling into the same trap former President Goodluck Jonathan fell into with the Boko Haram sect, insisting that his government would be held complicit over the actions of the herdsmen.

 His words: “Boko Haram was still at that stage of putative probes when cries of alarm emerged. Then the fashion ideologues of society deployed their distancing turns of phrase to rationalize what were so obviously discernable as an agenda of ruthless fundamentalism and internal domination. “Boko Haram was a product of social inequities, they preached – one even chortled: We stand for justice, so we are all Boko Haram! We warned that – yes indeed – the inequities of society were indeed part of the story, but why do you close your eyes against other, and more critical malfunctions of the human mind, such as theocratic lunacy? Now it is happening again.

 The nation is being smothered in vaseline when the diagnosis is so clearly – cancer!” Soyinka noted that as the distress signals on the herdsmen menace “have turned into a prolonged howl of despair and rage,” the answer is not to be found in pietistic appeals to victims to avoid hate language and divisive attributions, but that the killings must be curbed, decisively and without further evasiveness.

He dismissed government’s rationalization of the killings, saying it does appear that even the tragically fulfilled warnings of the past leave no impression on the government. He also condemned what he described as “the active policy of appeasement” of the herdsmen, insisting that no life is more important than another.

 He said: “We have been here before – now, ‘before’ is back with a vengeance. President Goodluck Jonathan refused to accept that marauders had carried off the nation’s daughters; President Muhammadu Buhari and his government – including his Inspector-General of Police – in near identical denial, appear to believe that killer herdsmen, who strike again and again at will from one corner of the nation to the other, are merely hot-tempered citizens whose scraps occasionally degenerate into ‘communal clashes’ – I believe I have summarized him accurately.

 “The marauders are naughty children who can be admonished, paternalistically, into good neighbourly conduct. Sometimes of course, the killers were also said be non-Nigerians after all. The contradictions are mind-boggling.” Soyinka also reminded the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who blamed the recent killings to neglect of the past that the herders freely admitted their actions in the case of Benue State in 2016, but justified them by claims that they lost their cattle to the host community.

His words: “No, no, not so, Audu! It is true that I called upon the government a week ago to stop passing the buck over the petroleum situation. I assure you, however, that I never intended that a reverse policy should lead to exonerating or appearing to exonerate mass killers, rapists and economic saboteurs. Saboteurs, since their conduct subverts the efforts of others to economically secure their own existence, drives other producers off their land in fear and terror. “This promises the same plague of starvation that afflicts zones of conflict all over this continent where liberally sown landmines prevent farmers from venturing near their prime source, the farm, often their only source of livelihood, and has created a whole population of amputees. At least, those victims in Angola, Mozambique and other former war theatres, mostly lived to tell the tale.

 These herdsmen, arrogant and unconscionable, have adopted a scorched-earth policy, so that those other producers – the cassava, cocoa, sorghum, rice etc farmers are brutally expelled from farm and dwelling.” Such admittance and rationalisation, he said, “are the monstrous beginnings of the culture of impunity.” He added: “We are reaping, yet again, the consequences of such tolerance of the intolerable. Yes, there indeed the government is culpable, definitely guilty of ‘looking the other way.’ Indeed, it must be held complicit.” “This question is now current, and justified: just when is terror? I am not aware that IPOB (Indigenous People of Biafra) came anywhere close to this homicidal propensity and will to dominance before it was declared a terrorist organisation.

 The international community rightly refused to go along with such an absurdity. For the avoidance of doubt, let me state right here, and yet again, that IPOB leadership is its own worst enemy. It repels public empathy; indeed, I suspect that it deliberately cultivates an obnoxious image, especially among its Internet mouthers who make rational discourse impossible. However, as we pointed out at the time, the conduct of that movement, even at its most extreme, could by no means be reckoned as terrorism. “By contrast, how do we categorize Myeti? How do we assess a mental state that cannot distinguish between a stolen cow – which is always recoverable – and human life, which is not. Villages have been depopulated far wider than those outside their operational zones can conceive.

 They swoop on sleeping settlements, kill and strut. They glory in their seeming supremacy. Cocoa farmers do not kill when there is a cocoa blight. Rice farmers, cassava and tomato farmers do not burn. “The herdsmen cynically dredge up decadesold affronts – they did at the 2016 Benue ‘peace meeting’ to justify the killings of innocents in the present . These crimes are treated like the norm. “Once again, the nation is being massaged by specious rationalisations, while the rampage intensifies and the spread spirals out of control. When we open the dailies tomorrow morning, there is certain to have been a new body count, to be followed by the arrogant justification of the Myeti Allah.

 “The warnings pile up, the distress signals have turned into a prolonged howl of despair and rage. The answer is not to be found in pietistic appeals to victims to avoid ‘hate language’ and divisive attributions. The sustained, killing monologue of the herdsmen is what is at issue. It must be curbed, decisively and without further evasiveness.

 “Yes, Jonathan only saw ‘ghosts’ when Boko Haram was already excising swathes of territory from the nation space and abducting school pupils. The ghosts of Jonathan seem poised to haunt the tenure of Muhammadu Buhari.”


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