On February 13, 2021, an ethnic confrontation that had been brewing in some parts of Oyo State came to its climax. It resulted in a violent clash between some Yoruba indigenes and Hausa residents in Oyo. It reportedly claimed lives and property. While this sort of clash has become a regular feature in our national scene, it has now become the most visible evidence of a complete absence of leadership in Nigeria.
The confrontation was an offshoot of the perennial herder-farmer crisis in the country. In 2018, Amnesty International said 3,600 people were killed between 2016 and 2018 as a result of the crisis. Now, it has allowed the intervention of non-state actors like Sunday Igboho who issued an ultimatum for Fulani herdsmen to vacate Oyo forests. This is a sign of looming anarchy.
The present regime has grown a sad reputation for the radio silence on issues of national importance and urgency allowing minor incidents to snowball into serious crises. This posture only harms the country more, giving room for the breakdown of Nigeria’s already fragile unity.
Giving liberty to the likes of Igboho and Miyetti Allah to steer national discourse is not only irresponsible but also dangerous. The presidency must begin to talk more and act preemptively to forestall a repeat of the Nigerian civil war which led to the death of more than three million people. The recipe for the war was a series of unmitigated ethnic crises and that is what we are currently witnessing now.
The same posture was adopted by the Federal Government during the #EndSARS protests which spanned for almost two weeks and went from an online clamour for an end to police brutality to a full-blown national movement and ended in the tragic killings of peaceful protesters across the country. When the government eventually broke their silence, it was to deny the obvious.
Loss of lives and property has become increasingly normal. In the first two weeks of 2021, the National Security Tracker reported that 109 civilians were killed with 133 others kidnapped. Since then, more deaths have been reported nationwide and this has deepened the distrust Nigerians have in security agencies.
Distrust in security agencies can only fertilise more violence as people will rather resort to taking the law into their own hands. In the first place, the Nigerian security agencies have a long disturbing history of brutality against Nigerians and their inability to defend the lives and property of the people only creates a bigger divide. A radical overhaul needs to be conducted on the security agencies because, at least, defenceless Nigerians need someone to turn to.
The clashes have shown two troubling issues with the handling of (in)security in the country – sleepy leadership and ineffectual security agencies. What is more troubling is that the brunt of these clashes is borne by poor farmers who rely on their subsistence farming practice as a source of livelihood and community residents who are often displaced by the persistent violence.
Both on the individual and national levels, the clashes are wrecking damage while the Federal Government let them fester. Food insecurity is already so bad that nine out of every 10 Nigerians cannot afford a healthy diet and the conflict is merely aggravating this. The Nigerian government must take responsibility and find a lasting solution to the perennial conflict.
While the constitution allows every Nigerian to live peacefully wherever they choose to without discrimination anywhere in the country, we cannot use this as a basis for the continuous herdsmen incursion into people’s farms, destroying lives and property in a country already ingloriously decorated as the poverty capital of the world.
There are several options to explore and one is the technological solution where private investors can create artificial grazing areas in the Northern part of the country. Peaceful co-existence is not merely a watchword, it is a set of deliberate government policies to ensure that the country’s constituent parts live with themselves peacefully.
The government leaving the herdsmen-farmers clashes unattended to by opting for silence is an open invitation to anarchy and creative solutions must be immediately implemented before the situation explodes. And any creative solutions must include justice.
By Ope Adetayo, a Writing Fellow at African Liberty. A freelance journalist and his works have appeared in Al Jazeera, VICE, Minority Africa, Sahelien and elsewhere.
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