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Friday, April 19, 2024

Peter Awunah: Herdsmen attacks in Benue – Whose interests is Gov Alia serving

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Benue State Governor, Hyacinth Alia is on the way to setting the record as the first Nigerian governor to publicly and consistently accuse his people of attacking and killing themselves even, when the aggressors have often taken responsibility for their atrocities.

Governor Alia has literally become the spokesman for Fulani pastoralists. He absolves them of blame and defends them against accusations better than they defend themselves. Nomadic Fulani do no wrong in the eyes of Alia. He says the herders only react when their cattle are rustled, and he also says his people are the cattle rustlers. Each time Governor Alia accuses his people of stealing Fulani cattle, he receives a pat on the back from the Caliphate. You heard me right.

Yesterday in Sokoto, the Tiv nation was ridiculed by the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar. The event was the launch of the Sokoto State security organization. The Sultan publicly lavished praise on Governor Alia for defending Fulani interests in Benue State and pointedly accused Tiv people of stealing Fulani’s cattle. When it was time for him to speak, Alia made no comment to correct the indicting impression on his people.

Hyacinth Alia began to fault his own people over attacks in Benue State long before the 2023 elections. He had just been made the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Benue State. Each time he had cause to speak to the press on insecurity, he laid the blame squarely on the feet of youths of the state whom he said were idle and engaging in crime. Perhaps the “Yes Father” madness blindfolded Benue people to read and understand the message Alia was sending to the rest of the country.

It was at the same time that stories began to emerge that he met with wealthy Fulani elites including some northern governors and struck a deal with them to fund his campaign. Pictures of him with former Kaduna governor Nasir el-Rufai, Governor Bello Masari of Katsina among others surfaced confirming the speculation that the Fulani were the ones sponsoring him to become governor. Alia’s part of the deal was to protect Fulani interests in the state, if elected.

The rest, they say, is history. Alia is now the governor and he has not proven those who peddled that speculation wrong. Every single word he utters and every action he takes regarding Fulani herders and insecurity in Benue State, he does so wearing kid gloves.

When the pressure mounted on him by Benue people became unbearable, Alia tamely declared a 14-day ultimatum for the herdsmen to leave the state with their cattle. And on the day the ultimatum elapsed and he was expected to move against the pastoralists, he stayed away and asked his Deputy Samuel Ode to speak on his behalf. As expected, no action has been taken since the 14-day deadline expired and Fulani herders are still attacking, killing and sacking communities across the state.

Governor Alia, a few days ago during a requiem mass in Katsina-Ala, took his blame game to a ridiculous height. Nearly 20 persons had been killed by armed herders just the previous day at Mbaikyor, Mbalom Council Ward of Gwer East Local Government Area. When he got up to speak at the funeral in Katsina-Ala, Governor Alia did not bother to send condolences to families of the victims. Even in Sankera where he was speaking, Fulani marauders recently wreaked havoc leaving over 50 people dead. He had no words of sympathy for the bereaved families.

Alia went on a shocking offensive against the people of Gwer East, accusing them of rustling Fulani cows and selling the meat in wheelbarrows. He said:
“On my way to this requiem mass, I received some news that some young people in Gwer East numbering 15 were killed last night by invaders. We now tried to find out properly what caused it. The other youths now rose to move to find out what the problems are. Some members of the youths rustled some cows, slaughtered them and they have them in the wheelbarrow and are selling around. When these acts are done, they come with a cost of loss of life.”

It was the first time in the history of this country that a sitting governor would show lack of compassion when his own people were lying in the pool of their blood from the sword of the enemy and rather chose to explain why the enemy had to strike! In the viral video of his speech, you could hear pin drop silence in the church and see disappointment written on the faces of those present.

But Alia was making no mistake. He knew exactly what he was doing. It was deliberate and consistent. Those lines have been part of his speeches even before he became governor. But the question is, how does a governor who accuses his people of being their killers expect them to help him to solve the problem of insecurity?

Alia is apparently serving the interests of Fulani and he is determined to help them become integrated into Benue State where they can own land and freely rear their cattle. That was the deal! Forget his belated pronouncements that the anti-open grazing law is in force. He will never enforce that law because doing so will be violating the pact he had with the Fulani oligarchy and his chances for a 2nd term will be in jeopardy.

  • Dr Awunah writes from Durumi, Abuja. awunahpeter@gmail.com
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