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HISTORY WILL VINDICATE GOVERNOR ORTOM

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By Nathaniel Ikyur

It is Jane Mayer that once said "nothing predicts future behavior as much as past impunity." This statement explains the characteristics of a certian class of people in President Muhammadu Buhari's Nigeria. Their actions yesterday emboldens them to do more today. And because no one questions their atrocious acts, they see it as if its a way of life. That is a  norm. It doesn't matter if you're left lifeless. And because the state feigns ignorance, or better still encourages them, they go about in a haughty fashion. 

This is the reason why every spokesperson for any of the Fulani socio-cultural groups exhibits that air of arrogance and a sense of entitlement to the rights of ownership in what is known as Nigeria. They don't think anyone matters as long as their ways are not crossed, even at the detriment of their victims. It's their age of a conqueror mentality. From Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders, MACBAN, Fulani Nationality Movement, FUNAM etc, their posturing is the same. 

And so just recently, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, the umbrella association of Fulani herdsmen,  threatened to drag Benue Stare Governor, Samuel Ortom, before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for crimes that exist only in their imagination. Since this report has not been refuted, let us therefore assume it is authentic. In a nutshell, this is the summit of impunity. It is a historical mess amd at best, a complete nonesense.

It would belong to the same realm of absurdity as remnants of Nazi Germany coming forward to sue Jews for the Holocaust. Or Vladimir Putin daring to drag Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the ICC for the death of Russian fighters in Ukraine. It shows that absolute power can indeed give a false sense of immunity. But power is always transient, a lesson Miyetti Allah and their sponsors must learn someday. And quickly too.

In their moment of intoxication with power without accountability or any sense of responsibility, members of this above-the-law group have positioned their cows to piss on the graves of those they massacred. Granted that the ICC is not an institution that entertains frivolous, showboating cases, this 'threat' by Miyetti Allah is the ultimate insult to the people of Benue state, including the dead and the living, the massacred, the maimed, the raped, the abused, and those living under squalid conditions in Nigeria's largest Internally Displaced Camp in Daudu, 22 km from Makurdi, along the Makurdi-Lafia Highway. 

The threat, real or imaginary, by this  publicity-seeking breeders, is a reckless shot by the perpetrators of genocide against the Benue people to avoid justice by blaming the victims. What impertinence!

One must inform Miyetti Allah that the (still ongoing) Benue massacres are well documented. The perpetrators are also well known to local and international authorities.

It is on record that Governor Ortom himself have had cause to officially report the atrocities of Miyetti Allah and other groups threatening the peace of Benue to President Muhammadu Buhari. But of course, the outcome has always been determined from the beginning. And because they are aware that they  have the backing and sympathy of the Federal Government, the Fulani herdsmen have consistently owned up to the killings. They would therefore be reporting themselves to the ICC should they carry out the threat. 

Their self-indicting, inciting, and inflammatory statements are also documented. The National Vice President of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, Husaini Yusuf Bosso, was quoted in the Daily Sun of 13th January 2018, vowing, "More blood will be shed in the (Benue) state if the Anti-Open Grazing Law" introduced in Benue state was not completely scrapped. How daring!

In another separate press release by Badu Salisu Ahmadu and Umar Amir Shehu on behalf of Miyetti Allah dated 13th and 14th January 2018, the group also threatened that: "the cattle colony is the only solution to the crises that has destroyed communities. Whether the Federal Government or State Government accepts or not, we have asked all Fulani herdsmen all over West Africa to move to Nigeria and penetrate every corner for the upcoming Jihad. We have asked them to be armed since it seems it is the only language Nigeria understands." 

Governor Ortom promptly reported this too to the Presidency and all security agencies. Till date, none of the leaders has been invited for questioning. Can you imagine!

In case Miyetti Allah and their cohorts are not aware, the Benue State Anti-Open Grazing legislation is a law passed through a due legal process. But let me ask; does opposition to the law enacted by a sub-sovereign state give intruders the right to kill people and destroy their livelihood? The Law was duly passed by the Benue State House of Assembly and assented to by the  Governor Ortom in 2017. And like the Governor would always insist, it has come to stay. It is irrevocable. It is the law of the Benue people and will be implemented without fear or favour. So the earlier our oppressors get used to it, the better.

The ICC, nonetheless, will not be short of evidence when it sits on the Benue massacres cases. The evidence is overwhelming in local and international media. In a report on the 2018 New Year's day attacks where over 72 innocent people, including women and children, were massacred in their sleep, CNN International had this headline: 'Benue killings: Mass burial held for dozens killed in New Year's day attacks.'

CNN reported that "cattle herders have forcefully evicted farmers from villages by initiating deadly attacks in Nigeria's Middle Belt," adding that, "Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari, who is ethnically linked to Fulani herdsmen, has been widely criticized on social media for his perceived silence over the previous attacks."

The international Human Rights Group, Amnesty International tweeted: "That herdsmen, ethnic militias and cult groups kill Nigerians with ease should be a wake-up call for the Nigerian government to ensure accountability for every violation of human rights."-Amnesty Int. Nigeria (@AmnestyNigeria) 9 January 2018.

The CNN report also carried tweets by former Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose who lamented thus:

"I am deeply sad about the killings going on in Benue State. When will these killings by Fulani herdsmen stop? When is President Buhari going to act? Isn't the silence of the President suggestive?" -Peter Ayodele Fayose (@GovAyoFayose) 3 January 2018.

The Punch newspaper had noted in one of their reports with the headline: "Killing field: Benue valley becomes gunmen's haven, 92 residents killed in three months." The paper said in their report that Benue State, the food basket of the nation, was gradually losing its status due to the incessant attacks and killings of innocent people and massive destruction of properties by suspected marauding herders.

In another report in Premium Times on 11 June 2022, "In Benue, children are victims of continued attacks," the writer, Ameh Ejekwonyilo, reports that armed herders still target communities, and at least 15 people were killed in a recent incident. Benue, in Nigeria's middle belt region, has witnessed violent attacks in recent years, many of the attacks are between armed herders and indigenous communities.

The news platform reasoned that: "Perhaps the worst incident in the last seven years occurred in February 2016 in Agatu LGA where armed herders killed over 500 villagers and displaced about 7000. Residents said the figure was more."

On 3 January 2018, BBC News Pidgin carried an interesting confession by a killer herdsman in the report: 'Fulani herdsmen: Why we attack Benue people'. The BBC reports begins with a descriptive rider: "Herdsmen for Benue State, north-central Nigeria, don tell BBC News Pidgin why dem attack Benue communities come kill people." 

The prosecutors in the ICC must hear this: "Di oga for Myetti Allah cattle breeders association for Benue State, Garus Gololo, told BBC News Pidgin tori person, Dooshima Abu, say di wahala start as some people attack Fulani herdsmen wey dey carry their cow comot from Benue State." 

These atrocious evidences against Miyetti Allah and their conspirators  abound in many ways and the Benue State Government has it in quantum. 

Sadly, the killings in Benue by the Fulani terrorist gangs have not ceased. The guns are still smoking with blood flowing endlessly. No day passes that Makurdi, the state capital, Guma, Logo, Gwer West, Kwande, Ado, Agatu and Okpokwu local government areas do not record incidences of the terrorists hacking to death, indigenes of these local communities. Some in their sleep why many others are waylaid and killed on their farms. One glaring identity of these aggressors is their courage. Right now, they don't come with any herd of cattle anymore. They do that in the cool of the night with AK47 or AK49 riffles.

One thing has become more apparent in this regard: Benue people are not the only ones who are thoroughly incensed by Miyetti Allah's incredulous impudence. While Governor Ortom does not entertain fear in challenging the aggressors, his counterparts where these cases have risen to high heavens but prefer to keep mum. In  some states like Plateau, Kaduna, Zamfara, Katsina, Niger and Sokoto in the north, everyone is incensed. But they go about with sealed lips. The blood of our citizens have not stopped flowing. 

Most of them once laughed at us, but now, everyone is tasting the pudding. The east and west are having their share. The agents of hell have exported terror, death, blood and sorrow everywhere. Benue is no longer alone. They would soon be taunted like what they did to Benue and also criticising our Governor. Even with the written petitions, none of their officials has been brought to questioning. What a country!

So whoever is close to the leadership of Miyetti Allah, should  please whisper to them or say it on the rooftops: Governor Ortom is not known to chicken out at any time.  He's ready to meet them at the Hague. And he will be guided by  loads of evidence of their crimes against innocent Benue people. As it stands, history will vindicate Governor Samuel Ortom as one who came at such a time as this and stood up for his people. 

Ikyur is the Chief Press Secretary to the Benue State Governor