Ekiti Governor Ayodele Fayose yesterday held an emergency security summit with hunters from the 16 local government areas of the state.
Clad in military fatigue, the governor ordered the huntsmen to set up a 24-hour surveillance of the state to prevent attacks by herdsmen.
The governor’s rather unconventional approach follows the recent massacre by herdsmen of over 70 people in Benue State amid widespread condemnation of Federal Government’s poor handling of the incident.
“The Federal Government should have sent the army to Benue, not the police,” Fayose said. And to his Benue State counterpart, he declared: “Governor Ortom should fasten his belt and protect his people. Those seeking help in Abuja would not find it because Abuja also needs help.”
He told the hunter-delegates: “Tell them Ekiti is a no-go area. My state is a no-go area. Those who want to make Ekiti ungovernable are wasting their time. Don’t kill anybody but defend your towns. Keep vigil on Ekiti. Don’t sleep again. Arise and fight for our people. How can the life of a cow be worth more than the life of men? My hunters! Go and represent me well. If you have juju, use it. Make them (herdsmen) sleep off. Anything you have, use it. Make sure your people are not killed.”
Fayose described his battle uniform as “a mark of leadership and solidarity with our hunters and vigilantes.” He noted: “I am a man that believes that his people must be protected. I therefore want you all to protect our people. Go and protect your domain. Make sure everybody entering our state on a daily basis is screened.”
He urged President Muhammadu Buhari to brand the “mindless and devilish” cattlemen as terrorists and observed a moment’s silence for the victims of the Benue tragedy.
Also, in a statement yesterday, Nobel Prize winner, Wole Soyinka, described the activities of the herdsmen as a declaration of war on the country, stressing: “The solution to the development is not to be found in pietistic appeals to victims to avoid hate language and divisive attributions but that the sustained, killing monologue of the herdsmen must be curbed, decisively and without further evasiveness.”
Titled “Impunity Rides Again”, the statement notes: “Permit me to remind you that, early in 2016, an even more hideous massacre was perpetrated by this same Murder Incorporated – that is, a numerical climax to what had been a series across a number of Middle Belt and neighbouring states, with Benue taking the brunt of the butchery.
“A peace meeting was called, attended by the state government and security agencies of the nation, including the Inspector General of Police. This group attended – according to reports – with AK47s and other weapons of mass intimidation visible under their garments. They were neither disarmed nor turned back. They freely admitted the killings but justified them by claims that they had lost their cattle to the host community.
“It is important to emphasise that none of their spokesmen referred to any government neglect, such as refusal to pay subsidy for their cows or failure to accord them the same facilities that had been extended to cassava or millet farmers.
“Such are the monstrous beginnings of the culture of impunity. 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.”
Also denouncing government’s failure to stop the killings, Senator Shehu Sani (Kaduna Central), said: “The Federal Government and the President have a duty to restore peace and order and law in Nigeria. The most prone and vulnerable area in this country is the North Central states and part of the North West. There is a vast expanse of land that stretches from Zamfara, Kaduna, Niger and empties itself in the southern part of Kaduna. This is the North Central’s version of Sambisa Forest where thousands of armed criminals hide and commit atrocities with impunity.”
Sani added that persons nudging Buhari to contest the 2019 elections in the face of massacres by Fulani herdsmen were enemies of the polity. According to him, “It makes no meaning if the life and property of Nigerians are not safe. If we allow this trend to continue, it will amount to threatening the peace and unity of this country.
“They (herdsmen) kill people in Benue, Taraba, Niger and Rivers States. But Nigeria’s political class are more interested in the 2019 elections than in the lives of people who are being killed by the herdsmen.
“There is more time to meet and strategise for the next elections. There is very little time to pay attention to the lives of the common people. My only advice for people who are advising the president and strategising for him to contest the 2019 elections is: they should spare him some time, advise him and provide a solid strategy to end the carnage and atrocities that are going on in the country today. Human life is more important than politics because you cannot preside over dead people.”
The Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, meanwhile tendered an apology to the people of Benue State yesterday for referring earlier to the incident as a communal clash.
Idris, who has been ordered by Buhari to relocate to Benue, told stakeholders at a meeting in Makurdi: “I apologise for the misconception on the statement I made at a press conference in Abuja. I was only trying to convey a message that Nigerians should live together in peace. As policemen, we try to avoid divisive statements.”
In another attack, two herdsmen in Edo State on Monday lured one Hassan Usman, a community leader, to a bush under the pretext of showing him cows for sale. The men instead demanded money, failing which they inflicted serious machete wounds on the victim.