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Herders crisis: Act now to avert civil war, Soyinka tells Buhari

…Presidency keeps mum
Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to act fast in putting a check to the activities of herdsmen to avert another civil war.

He also said the President’s silence on what he described as the illegal activities of herders across the country showed he was complicit.

Efforts to get the Presidency’s reaction proved abortive, as calls made to the spokesmen were unreplied. Text messages also sent to their phones were not replied. Soyinka, who made the call in an interview on BBC Pidgin, said he wondered why the President had failed to address the nation, especially as the buck stops at his desk.

He said the current situation across the country, particularly in the Southwest, might develop into a civil war. “What do they expect of us now that the war is on our doorstep? Of course, there will be mobilisation and if we keep waiting for this to be centrally handled, we are all going to become, if not already slaves in our land. That to me is personally intolerable. It is not an acceptable condition.

“Whatever it takes, I stand ready to contribute in any way and I have made my governor understand this, that we are here not just to live in but to live in dignity. Right now, our dignity is being rubbished. My forest is being taken over, it’s been shrinking, my normal hunting ground is shrinking. My family tells me that if I go in depth again, they will have me institutionalised.” Soyinka said the first solution to the recurring menace was for Buhari to address the nation on the level of insecurity and the way forward.

He noted that the President should say openly “that yes, I know I am the patron of the cattle rearers association etc., and I am a cattle rancher myself and it is a business. And I do not run my business by killing people.

‘’I do not run my business by raping, by displacing, by torturing. I do not run my business by occupying land that does not belong to me and I am warning all business people in the food commodity, all cattle reared, whatever comes to you for illegal occupation for trespassing on other people’s property is your business and I am ordering the army, I am ordering all the security forces to back citizens’ efforts in flushing you out.”

Soyinka said he expected nothing else at this stage from President Buhari than the statement he suggested.

“It is very late already but it is not too late. This is a language that we expect from President Buhari and as much as that language does not come, I must consider him as quite complicit in what is going on because the buck stops at his desk.

“We may enter a phase of serious skirmishes which get more and more violent and may develop into civil war and a very untidy mercy one. That’s my biggest fear.

‘’Unless action is taken… I am very glad that the governors are coming together and are discussing in all seriousness. I’m happy they are pulling in groups like Miyetti Allah, obviously knocking some sense into the head of their leaders and they are talking about accepting the decision of governors and agreeing to obey.”

Asked whether he is in support of the action of a Yoruba warlord, Sunday Igboho, he said: “We’ve never met, I hope people will always report things properly. I saw a byline of one media report that Wole Soyinka calls Igboho a hero, I never made any such thing. Sunday Igboho has responded to the situation in the way he knew how. Now you will see that he’s trying to work with others.

“Somebody one day reaches an explosion point and he says I cannot take this any longer and he takes unilateral action. It may be excessive, it may be wrong but what matters is that somebody has responded to an unacceptable situation.

‘’Any error which he makes is for the rest of us to correct by calling him and I know that a number of people are doing that.”

Many states in Nigeria, and their residents, have lamented the activities of armed herdsmen who not only graze their cattle on people’s farms but also engage in criminality like kidnap and murder.

Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State recently issued an ultimatum to herders in Ondo forests to leave because the forests were being used as bases for criminal activities.

Also, a Yoruba warlord, Sunday Adeyemo, led residents of Igangan in Ibarapa area of Oyo State to evict Fulani leaders in the area after giving them an ultimatum. He accused them of harbouring the Fulani herders who perpetrate criminality in the area. Mr Igboho also led a similar action in Ogun State.

As the tension escalated, the six governors in South-west states met with leaders of Miyetti Allah cattle rearers where they reached an agreement to ban open grazing, child grazing and ensure criminals among the herders are identified and punished according to the law.

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