By Bright Ogundare
SIR: For years, herdsmen have gradually transformed from nomads looking for green pastures for their cattle into a criminal conglomerate famed for kidnapping and banditry. Both the media and communities in the South have raised alarm over these happenings but the federal government has maintained a sort of complicit silence. This silence has emboldened these criminals to continue their activities with the host communities helpless in the face of the ravaging attacks.
Herdsmen have destroyed farmlands worth millions of naira. The farmlands that have been the cornerstone of the survival of many indigenous communities for generations have been systematically destroyed. With the failure of the government to deal with the crisis and tame the bandits, the people desperately needed a leader.
Nature as we know abhors no vacuum. The failure of leadership which has characterized the government response gave rise to a Sunday Igboho. With the people needing leadership desperately, any sort of leadership will surely fill the niche created by government failure. Sunday Igboho is an individual filling this niche. His methods may not be perfect but his populism is surely speaking into the minds of the people.
For those who have watched herdsmen commit acts of violence without being challenged, Sunday Igboho’s fire for fire approach is a sort of poetic justice. It seems a sort of social contract is gradually been struck: Sunday Igboho is given a sort of informal legitimacy by the people to carry out his actions.
While many have been quick to condemn Sunday Igboho and his methods, he’s just a symptom of the problem. You can continue to analyze the legality of his methods and behaviours, but it’s just like the high temperature associated with malaria. Dealing with Sunday Igboho is like taking a cold shower when you have malaria and your temperature is high. You might feel relief after but as far as the plasmodium causing malaria run freely in your system, the body temperature will rise again. Dealing with the crisis just like treating malaria must be systemic.
The federal government must show responsibility by condemning the criminal activities of the herdsmen. Those caught in criminal acts must be brought to justice and the government must genuinely take steps to resolve the crisis between farmers and herdsmen rather than their outright defence of herdsmen. An immediate ban must be placed on open grazing in forest reserves and farm settlements and herdsmen must be held liable for any havoc they wreak in host communities.
Finally, those cheering up Sunday Igboho should know that his model of solving the crisis can never be a solution; rather, it will be a source of more crisis in the long run. His action is going to degenerate into a full-blown land grabbing and rent-seeking enterprise in the long run.