That Nigeria is currently witnessing an ocean of gruesome killings perpetrated by people still identified as “suspected Fulani herdsmen” with only occasional islands of peace is no news. What is news is the implication of the activities of this murderous group on food security which the government is not mindful of, as it made steering the economy to the path of growth by investing in agriculture in order to attain food security and reduce importation (see Buhari’s 2018 budget speech).
We realized, rather belatedly that we ought to have been investing in agriculture. We are now aiming at food security because of our large population… Agriculture is providing jobs for millions of our citizens and we are doing well towards the attainment of food security and jobs. President Muhammadu Buhari in United States
That Nigeria is currently witnessing an ocean of gruesome killings perpetrated by people still identified as “suspected Fulani herdsmen” with only occasional islands of peace is no news. What is news is the implication of the activities of this murderous group on food security which the government is not mindful of, as it made steering the economy to the path of growth by investing in agriculture in order to attain food security and reduce importation (see Buhari’s 2018 budget speech). Again, the president reiterated this commitment in a parley at Blair House, in Washington D.C., with some American Chief Executive Officers in the agric. sector and their Nigerian counterparts as indicated in the introductory note above. While making his speech at the White House when he met President Trump, he repeated the same food security lines. What should concern Nigerians is how possible is this given our present condition of violent attacks on crops and farmers by the herdsmen.
Realizing the important need to redirect its focus to non-oil sector – agriculture, which had long been abandoned as a result of wealth from petrodollar is commendable; especially when the economic growth the country recorded in the second quarter of 2017 which saw it exit recession is attributed to agriculture. However, the food security currently promoted appears to be the usual government verbiage we have heard before which lacks action at the implementation level. If not, how can one reconcile implementing the much talked about food security policy within a political society where some elements main target – as they have exhibited – is to destroy crops in the name of pasturing their cattle and brutally kill farmers whose role in attaining food security is indispensable?
The forgoing aptly explain the present situation in Benue state, the food basket of the nation, and other states in the north-central, north-east and north-west. Sadly, state response from the federal government (FG) which controls the coercive apparatus of the state is everything but effective and assuring; at least from what we have seen so far. Therefore, it is safe to conclude that the FG has remained passive in the face of what appears to be an act of genocide on its citizens – majority of whom are farmers – it swore to protect. If you are still wondering how this affect food security with respect to Benue, and perhaps Nigeria as a whole, a careful examination of the state’s economy will provided deeper insight even though this has been stated briefly above.
Essentially, Benue’s economy is an agrarian one which houses a vast majority of the state’s population. What this means is that any threat or attack to the sector will definitely have serious ramifications on the life of the people who depend on it for their livelihood, and by extension the nation economy which relies on proceeds from this sector which Benue state plays a prominent role as the food basket to boost its economic growth. While natural disasters such as flood and drought can also affect such an economy, which is perfectly understood because they are beyond human control; avoidable ones like herdsmen onslaught on farmers’ lives and crops, and cattle destruction of crops have badly affected the peasant economy in Benue.
Aside the burning of crops and brutal murdering of farmers by the herdsmen, farmers who survived the senseless killings have been detained in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps under horrific condition since they fled their ancestral homes on account insecurity. They cannot return to take advantage of the raining season for agricultural purposes which guarantees food security. Coupled with non-payment of salary (this tends stimulate the peasant economy) by the inept Ortom government which is unarguably the worst in the state’s history, hunger and poverty have worn a human face in Benue state. Need I state that this has eroded any effort – if at there was – at addressing goals number one and two of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)!
The president was right by saying “agriculture is providing jobs for millions of our citizens….” In fact, our youths took seriously the idea of returning to the farm when the nation’s economy was in recession. As a result, Benue state witnessed bumper harvest last farming season more what it used to be in spite of the floods which badly affected rice fields, fish ponds and other crops; all of which were a consequence of corruption in the management of ecological fund by the previous administrations, especially Suswam’s. However, the onslaught of the herdsmen which has become an abhorrent norm in the life of Benue farmers has taken away those jobs. This author is also affected. So, for the president to say that “we are doing well towards the attainment of food security and jobs” suggests that he is governing a sovereign territory from Mars, which why he is not aware of the impact of the havoc the herdsmen have wrecked on food security and human lives. After all, he is never aware of anything.
No matter how objectionable President Buhari and unrepentant Buharideens might find my line of argument, they cannot contend the fact that this government’s cavalier attitude in handling the herdsmen terror on lives and crops the way it should, negatively impacts its food security policy. Therefore, the main concern now is not about pontificating the government’s achievement in the agric. sector which has been reversed on account of its failure to address violent attacks by the herdsmen on farmers and their crops, or to promote food security policy. But to tackle herdsmen frequent attacks which is the root cause of food insecurity (we are currently facing) by deploying the necessary coercive power to the affected areas with a definite mandate to fish out the perpetrators and their sponsors. Approving N10 billion for the rehabilitation of communities affected by herdsmen brutal attacks in Benue state cannot replace the precious lives that were lost, neither can it solve the problem of frequent attacks. If anything, it is another bazar for political entrepreneurs to enrich themselves as is always the case in our political milieu.
Again, the N10 billion gesture to me is one that is targeted at something more precious to the president than the welfare of the people (2019). If not, why now, having failed to reach out to the people of Benue when the attacks started in earnest in January this year?
On their part, the people of Benue have explored conventional methods to get the government to come to their. Such methods include entreaties and humble supplications, arguments, petitions, and remonstrations. They even cried out to the central government to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of the barbaric acts and their financiers in order to ensure that this carnage is brought an end, and assure them of security as they go about their lawful trade of farming. All of these fell on deaf ears. This explains why President Buhari has become the bête noire of Benue people lately. While the people source of livelihood – farming – has been attacked and their families brutally murdered, the state under his leadership failed to act responsibly. To think that his food security policy would succeed without confronting this problem is delusional.
As the government continue to look at the pitiable and abominable condition of the good people of Benue who are being brutally murdered almost daily without effective response, I leave my brothers and sisters affected by this carnage with an excerpt from Patrick Henry’s great speech before the Virginia legislators in 1775, urging American colonies to revolt against England.
Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can stand against us. Besides, Sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
Ihembe, Ayankaa Martin is a political scientist with research interest In Political Development. He can be reached via +2347036396194