by Alabi Usman
It is not an overstatement to state that Benue is the hardest hit in the herdsmen farmers crisis, the gruesome and macabre killings resulting from this leaves no one in doubt that if the issue is not well addressed, there seems to be no end in sight, especially if we are to face the reality that the federal government alone might not be able to tackle the problem.
We have not forgotten so soon the February attack on the Agatu village by the Fulanis, where over 500 locals were killed and 7000 displaced, somehow we all long for a lasting solution to this issue.
Hence, Governor Ortom decided to constitute the state and local government joint security committees, comprising security agencies, farmers and herdsmen to prevent the ugly crisis that have bedeviled the state every year since 2011. The awareness is for security agencies, civilian joint task-force, sole administrators and traditional rulers across the state. The step, according to the governor is aimed at avoiding a repeat of the February 2016 deadly Agatu attacks involving herdsmen.
Ortom probably needs to take a lesson from Fayose’s Ekiti, I am not a fan of the maverick Fayose, but I am impressed by his approach at solving the herdsmen farmers crisis in his state, though we might argue that Benue has more influx of Herders than Ekiti because of its central location, being a link between the north and the south, and because it has a wider agricultural scale than Ekiti, and being where it is, it is a transit point between the south and north, thus making the issue more complicated. But if Fayose could strike a deal with the herdsmen and get them to recognize and obey the state law, Benue could do same; in fact Benue is in more need of that than Fayose’s Ekiti.
All parties involved in Benue especially the herdsmen and the farmers have to come to the round table, there is no problem in having a separate meeting or round-table with those communities that are more affected like the Agatu communities.
The first step should be a reconciliation conference between these communities and the Fulani herdsmen, because we would not deny the fact that what happened in February and even before then have led to sowing a seed of discord and bitterness between parties involved, hence, beyond the security meeting, there need to be a reconciliation meeting, after which the parties involved can begin to discuss the way forward.
The Agatus and other communities must accept that pending the time that we could work out an alternative to the Fulanis herding their cattle across the country, we must leave with them and sought solutions on common ground, both parties must be able to reach a compromise. For now, there won’t be a problem if we have to give them land to graze on within the communities; have arrangement that would involve their cattle gazing at a certain point in time and not on people’s farm, and peradventure that happens, they must be ready to compensate the farmer and not resorting to violence. In other words, once both parties reach an agreement, if violated, they must take responsibilities.
I feel that the seminar should be all inclusive and should be a continuous thing, the governor must keep open the window of dialogue, negotiation; and reconciliation must continue, until we are able to reach a parallel ground.