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Time for the Middle Belt to stand its ground: Stanley Azuakola’s memo (Read, Watch)

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Time for the Middle Belt to stand its ground: Stanley Azuakola’s memo (Read, Watch)

by Stanley Azuakola

Nigeria has had the worst possible start to 2018.

We are not even half way into the first month, and already there have been almost 200 reported deaths, from Rivers to Kaduna to Taraba to Benue.

The most troubling of all is the gruesome killings by Fulani herdsmen. When this heavily armed group descends on a community, nothing and no one is spared in their wake.

When they attacked Agatu local government area of Benue state in February 2016, they killed more than 500 human beings. CSOs and journalists who visited the area afterwards said that for, “Miles after miles, there were no humans to be seen. The only things that roamed freely were cattle.”

The governor of Benue state, Samuel Ortom, said “The herdsmen spare no one. My own house was burnt. Kids haven’t been to school in two years. They even slice the bellies of pregnant women.”

This is a very very serious threat to Nigeria’s peace. Yet, sadly, there has been a disturbing inaction in Aso Rock. After the latest attack, the presidency released a statement expressing shock and promising to investigate and convene a conference to chart solutions.

Anyone who believes that soulless statement must suffer from a terrible memory loss – that is because it is exactly the same thing that is said after every massacre by herdsmen. It is never followed up with action.

The presidency always says it wants to look into the root cause of the killings as though it can ever find a justification for such barbarity.

The presidency never calls out the herdsmen, it manufactures excuses for them at the Villa even in cases where the herdsmen confess to their atrocities in the media.

The presidency never proscribes them – not even the increasingly emboldened Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association has been banned. There has been no Operation Python Dance. Yet the violence of this group is worse than anything IPOB ever managed at the peak of Nnamdi Kanu’s prowess.

When Candidate Buhari was campaigning in 2015, he said the solution to the herdsmen-farmers clashes was political leadership that will engender trust among the people. But as president, he has shown no leadership on the matter, and his body language has signaled bias.

So where does that leave us?

If the people of the Middle Belt wait for Buhari to take action on this issue, all that will be left of them by the time he’s ready to act would be the stench of their slaughtered corpses and the smoke fuming from their burnt down homes. They must not allow such a fate befall them.

It’s time for them to STAND THEIR GROUND!

The backers of the herdsmen contribute offerings and sell cows to fund the attacks. So the people of the Middle Belt must do the same. They must now contribute to arm themselves in defence. This memo is not calling for an attack on the herdsmen – no – but the people of the Middle Belt must be ready to stand their ground and defend their children, defend their wives, and defend their homeland.

Even countries with serious governments and professional security agents have Stand your ground laws. In the United States, there are 24 states where it is legal to use deadly force if a person believes that another person intends to murder or use unlawful force on him or her.

I know the Nigerian law does not give those Stand your ground rights presently, but for all those who will scream “RULE OF LAW” to me, my response is that justice is greater than the rule of law. Besides only the living can observe the law.

A cow’s life is not more important than that of a man. A cow’s life is not more important than that of a man. We can sing that song a million times, and every single time it would be the fact. A cow’s life is not more important than that of a man. That’s why the people of the Middle Belt must stand their ground now.

And that’s my memo.

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