By Charles Kaye Okoye
On 31st March, news broke about herdsmen killing in Ebonyi State, at Ishielu specifically. Gov. Umahi visited the place, and acknowledged that the attack was carried out by Fulani killer herdsmen.
He also wondered how herdsmen who were living in the community all moved out days before the attack, hinting that they must have been informed by their kinsmen ahead of the attack. He also revealed that there was an attack on the herdsmen in the past but that his government had placated them. He was shocked, therefore, that despite all his support for them that they could do what they did.
Two days ago, there was another attack on Ngbo Community, Ohaukwu LG of the same Ebonyi State. Sahara Reporters splashed the headline, “Suspected Herdsmen Attack Ebonyi Community.” Other media outfits took up the chorus.
But this time, the Ebonyi State governor absolved the herdsmen, and put it down to perennial communal clash between them and their neighbors. He pointed fingers at the Agila people in Benue particularly, who share border with Ngbo community, and went ahead to show what investigations had unravelled.
Yet, while people quickly believed Gov. Umahi when he said that the attack in Ishielu was carried out by herdsmen, the same people who believed him then have refused to believe him now that he points finger at a different quarter.
Yesterday, at the senate chamber, Sam Egwu, called attention to the many attacks of the Fulani herdsmen in Ebonyi State, his state. Incidentally, he himself, is from the said Ohaukwu. Now, note that Dr Sam Egwu didn’t use “suspected herdsmen attacks” or “alleged herdsmen attacks”.
He chose his words, and intended them to convey the message he has in mind…..all attacks in Ebonyi are done by Fulani herdsmen! All!
Now, I want to ask: Is Umahi shielding murderous herdsmen, and pinning their killings on other convenient innocent people? Or are Sam Egwu and his likes CONVENIENTLY blaming every killing in Ebonyi State on innocent herdsmen?
It’s also important to ask: Have all the neighbors of Ebonyi suddenly become friendly and stopped waging wars with them since the herdsmen became a menace?
Also, have all the warring local communities in Ebonyi suddenly repented, and settled their issues?
Like Umahi pointed out, communal clashes in Ebony State have spanned many decades. Then, no one accused the herdsmen.
There was an attack by the same Agila people on this same Ngbo community in 2018; there had been many other such attacks before then. The 2018 attack that took 7 lives happened when government was making efforts to settle the border crises. Is Sam Egwu saying that Agila people don’t have issues again with his people?
Sometime in 2012, over 50 people were reported killed in one single attack on Ebonyi community according to ThisDay Newspaper; many houses were burnt, many other people were declared missing. Then, it was 2012, no one blamed the herdsmen, and no one doubted that it was a communal clash.
Jonathan was in power then. Imagine that that clash happened today…, no one will talk about possible communal clash; it will automatically be another herdsmen attack on Ebonyi community. And no one will want to hear anything to the contrary.
Ebonyi shares border with Cross River; Ebonyi shares border with Benue, and no state in the East or possibly the entire nation has contended with tribal and communal wars more than Ebonyi State.
Have all these wars suddenly ended, and the only crisis Ebonyi faces today is Fulani herdsmen? Efffium and Ezza people are 5 and 6 today?
Read the latest between them, as reported by BBC recently, for instance: “At least 25 people were killed and over 125 houses burned down in armed communal fighting in southeastern Nigeria, local media reported Monday.
“A lingering communal conflict in the Ebonyi State between the Effium and Ezza Effium peoples turned violent, resulting into the killings.”
Cases like this have always been a recurring decimal in Ebonyi State. Not surprising, a Google search of communal war throws up “communal wars in Ebonyi State” even when you haven’t added “Ebonyi State”. That’s how synonymous Ebonyi has become with communal crises.
I ask again, have the Effium and Ezza Effium settled and now live like brothers and sisters?
When Sam Egwu stood in the chamber to draw attention to the lingering killings in Ebonyi State, why did he foreclose every other possible source, and made it herdsmen killings?
I am not defending the herdsmen; I won’t defend them. But it is important to point out that we are not helping the situation when we give other trouble makers the opportunity and the convenient ground to wreck havoc and go Scott free since they know that their crime would be conveniently blamed on some other people.
We have made this same mistake when we blamed all kidnappings and armed robberies on the herdsmen, forgetting that our own local criminals didn’t suddenly dissolve into thin air immediately Fulani herdsmen became a menace. We inadvertently enabled our own local criminals and emboldened them to kidnap, rob, rape and kill, when we removed attention from them, and focused it on the herdsmen.
Today, with the heat on herdsmen in the South East, the killer herdsmen have gone under, yet the robberies and kidnappings have persisted, leaving no one in doubt of the perpetrators this time.
I am not holding a brief for the herdsmen, but I am raising this alarm following what I have noticed, and where I know it is bound to lead Ndigbo.
Simon Ekpa of IPOB, like his Supreme Leader, Nnamdi Kanu, has declared war on the Fulani in Ebonyi. I know what that means!
People who don’t have good grasp of the situation in Ebonyi have also continued to beckon on the ESN to come quickly to save them; we all know what that means. This is not what Ndigbo needs. We need to get to the root of issues, and tackle them. Those who are fanning the embers of tribal war should understand what they are leading Ndigbo into. We have also played too much politics with security, and we do not need this. Let us allow those who understand the situation on ground to lead.
Let us stop this evil wind which will not blow anyone good!
Charles Kaye Okoye, a public affairs analyst writes from Port Harcourt. Email: email@example.com