Banditry, Fulani Herdsmen Attack: Blood on the Nigerian Landscape
By: Deji Yesufu
Modupe Oyetoso owns a farm of about a hundred hectares in Lanlate town in the Ibarapa area of Oyo State. Modupe is a young Nigerian woman trying to eke out a living within the harsh economic reality that we call Nigeria. On her farm settlement, she has a living quarters she stays at on week days. While she returns to Ibadan at the end of the week to spend the weekend with her family. Modupe’s fiancé also has a processing company in the same area where her farm is located. They are a young couple, hoping to build life in Nigeria through hard work.
On Friday, 10th July, 2020, the couple had finished early from their labors on the farm and was headed to Ibadan. Modupe’s fiancé was driving. They had traveled a little distance when they saw some young men, holding machetes, bows and arrows, and daggers and flagging them down to stop. Sensing danger, Modupe’s fiancé successfully evaded their attackers. It was clear that those young men were robbers and the couple was just breathing an air of relief when they again encountered another group, on the same road. These ones had guns on them. The couple tries to maneuver through them with the car but they were not that lucky this time. Their attackers shot at the car and a bullet hit Modupe’s fiancé on the head. The men would eventually get to the car and pull Modupe out. She was whisked into the bush and her abductees compelled her to run into the forest with them. It was after they had ran a long distance and her attackers began to demand she call her parent for ransom money, did Modupe realize that she had been kidnapped. She would eventually be freed from her captors; having paid some ransom money. Her release was however a bitter-sweet situation because two families were in mourning having lost a budding young man to another attack by alleged Fulani men. Modupe’s fiancé had died from his gun wounds right at the spot of the attack; she did not learn of his death until she returned home. Modupe Oyetoso recounted her story on Edmund Obilo’s State Affairs program on Saturday, 25th July, 2020.
In the past week, reports began to emerge of killings going on in the southern parts of Kaduna. Towns like Zango Kataf and others were attacked by alleged Fulani herdsmen, leaving in their wake scores of people, mostly the elderly and the young, dead. The Kaduna State government has blamed the attack on armed bandits. Incidentally the chief of army staff, Gen. Tukur Buratai, explained, some weeks back, that the army has only just discovered that the elements that Nigerians have long referred to as “bandits”, that have been wreaking havoc in North West Nigeria, are actually an extension of the Boko Haram insurgent group that have long been operating in North East Nigeria. In other words, the suspected attackers on the Southern Kaduna landscape are Boko Haram.
On Wednesday, 29th July, 2020, the convoy of Gov. Babagana Zulu, Governor of Borno State, came under attack by Boko Haram in Baga town of the State. The attackers left five persons dead, including three policemen. Gov. Zulum has been threatening to deploy local vigilantes and hunters to take over the security of the state if the Nigerian army continues to fail in their duty to secure the lives and properties of people in the State; a State that had long been beseeched by the activities of Boko Haram.
The three stories above all reflect something of the security situation in Nigeria. All of these stories are heartbreaking because they involve the loss of lives. But the one that hit closest to home for me is the first story: the story of Modupe Oyetoso and the loss of her fiancé.
Besides insecurity in Nigeria, another leading problem that we have is the challenge of unemployment among our budding young population. In the past few years when the problem of unemployment reached a peak in the country, the common thing was to encourage our young people to head to the vast agrarian landscape that this country is blessed with and begin to cultivate them. I know of a number of young Nigerians who have taken this option and are doing quite well in the process. But, again, this problem of insecurity appears to be threatening the whole endeavor. The Modupe Oyetoso story is particularly heart breaking because the couple were not just beginning to break even with their agricultural business, they had even began to employ scores of other young Nigerians, including graduates, to work with them and earn a living. The very day that this young man was killed, he had returned from the bank where he went to open accounts for twelve people he had just employed in his business. Right now, to be able to do their kind of business, farmers are beginning to give out a lot of money to law enforcement agencies to secure both their lives and properties.
It is trite to say that there cannot be development in a country where insecurity rages. The only reason why many young Nigerians are still in this country is because of two things: patriotism and the sheer unavailability of opportunities to flee the nation. Nigeria has failed its young citizens. And the fault is not just our leaders; the fault is with all of us. Many Nigerians behave as if there is no future for the country. There is an absence of vision for tomorrow. Everyone appears to be living for the now. Thus, there is an outright scavenging of the country’s resources without a commitment to replacing them or making avenues for them to multiply. For every million that is stolen in this country, there are a number of young people that are being defrauded of employment opportunities. And the situation is not about to get better. As long as we maintain an attitude of self-preservation and we are we are not thinking of what will become of the coming generation, we would eat this country up and self-destruct.
In the midst of increasing insecurity in the land, many young men and women in the army are throwing in the towel and leaving the nation’s security outfit in droves. They have seen how their friends and colleagues were killed in the line of duty and how corrupt army officials have made it almost impossible for their families to get their death benefits. Recently, 18 soldiers were ambushed by bandits in Katsina State and killed. The investigative journalist, ‘Fisayo Soyombo, wrote on his Facebook timeline that military officials were demanding that the families of these slain men purchase coffins and transport their bodies to their various places of abode for burial themselves. It is not clear whether the army eventually rescinded on those directives.
There is no end to lamenting about Nigeria. The only advantage of speaking and writing about these things is that someday somebody somewhere might eventually possess ears to hear and do the right thing – so we continue to say these things. Nigerians will also need to pay particular attention to the politicking that is leading to the year 2023. It is our duty to examine all the men who would be coming out to lead this country and we must make the effort at choosing capable men to lead us. The problem of tribe and religion will continue to bedevil Nigeria’s politics. But it is hoped that those who have suffered the most from insurgency in the country would realize that the security of their lives and properties is dependent on their electing competent men to office and not just the mere fact that such people are of a certain religion or tribe. Like they say, for this country to get better the ball is in our court.