By Samson Kukwa Yanor
The Tiv people are no longer shocked when Fulani herdsmen attack and kill their kith and kin nor is there the hitherto rage and indignation over the affront. Indeed spilling a Tiv man’s blood by the atoatiev is no longer an affront.
The herdsmen have gotten away with every single blood cuddling atrocity after atrocity until they are now almost running out of ideas on exactly what to do to shock or provoke the Tiv sensibilities out of inertia.
Massacres of whole villages, raping of the people’s wives right before them, destruction of farmlands and houses, looting and even taking away of our kinsmen, women and children alive for their rituals over the years have not been enough to awaken us. Their spell is that potent.
Our People flee in mortal panic at the mere mention of the word ‘Fulani’ and abandon their every-every, that is their entire life investments and toils to be wasted and carted away by the herdsmen anytime, and it is often enough, they chose to go on their killing sprees. The remnants are left for their cattle to feed on for as long as they chose to occupy a particular area.
Yes, being a Fulani herdsman is now that lucrative. It has been lucrative for them. All they have to do is select the Tiv community of their choice and attack the defenseless inhabitants with their well- equipped militia, kill and maim in the most gruesome way possible, the ‘lucky’ ones will escape to carry the blood chilling tales abroad living their entire wealth and heritage to be spirited away and the Fulani cows to feed on.
Thousands and thousands of yams, countless bags of assorted grains and farm produce, livestock and the entire wealth of households are left on a platter of gold for the herdsmen while the Government and authorities beg for peace and seek for solutions to the ‘lingering’ crises; of course a solution has never been found and will never be found.
Which solution would be that lucrative for the herdsmen?
They have a perfect grasp of the situation. They don’t have a permanent and fixed address. Their victims have fixed addresses. They therefore lurk in the shadows, chose a vulnerable time and strike at an unsuspecting and defenseless community.
They initially started at the outskirts; the feeble and almost non- existent resistance gradually emboldened and gave them confidence to now venture farther and farther afield. Apart from their touted sophisticated arms, they have effectively deployed their greatest and most effective weapon; fear.
The fear of a Fulani herdsman is now the beginning of wisdom. So therefore, now they have wangled their shrewd way into Jemgbagh, the very centre of Tiv- land where even to their own surprise, I am sure, the response is still the usual mad flights by the inhabitants and the complacent pleas for ‘solution’ and ‘dialogue’ by Tiv leaders.
To any old woman, Tombo in Buruku Local Government where the herdsmen are now leisurely killing, raping and looting is only a walking distance to Gboko the seat of the Tor- Tiv and traditional headquarters of Tiv –land and it is obvious the enemy is now only bidding his time for the most auspicious moment to strike a mortal blow right at the epicenter of the Tiv heartland.
If in Benue the herdsmen met no resistance, then the magnitude of the horrors the Tiv in Taraba and Nassarawa states are passing through should better be left to the imagination.
The days are gone when one single Tiv blood spilled was met with grave consequences. Now a Fulani cow is worth more than a Tiv life. The herdsmen have amply succeeded in establishing that fact, a fact acknowledged and respected by all and sundry.
Woe betide any community when a mere Fulani calf comes to the slightest harm even when they arrogantly transgress on ones farm. Such a community is sure to meet with the most appalling catastrophe from the marauders.
Admittedly, it appears the tribe is yet to recover from the trauma inflicted on its collective psyche in 2001 when federal troops who ought to be their shield turned against them in the now infamous Zaki- Biam invasion, fate has however now offered us another chance for rebirth.
Those traumatic years were the PDP years. The ignominious years, of impunity when Tiv-land suffered and was reduced to her knees.
Years when atoatiev recklessly cheated us out of our fair share of recruitments into federal jobs and poked their fingers into our eyes to remind us, like Samson after Delilah’s seduction, that our indomitable streaks has been shaved off and we are now been rendered impotent.
The respite under President Shehu Musa Yar Adua was short lived. Enemies made sure whatever gains were made during that brief era was doubly eroded. As the 4th largest ethnic group in a country of over two hundred ethnic groups, out of forty-six ministers, we had none. Minister of state grudgingly given to us was just a polite way of placating an inconsequential nuisance. Out of five ambassadorial slots to Benue only one single one was offered us.
Like the Fulani fiasco, Tivland moved from shock to resignation when year-in year-out, recruitments into the military, paramilitary and Federal Government agencies defied the federal quota and allocated less than ten percent slots to them eventhough they constitute over 70 percent of the population of Benue state with two senatorial districts out of the three.
Granted, of course, in Benue the present APC was once a faction of the PDP and there is no pretence whatsoever that the break away to the then ACN and eventual metamorphosis into the present APC is due to any deological differences.
Still whether the same clique of people or not, to the Tiv, the acronym PDP means badluck. The Tiv people who were still in PDP just before the general elections were not in the party out of any conviction but from what they can get out of it and out of a slim hope that the government-in-power syndrome will still play out its usual underhand magic and would be declared winners. Tivland hated that party. In 2011, the PDP roundly lost Tivland. In 2015 even to some of us who were rebelling for one reason or the other recognized that even a baboon clad in human clothes would be difficult for the PDP to beat.
The non Tiv speaking Zone C was therefore touted to be the joker for the PDP but even the zone bowed to the change holocaust sweeping across the land.
A top PDP chieftain from the Tiv speaking Zone A confided in this writer before the election that any Tiv man who voted for Goodluck Jonathan should have his head examined.
But that era that cast a pall on Tivland is gone and let it go with all the accompanying badluck. Let there be a clean break. Even if the APC is today peopled by the same persons who were in the PDP, there is at least a name change and there is power, as they say, in a name.
For now unfortunately, there is leadership failure in Tivland, pretence and politics apart. Our leaders were not decisive and assertive enough. There was no clear cut agenda. A rallying point was lacking. In the highly organized and coordinated Fulani insurgency for instance, every small community, sometimes less than even a council ward, was left to handle their own plight. This resulted into an incoherent response that did not only demystify us but also gave the fulani an edge.
There is too much emphasis on politics. In the craze to outnumber and thus outsmart the next rival, the political elite have deliberately swayed the entire society towards politics. Even hitherto productive youths have been made to leave their former vocations for politics. And they are mostly cheer leaders with hordes of idle girls and women to the bargain. Our economy, alas, is left in the hands of atoatiev. APC and PDP have become the new religion fervently adhered to in an increasingly idle society with a new found culture of begging from one politician to the other.
But the Tiv are not really the cowering weaklings that watch smelly fulani herdsmen rape their wives while they beg for dialogue. Enough is enough. Tivland should not just rise up to redeem her pride but must realise that we owe the middle belt a responsibility to provide her leadership. The fulani insurgency is targeted at the entire middle belt.
We have got to change tactic. Psychologically it has been proven that unless you stand up to a bully he never leaves you alone. Begging the fulani has not worked and it will never work. Isolated defense efforts by communities has failed. There have been concerted and deliberate efforts over the past years to subdue and disorient the Tiv, it is however a normal struggle for a better share of the gruel from the collective pot. It is therefore incumbent on us to insist and remain resolute to hold our own. For now the generality of the Tiv people are demoralized and posterity will not judge the present crop of Tiv leaders kindly if they do not rise up to their responsibility.