#Benue Mourns: You Have The Right To Protect , Help And Save Yourselves- Wantaregh
The Chairman of the Northern Elders Forum, Wantaregh Paul Unongo has called on the people of Benue state to urgently organise measures to provide security and protection for themselves and loved ones if the Federal Government continues to deny them all the necessary protection and security.
The Chairman who made the call today in a statement tagged “OFFICIAL STATEMENT ON MOST RECENT FULANI HERDSMEN TERRORIST ATTACKS IN BENUE AND OTHER RELATED ISSUES said the Benue state people have the right to protect , help and save themselves and race from total annihilation!under the provisions of the UN Charter.
YOU CAN READ THE STATEMENT BELOW:
OFFICIAL STATEMENT BY WANTAREGH PAUL UNONGO CONVENER OF NORTHERN ELDERS FORUM ON MOST RECENT FULANI HERDSMEN TERRORIST ATTACKS IN BENUE AND OTHER RELATED ISSUES
Ladies and gentlemen, I make this statement today as my official statement regarding the newly escalated security situation in Benue, namely the most recent terrorist attacks by armed Fulani herdsmen militia in parts of Guma and Logo Local Government Areas of Benue State. For the sake of clarity, I must state that this statement and recent statements I have made on this issue are my personal views. As the Convener of the Northern Elders Forum, I have called an emergency meeting where we will discuss the continued attacks on Benue people and all related issues. After the meeting and relevant consultations, the Northern Elders Forum will make its position known to the general public.
As a Tiv man and a Fulani man because my mother was a woman born to a Fulani man who settled amongst and married from the Etulos, one can understand that it displeases me greatly to see these two tribes have this most bloody disagreement. I find it disheartening, I condemn in totality the inexcusable terrorist attacks by Fulani herdsmen militia on the people of Benue. Their methods of slaughtering helpless women, children and babies, slit open from pregnant women’s stomachs are completely unacceptable, reprehensible and far too inhuman to be tolerated.
The Benue people have suffered one attack too many. Where is the Federal Government? What role are they supposed to play? Why have they been so slow and so dormant in playing their constitutional role? It is most unfortunate the level of casualness or incapacity or negligence shown by the APC – President Muhammadu Buhari led Federal Government, up till now, in the face of the massive-killings inflicted on the most vulnerable of the society, without any commiserate response is condemnable. The incredible phenomenon the Miyetti Allah will issue threats of an impending attack publicly to the knowledge of security agencies and yet would be allowed to carry out such threats with impunity is beyond comprehension!
The thoroughly frustrated and humiliated government of Benue and the people of Benue are angry and indignant and understandably so. I had repeatedly warned and advised the President and other friendly sources in the Federal Government, not to take this issue as a casual one. With the gory pictures I took to some of them repeatedly, I even pointed out to them that these new species of Fulani herdsmen were too strange to be ignored.
They came with AK 47 rifles, to kill, to plunder, and stake claim to lands. If Government did not come in with the kind of seriousness and force Mr. President showed in Zamfara, the situation was likely going to escalate to something that would be very hard to control.
When Mr. President symbolically got dressed up in very gallant looking military regalia to deploy soldiers in Zamfara to fight cattle rustling, the resulting effect was that rustling cattle there, stopped! What message does the slow coach approach send to the suffering traumatized people of Benue who voted massively for Mr. President, more especially, the Tiv, in the last elections? Should we assume then that the lives of Cattle are of a higher priority than the lives of Benue indigenes to the Government of my country?
I still claim that I have visited and complained at the highest levels of my Government, reaching out and taking the gory pictures of the brutal killings to the highest levels, including the Hon. Minister of Internal Affairs and the President, warning as a matter of urgency, that this was an emergency issue that MUST and should be handled with uttermost dispatch and seriousness!
I further confirm that I became so agitated that I took these same gory pictures to our Traditional Father in North and Leader of the Muslim faithful, Mai Alfarma Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, Head of the Sokoto Caliphate. I followed this up with a solidarity visit to Sokoto, pleading for peaceful co-existence, between Fulani and Tiv people. I went with One hundred and Fifty Tiv people and carried the same message and plea for peace, love and understanding between these two tribes, Fulani and Tiv and entreated that the unfortunate evolving situation to be properly addressed and be handled creatively and strategically, to stop it from escalating further into open warfare.
Our artistes performed and entertained at the Sultanate Court, for over Four days to cement our desire for peaceful togetherness of the Fulani and the Tiv. Yet, Fulani herdsmen terrorists’ and Tiv peasant farmers’ clashes, appeared to have increased in visibility, impunity and ferocity, leading to the gory pictures emanating from the merciless slaughters.
It was in this terribly tense and painful atmosphere that the Governor of Benue State convened an emergency stakeholders meeting to brief Benue State critical citizens in Makurdi. I said at that meeting there, and say it here now again, that the Governor of Benue State, Governor Samuel Ortom is in objective grave danger, and that for now he must feel almost like an abandoned, most hated Governor, who is being deliberately sidelined left alone entirely, with a terrible problem of such magnitude and for daring to say there is an existential threat confronting his people, and for daring to find a solution to stop the senseless massacres and excessive killings of the people of Benue through the legislative process permitted under the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The people of Benue, under the leadership of their State Assembly decided to enact a law to protect themselves owing to what they felt was failure and negligence on the part of the Federal Government to take decisive action, under the law, to bring these “new Fulani herdsmen” terrorizing innocent people, to book! They came together and passed their Benue Anti-Open Grazing Bill, a law that they felt would effectively separate these deadly combatants and allow them to go about their business without colliding with, or interference from, the other.
Before the law was made, wide consultations were made with all parties involved, including the Miyetti Allah! And even after the Law was passed, a grace period of six months was given for herdsmen within the state to adjust to the new norm, or relocate to places with no restrictions on Open Grazing. On top of all this, the Governor and the people of Benue said this is the best they could do, to salvage the situation in their little wisdom, and called on anyone who could give them a better alternative, to come forward and present it. No one came forward except defiant threats from Miyetti Allah!
We remember with nostalgia, the old Fulani herdsmen who would come around, make friends and mingle with us, exchange gifts, and after a while, proceed on to their next destination, behaving always in a MOST cordial manner! This is not so with the “new Fulani herdsmen” who come and attack, kill, rape, burn, slaughter, and stake claim to indigenous lands!
The arrogance of this new breed of herdsmen is unparalleled! They behave as if they are above the law. How can an organization get up and threaten retaliatory actions, which they indeed carry out, in the open and nothing is done to them? And then after carrying out such attacks, they have the gaul to get up and take credit, and say “yes, we did it and we shall be doing more,” and nothing happens to them! What is happening to our country, Gentlemen of the Press?
Benue has a right to make laws that govern and protect the lives and livelihoods of their people. If you have reservations with certain laws, in an established society, like ours, you go to court and you fight it out in the court, no matter how long it takes – And Miyetti Allah organization has already gone to court. Why then slaughter innocent women and children like chickens?
This is where my brother Atiku Abubakar, Wazirin Adamawa comes in for comment with all his anger, vitriolics and threats of smashing my head in with sledge-hammer-N200Billion-Naira-suit for daring to say truthfully that he knows Miyetti Allah, and that he told me confidentially, amongst other things, of his tremendous influence in Miyetti Allah organization.
Haba, dan uwa na, even our non-Fulani, ex-President, Goodluck Ebele Nnamdi Azikiwe Jonathan who is tauted as a Life Patron of the Miyetti Allah organization, will not disown the organization with this vehemence! Even President Muhammadu Buhari, tauted as a Patron or Grand Patron or something to the Miyetti Allah, I appealed to him, even more emotionally, to intervene more decisively, to save my people from the terrorists militia of Miyetti Allah. He did not bash my head in!
Then you, dan uwa na, you are our Zege Mule, you my brother and friend, a relationship which started all the way to the days Shehu, Musa Yar’adua, the kind of personality you have, you had to descend so low as to deny Miyetti Allah and me Paul, simply because I cried out to you, in anguish, and great pain, KNOWING CORRECTLY, of your true relationship with Miyetti Allah – I cried out that you should intervene, and stop this senseless carnage, since all other big names associated with the organization, had done little to call Miyetti Allah to order, but that you should bring this dangerous situation under control, before it consumes the whole North. Quench this most dangerous all-consuming fire and challenge facing the North!
Mr. Vice President Sir, don’t you remember that I took a similar situation to you in the past and you answered me! Why is this situation so different, that your boys would imply base motives to me of acting because of my appointment as Chairman of a Federal Parastatal!!
No, my brother, I assert that you have not taken a central role in finding a solution to this terrible calamity, the menance of terrorists’ attacks on your Tiv people of the North! It is your duty, as a Prince of the Tiv Court, to do so. We are friends and even some of our children are very close friends! I WILL NEVER deny that in any situation, Wazirin Adamawa – the “Zege Mule u Tiv”!
Summary and Conclusion
In conclusion Ladies and Gentlemen, what I am saying, unashamedly, is that I lack the words to adequately convey how I feel.
How does one express himself when his people are hacked and chopped up like animals? It is a feeling deeper beyond grief, beyond sadness. I hope people of Nigeria will understand this.
Never have I seen my people this angry. And I do not blame them. The pervasive mood is a deep seethed anger. This mood has placed a burden on we leaders. Our people are looking up to us.
I must confess that we the leaders of the Tiv race are in a dilemma but more so myself Wantaregh Paul Unongo as the National leader of the Northern Elders Forum. My people the Tiv, have been pushed to the wall and the pervasive mood now is to fight back. But as an elder and now leader of the Northern elders, should I hold my people back and risk their anger turning against me as a traitor or do we as elders allow them go to war with the Fulanis? That is our dilemma.
We have been betrayed. We have done everything humanly possible to appease the Fulanis. I have personally led a delegation of over one hundred and fifty Tiv people to the spiritual leader of the Fulanis Mai Alfarma Sa’Ad Abubakar III, the Sultan of Sokoto to appeal for peace and harmonious co-existence between the Tivs and the Fulanis. It now appears all these efforts have failed. Where then do we go from here? What about me, a hybrid Tiv, delivered by a Fulani girl?
As a person, a human being, I hold the sanctity of human life sacred. I therefore condemn in totality the taking of life in any guise whatsoever. No human being has the right to take another’s life. It is on that note that I unequivocally condemn the recent attacks and killings of the Tiv people in Guma, Logo and the brutal murders in Agatu local government areas of Benue State by the Fulani militia.
The Fulani are the majority ethnic group in the North and the Tiv are the second largest ethnic group in the North. The Tiv are easily the majority ethnic group in Benue, Taraba, Nassarawa states and the FCT with substantial presence in several others. When the two dominant ethnic groups in the North fight, Northern region will surely break up and their political preeminence vapourise.
But then we cannot continue to be cannon fodder for Nigeria’s unity. During the Second World War, the Tiv people played an active part. In the Nigerians Civil War; the Tiv again played a decisive role losing the highest number of people from the Federalist Nigerian side for the defeat of Biafra.
READ ALSO : Benue Buries Over 70 Victims of Herdsmen Attack
We know where the attacks on our people are coming from but we have committed ourselves to constitutionalism. We have refused to take laws into our own hands. We must point out that in all the attacks on our people, they did not pursue their attackers and they did not attack back. They hardly even defended themselves. Their State Government alerted the Federal Government of the threats to attack them, but the Federal Government did nothing about stopping the attacks.
The gruesome way and manner these unarmed and defenseless people are murdered is clearly, carefully calculated to inflict maximum pain and trauma on our collective psyche! As a people I know, we will never accept that.
Has President Muhammadu Buhari failed the Tiv people then? What about our Zege Mule u Tiv, who is a Prince in the Tiv Court? We gave our President trust, voted overwhelmingly and massively for him but his Government failed to protect us in time from the sword of Miyetti Allah! What about the Prince who is our protective shell – the “Zege Mule u Tiv”? He is busy engaging in denials and threatening Paul Unongo with Billions and Billions of Naira suits, to teach him a lesson NEVER to cry out to him, to use his tremendous influence in the Miyetti Allah, to stop them from inflicting this deep, excruciating pain on his people and my people in the barbaric appalling ways, we have been forced to watch.
I call on President Buhari to take more proactive measures in combating the attacks of the Fulani herdsmen terrorists on our people. Concerted efforts of the Leadership of Northern Elders Forum led by the Convener, to brief Mr. President on these urgent national security and human rights issues, have so far proved abortive and this, needless to say, is counterproductive. He should please overrule his handlers who have blocked us from having audience with him since his return from his UK medical trip last year!
To the people of Benue, I thank you for your continued strength, resilience and resolve despite all that is being done to you my people. In these times, you must be firm, vigilant and remain united on this one issue and you must say loudly and dearly that enough is enough! Continue to stand solidly behind your Governor, your House of Assembly and the Anti-Open Grazing Bill – which is the Law of the land. I want you to continue to support any future proactive measures which the Federal Government may bring to get you out of this painful mess.
However, if the Federal Government continues to deny you protection and security then, you must urgently organize measures to provide security and protection for you and your loved ones under the provisions of the UN Charter! You have the right to protect yourselves, help yourselves and save yourselves and your race from total annihilation!
My heart goes out to families of the victims. I acutely feel their pains. I intensely feel their anguish. It is traumatic for loved ones to be hacked down in so brutal and cruel a manner. I sympathize and send our condolences to the families who lost loved ones in the senseless orgy of violence in Benue State. I also commiserate with the government, all the Traditional and Religious Institutions of Benue State.
Thank you kindly and God bless us all, as we bury our dead with faith, love and charity in our hearts, resolutely pledging and promising posterity that their deaths would NEVER be in vain. SO HELP US GOD!
Wantaregh Paul Unongo, OFR