Second Republic minister and leader of Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Wantaregh Paul Unongo, has insisted that dispatching the military to quell the killings by Fulani herdsmen remains the best option to tackling the current crisis in Benue State.
The warning came just as tension was mounting in Makurdi yesterday following a clash between the Hausa community and some youth in the Wadata area of the state.
The elder statesman also described the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government as unserious for dispatching the police to tackle the killings, which were beyond it.
Unongo, who warned of the casualty that may arise from sending the police to a “warfare” situation, advised the FG to rescind its policy, which may lead to more deaths, insisting that the police have had its fair share through the killing of a police inspector and a sergeant.
Also, Tony Nyiam, a retired colonel has berated President Buhari, for what he regards as his double standard and pretense on the issue.
Nyiam, who spoke on Channels Television last week also questioned rationale for sending police to quell killings by armed invaders, stressing that the President is trying to down play the senseless killings in the Middle Belt.
However, an online media reported yesterday that that the Makurdi violence started after a Fulani man was hit and killed by a vehicle.
“Earlier today, a Fulani man was hit dead by a car in Wuruku market. Before we know it, hundreds of Hausa people all came out with their weapons and the whole area is now upside down,” the witness said.
There is a high concentration of Hausa and Fulani in the Wadata area of Makurdi. The main abattoir in the city is located in the area.
Businesses and markets in the area have closed as a result of the violence while cars are being vandalised by irate youths.
Following the mass burial of farmers killed by herdsmen on January 1, there has been increased tension between the locals and the Hausa community in the state.
It could be recalled that the Fulani herdsmen had attacked the police camp in Awashua, Logo local government area of the state, where they slit the throat of two policemen and left another badly injured.
According to Unongo, “They are not serious, if they are serious they will send the military because the first day the police came; what happened? Those well trained militia men ambushed them and killed two Nigerian policemen. It’s not fair.
“This is a military exercise; these military trained people that are hired by Miyetti Allah and then you send the police who are trained to be civil force to contain them? Whoever gave that advise if it was in good faith, it’s a wrong advise; if it was not in good faith, I think they are playing with the fate of Nigeria because in this state, if what was happening continues, I don’t want to predict what is likely to happen but I know my people; we will not tolerate this anymore. I know that.
“So I wish those who advise Mr. President; we ask them to review the policy of sending the police to come. This is warfare. When you kill so many people with AK 47 rifles and you send very civilised policemen who are trained for civil duties, it is most unfair and technically some of us that know a little bit about security issues, this is not correct but government has its reason why.
“I think eventually, maybe, they will take too much casualty and they will change the policy.”
On the issue of the nation being divided along ethnic and religious lines, the elder statesman said it was the politicians that were the problems.
He said, “No, we are not. I am the leader of Northern Elders Forum and I am a Christian and the majority of the people from the North are Muslims and I am their leader.”
According to him, “the politicians and the elite are the ones that are no more presenting themselves and their positions very clearly to Nigerians.”
Unongo pointed out, “They fall back on primordial things like religion and tribe and appeal on that basis. There are over 600 tribes in Nigeria, if you are a tribal politician, you can never become a nationalist and you can never win elections because if I appeal only to the Tiv people, I can never be president and if you appeal only to Itsekiri people, you the Itsekiri man, you can never be president of Nigeria.
“The tragedy is that, our leaders who got Nigeria together understood this and they didn’t have the chance to develop this and we the elite came and picked up and messed up the whole of this country with too much concentration on — what I can get out of Nigeria? And not what service I can give to Nigeria and the people of Nigeria, he observed.
“So, there is too much materialism now and there is too much competition; poor people going into politics to make plenty of money and when you see a poor man that was very poor coming back with a big jeep and bank account in millions, you cannot stop other people also trying to get their hands on it, he argued.
“So I don’t believe that tribe and religion per se are the problems; no matter how different they may be; our problem is that people just don’t understand the meaning of service and people are too dishonest.
“Our people have become too selfish and corrupt in politics and they feel that the easiest way to make money is to go into politics; and good people don’t like to go into politics anymore. It’s a tragedy because that is the only place where you go in and make an impact and then people like me will be afraid to talk. Rich men that have plenty of money will be the only ones to say anything they like. Whereas, when those who are not like them say something, which they know is the truth, they scare them away. By this, they can control the country and impoverish everybody,” he stated.