Soyinka advocates creation of volunteer groups to tackle armed herdsmen

Wole Soyinka
Wole Soyinka [Photo: dailytimes.com.ng]

A Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, has called for the creation of volunteer groups in states of the federation to monitor the activities of armed herdsmen.

Mr. Soyinka made the call during a press-briefing in Lagos, which he titled: “Nomads and Nation: Valentine Card or Valedictory Rites.”

Mr. Soyinka said since the security agencies are displaying “a kind of paralysis” in dealing with armed herdsmen who have been blamed for killings and destruction of farmlands across the nation, the people have to organise some kind of internal resistance.

Mr Soyinka, who pegged his statement with a fable from his primary school textbook, about ”an ungrateful camel which kicked its benevolent owner, Bedouin, out of his tent after allowing the animal to share his tent with it”, said cows are now infiltrating and competing for space with people.

He said the government has to first set a deadline for herdsmen to be disarmed.

“They (the volunteer groups) need to ensure that anytime they see armed herdsmen they should report to the nearest police station. But if at certain point the herdsmen are not disarmed, then these groups should move and disarm them, “he said.

He however explained that his call for the groups to disarm the herdsmen, ”is not a call for violence.”

“I mentioned this deliberately because I don’t want anybody to get an impression that war is being declared. I hope we will not get to that stage.

“These hunter associations will now intensify their surveillance anytime they see armed herdsmen. These associations: OPC, vigilante, hunters, if at certain time the police have not disarmed the herdsmen, these volunteer associations should move into these places.”

Mr. Soyinka thanked state governors that have already set up such groups of volunteers, as he was advocating, to watch herdsmen in their states.

The Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, was the first governor to employ the services of local hunters to check the excesses of herdsmen. Similar groups have also been set up in Benue State.

Internal occupation and colonisation

Admitting that the conflict between armed nomadic herdsmen and communities did not start now, he blamed the government for failing to nip the issue in the bud before it went out of hand.

He also said the ‘body language’ of the present administration shows that it was not ready to give the issue the attention it required.

He said the problem has now snowballed to such an extent that it could be described, ”as an internal occupation and colonisation.”

“They have reached a stage of impunity that they ambushed a group of farmers who were meeting to discuss the protection of their farmland.

“The character of those who we are meeting have changed drastically. I am talking of a phenomenon of internal occupation before Boko Haram exploded,” he said.

Corruption-fuelled conflict

Mr. Soyinka also opined that the herdsmen conflict and killings may be sponsored by people with access to ill-gotten money bent on causing anarchy in the country.

“I think the police have a responsibility to look at highly-placed people in whose interest anarchy can be fostered.

“We might end up discovering that some of these people; I don’t care whether they are politicians or civil servants, have an interest in ensuing that there is chaos from Maiduguri to Lagos.

“We sometimes talk about corruption, but we don’t know how far it can destabilise the polity. When we think of the amount that has been stolen in this country…then you know that there is enough illegal funds to destabilise the nation completely,” he said.

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