An April 24, the ubiquitous, all-slaughtering, “Fulani killer herdsmen”, the sweet headline invention of Nigeria’s southern media, struck again in Benue.
In Ayer-Mbalom community, in Benue’s Gwer East local government, the “killer herdsmen” attacked St. Ignatius’ Catholic Church, killing two Catholic priests: Joseph Gor and Felix Tyolaha, among the 17 that lay dead.
But when on April 27 preliminary arrests were made, the attack’s alleged mastermind, Aminu Yaminu aka Tashaku, was neither Fulani nor herdsman.
Neither was he even Muslim at birth. Security sources say he is a Tiv Muslim convert, with core Boko Haram records.
Tashaku was among those original disciples, detained with Mohammed Yusuf, pristine Boko Haram leader, that survived Yusuf’s murder in police cell; and most probably a hardened veteran of the first wave of Boko Haram terror, in a blitz to avenge the killing of their master.
Tashaku’s probable conspiracy dawned, even more, with the profile of his arrested “army”, armed to the teeth: again neither Fulani nor Muslim; nor even farmers or herders.
The bulk were Benue youths, somewhat linked to the Benue government’s anti-open grazing enforcement militia. Tashaku, said to be close to Benue Governor, Samuel Ortom, is a big player in that “people’s militia”.
Said Olabisi Ayeni, an assistant director, Army Public Relations, 707 Special Forces Brigade, on the Tashaku arrest: “Following an intelligence report, it was gathered that Aminu [aka Tashaku] had concluded plans with his cohorts in Bauchi, Borno, Yobe and Nasarawa states to lunch a major attack on innocent citizens in Benue State.”
What was April 24 then? A Muslim-Christian slaughter, as now being falsely trumpeted by many “men of God”, who should know better?
Or a Christian-on-Christian, Benue-on-Benue massacre, coldly planned to further hang the omnipresent “Fulani killer herdsmen”, in the great southern media gallows?
Besides, did anyone notice how fast the media drumming for another round of “public burials” quietened, the moment the Benue government realized this latest violence might just be home-brewed?
Benue’s necromancy, for whatever end, appears unravelling! But after how many wasted lives?
So long for a media, led more by emotive, explosive clichés, than by even-handed treatment of news!
But if you think Tashaku’s was a one-off or novel allegation, just consider this 24 July 2017 petition to the security agencies, by the Shitile community, in Katsina Ala local government of Benue State.
According to Premium Times that reported the story, complete with a full copy of the petition, that community accused the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), allegedly sponsored by the Benue government, of ethnic cleansing and sundry human rights abuse. CJTF is allegedly headed by one Aondona Ishenge aka Tor-Abaji.
But guess who is also named as a local CJTF enforcer in Shitile? See an extract from the petition, which alleges the CJTF: “is supervised and armed with sophisticated automatic firearms through the office of the Security Adviser, Edwin Jando (rtd) and commanded by one Aliyu Tashaku, who enjoys the ignoble fame of having been an operative of the Boko Haram terrorist group.”
By the Shitile petition, the terror in that community started in November 2016, with the alleged murder, by CJTF, of two lads, Wangyo Mbatsav and Orkar Galgbom, in Utyondu village of the Mbayondo district.
Again, a rather extensive quote from the petition, on how the Shitile terror flared and spread; citing dates, casualties and modalities:
“In January 2017, there were many killed at Tse-Igbe, while on the 18th, 25th and 26th days of June, 2017, Tor-Abaji, dressed in military uniforms and armed with sophisticated automatic rifles, together with his horde of heavily armed gang, moved through Abaji settlement on a spree of destruction, burning down houses and brutalising women and children, after which he arrested some targeted persons whom he took away to an undisclosed location and subjected them to severe torture, resulting in scores of deaths.”
Do a little content analysis of newspaper reports of these killings. You bet they would all be belching: “Fulani herdsmen”!
Aside from the recurring Tashaku, you probably have noted the eerie similarity between the Shitile attacks and the recurring Benue attacks, by their media reportage.
That’s just a snippet of how the preening fourth estate has let down the realm in a period of dire need!
Yet, these vile, one-track reports are not limited to Benue alone. It’s the same in the extensive killing fields, spanning most of the Middle Belt and North East.
July 2017, for instance, witnessed the great Taraba massacre, allegedly by a local “Christian” militia, with alleged Taraba government sympathies.
The Nation, back then, reported the visit of Major-Gen. Ben Ahanotu, GOC 3 Division, Nigerian Army, Jos, which security jurisdiction covers the Mambilla Plateau area, with its gory and heart-rending massacre: mangled were over 600 helpless Fulani villagers, including pregnant women, whose unborn babies were hacked off their womb. Later Emir Muhammadu Sanusi would put the gory tally as no less than 800 slaughtered.
Yet, this crime never grabbed screaming headlines. The great southern media, that always bristles, over alleged Fulani “Christian massacres”, suddenly went blind, deaf and dumb. Blessed are those whose sins are covered — by the media?
This clear media conspiracy notwithstanding, one Kefas Dauda, a Junkun from Taraba, did an open letter to Governor Jonathan Ishaku, that alleged the Taraba government’s complicity in killings in the state.
Part of that letter reads: “It is now indisputable that the youths allegedly armed by you are emboldened by General Danjuma’s persuasion of self-defence to commit more heinous crimes against our innocent people,” it charged, “by killings, maiming and destructions, which is erroneously but deliberately attributed to Fulani herdsmen.”
Like Benue, like Taraba, then?
But absolutely nothing in this piece has exonerated the criminal elements among the Fulani herdsmen.
Or even the stark, daft and garrulous, among the Fulani, vomiting rubbish about some delusional divine right to subjugate others, fired by a so-called right of conquest.
These are the stark lunatic fringe that give their kind a bad name.
Still over all, the southern media has proved a millennial disgrace, sexing up doomsday news along North-South, Christian-Muslim divides; and furiously spurring this country, towards the ruinous cliff of Mogadishu and Kigali combined, by its criminal one-sided reportage.
But since Rwanda had its consequences, these media and their editors had better brace themselves.
Those Rwanda editors that drove their country to the abyss, later faced their own abyss in International Criminal Court (ICC) gaol houses. The Nigerian editors, whose media daily belch emotive mischief, should be prepared for no less.
Perhaps Nigeria would never hit such a tragic nadir? Still, it’s good to appreciate how close our media are goading it towards that pit.
Maybe that realization would force a change for the better before it’s too late.