Literary Icon and Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka yesterday raised the alarm that herdsmen in the country were going about with conqueror mentality, suggesting that there is a movement to enslave the entire nation.
According to him, he returned from a trip outside the country to see that his sanctuary in Abeokuta, Ogun State had been violated and this time, the herders not only went through his abode but took their cows to his door step.
Soyinka who spoke at Freedom Square, Lagos yesterday expressed worry that the government had left the citizenry to protect themselves, and called for a summit of all stakeholders involving herders, cattle owners, farmers and tourists “to chart a way forward in stopping the threat to lives and rapes that the herders spread,” pointing out that the mentality of the herdsmen had changed from the peaceful posture they used to adopt.
The Laureate said the fact that Boko Haram could use Chibok girls as suicide bombers underscored the danger and possibility of the herders using cows for suicide bombing, insisting that the society had to take actions that would force the government to act consciously in checking the menace of armed herdsmen.
“I see no other interpretation concerning these events, I have reported to the police and they have records. They are camping all over the place and they are not camping as peaceful neighbours but as conquerors, that is what is happening here and that is why I use the word enslavement.
“It seems to me that there is a movement to enslave the citizens of this nation wherever they happen to be, they show they are the masters of the land. There is an aggression, that aggression use to be in the forest. I told you before that there are certain parts of the forest that when we go hunting we no longer venture because of what we have seen unless we go enmasse and equipped more than for killing sparrows.
“But when cattle come right into your door step, I think we are in a very different territory. I think one has the right to assume that any cow that comes to one’s door step is a potential suicide bomber and to take preemptive action to ensure that our homes are not turned into Maiduguri. The leadership of this nation is taking this menace far too lightly.
“It is a year ago since I read that speech when the President promised that cattle assault will soon be a thing of the past. Is it going to happen in the next six months? Will the police still be busy chasing kidnappers, soldiers trying to preempt the remnants of the degraded Boko Haram? Is that pledge going to be fulfilled in the next six months since that speech was read?, He queried.
Stating further, “I am not going to dramatise the situation. What matters is that my home is being invaded as are the farms of my neighbours. Some are erecting barriers, things we have never seen in that area in the past since I began living there.
“There have been clashes by the way; there have been clashes between the farmers and the herdsmen. The police have had to intervene couples of time, chase them out, they returned, this time they beat a path to my doorstep. Let us not exaggerate but let us be sanguine about intrusions like this. These people have no respect for human beings and who use human beings including some of our Chibok girls as suicide bombers, why shouldn’t they decide to use cattle as suicide bombers?
“It is not an exaggerated way of thinking, it is accumulation of many things which we have been undergoing in this country not just in my area, in Anambra, Edo, Benue, where herdsmen are being appeased not to kill, not to destroy and what I am looking at in our neighbourhood are tentative polls to see how far these people can go.”
He said the type of dialogue he was advocating wasn’t for the creation of grazing route as it would cause more problems in the country but one where the security agencies would be about their duties while the leadership of the country would make it clear that no herdsman would commit crime and escape punishment.
“In any case, should we wait for another six months that no more Ogun State farmers are killed, Edo farmers are killed, their children raped, beheaded for going to their farms? Will the next meeting be like the one which was held in Benue over a year ago when the herdsmen actually arrived with AK 47 and were not disarmed and were allowed to leave with them?
“This is what is known as impunity, it is actually enslavement, poking a finger at the citizens of this nation. The crisis is very real; it is futile and suicidal to pretend otherwise.
“Some action is required to call leadership to order; maybe we should have a day of beef boycott, find other means of satisfying our protein and I know that vegetarians will be very happy.”
Reminded the issue was not a local one he said: “The threat is not a local one, it is not even a national one. If you remember a meeting I spoke of which followed some massacres in the north, the delegates admitted that they came from outside, all the way from Senegal or somewhere and said they had come and killed to avenge the death of one of their own people who had been killed so they mobilised across the West African region to come and avenge the death of one person.
He also condemned the hoarding of information on President Muhammadu Buhari’s health status which he likened to the way President Donald Trump of America hoarded his tax returns, insisting that as a public officer and leader, he had the obligation to let people know reality of his health to avoid speculations.