Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, on Wednesday, declared that the Presidency was guilty of looking the other way while herdsmen went haywire, killing and maiming in different parts of the country.
Soyinka’s position came a few hours after the Presidency debunked the claim that President Muhammadu Buhari was handling the excesses of the herdsmen who were on a killing rampage with kid-gloves.
In a statement he issued on Wednesday, Soyinka said an example of the lawlessness condoned by the government was a situation where a security meeting was called after a massacre in 2016 and the herdsmen “attended the meeting — according to reports — with AK47s and other weapons of mass intimidation visible under their garments.”
He said neither were they disarmed nor turned back.
His words: “They were neither disarmed nor turned back. They freely admitted the killings but justified them by claims that they had lost their cattle to the host community.
“Such are the monstrous beginnings of the culture of impunity. We are reaping, yet again, the consequences of such tolerance of the intolerable. Yes, there indeed the government is culpable, definitely guilty of ‘looking the other way’. Indeed, it must be held complicit.”
Soyinka stressed that the crime said to be committed by the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, before they were descended on was nowhere near the devastation caused by herdsmen.
He said: “I am not aware that IPOB came anywhere close to this homicidal propensity and will to dominance before it was declared a terrorist organisation.
“The international community rightly refused to go along with such an absurdity. The conduct of that movement, even at its most extreme, could by no means be reckoned as terrorism. By contrast, how do we categorize Myeti?”
Stressing the enormity of the destruction caused by herdsmen, Soyinka said he was still at a loss as to how missing cows could be compared to human beings.
“How do we assess a mental state that cannot distinguish between a stolen cow – which is always recoverable – and human life, which is not.
“Villages have been depopulated far wider than those outside their operational zones can conceive. They swoop on sleeping settlements, kill and strut. They glory in their seeming supremacy,” he said.
The Presidency, in a statement issued by the Senior Special Assistant to the President, Malam Garba Shehu, had said it would be unfair for anyone to accuse President Muhammadu Buhari of condoning herdsmen over the killings in different parts of the country.
The statement issued on Tuesday reads in part: “President Buhari holds the view, as do many experts, that these conflicts are more often than not, as a result of major demographic changes in Nigeria. When Nigeria attained independence, the population of the country was estimated at about 63,000,000. Today the population is estimated at close to 200,000,000; while the land size has not changed and will not change. Urban sprawl and development have simply reduced land area both for peasant farming and cattle grazing.
“It is therefore both unfair and unkind, for anyone to keep insinuating that the President is condoning the spate of killings in Benue and other neighboring states.
“President Buhari has publicly condemned the violence at every turn. He is prepared to permit every possible step that can lead to the stoppage of the killings. It is on account of this he brushed aside an opinion that the federal government should challenge the constitutionality of the anti-open grazing bill. He wanted to give a chance to the state government to succeed in stopping the senseless killings.
“It will be recalled that as he did in dealing with the Boko Haram insurgency in northeast Nigeria, which required sustained action from the government before it was finally curtailed, President Buhari gave the relevant mandates to the country’s security agencies to put a stop to the Benue killings.”