About two weeks ago, between May 22 and 23, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, crisscrossed Nasarawa and Benue states, not just because he had the means to do so, but simply because he wanted to ensure that the recurring clashes between herdsmen and farmers in those parts of the country are resolved permanently.
On May 22, Prof. Osinbajo had to cancel or reschedule pressing official engagements that he had been billed to attend so as to commiserate with the people of Benue where he attended the funeral mass of Catholic Priests and worshippers that were grievously killed in Mbalom area of the state.
It was a solemn occasion. From an anguished heart, the Vice President took time out to address the crowd of mourners that day.
“The killers won nothing, they gained nothing, they achieved nothing, yet they caused grieve and anguish to families, friends and to the nation. We cannot bring them back, but we can provide succour and comfort for those that they left behind, we can ensure justice for them by apprehending and punishing their assailants,” a sober Prof. Osinbajo said in his address.
He added, “We must rebuild the many places that have been damaged, and heal the wounds that have been caused. We must reform and rebuild our system of law and enforcement, to ensure, that those who work and live in the land are safe. Most importantly, we must stop these senseless killings.”
Sometimes, evil seems to be winning, but as night follows day, this evil will be defeated and good will triumph.”
Prof. Osinbajo was deeply pained by the deaths, which he noted were needless. His words conveyed his anger and anguish.The pictures in the media showing the Vice President commiserating with the Catholic Priests, Governor and people of the state didn’t capture the agony the Vice President had in his heart. “This must stop, this has to stop,” Prof. Osinbajo’s address was centred on that.
“We must rebuild the many places that have been damaged, and heal the wounds that have been caused. We must reform and rebuild our system of law and enforcement, to ensure, that those who work and live in the land are safe. Most importantly, we must stop these senseless killings.”
In Nasarawa State, where the Vice President visited the IDP camps, he also spoke in the same tone when he addressed leaders and stakeholders in the state. There he spoke about the herdsmen-farmers crisis in the country and the need for the leaders to come together and find practical solutions to the crisis. He spoke of the Federal Government’s commitment to decisively deal with the issue and ensure the security of the people.
“Where leadership is self-seeking or anxious for popularity within their ethnic or religious groups, then the entire national enterprise is put at risk,” he said, adding that the FG would collaborate with state governments to provide security and make provisions so that herdsmen and farmers could live in relative peace in all the affected states.
“It is the business of government to provide the security, and we have deployed Special Forces, and we intend to do more. I don’t want to go into all of the details of what has already been done here in Nasarawa State, in Benue state, in Zamfara State and several other states where we’ve had these clashes,” Prof. Osinbajo said.
The Vice President has visited these states on more than one occasion. In many of these visits, he stripped himself bare of his official position just to be able to reach and feel the pulse of the people in the midst of such unwarranted tragedy. And as Vice President, he has been working hard with others to ensure that there is an end the herdsmen/farmers clashes.
Before then, he sang songs of hope with the children in the IDP camps. Some would say he did all that for photo ops and to win public support, however, people who know him personally say it was a sheer reflection of the kind of man he is: simply showing the depths of his humanity. From the pictures and videos on Social Media, it was obvious the children and people of the state could see it and they welcomed him genuinely. In him they saw a Vice President that did not share their anguish, but a leader that is making genuine efforts to bring succour to them.
A week earlier, on May 15, Prof. Osinbajo was also in Benue State, where he visited the camps of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Abagana and Daudu areas of the state. He went to the IDP camps with a string message of hope and restoration for the people that had been affected by clashes between herdsmen and farmers. Then, he also met with the governor and stakeholders in the state in his continued efforts to resolve the crisis.
“The only way we can make things right and prove that there is no agenda is to protect the people, fight for justice, and rebuild where there has been destruction,” he said. “Like I have said, as a government, we remain committed to ensuring that there is safety and security. The task of safety and security is a difficult one.”
There he announced that President Muhammadu Buhari had approved N10 billion for the rehabilitation of affected communities, adding the FG was determined to provide effective security to the people and ensure they return to their homes, farms and education.
Aside from meeting with leaders in the affected states, and agencies such as National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), as chair of the National Economic Council (NEC), Prof. Osinbajo has driven several initiatives to ensure that the issues around the crisis are resolved.
At the monthly meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC) on February 15, Prof. Osinbajo informed the Council that President Buhari had approved the formation of a national Committee to look into the rebuilding of communities affected by the violence in the affected states. This is in line with the Buhari administration’s commitment towards finding permanent solutions to the herdsmen-farmers clashes in some parts of the country, and ensuring the peace.
Also, the NEC Technical Sub-Committee, which was set up to tackle the root causes of the crisis, has since visited five out of the seven states – Zamfara, Nasarawa, Adamawa, Taraba and Benue – where herdsmen/farmers clashes have occurred. It has also recommended the adoption of ranching in some of the states affected by farmers/herdsmen clashes, among other measures, as sustainable solution to the conflicts.
It is true that the herdsmen/farmers clashes predate the Buhari administration. But it must be said also that President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo are working hard than ever before to ensure that the crisis is resolved.
Prof. Osinbajo captured it succinctly in his last visit to Nasarawa. “This country belongs to all of us. It belongs to the farmers. It belongs to herdsmen, those who are rearing their cattle peacefully. It belongs to those who have no cattle, who have no farms, who just want to live in peace. And I want to urge you all as leaders that it is our business to find what it is that would enable peace, not just in Nasarawa State, but across our country.”
–Umukoro, is the special assistant to the president on Communication .Projects/Niger Delta