Home FEATURES NIGERIA’S PRESIDENT SINCE 1999 AND THE PLAGUE OF INTERNAL CONFLICTS

NIGERIA’S PRESIDENT SINCE 1999 AND THE PLAGUE OF INTERNAL CONFLICTS

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Since the start of Nigeria’s fourth republic, there have been running themes that stand out to observers of the Nigerian Democracy. Chief of which, is the cycle of internal conflicts, that has plagued the four presidents that have been sworn in since 1999. President Olusegun Obasanjo was tasked with the Niger Delta crisis; oil spillages, environmental mishaps led to loss of land, livelihood, and lives. President Musa Yar’Adua undertook the reconciliation campaign that would address the unrest to foreign nationals and destruction of petroleum infrastructure by disgruntled militant youth. Goodluck Jonathan was pestered and often times left helpless by the unprecedented might and inhumane tactics of the book-haram attacks. And now, Mohammadu Buhari has had to deal with the rise of the killer-herdsmen; a hitherto functioning subset of society that has now become a menace.

In all administrations, the aforementioned problems existed concurrently. That is, all four presidents dealt with all four threats to a certain degree. The only difference was the severity and priority created by the damage caused. Since 2015, the herdsmen climbed to the summit of the priority food-chain.

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Documented to be responsible for more than 2000 deaths since 1999, the herdsmen crisis reached its high point when the states of Benue, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Plateau and Taraba, recorded over 847 deaths in the 2017 calendar year alone. The problem was undoubtedly more pressing than ever. But as with every other flurry of stories, reporting was spotlighted to have holes… holes deep enough for entire narratives to thread through.


“…the Benue subsistence farmer knows that the Nigerian cattle herder… doesn’t carry nothing more than a stick, occasionally sometimes something to cut grass to feed his cattle…” – President Mohammadu Buhari.


The practice of nomadic cattle farming in Nigeria is one that is culturally recognized across the country. The most prevalent practitioners, the Fulani, have continued the practice of walking long distances, sometimes crossing several hundred kilometers in search of pastures for grazing and waterways for drinking. Typical units of these consist of fifty to as many as five hundred heads of cattle, herded by two to ten herdsmen with nothing but sticks and special whistling sounds to control the domesticated livestock. It is not rare to see three young men, holding three sticks and fifty heads of cattle.


Once in a while, there were issues that arose from grazing in farmlands. These led to fights, clashes, and occasional bloodshed. And then times changed.

“…But the present herder, I am told, carries AK-47…”-President Mohammadu Buhari.

The reporting that followed the escalation of the crisis in the middle belt of Nigeria highlighted the clashes, the fighting and the familiar skirmishes… with one difference, and a whole new scale. The sticks had become automatic weapons. Not just any automatic weapon, according to many reports, the AK-47 assault rifle. And attacks that would have ended in civil disagreements and minor wounds now ended in headlines that could only be likened to the start of genocide; something was wrong.


The loudest cries have been aimed at the Presidency and his supposed soft-spot for the herders who have always been friends to him… indeed he has cattle and a herd of his own. Some other commenters need other questions answered.Why did the herdsmen suddenly become provocateurs? Why did their tools change from basic to automatic war machinery? Why did the arrested suspects appear unlike the news stories? How much does a cow cost? How much does an AK-47 cost?


Until the above questions are debated reasonably and not shouted down, the currency will stay measured, in human lives.

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Christopher Ande

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