Respected elder and Benue community leader, Chief John Apochi, has fired back at Benue clannish leaders over their recent attack on Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai in the ongoing clashes between herders and farmers in the state.
The tribal leaders of Benue state had recently slammed Buratai, who called for a review of the state's grazing law in order to give room for lasting peace in the state.
Speaking yesterday through their Chairman Chief Edward Ujege, the leaders under the aegis Mdzough U Tiv (MUT), Idoma National Forum and Omi-Ny'Igede who commended the Army Chief for his concern and dogged fight against insurgency in the country, lamented that the call by Lieutnant General Buratai would embolden the killers.
Reacting, however, Chief Apochi said the rejection of the worthy advice by Lieutnant Buratai whom the group also praised for his selflessness and patriotism was a clear indication that the Benue leaders were playing politics and not ready to see the end of the ongoing crisis tearing the state apart.
Writing from his Lagos abode, Chief Apochi wonder why the so-called leaders of Benue ethnics groups spurned the advice by Buratai, who is not an ethnic leader or politician, but a professional, trusted and time-tested soldier like they rightly posited in heir statement.
Chief Apochi maintained that the political leadership in Benue State has refused to be truthful to itself and the citizens on the way forward from a delicate issue that should be treated without any form of politics or sentiments to achieve peace for all.
I am hardly interested in commenting on issues which have political and ethnic slant in my home state of Benuefor obvious reasons. But I avoid it specifically because of the possibility of our people to easily misconstrue the genuine and good intentions by blending it with politics.
But I have decided to voice out on the seeming and raging verbal tussle between the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai and Benue's ethnic leaders led by Chief Edward Ujege under the auspices of the Mdzough U Tiv (MUT), the Idoma National Forum and the Omi-Ny'Igede, representing the three major ethnic groupings in the state.
Briefly, the Army Chief has counseled the Government of Benue State to revisit the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law, 2017, which he believes has ennobled the violent siege of Benue state and opened the floodgate of killings in ceaseless crisis between herders and peasant farmers.
But the Benue ethnic leaders are not comfortable with this advice from the Army boss and in their open rejection of it, they threw wisdom to the dogs, embarked chicanery and buffoonery in a manner that projects these elders and leaders as more interested in the bloodbath in the land rather than enduring solutions to ending the crisis.
I beg to disagree with my elders and leaders on several scores. But first, let me repeat the obvious, a fact known to these leaders that the COAS, Lt. Gen. Buratai is not an ethnic leader or politician, but a professional, trusted and time-tested soldier, as the elders admitted of his character and personality.
It therefore mocks sound reasoning to have perceived and interpreted his honest advice from the restricted prisms of any of the aforementioned camps. It is even wrong and infantile, the insinuation that the Army Chief's advice may have sprouted from pecuniary considerations or his clandestine desire to protect any ethnic group.
To this end, I wish to remind our elders and leaders that the carnage in Benuestate is fast assuming the character of a war. And in war situations, feuding parties do not have their minds on fixated solutions as these tribal leaders are pontificating. Several options are explored for peace to reign.
And under the circumstances we have found ourselves in Benue today, no sacrifice should be deemed too great to make or concessions too precious to offer for peace. They say, peace is priceless, but war is expensive to fund and manage.
In time past, we knew age comes with wisdom, but not in this generation anymore. When leaders begin to reason in this manner, it becomes apparent that wisdom has piteously departed from these elders. It is reflected in the current ridicule of the worthy advice from the Army Chief. It expresses the depth of our dilemma as a people. Or else, what is the essence of tenaciously holding onto something that is visiting death upon you?
It does appear to me that these ethnic leaders are blinded by acerbic fury, so they have thrown the baby out, together with the bathwater. The COAS didn't call or even contemplate the suspension of the anti-open grazing law by the Benuestate government, as postured by the ethnic leaders.
Rather in the spirit of "Live, lets live," he canvassed for slight modification of the law to fairly accommodate the interests of all the feuding parties. I don't think this is a bad bargain and the focus of the tribal leaders should have been on how to save lives, as against the promotion of crisis.
And the manner the ethnic leaders have juxtaposed the explanations appears to me, they don't even understand the underlying issues at hand, much more think out workable remedies. That our fate is in their hands is a potential risk. From their diction and arguments, it's clear these elders have muddled this frightening issue with politics because Governor Samuel Ortom is involved. So, every speech or utterance is targeted at impressing him and not tailored towards finding a solution to the crisis.
Anywhere in the world, sensible and responsible leaders drum peace and not war. But the combative diction adopted by the leaders in this interface betrays them as the silent voices promoting the crisis for the political harvest of Gov. Ortom. It is clear, Ortom today considers the ongoing crisis in the state as a make up to his abysmal performance and would want to keep it going so as to benefit from it during the 2019 polls. I consider this thinking and actions now as absurd, repugnant and resentful.
Let me again remind them about the source of this problem, which they prefer to pretentiously scratch on the periphery. I think, these tribal leaders should dissipate more energy on the monumental corruption in Benue State, at the detriment of development, under the supervision of Gov. Ortom.
These tribal leaders should also be concerned with the near zero salaries and pensions payment and the resultant deaths arising from hardships inflicted on the people of Benue.
Why are they not concerned with the undercover forces fuelling the crisis? Does it strike anything in their senses the huge sums of money found in the accounts of the recently arrested Aliyu Tashaku, a Boko Haram member, while development and salaries are denied the people?
Unless and until these elders and leaders begin to sincerely and truthfully address these problems, the fire brigade approach is meaningless and of no effect. If you want to kill a tree, you cut the roots. This problem cannot be resolved by political grandstanding as manifest in the utterances and actions of these leaders.
It is a sign of serious trouble for us and the youths should wake up from slumber to question these leaders. It is time to take their destinies into their hands.