Felled: Benue’s Fulani herdsman

Felled: Benue’s Fulani herdsman

Olakunle Abimbola

The controversial felling of Terwase Akwaza Agbadu, aka Gana, the dreaded Benue-Nasarawa-Taraba axis terrorist-in-chief, has come with gallows humour.

Gana’s wife, Wantor Akwaza, reportedly No. 2 in a harem of six, has staked a N5 billion compensation, for the despatch of her darling hubby, who nevertheless killed other women’s husbands, children, uncles, nieces, nephews, et al, even before you could mutter “Gana!”, his dreaded moniker.

Indeed, terrorists’ lives too do matter!

But the humour, grim and dark, that really takes the cake, is the one from the military, pushing for a N50 million bounty, which Benue Governor Samuel Ortom had placed on the head of the felled arch-terrorist — mind you, for information leading to his arrest, not for his summary despatch.

Between capture and elimination, however, would appear mere semantics to the dare-devil military, that summarily despatched the dare-devil Gana, prompting the dare-devil bounty demand!

“…The Nigerian Army deserves to be paid the N50 million ransom, having killed Gana,” The Nation of September 11 quoted an unnamed spokesperson of the Nigerian Army Special Forces Command, in Doma, Nasarawa State, that flatly declared.  ”The assignment has been completed, the Army should be paid” — no story!

A felled terrorist’s life may matter.  But so too, it would appear, the sweat of the Army braves that erased the menace, going one up from hoped-for capture, to summary rupture!  It never gets more sardonically roiling!

No surprise, though: a controversy just broke out on Gana’s death.  The Army claimed he was killed after troops returned fire in self-defence, against Gana’s gang; and indeed displayed, as proof, some captured impressive array of small arms.

But others have countered, claiming Gana was killed in cold blood after capture, en route to meeting Benue Governor Ortom in Makurdi, to consummate the amnesty deal that drew him out of his native Gbitse lair and jungle.

That deal, broken-hearted wifey Wantor had sworn, would have catapulted Gana from devil-in-chief in the bush, to soul-winner-in-chief for Christ in the city, in a 21st century Nigerian relive of the Saul-to-Paul conversion!

Both Governor Ortom, and former governor but now sitting Senator Gabriel Suswam, appear leaning towards the non-Army account; decrying any extra-judicial killing, if indeed that allegation was true.  That calls for a commission of inquiry to tease out the facts, and apportion blames.

Either way, however, no tears from this end.  He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword.  Now, that was no law of Moses, staking an eye for an eye.  Rather, it was divine logic handed down by the Christ himself, pacific and long-suffering, even at the height of his passion.

Both Ortom and Suswam may well be moved to rue Gana’s grim end, by their sheer and shared humanity.  Besides, both share identity as Benue governors, present and past, and should be seen as no-nonsense due process apostles.

But the Ortom/Suswam Gana sympathy could also have come from Benue’s rotten local politics of identity, with its dirty and smelly underbelly, to which many allege the late Gana — and other Benue terrorists moonlighting as “Fulani herdsmen” — might have been central.

Flashback, 2018.  It was the great slaughter, by “Fulani herdsmen”, of the Benue 73, whose mass burial drew scalding emotions and frothing sympathies, nationwide.

On ground to commiserate, with the Benue mourner-in-chief, then APC Governor Ortom, were PDP governors, Rivers’ Nyesom Wike and Ekiti’s Ayo Fayose, who even donated cash, to help Benue deal with its grief — even if viewed cynical by many.

Why?  Even Olusegun Obasanjo, former president of the Federal Republic, made a whistle-stop Benue sortie, to lay a wreath, at the mass graves!

But that brilliant piece of political necromancy would come unstuck at the felling of another Benue 17.  Ironically after, all talks of mass graves vanished.

Again, “Fulani herdsmen” had on 24 April 2018, attacked the St. Ignatius’ Catholic Church, in Ayer-Mbalom, in Benue’s Gwer East local government, killing two priests, Joseph Gor and Felix Tyolaha, aside from 15 others.

But the snag, this time round: the culprits were neither Fulani nor herders but Benue militiamen, led by Aminu Yaminu aka Tashaku, born Tiv Christian but Muslim convert, and pristine disciple of Mohammed Yusuf, the Boko Haram leader killed in police custody, whose cold murder triggered the Boko Haram insurrection.

Indeed, Tashaku was detained with Yusuf; and was part of the first wave of terror, in Boko Haram earliest days.   But more damning: Tashaku, then nabbed by the military, was head of a wing of the Benue militia, enforcing the state’s anti-open grazing law.

Also, a 24 July 2017 petition, by the Shitile community, in Benue’s Katsina Ala local government, fingered Tashaku as a ruthless enforcer of a Benue Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), accused of ethnic cleansing and sundry abuses in that locality.

The petition claimed the CJTF was “supervised and armed with sophisticated automatic firearms through the office of the [Benue] Security Adviser, Edwin Jando and commanded by one Aliyu Tashaku, who enjoys the ignoble fame of having been an operative of the Boko Haram terrorist group.”

The Katsina Ala link here is rather instructive. Katsina Ala sits at the hub of Gana’s terror, as part of the Sankera geo-political zone, consisting of Ukum, Logo and Katsina Ala local government areas.

From this core, Gana struck terror, in banditry, cattle rustling, and kidnapping-for-ransom, in travellers and denizens of Taraba, Benue, Kogi and Nasarawa states.  Especially vulnerable were travellers on the Katsina-Ala/Jalingo road axis.  Most of these crimes were hanged on the ubiquitous “Fulani killer herdsmen”.

Indeed, a Gana criminal disciple, identified as Aondehemba aka Major, boasted to The Nation of September 13 that Gana left behind some 200 “well-trained gang members”, spread out in the forests of Benue North East and neighbouring Taraba State.  When those ones strike too, they would be “Fulani helmsmen” minted in Benue!

Gana, who “Major” claimed buried alive his 12-year-old daughter in his Gbitse village, for an invincible charm that couldn’t save him from eventual doom, is the latest sickly metaphor for rogue politicians arming violent criminals to fix elections.

Those who shed crocodile tears for Gana are entitled to their due process ducts.  But Boko Haram, Niger Delta militancy and Benue enforcers moonlighting as Fulani herdsmen, stream from a common source: thugs armed to muscle elections, but left high and dry after.

To root out future Ganas, therefore, the political elite must break this execrable link.a

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