The ongoing crisis in the Middle Belt is often eclipsed by conflicts in other regions of the federal republic. Ethnoreligious tensions such as the Biafran Secession Movement and the Boko Haram insurgency have allowed the conflict between herdsmen and farmers to fade into the background.
More recent developments, however, have reminded us of the depth of the conflict. Worst of these occurrences is the recent clash in the Birkin Ladi area of Plateau State, in which 86 people were brutally slaughtered over the weekend.
The Middle Belt Crisis is a highly divisive issue, as shown by the results of an online poll. 68.1% of respondents voted that the best solution to the crisis would be for the government to enforce ranching on the herdsmen.
On Tuesday, President Buhari visited the Government House in Plateau State, holding a meeting between the leaders of the conflicting parties. President Buhari’s visit reflects the federal government’s commitment to ending the conflict in the region.
However, the visit also suggests another, more covert Nigerian government policy: that which allows such serious issues to remain unaddressed until they culminate in irreconcilable violence.
Of course, there is a need to address sectarian conflicts with a level of tact and caution, however, remaining passive until matters escalate has consistently proven dangerous.
First, 300 cows were killed. This would have been the time to act. The government should not have waited until human lives, rather than livelihoods were lost before springing to action.
We as a people are bitterly familiar with this pattern. When blood is spilled, it sparks a perpetual chain of violence and revenge that becomes progressively more difficult to resolve.
The federal government must abandon its reactivity policy in favour of more proactive measures. We can no longer wait until blood is shed to seek a peaceful resolution to our conflicts.
Most of all, the government must provide the necessary avenues for the expression of all political grievances. We cannot reasonably expect to see any peace in this country until the day that all Nigerian voices chime with each other upon equal grounds. May God bless our dear country, Nigeria.
Funmilayo Adetokunbo, a Political and International Affairs analyst writes from Somerset, England, United Kingdom.