The attack on the convoy of Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom has continued to generate discussions, reactions and anger in some quarters, with accusing fingers being pointed and denials being made by those so accused.
It is understandable that such a brazen attempt will solicit different reactions, especially anger propelled by fear, with many Nigerians believing that if a sitting governor, with a retinue of security details could narrowly escape being killed in broad daylight, no one then is safe in the country.
However, a Fulani group, hitherto unknown, the Fulani Nationality Movement (FUNAM) has reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack.
The group, in a report by an online news platform, said in a statement signed by one Umar Amir Shehu that they attacked Ortom in an action carried out on behalf of millions of Fulani people in 15 countries.
“Our attention has been drawn to media reports today speculating about who attacked the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom.
“Yes. Yes We did. The Fulani Nationality Movement, ( FUNAM) carried out the attack. We have genuine reasons. We acted on behalf of Millions of Fulani people in 15 countries.
“It’s a case of vengeance against an infidel who has used his time and money, deployed in destroying the Fulani values and inheritance.
“Our courageous fighters carried out this historic attack to send a great message to Ortom and his collaborators: Wherever you are, once you are against Fulani long term interest, we shall get you down. This is a clear warning. We hope those who take us for granted will get the indisputable message.
“Our intention is unequivocal: TO KILL HIM. That mission will one day be fulfilled and very soon too.
“Eleven of FUNAM operatives were involved in the attack. Orton escaped today because of a slight technical communication error. Next time, he will not be lucky. We can assure him and his supporters.
“Ortom has been leading the campaign against Fulani interests in the North. We have our operatives in all Southern States. Each will face our sword soon.
“We warn collaborators working against Fulani people across Nigeria: WE SHALL GET YOU irrespective of your hidden place.
“We state clearly, any state or individual that opposes RUGA will be confronted. Any State or individual that opposes ranching, we shall get you. Speak against ranching and RUGA even on the internet: Our Noiseless fighters shall find and fix you.
“In the next few months, FUNAM will carry out attacks on strategic human and material assets of States and Non State groups or individuals known for their anti-Fulani campaigns.
“We shall hunt you down in your houses, in your work places, in your car, in your streets. It’s a matter of time.”
With this statement, a new chapter of agitations and contradictions the nation has not witnessed in time past was opened, albeit in a more scary way. Though many are tempted to wave off FUNAM as a faceless group that is merely looking for attention, analysts are quick to say that the groups that are today making things difficult for the country in different parts started the same way from obscurity, with people writing them off as attention seekers.
Though it is yet uncertain if FUNAM actually exists, it is worthy of note that the group is not speaking for the first time, as it triggered national outrage in 2018 when it claimed that Fulani are the owners of Nigeria.
The Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar, who at that time doubted the existence of the group, disowned the statement, labeling it as reckless.
Also in February 2020, the President of the group, one Badu Salisu Ahmadu claimed that a special Fulani strike force was behind the killing of 23 people in Plateau State in late January, 2020.
Mr. Adekoya Samuel, a public affairs commentator, believes that FUNAM is not really a new group but one that may be described as shadowy, lurking in the corner to take advantage of situations and dance momentarily in the sun before withdrawing into a corner.
“I will not say the group does not exist, I will rather ask, how does it exist? On paper and in press releases? FUNAM, to me, is just another faceless group that exists in the mind of an individual who mischievously comes in occasionally, throws in a press release to rock the boat and cause some apprehension. That’s what I believe is happening here.
“I see no reason for apprehension over the sweeping threats in the supposed group’s statement. What is the capacity of a group that has not proven in the past that it truly exists? I think the writer of the press statement was only bluffing and nothing more. No one should lose sleep over it”, Samuel said.
Speaking further, Samuel noted that though it is becoming alarming the rate at which sectional and ethnic based groups are springing up from different parts of the country, the existence of Nigeria is not under threat.
“Nigeria is not about to break and it will not despite the threat posed by ethnic based groups threatening secession. Neither IPOB, MASSOB or Oduduwa Republic proponents have the capacity to carry out their threats. Those threats have always been there and nothing has happened. FUNAM cannot make any difference”, he submitted.
Chigozie Ibe, a Lagos babes businessman, however, thinks differently, warning that Nigerians should not dismiss the claim of responsibility by the Fulani or their threats of further attacks lightly. According to him, FUNAM may just be the face of a larger Fulani organisation with sinister plans.
“To start with, Governor Ortom said those who attacked him were herdsmen, dressed in black, while Miyetti Allah has come out to deny any involvement in the attack. Then this Fulani group came out to say its operatives were responsible. For me, until security agencies conclude their investigation and come out with a different conclusion, I take it that FUNAM was behind the attack.
“A major problem Nigeria has is that we are quick to dismiss things even before we dig into them. What if the group is real and they actually carried out the attack on Ortom and do have the capacity to make good their threat? We would have succeeded in looking the other way carelessly while they go about hitting their targets without resistance”, Ibe said.
On whether the ethnic-based group posed any threat to Nigeria, Ibe said they do and that Nigeria may just be heading for the rocks if issues of concern being raised were ignored.
“The Nigerian government and critical stakeholders and leaders must not ignore what is currently happening in the country. Doing so will be at the nation’s peril. Most times, government tend to look at these agitators as irritants it cannot be bordered with, but they have forgotten the possibility of propelling them from behind the scene. Many of these groups have their backers, people who are the main drivers of the ideas these groups are pushing.
“Events of the last couple of days have shown that clearly, first with a group of Yoruba elders saying they can no longer hold back Yoruba youths on self determination. Also just at the weekend, the Yoruba Sociocultural group, Afenifere was emphatic when they said Nigeria’s disintegration is inevitable if the government fails to agree to restructuring. So it would be foolhardy to treat the threats of disintegration with levity, except the government has accepted that everyone go his way,” he noted.
Another respondent, who wants to remain anonymous, blamed the Nigerian government and the nation’s security and intelligence agencies for the level the agitations and threats have gotten to in the country. According to him, the government and its security and intelligence agencies have given these people the opportunity to fester their ideas to the point that many Nigerians now reason in line with Biafra and Oduduwa Republic.
“To start with, Asari Dokubo came out to declare the establishment of a government within Nigeria and nothing has been done about it till now. The only response that has come from the government was that from Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture. Even at that, he failed to accord the obvious breach the seriousness it deserves.
“What Asari did is obviously treasonable, and not a joke or publicity stunt as labelled by Lai Mohammed. Also, the declaration by Sunday Igboho is another sour point that has not been attended to. Both Igboho, who declared that the Yoruba are no longer part of Nigeria and Asari should be undergoing serious interrogation at the moment. It does not matter if they were merely bluffing, letting them roam around freely is dangerous, as the more they propagate their divisive ideas, the more ground it gains and the more chances of them becoming real.
“So, I will call on the government and its agencies saddled with intelligence and security to look more closely into the activities of the groups, including the Fulani Nationalist Movement. Failure to do so will obviously be catastrophic. We must nip the growing agitations in the bud and control the upsurge in ethnic based groups that may with time become ethnic militia groups”, he said.