It was tempting all along to remain indifferent to the wailings and criticisms over the killings of our fellow citizens somewhere in Nimbo, Enugu State. But the gradual re-emergence of our notorious factors compels this reminder of our collective indifference to the tragedy of others. We must, accordingly, concede that we are all responsible for the Nimbo carnage, wherever and whoever we are, as fellow citizens.
On the surface, we may be shedding crocodile tears but we should not, if only we can be concerned about potential tragedy of our neighbours and indeed fellow citizens, lest we incur our portion of similar tragedy in the fullness of time. Perpetrators of human tragedy in Nigeria are aware of our mentality, as a self-centred group of human beings, with very short if any memory at all. Only when we are down do we lament, forgetting that when our neighbours found themselves in the same situation, we either went deaf or looked the other way.
Was Nimbo the first in recent weeks, months or even years? What was our attitude to past tragedies in other parts of the country? Anambra State was an example. Nigerians woke up one day only to be informed through the media about tens of corpses floating in a stream somewhere in Anambra. Till today, we know no action taken on that incident except, perhaps, that the corpses were collected and buried as unknown. Who killed them? What were their identities? Were they also killed by Fulani or herdsmen? We all, like those Fela Anikulapo-Kuti would label mumus, did not care a hoot. Our unfortunate fellow citizens merely perished in that incident.
Through our conspiracy of silence over such tragedies, we were unconsciously legitimising killings of our fellow citizens by unknown persons. Did the Anambra State government of the day ever provide a clue to that human tragedy? Most probably, more Nigerian corpses were in that Anambra stream than the number of our fellow citizens killed at Nimbo. It was bad that other parts of the country remained indifferent to the human tragedy at the Anambra stream. But it was worse that Anambrarians and South-Easterners at home and abroad acquiesced in that tragedy. If that could pass without any concern by all of us, especially the victims of the Anambra stream were murdered by non-indigenes (like Fulani or cattle rearers), the impression we all gave was that the lives of the victims at the Anambra stream were less important than their counterparts at Nimbo.
A couple of years ago, again, we woke up only to learn that, at least, twelve corpses were found somewhere in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State. How the corpses got there, their identities or their killers were never made known to Nigerians and we all did not bother. The innocent victims were routinely buried, as usual, labelled unknown without any investigation made known to Nigerians till today. The twelve corpses discovered at Port Harcourt, Rivers State, might be less than those brutally murdered at Nimbo and thrown into the stream at Anambra. But would that make their lives (twelve corpses at Port-Harcourt) any less worth preserving, as law-abiding citizens? Why has it become too ordinary for Nigerians to accept or, at least, overlook unexplained mass killings all over the place?
Is there any police authority in the country? What is the function of the police if not to prevent or detect crime(s)?
It is a relief that the fratricide in Plateau State, for now, has abated. Otherwise, the violent dispute at a stage was, among others, stupidly too, was over the Jos North Local Government created by the IBB regime, a local government the indigenes believed they did not want or deserve. To justify their complaint, the Jos North Local Government was specially created for Fulani or Cattle rearers settlers. And for that reason, they (Jos indigenes and Fulani settlers) intermittently killed themselves. Meanwhile, whether as Fulani or indigenes, they, since 1991, when the council was created, continued collecting statutory revenue allocation from the Federation Account.
What, therefore, was the purpose or value of killing themselves? Simple idiocy I pleaded passionately and severely in this column that the killings must stop and that they should make the best of their local government. On their part, other Nigerians could not be bothered about the mutual killings, as if Plateau State is not part of Nigeria. It is unimaginable that residents of a state would kill themselves over a local government. One of them even blackmailed me that I should keep off their domestic politics/violence. My response was to allow them sustain their violence. That was over seven years ago, just as other Nigerias turned blind eyes to the self-tragedy in Plateau State.
On the other hand, state governments in South-West zone embarked on creation of new Local Government Development Areas, so designated because former President Obasanjo claimed he did not recognise the new councils. But the new local government development areas keep functioning and there are, at least, thirty-five of such in Lagos State.
At my age, I never heard or knew about Agatu as a town or village in Benue State but the murderous activities of Nigerian criminals brought Agatu on the world map with the tragedy of innocent fellow citizens killed in cold blood over several nights. If we cannot feel safe in our villages, towns, cities or states of our choice, where do we feel safe without being murdered? Again, we all, outside Agatu but within Nigeria, kept quiet, either through intimidation or indifference.
Whichever it was, it turned out to be a licence for the murderers to repeat their crime at Nimbo, Enugu State.
Our indifference to the tragedy of our fellow citizens at Agatu did not justify our crocodile tears for the fallout. As in Enugu, so had our fellow citizens been in Adamawa and Ondo states, while all of us did not raise voices of protests on why or who killed them. And the more we adopt that attitude of indifference, the easier we crated the disturbing atmosphere for a fresh Agatu and another Nimbo in any other part of Nigeria.
We have to shed our attitude of criminal silence over any tragedy of fellow citizens anywhere in the country.
If we did not know the culprits at Agatu, Nimbo, Port Harcourt, Akure, etc, could we hide under the same alibi on the tragedy on the Kaduna-Zaria Road? On that single day, over three hundred Nigerians were mowed down by our security forces. More of a non-event, it turned out to be a suicidal march by religious fanatics or even extremists. That, at least, was the official rationalisation. And we all remained indifferent perhaps because Northerners were killing themselves.
Yet, Nigeria took up the battle at international fora when South Africa, under the apartheid regime mowed down sixty-nine blacks at Sharpville in 1961. Again, Nigeria led the battle of international condemnation when, in 1976, one hundred and seventy six blacks were murdered by South African security forces at Soweto. Those were before South Africa’s majority rule in 1994. After that epoch, South Africa killed protesting miners at Marikana in 2012, sending, at least, thirty-four miners to their graves. Nigerian protesters of yesteryears against Sharpville and Soweto massacres looked the other way when President Zuma’s security forces killed protesting miners.
And more pointedly, if, before South Africa’s independence, we (both government and ordinary Nigerians) protested against the massacre of total of 245 people killed at Sharpville and Soweto, why did we remain unconcerned or, at least, less vociferous than usual, when over three hundred of fellow Nigerians were shot along Zaria-Kaduna Road? If those killed were Christians rather than Muslims, would we have been able to control the situation? Or if the killings of over three hundred Nigerians by security forces took place somewhere in the South, would we have also been indifferent to such massacre?
Whatever their crime, the law does not stipulate summary mass execution. And if, today, we rationalise massacre in Nigeria, we must also, on reflection, rationalise South African massacre of blacks in Sharpeville and Soweto.
Let it be clear that no circumstances would justify the killings at Nimbo, Enugu State but the lesson must be learnt that wherever killings occur in any part of the country, we must all speak out, as that is the only control we have over reckless officialdom.
The history of the killings at Nimbo, Enugu State is that the tragedy occurred on April 25. Unless we are all unwary, or pretend to be unwary, unless we are all callous and self-deceiving, the necessary atmosphere was created either by design or accident, at least, a forthtnigh before the bloody day. Lately, there is agitation for the teaching of history in our educational institutions. In that case, even those occupying very, very sensitive positions in our security services must be the beginners of such course.
To be continued