The Cable, an online newspaper, captured the situation succinctly with the headline: “Buhari breaks silence on killings by ‘herdsmen,’ orders IGP to apprehend culprits.” The publication was putting into perspective a rather absurd case, where President Muhammadu Buhari said nothing, for some time, about the bloodletting caused by Fulani herdsmen, who have unleashed terror on communities across the country. When the president decided to finally say something, what else would anybody say than that he had eventually broken his silence?
It took President Buhari four months to personally condemn or comment on the killings perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen, at a time when Nigerians need a show of concern and assurance from their leader. When herdsmen attacked Dori and Mesuma villages, in Gashaka Local Government Area of Taraba State, many a Nigerian expected their leader to say something. Nothing happened. When Kwata, in Jos South Local Government Area of Plateau State was attacked, Nigerians waited to hear from their leader. Nothing was said. When Umuekune village of Irete community, in Owerri West Local Government Area of Imo State was attacked, Nigerians expected their leader to comment. Nothing happened. When Agatu, in Benue State, was attacked, Nigerians also looked forward to hearing from their leader. And nothing happened. In all the attacks, between December 2015 and April 25, 2016, Nigerians where brutally killed and their property destroyed.
Going by the magnitude of the carnage, it is really surprising that President Buhari kept mute while “Rome” figuratively burned. Yes, I do not subscribe to the insinuation that his silence could be as a result of the fact that the people involved are Fulani, his kinsmen. However, I see his silence, before now, as insensitivity, which is becoming common among some of our leaders. Indeed, It is becoming apparent that some of those in government do not place much value on the welfare of Nigerians. Some of them appear to place more premium on the lives of people from other countries than Nigerians. I say this because the Presidency had, had to issue statements, on behalf of President Buhari, on terrorist attacks in many other countries while not commenting on the killing of Nigerians at home.
To be sure, when terrorists struck in Paris, France, President Buhari did condemn it as well as condole with the government and people of France. When terrorists attacked Brussels, in Belgium, President Buhari condemned it. When terrorists hit Bamako, in Mali, President Buhari did rise up in condemnation. If our president did commend on these distant attacks, is it not then curious that it took him four months, between when Dori and Mesuma villages, in Taraba State were attacked and when Nimbo, in Enugu got its bad share to respond? If any terror attack occurs in the United States, for instance, you can be sure that President Barack Obama will instantly mount the rostrum to address Americans and the world. He would not ask his media aides to issue a press statement. He would address the press himself. We have seen this happen many times. That is why US citizens are proud of the country and leaders and ready to die for them.
It’s good that the oracle has eventually spoken, even though it took him 72 hours to react to the Enugu killings, in particular and a total of four months after the first attack, in general. That President Buhari broke his silence gives some sense of assurance that at least the Federal Government knows the right thing. This is more so since President Buhari pointedly declared: “Let me use this platform to condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the attack perpetrated on the Ukpabu Nimbo community, in Uzo-Uwani area of Enugu State on Monday. I deeply sympathise with all those who lost dear ones, as well as those who lost their property, in the attack.
“I have directed the Chief of Defence Staff and the Inspector-General of Police to secure all communities under attacks by herdsmen, and to go after all the groups terrorising innocent people all over the country. This government will not allow these attacks to continue. These attacks will not continue.”
However, as serious as President Buhari would want us to take his declaration, there is nothing that gives much hope. It is obvious that Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, not only feels the same way but also could not come to terms with President Buhari’s earlier silence. This could explain why he stated: “When I read a short while ago, the presidential assurance to this nation that the current homicidal escalation between the cattle prowlers and farming communities would soon be over, I felt mortified. He had the solution, he said. Cattle ranches were being set up, and in another 18 months, rustlings, destruction of livelihood and killings from herdsmen would be ‘a thing of the past’. Eighteen months, he assured the nation. I believe his Minister of Agriculture echoed that later, but with a less dispiriting time scheme.
“Neither, however, could be considered a message of solace and reassurance for the ordinary Nigerian farmer and the lengthening cast of victims, much less to an intending tourist to the Forest Retreat of Tinana in the Rivers, the Ikogosi Springs or the Moslem architectural heritage of the ancient city of Kano. In any case, the external tourists have less hazardous options.”
What this means is that Buhari’s presidential promise on the herdsmen’s carnage should go beyond promises and assurances. What Nigerians need is “affirmative action” and not lip service. There should be action and determination attached to what President Buhari has said. I say this because Nigerian governments always make declarations, which are not backed by action. Did we not hear, during the last Federal Government, that everything would be done to end the reign of Boko Haram terrorism? Did we not hear that the abducted Chibok girls would be found and rescued? Now, tell me, did the reign of terror by Boko Haram end in the last Federal Government? Has it ended now? Were the abducted Chibok girls found and rescued before the last Federal Government left office? Have they been found and rescued now? As long as no arrest is made over the Enugu and other killings and someone charged to court as well as gets convicted, what President Buhari said would just be hot air. The Enugu police admitted that they confronted the herdsmen who attacked Nimbo. According to Nwodibo Ekechukwu, the Commissioner of Police for Enugu State, “by the time our men noticed what was happening, they went there and exchanged gunfire with them, successfully repelled them with some of them carrying bullet wounds.” The police repelled the armed herdsmen but no arrest was made.
I also find it curious that the Enugu CP was quick to declare that the Enugu attack was done by hoodlums and not herdsmen, a day after the tragedy. And when he later said they were suspected herdsmen, there was no apology for the initial declaration. How would a commissioner of police be so careless to make such a gaffe and nobody has queried him? How would Enugu people trust that this police commissioner would be thorough in the investigation when he had shown bias in the identification of the attackers?
For Igbo leaders, a step should be taken beyond mere condemnation of the killing in Enugu. They should be concerned about how to avert future attacks. Why is it that South East governors have not had an emergency meeting over what happened in Enugu? Why is it that they have not taken a common position on the matter? Why is it that they do not think it necessary to go as a group to Abuja and impress it on President Buhari that a decisive action is needed on the matter? Igbo leaders should be thinking of how to ensure security in the South East communities against invaders. This is because therein lies their survival.