It’s your turn, Lalong

The governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, thought he was in a safe haven. He thought he was inhabiting an impenetrable fortress. He threw away the wisdom of the ancients, which teaches that what goes around comes around. His compulsive forgetfulness led him into a trance. That was why he overlooked the fact that Plateau, the state he superintends over, is the headquarters of indigene-settler confrontation, which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

Before the recent attacks, Plateau has always been on the boil. But Lalong, strangely and conveniently, forgot all that. If he were conscious of it, he would have reacted differently to the bloodbath that Benue, a sister state, was subjected to by herdsmen on New Year Day of 2018. Because Lalong was in a trance, he jibed when others were sympathising. While the world was expressing outrage over the cold-blooded massacre of over 100 indigenes of Benue State, Lalong relapsed into an unconscionable blame game. He held his Benue counterpart responsible for the bloodbath. He said he warned Governor Samuel Ortom against the anti-open grazing law that provided the immediate trigger for the attack on some six Benue communities by armed herdsmen.

Now, you could say that the insensitivity that Lalong displayed in the case of Benue has come to haunt him. He is no longer in a position to throw jibes. Instead, he is in the eye of the storm. He has explanations to make. His comfort zone has been invaded. He has to wake up from slumber and do something, whatever that may be. What goes around truly comes around.

How did Plateau lose its tenuous peace this time? We were told that sleep in the land was murdered last weekend when herdsmen invaded Riyom, Barkin Ladi and Jos South local government areas, killing hundreds of defenceless villagers. As is usually the case, the atmosphere in the land is saturated. Anger has boiled over. The people are expressing outrage. The organised massacre is the issue of the moment. There are as many perspectives as there are commentators. That is the way we do it here. We are experts in armchair analysis. Regrettably, however, Lalong we have no staying power. The issue will be forgotten in a matter of days. We will move on as if the cold-blooded massacre of the innocent is a normal occurrence.

Our government has also done what it knows how best to do. It has condemned the killings, promising that the perpetrators of the dastardly act will be brought to book. That is the usual refrain. That

is what our government is known for. It issues statements that are never backed with action. The statements are simply released to fulfill all righteousness. No arrests will be made. No one will be prosecuted. The crux of the matter, as usual, will be ignored. And the issue in this case, as was the case in the Benue killings, is the arrogance of terror. Impunity has grown wings in Nigeria.

In Benue, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACABAN) claimed responsibility for the killings.

It said it was pushed into violence by Ortom’s anti-open grazing law. It warned that the killings in Benue would continue unless the law was repealed. MACA- BAN’s warning was no joke. The killings in Benue have continued unabated. MA- CABAN’s audaciousness was lawlessness writ large. It was a demonstration that Miyetti Allah is an alternate government. It can dare anybody to a bloody com-
bat and there will be no consequences afterwards.

Now, Miyetti Allah has bared its arrogant fangs again. It is not denying responsibility for the Plateau killings. It has since admitted that it was behind the killings. But it has a reason for the action. It said the killings were retaliatory. The herdsmen, MACABAN said, were con- strained to carry out the murder because its members lost some 300 cows to cattle rustlers. There is no remorse here. What we have instead is the reason for the ac- tion. Murder is being justified. It is being rationalised. It is being explained away. That is the way we do it in Nigeria. We commit murder. And then explain.

In the case of Benue, government did not go after the Miyetti Allah leadership. Rather, agents of the same government were busy explaining the murder. The Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, said then that the action of the herdsmen was borne out of the blockage of the grazing routes, which herders once used. In the present case, government may be walking the same route. It has not done anything to show that MACABAN is guilty of anything. Yet, it is still insisting that the perpetrators will be brought to justice. So, who are the perpetrators? Are they ghosts? Why is the leadership of the arrogant Miyetti Allah being treated like a special breed? Why do they justify murder and government does nothing? That is the real issue before us. Why has Miyetti Allah become a terror squad that must be feared by all and protected by government? Our government’s refusal to confront this issue is at the root of the insecurity in the land. It is the reason we have got to the point where cows and human beings occupy the same position in the Great Chain of Beings. In fact, in Nigeria, cows occupy a higher plane. They are of greater value than human beings. An entire community can be massacred for the loss of one cow. Nigeria has painfully become a cow republic, where cows are more respected and feared than human beings. What a country!

Benue is truly an endangered enclave. But Plateau is much more so. In the case of Benue, Governor Ortom stood up for his people. He fought like a man to get justice for his people. He stood his ground regardless of the conspiracy against him. He showed leadership when it truly mattered. But what is going

to happen in Plateau now? Governor Lalong is romancing with the issue. We have not seen any outrage in him. There is no urgency in him. No assurances for his people. He is at one with those who are killing his people. He has always been on their side. He is always in the company of those who maintain a studied silence in the face of the murderous invasion of herdsmen.

I am yet to understand where Lalong belongs in all this. He seems to have sympathy for the herdsmen. That may be why the statement issued by a certain Danladi Ciroma, chairman of MACABAN in the North Central zone, absolved him of any blame. The statement said Lalong has been working hard to maintain peace on the Plateau but regretted that Berom youths have not made the governor’s peace efforts possible. The people of Plateau must watch their governor closely. They need to know whose interest he is serving.

Beyond Plateau and Benue, Nigeria is really in a bind. The government that promised the people improved security is giving them the worst form of insecurity. Yet, that same government is not embarrassed by its inaction. Failure is being lionised and we are all expected to say nothing and do nothing