Rose Ejembi, Makurdi Benue’s three main sociocultural organisations – Mdzough U Tiv, Idoma National Forum and Omi Ny’Igede – have warned leaders of cattle breeders collective Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore (MAKH) to stop using the state’s anti-open grazing law as an excuse to commit acts of terror against farmers and the general public. The tribal…
Between Monday and yesterday, no day passed without the killing of innocent Nigerians in the northern part of the country. It is either herdsmen, nay gunmen, striking in Benue, Nasarawa, and Taraba, in the North Central, or Boko Haram insurgents launching attacks in Borno, Zamfara, Yobe, Adamawa or any other state in the North East. The situation, unfortunately, is now this: one day, many killings.
To be sure, on Monday, newspapers were replete with news about the massacre of about 15 people in Borno and Kogi states. On Wednesday, newspapers also reported the murder of two Catholic priests and 17 worshippers inside a church in Benue. On Thursday, there was also a report about the killing of 44 people in Benue and Nasarawa. Today, there is a report about the murder of seven people by gunmen at an Internally Displaced Persons’ camp in Benue. Put together, in one week close to 100 people have been killed and we are still counting. This tale of sorrow was the same last week, as bloodthirsty hounds wreaked havoc on a daily basis in Benue, especially, and other states in the North. The modus operandi of these killers is to attack villages in the night or early in the morning, when people are asleep and vulnerable. The attackers also waylay their victims or strike them in their farms and markets. Worship places are not spared, as churches and mosques have been raided and people killed. The victims are murdered in cold blood, with, sometimes, heads chopped off, bowels ripped open, limbs severed and bodies dismembered.
Nigeria has become a killing field, where life now means nothing whatsoever. Life in the country has become “nasty, brutish and short” as Thomas Hobbes, the English philosopher, wrote in his famous book, Leviathan. We have become a country so polarised by tribe, politics and quest for power, where people have lost human feelings, to the extent of killing others at will. These killings are sickening. As someone said, the reports by newspapers and security agencies may be about numbers, but the victims are human beings. They are people’s parents. They are people’s children. They are people’s brothers and sisters.
Recently, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, said a total of about 527 people had been killed this year. This is certainly a conservative estimate of the casualty figure of the mindless and needless killings across the country. With the spate of murders experienced daily, the number of Nigerians sent to their untimely deaths should certainly be more than what the SGF stated. However, this is certainly not about numbers. It is about the destruction of humanity. It is about the destruction of communities. It is about the destruction of Nigeria.
I have a nagging feeling that the killings have gone beyond herdsmen/farmers clashes, or attacks and reprisals. There seems to be a plan to systematically wipe out a certain people from the face of the earth. If not so, how is it that there is a sustained carnage in Benue, for instance? In this state, communities are attacked now and then and people killed and maimed. In the state, communities have been sacked and villagers displaced. In the state, villagers, for founded fear of being killed, have gone into exile, abandoning their ancestral homes. Armed men, who have, wittingly, made themselves kings of the jungle and who take no hostages, have occupied these Benue communities. And everybody is just looking on helplessly.
The brutality and destruction against the Benue people as well as other Nigerians have exceeded tolerable limit. It has come to a point where the government must do something, in the true sense of it. Many have suggested that the Federal Government declares herdsmen terrorists. While one shares the sentiment of those making these calls, one thinks this is beside the point. Whether government officially pronounces herdsmen or gunmen terrorists or not, it does not detract from the fact that an orchestrated genocide is going on in the North Central geopolitical zone of Nigeria. Declaring these killers terrorists, therefore, is immaterial without the requisite action to bring their activities to an end. Yes, the government could make a pronouncement that the killers are terrorists, but if it does not take measures to arrest their activities, this would amount to nothing. Therefore, whatever measure to be taken must be matched with action. And action speaks louder than voice, it is said.
The Federal Government should know that the activities of herdsmen and sundry bandits in the North Central and North East constitute real security risk that could lead to its fall and the destruction of the country. Therefore, it must change tactics in dealing with the problem. It is not about tough talk. It is not about promises. It is about decisive action. The Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, was asked by President Muhammadu Buhari to relocate to Benue and stay there until the problem of killings is solved. President Buhari himself expressed surprise that IGP Idris flouted the order. Today, nothing has been said about this disregard to the orders of a constituted authority. No action has been taken against the IGP. Without mincing words, the government has not done enough to arrest the killings. It has failed in providing security for Nigerians. It has failed to punish those who have not done their jobs well. It has failed to take measures to end the carnage and fish out the culprits once and for all.
In any case, I am shocked that Nigerians are not behaving as if they are under any threat whatever. People are going about their normal businesses, especially those living outside the war zone, as if nothing is amiss. Indeed, there is nothing to show that Nigerians are grieving over the wanton killings going on in the country. I do not see such solidarity that is required at a time of distress. Nigerians generally are behaving like Emperor Nero, who danced on the rooftops while fire ravaged Rome for days. It seems killings and destruction have made Nigerians to lose every sense of human feeling. Now, death appears to mean nothing. Nigerians are behaving like undertakers, who bear the corpse with straight face and, most times, expressionless, while mourners grieve.
However, kudos to the Senate and House of Representatives for expressing fury and going ahead to summon President Buhari over the spate of killings. Interventions are needed or Nigerians will be consumed. When bandits and criminals are daily prowling communities and states, leaving blood and sorrow on their trail, there is certainly trouble. Nigerians, as a people, wherever they are, should rise up and say enough is now enough. Some people have made a case for self-defence, including the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and former Minister of Defence, General Theophilus Danjuma. That is part of it. However, we can also show solidarity through other activities.
Now is the time for a national day of mourning, wherein concerned Nigerians should adorn black attire on a particular day and burn candles for the repose of the souls of those killed in the North Central, North East and other parts of the country. It can be organised by the government. Organisations, the CAN or the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs, as the case may be, could put it together. The country has lost enough souls to hold a national mourning and memorial.