I am not one of those mischievous Nigerians throwing jabs at President Muhammadu Buhari for accusing Muammar Gaddafi of breeding and arming the killer herdsmen now rampaging all over the country.
I know exactly what the President wanted to say, and I also know that he did not exactly say what he meant to say. But I got the idea. And as they say in the village secondary school near my house, ‘idea is need,’ meaning, there’s an idea in it, and the idea is what is important (in other words, forget the grammar, just grab whatever idea is in the statement).
I won’t also insinuate that the President does not know that Gaddafi is long dead, nor that the President is so old that he seemlessly drifts from the world of the living to the world of spirits, without really knowing when he has crossed the boundary (don’t remind me of his appointment of eight dead people into different boards, for that is not the issue at stake here).
This piece, therefore, has nothing to do with what the President has said or done about Gaddafi arming herdsmen, or Gaddafi allowing light arms to pass through Libya down to Nigeria. I’m more concerned about how the Buhari presidency has allowed this herdsmen’s menace to become so intractable.
I’m concerned that all our customs officers, immigration, civil defense, police, army, navy, air force and all the task forces they’ve been cobbled into appear to be more interested in chasing and shooting dead, ‘smugglers’ of rice and turkey and vegetable oil and fabrics and second-hand cars and clothes, than stopping the influx of gun-wielding killers fronting as herdsmen.
I am worried that we have so politicised the problem that it has now become a case of ‘we against them,’ North versus South, Muslim versus Christian and, as 2019 draws closer, pro-Buhari versus anti-Buhari, PDP versus APC, and so on.
And while we are playing politics, the killers, who we thought only had appetite for southern blood, have also started sucking blood in Zamfara, Niger, Nasarawa and many Muslim/Fulani settlements.
Yes, the Islamisation (and Fulani hegemony) narrative sounds so real and attractive, but nobody can deny the fact that not even the Fulani have been spared this herdsmen bloodbath.
But why would anyone not buy into this narrative, when there appears to be a conspiratorial silence on the part of those in government, who should not only say something but also do something? Why would people not think otherwise when, instead of arresting the killers and giving the victims a sense of belonging, security and self-worth, government is ordering the victims to accommodate the killers? Why would the landowning victim community not feel shortchanged when they’re cajoled to give the herders land (free of charge) to raise their free-roaming cattle, while the farmer who actually owns the land is compelled to fence his farm, to stop cattle from trampling his crops?
Arrogance. Insensitive arrogance.
And it is this same arrogance that seems to be rearing its ugly head on the Shiite and El-Zakzaky controversy.
In fact, cold shivers ran through my entire body as I watched clips of the police confrontation with protesting members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) on Monday.
I shuddered because it seems the movement’s demonstrations are becoming larger, more daring and more violent with every new protest march. I don’t want to imagine them getting their hands on any form of arms!
But I must make one thing clear: I have not met any Nigerian Muslim who has a lot of sympathy for the brand of Islam being propagated by Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky. I wouldn’t know whether it’s because I have not searched far enough or that the Shi’a sect is not so popular in Nigeria.
However, what everyone I’ve interviewed has conceded is that the cleric is hugely brilliant, has a sizable following, and that, on the average, his followers are more educated than your average Nigerian religious ‘mob.’ Yes, we may say they are half-educated, but we must not forget that Alexander Pope once noted that there is nothing more dangerous than half-education.
Similarly, those who should know have, over the years, been warning us about the time bomb that the IMN represents, if not properly handled. They’ve warned that, if pushed to the wall, IMN (also known as the Shiite Movement) could become even worse than Boko Haram.
But it would appear nobody seems to be listening. We are going about this problem with the same arrogance we approach issues, until they get out of hand.
Frighteningly, it appears to be the same way we treated Boko Haram’s Mohammed Yusuf, by mindlessly killing him upon arrest, and ending up with Boko Haram, as we have it today, that we have adopted with El-Zakzaky. Thankfully, the old man is still alive, although said to be seriously ill.
We killed Yusuf and ended up handing Boko Haram over to Ibrahim Shekau and several other lunatics who do not seem to have the finesse or restraint of the man we killed. That is partly why we are where we are today.
Each time I see El-Zakzaky’s followers demonstrating and spitting bile on the streets of Kaduna, Abuja or even on social media platforms, I begin to imagine what we could bring upon ourselves if that cleric were to die in detention. IMN would automatically fall into the hands of one of these hotheads. And God help us thereafter!
I remember what happened to Somalia after Siad Barre was taken out, Iraq after Saddam Hussein, and, lately, Libya without Gaddafi.
Most times, it is better to sustain the ‘bad’ man in power because he is the only one who has the capacity to rein in ‘the mad dogs’ that he leads. For doing otherwise would amount to courting trouble with both hands.
*Follow me on Twitter: @steve_nwosu