By Shaka Momodu
In the last couple of weeks, particularly in the last couple of days, I found myself asking the question: What is the value of human life in our dear country Nigeria? Anytime this question popped up in my mind, a part of me yelled out “nothing!” in righteous anger and frustration. But not surprisingly, this is the nagging question on the lips of many Nigerians. We are living in a frightening new reality where people’s lives mean nothing and can be taken at any time by another or others.
The Nigerian state is failing abysmally to perform the most important reason for its existence as a country with all the imprimatur of cohesive deterrence to maintain law, order and protect lives and properties. Some would say of what use is a country when it cannot protect its own people, or as others have put it, of what use is a government that cannot protect those on whose mandate it exercises that cohesive powers of the state?
Nigeria has literarily become a huge killing field for the marauding AK-47-wielding herdsmen whose modus operandi is the butchery of people who refuse to allow them (herdsmen) to graze their cattle on their farmlands. Men, women and children are killed and whole communities virtually razed to the ground. It has happened again and again with little or no response from those in authority. And arrests (if any) have not resulted in successful prosecution for such heinous crimes. It is simply unbelievable that this is happening and nothing serious is being done to put an end to it. Of course the herdsmen’s atrocities are complemented by several cartels of kidnappers and cultists whose ringleaders are well known. They no longer make even the faintest attempt at disguising their identities or trades or cover their tracks.
We are in the season of anomie as criminal groups carve out territories and zones for themselves where they ply their nefarious trade with reckless abandon. In many cases, they operate with the full knowledge of the law enforcement operatives and sometimes, a few yards away from the perimeter of police stations or even military barracks. Hapless Nigerians have become victims of both official inaction and collusion with criminal elements with a licence to kidnap and kill them at will.
The level of insecurity in the country has reached a precipitous point such that the ability and capacity of those in authority to deter and rein in the looming threat is now seriously called to question. It is either they do not understand that Nigeria is on a dangerous slide into anarchy under their watch, or they do but don’t care. Where is our DSS which should ordinarily monitor threats like this? Where is our military intelligence?
On New Year Day, some cultists killed 17 people in Omoku in Rivers state; a monarch and his wife were murdered in Kaduna; and in Benue, over 20 were killed by herdsmen protesting the state’s anti-grazing law.
And a further 73 were killed a few days later. As of June 2017, over 200 people were reportedly killed in Taraba in several attacks spanning weeks. The statistics of people killed by herdsmen on a state-by-state basis across the country since this government came to power are mind-boggling and unbelievable. And yet, the president has not deemed it necessary to say anything directly to Nigerians. All he does is to speak through his aides, directing “security agencies to apprehend the suspects”. Of course that is usually the end of it.
In 2015 when the herdsmen started to transform into blood-thirsty killers, no decisive action was taken against them. President Muhammadu Buhari even denied that it was Fulani herdsmen that were responsible for the attacks. He posited then that they were foreign herdsmen from other African countries coming into Nigeria because of our porous borders. Some people in the media picked up from there and ran with the narrative. Today, like all false narratives, that storyline has died a natural death. The truth of the story is no longer in dispute. Those who helped to sell that narrative now acknowledge that indeed, the killer herdsmen are largely from within.
Benue State has become Nigeria’s own Auschwitz, the amphitheatre of human carnage by killer herdsmen who by their utterances, regrettably value the life of a cow more than the life of a fellow human being. Now, how does one reason with people like these? How do you dialogue with people of this mindset? For the loss of a cow or cows, the killer herdsmen must kill as many people as they can? What a country!
Mr. President wants Benue people to accommodate their fellow Nigerians. I support that of course. But how do accommodate a person or people who willfully grazes his/their cattle on your farmland, destroys your crops and when you protest, he kills you and your family and burns down the community? How do you accommodate people who don’t want to be accommodated but instead, want your ancestral land and want to lord it over you and your community?
The Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II’s allegation that 800 Fulani were killed in Taraba last year is revealing. It appears to justify some of the killings going on. But that figure has been disputed by the Taraba State government as baseless and a figment of Sanusi’s imagination, stating further that 18 people died on both sides during the clashes. I am inclined to believe that 800 Fulani killed in one fell swoop would be stretching the facts to the breaking point. Such a huge number of deaths would not be easy to cover up. Besides, with the calibre of patrons of Miyetti Allah, the association of Fulani cattle breeders, as revealed by Emir Sanusi, all hell would have been broken loose had the deaths in such humongous numbers occurred.
Nigeria has become one giant example of a state that is failing on all fronts. It cannot guarantee any longer its own territorial integrity, security of lives and properties either from herdsmen, Boko Haram, or such other criminal elements like kidnappers, cultists and armed robbers. Boko Haram that was said to have been defeated, is daily besting our poorly remunerated soldiers in battle. Suicide attacks have become a near daily occurrence. There is turmoil everywhere as Nigeria is unraveling before our very eyes. We have never had it so bad. And those charged with the responsibility of protecting the homeland are fiddling. They are giving excuses and passing the buck on why they can’t act. They are rationalising and justifying the mass murder of innocent people. The vociferousness of the human rights community against the misdeeds of other governments is surprising muted now. What was intolerable then to them has suddenly become tolerable now.
We have even witnessed the return of slavery and human trafficking on a grand scale. Nigerians are being sold in Libya like animals. Why is our leadership allowing its citizens to migrate into slavery? Why have they created the economic conditions that make migration to any country attractive to our young able-bodied workforce such that they don’t even mind going to a country like Libya that is without a government? Many of us have watched horrible videos of torture, abuse, sexual molestation, rape and violent killing of Nigerians by Libyans.
In South Africa, Nigerians are the first victims of social and economic discontent; and are being felled like chickens by gangs of South African youths and police. Yet there has not been a strong and determined response from Nigerian leaders who have shown their lack of desire or willingness to protect the people both within and outside our borders.
Many of our people in early middle age or younger are resigning from their jobs to relocate to the US and Canada in record numbers.
Yet in the face of this troubling decline of our country on all fronts, all our leaders are concerned with is politics of 2019.
Some governors who wouldn’t pay workers’ salaries like the Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello are in the forefront of those begging Buhari to run for a second term whether he deserves it or not. As the nation was mourning 73 innocent men, women and children hacked to death by herdsmen, some irresponsible governors went to the Villa purportedly to endorse Buhari for a second term.
Those involved in the endorsement were governors Abubakar Bello (Niger); Ibrahim Gaidam (Yobe); Yahaya Bello (Kogi); Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano); Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna); Jibrilla Bindow (Adamawa) and Simon Lalong (Plateau).
Governor El-Rufai, who spoke to journalists as they emerged from the session with Buhari, said they remained committed to the president’s re-election bid and have no apologies to anyone. Recall that this same El-Rufai wrote a memo to Buhari in September 2016 lamenting the poor performance of his government. Here is an excerpt: “In very blunt terms, Mr. President, our APC administration has not only failed to manage expectations of a populace that expected overnight ‘change’ but has failed to deliver even mundane matters of governance outside of our successes in fighting Boko Haram insurgency and corruption.” It bears stating here that since he wrote that memo to Buhari, things have progressively gone from bad to worse. Despite the clear evidence of Buhari being a failed, out-of-touch leader, El-Rufai and Bello have gone ahead to pledge N50 million each towards the president’s yet-to-be-declared ambition. Even the successes El-Rufai alluded to in his 2016 memo have been significantly undermined by succeeding events since then. The terrorist sect that the president claimed to have defeated has proved to be a more potent force by its near daily attacks on innocent people. Right under this government’s nose, terrorists abducted 110 innocent schoolgirls from their school in Dapchi. While terrorists Fulani herdsmen are on a killing spree daily across the country.
On corruption, just read the Transparency International report. Before that, there was the NBS/UNODC Corruption Perception Report in 2017 and make your judgement whether the credit El-Rufai gave to Buhari in those two areas has not been severely undermined by events thereafter. Let me refresh your memory: there is the Mainagate which has seriously damaged this government’s credibility and the claim that they are fighting corruption. What about the grass-cutting Babachir Lawal’s case? On that endless list is the GMD of NNPC, Maikanti Baru, who awarded contracts worth $25 billion without going through board approval or due process. Senator Aliyu Wammako’s committee was supposed to be investigating this matter. What has happened to that investigation? There are so many more issues of corruption plaguing this government which el Rufai cannot pretend to be unaware of. So on what basis is he rooting for Buhari who has clearly demonstrated a lack of capacity to govern?
His Plateau State counterpart, Solomon Lalong displayed his sadistic pleasure and dark humanity at the plight of Benue people when he gleefully crowed that he warned the Benue State governor over the Anti-Open Grazing Law enacted by the state legislature. Though he later apologised, but not before he had shown his remarkable lack of appreciation of Pastor Martin Niemoller’s immortal poem – highlighting the cowardice of the German intellectuals following the Nazis’ rise to power and the subsequent purging of their chosen targets, group after group. The poem illustrates that when you tolerate tyranny against your neighbours because you were not affected, and fail to speak up, not too long down the road, it will be your turn. Here is an excerpt from the poem: “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”
It is instructive that the killer herdsmen have since extended their fiesta of bloodletting to Lalong’s Plateau and Bello’s Kogi states, despite the latter voluntarily providing land for cattle colony for Fulani herdsmen to please the president. You see, this government told us that the Anti-Open Grazing Law was responsible for the attacks in Benue. Now, what is responsible for the attacks on Kogi people who are ready to “accommodate” strangers in their land? Shall we ask the Defence Minister, Mansur Dan-Ali just one question here: Were the routes designated for cattle blocked in Kogi? Kogi was the first state to volunteer land for colony. Why the killings there? Bello, that disrespectful “juvenile” governor who rose to power with the votes of a dead man has proved to be an embarrassment to the Nigerian youth. He would do anything and say anything to please Buhari. His expressed love for herdsmen is not enough to immune his state from their onslaught!
Again in mid-February, gunmen killed about 41 people at Birane village in Zurmi Local Government Area of Zamfara State. Just a few days after that massacre, 14 APC governors abandoned their duties, ran to Katsina where the president had gone on a brief visit, to beg him to seek re-election in 2019 because if does not, “Nigeria will disappear from the face of the earth”. They are struggling amongst themselves to demonstrate their love for Buhari, their hero, despite the pervading insecurity in the land. They are telling him that he alone can govern Nigeria despite the clear evidence of his ruinous reign. They care less about the future of Nigeria as long as their own is assured under Buhari.
Our governors have shown that they lack empathy for the people who voted for them and who are daily at the receiving end of the shocking cruelty of our leaders. How can these people be this insensitive? The party in power has shown clearly that it is more interested in power than care about the security, safety and welfare of ordinary Nigerians.
Today, life is harsh and insecure under Buhari; worse than at any time in our history. Poverty, hunger and diseases have become our constant companion. Corruption and impunity remain at record levels. Nepotism, clannishness and bigotry have reached an unprecedented scale never before seen in our country. Despite, the obvious evidence, the APC governments at all levels have made lies and propaganda part of their stock-in-trade.
We have seen the hypocrisy that stalks our land; Nigerians have seen the perfidy and impunity of our preachers of change. To those who are still willfully blind, I say there is only one thing that is constant in life: Truth! It endures no matter how hard you try to suppress it. And as the saying goes in the land of my fathers, “You can’t go missing on a straight road.”
– This piece was written by Shaka Momodu/Thisday