Nigeria is currently on edge. Almost on a daily basis, people are being hacked to death. In Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa, Plateau and many other States, gunmen suspected to be herdsmen have made human life worthless. The recent killings in Plateau State claimed the lives of at least 86 people. Unofficial figures put the number at over 200. Amnesty International estimated that since January 2018, at least 1,813 people had been murdered in 17 states. This is double the 894 people killed in 2017.
My concern here is not the killings per se. It is the impunity with which these acts are carried out. For instance, the gunmen in Plateau State reportedly attacked 11 villages for at least seven hours without intervention from security forces. They also destroyed over 50 houses. Rather than fish the culprits out and deal with them decisively, the authorities in Abuja have regaled us with undue excuses and you-too fallacy.
Last week, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, tried to rationalise the Plateau carnage. According to him, more people died when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was in power than now that the All Progressives Congress (APC) is in the saddle. To justify his statement, Adesina reeled out the spate of killings from 1999, when democracy smiled on Nigeria again, up until 2015 when the PDP lost to the incumbent government.
Recall that the PDP had declared seven days of mourning and also announced that its flag would fly at half mast in honour of the victims of the Plateau carnage. The party urged the people of Plateau State to exercise their rights as global citizens. This they could do by working with other public-spirited Nigerians and groups and taking President Muhammadu Buhari and his government to the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague for acting helpless in the face of continuous mass killings in Nigeria.
This statement riled Adesina. To him, the pot was calling the kettle black. He noted that there was no declaration of national mourning for the deaths that occurred during the time of the PDP; and that the opposition party was not only shedding crocodile tears but was also playing cheap, infantile politics.
Adesina added, “Those who take pleasure in twisting statements from the Presidency may claim we are saying that many more people were killed under the PDP than under President Muhammadu Buhari. It would be unconscionable to do so.”
He said the intendment of his statement was to show that wanton killings had been with us for a while and that the incumbent government was working towards enduring solutions.
Adesina is right to an extent. There were also killings during the reign of the PDP. But the Presidential spokesman got it wrong when he started comparing what happened when PDP was in power with what is happening now. Two wrongs do not make a right.
Any student of critical thinking will tell you that Adesina’s argument is nothing but you-too fallacy or tu quoque. This is a type of argument in which a person turns a charge back on the accuser. That is, when a person does something and tries to rationalise it by claiming that his accuser did it as well. Politicians are very good at this. Mr. Adesina is not a politician. He is a thoroughbred journalist but his job as the spokesman of the president has invariably made him speak like politicians.
It has also become the stock-in-trade of this government to engage in blame game. Almost every anomaly in the country today was caused by the PDP. To the ruling party, the PDP was the reason behind our poor economy. The opposition party was responsible for the hike in exchange rate. And soon, the PDP may be accused of being behind marital and intra-party quarrels within the APC.
The truth of the matter is that what the PDP said about the Plateau killings is in order. The fundamental duty of government all over the world is the protection of life and property. Does the ruling party expect the opposition, nay Nigerians, to continue to fold their arms while innocent citizens are being daily hacked down by marauders?
Any person or group with conscience will condemn what is going on in the country currently. The carnage is such that even some world institutions have broken their silence. The United Nations, for instance, expressed concern over the increasing frequency, intensity, complexity, and geographic scope of violent conflicts across West and Central Africa. It wants the Federal Government to take action and put a check on the wanton killings. It also called on all concerned governments, regional organisations, civil society and other relevant actors to work together to find acceptable and lasting solutions to the conflicts.
On its part, the Amnesty International said its investigations show worrying details of how frequently the security forces failed to protect villagers. According to it, the attackers, usually arriving in their hundreds, spend hours killing people and setting houses on fire and then disappearing without a trace. By failing to hold murderers to account, the Federal Government, the agency regretted, was encouraging impunity that was fuelling rising insecurity across the country.
Groups like the Nigerian Governors Forum, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, PENGASSAN Jama’atu Nasril Islam and individuals like Prof. Wole Soyinka have all condemned the Plateau killings. Even the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) condemned the murders. They all called on security agencies to ensure the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators.
PDP’s crime, perhaps, is that it is in direct opposition to the ruling party. It is also unfortunate that not even our President, Muhammadu Buhari, inspired hope and trust in his own statements. He simply called for God’s intervention and attributed the Plateau killings to desperate politicians. These politicians, he noted, had increasingly cheapened human life in their quest to establish a reign of instability and chaos in the country for political gains. Buhari said through his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, that those behind the killings hoped that it would give them an advantage in the coming elections.
When it comes to human life, we should learn to do away with hypocrisy and doublespeak that are the hallmarks of politicians. The questions are: are politicians also behind the killings in Benue and elsewhere in the country? Have the security agencies interrogated the leaders of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACABAN) to ascertain the involvement or otherwise of herders in the killings? Will God’s intervention or prayers push our soldiers to take action against the terrorists?
This is why people like the Defence Minister, Mansur Dan-Ali, feel emboldened to vomit trash without qualms. The other day, he attributed the killings by herdsmen to the anti-open grazing laws in some states. The law is currently operational in Benue, Ekiti and Taraba States. According to Dan-Ali, the suspension of the law would reduce tension. But the law is not in operation in Plateau State; so can Dan-Ali tell us why the marauders still visited mayhem on Plateau?
With a Defence minister like this, you don’t need any soothsayer to tell you why the security situation in the country is comatose. And it is still inconceivable why Buhari has not deemed it fit to rejig the security architecture of the country. It is either that our security chiefs are incompetent or they are sympathetic to the cause of the attackers.
Currently, there is serious suspicion arising from the fact that almost all the heads of security agencies are from a section of the country. Little wonder, the former Minister of Defence, Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma, submitted recently that the military was biased and had embarked on ethnic cleansing in different parts of the country.
Rather than cry wolf and engage in unnecessary name calling, the Presidency should find lasting solutions to the herdsmen crises in the country. The President himself is the patron of the Miyetti Allah. I don’t understand why he cannot call them to order. He is unwittingly giving credence to the suspicion that he sympathises with them because he is one of them.
Nigeria is for all of us. It does not solely belong to any particular group. So, whoever is claiming superiority over others and even acting as such is an enemy of the state and should be treated as such. You cannot proscribe the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) which has not fired any shot at anybody and turn a blind eye to the atrocities of herdsmen who parade the streets with AK 47 rifles and engage in killing spree across the country.
Human life is more precious than that of a cow. Security agencies must begin to arrest and prosecute all those threatening the peace and unity of this country. Enough of this bloodshed!
- First published in The Sun of Monday, July 2, 2018.