Lt. General Theophilus Danjuma (rtd) stirred up a hornet’s nest recently when he called on Nigerians to rise in self-defence against killer herdsmen who have displayed an unrelenting thirst for human blood. He blamed the government and the security agencies which have shown articulable suspicion of collusion in the mindless carnage being perpetuated by herdsmen. The unwillingness of the Buhari-led government to stem the killings is well known. We have even seen excuses and some justification for the unending killings by top officials of the government.
I dare say it took Danjuma too long to speak out against the atrocities going on in the North-east and all over the country. It should have come much sooner and it probably would have saved some lives. However at a time when nearly everyone seems to have lost their marbles, it is reassuring that Danjuma spoke out. And I say it here with all sense of patriotism, it was the right call.
The call was very significant, not just because of who it came from in the Nigerian military/political firmament, but because of what the call represents – a weighty vote of no confidence in President Muhammadu Buhari’s leadership and the military high command he presides over. It is the third vote of no confidence from the military constituency of ex-generals of which Buhari is an elite member.
First was in a letter by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, followed a few weeks later by former military President Ibrahim Babangida who did a public dressing down of the Buhari government. Both practically accused Buhari whom they backed to power in 2015 of incompetence in managing the affairs of the country. Anyone who claims otherwise must either be living in an alternate reality, or deserves to be evaluated for his sanity. Buhari has ruined our country; he has ruined our security agencies by his nepotistic and clannish appointments of unqualified persons to sensitive security positions.
There is no doubt that Danjuma’s call rattled the government and it should because it has realised that its complicity in the killing of so many innocent people is well known. Danjuma bluntly told the government to its face that the people have lost confidence and trust in it and its ability to rein in blood-thirsty killers called herdsmen. According to him, “There is an attempt at ethnic cleansing in the state and of course, in some riverine and rural states in Nigeria. We must resist it. We must stop it. Every one of us must rise up.
“Our Armed Forces are not neutral. They collude with the armed bandits to kill people, kill Nigerians. The Armed Forces guide their movements. They cover them. If you are depending on the Armed Forces to stop the killings, you will all die one by one. This ethnic cleansing must stop in Taraba State and other rural states of Nigeria, otherwise Somalia will be child’s play. I ask every one of you to be alert and defend your country, defend your territory and defend your state. Defend yourselves…”
There are those (mostly regime apologists) who diminish the danger we are contending with by resurrecting Danjuma’s past misdeeds. I am reluctant to join this narrative even though I acknowledge that his past is replete with a mixture of good and evil – revulsion, bravery and success borne out of opportunism. But immersing myself in that debate at this material time is a not-so-productive way to tackle this incompetent and disastrous government, neither will it help to move Nigeria forward considering the fierce urgency of the challenges we now face.
If killings were tolerated in the past, must we tolerate such now? Or must we say Danjuma’s stark call should be dismissed offhand just because he still has some explaining to do on his military track record? I am not a fan of the ex-general, but I wholeheartedly align myself with his message. If those communities don’t defend themselves in the face of unrelenting killings buoyed by government’s inaction, nay connivance, what do you think will be their fate? Should they all just sit idly by and wait to be killed by herdsmen?
The life of every Nigerian is precious irrespective of tribe, ethnicity or religion. This government’s inaction, its casual attitude to the killings, and its baffling rationalisation of same underscore its underlining complicity. This precisely is where the substance behind the suspicion of its complicity lies. And the continued refusal of those who must defend every action or otherwise of this government, to even acknowledge this self-evident fact remains a disturbing pathology. All these engender an atmosphere of impunity.
I dare say it would be a misguided effort and a political malpractice of historical proportions to use the impunity and wrongs of the past to justify and defend the impunity and bloodletting of today as some heretics of truth are wont to do. By no stretch of the imagination could Danjuma’s message be muddled by his past misdeeds. It is inexcusable that the bloodletting has gone on for this long with no one held to account.
Yet, all our do-nothing-president can say is “accommodate your fellow Nigerians”. This was several weeks after hundreds of innocent people had been massacred in an unprovoked attack by the very same privileged and above-the-law herdsmen he wants accommodated. The irony is the inconsistency in the narrative that comes from Buhari. Just on Wednesday in London, where he is probably seeing his doctors in secret, he blamed the herdsmen’s menace on Libya’s Muammar Gadaffi whom the president said had trained the herdsmen and had escaped the Sahel with their arms. If we are to accept this recent excuse from Buhari, what in essence he was asking Nigerians to do is to “accommodate” mostly foreign militias masquerading as herdsmen in our midst!!! But then again, what should we expect from a president, who when unscripted, is in the habit of spewing forth a load of bunkum?
The current leadership’s reluctance to take decisive action against these well-armed killer herdsmen has not only undermined the people’s trust in it, but now fuels Danjuma’s call for self-defence. It is a last resort for Nigerians after Buhari’s body language has made it clear that we should not expect much, by way of protection from his government. And of course, the first law of nature is self-preservation and it cannot be taken away by any government.
Let me remind those who now take umbrage at Danjuma’s self-defence clarion call, that Nigeria’s defence minister Mansur Dan-Ali, who somewhat doubles as the defence minister of killer herdsmen, had offered a very provocative justification for the killings straight after attending a security council meeting presided over by Buhari in the State House, Abuja recently. He sided with the killer herdsmen against affected communities, asking, if the grazing routes are blocked, what do you expect the herdsmen to do. “You see, whenever a crisis happens at any time, there are remote and immediate causes. Look at this issue (of killings in Benue and Taraba), what is the remote cause of this farmers’ crisis? Since the nation’s Independence, we know there used to be routes where the cattle rearers took because they are all over the nation. You go to Bayelsa, Ogun, you will see them. If those routes are blocked, what do you expect will happen?
“These people are Nigerians. It is just like going to block the shoreline, does that make sense to you? These are the remote causes of the crisis. But the immediate cause is the grazing law. These people are Nigerians and we must learn to live together with each other. Communities and other people must learn how to accept foreigners within their enclave, finish!” he said. This was said in the midst of a national outrage over the unbroken streak of killings in Benue and Taraba States. Folks, what is the meaning of Dan-Ali’s “If those routes are blocked, what do you expect will happen?”
Danjuma called on Nigerians to defend themselves from officially sanctioned killings by herdsmen as a corollary of Dan-Ali’s statement. Most of these guys were silent when Dan-Ali made that official position of the government to the killings known. It was a surreal moment to see Nigeria’s defence minister justifying the unabated killings by herdsmen. How could he do that? Just how could he have said that? Yet not many challenged his prognosis of the farmers-herdsmen conflicts. It is frightening how human life has been so casually devalued and how many now so carelessly accept the heinous crime of mass murder as a way of life in this clime. There is hardly the kind of outrage one would see in time past to the daily massacre of people. The clear double standard of this government is even more pronounced when one compares the speed with which this government declared IPOB a terrorist organisation and the red carpet treatment Miyatti Allah gets.
Why many still support this government despite its failure to deliver even “mundane matters of governance” is beyond me. This government is a failure by every measure. It has achieved nothing in three years in office. It took it that long to produce a controversial looters’ list. By the way, why is former Governor Orji Kalu’s name, the unofficial spokesman of “Buhari for president 2019”, not on the list of looters? Is it because he defected to the APC and has been vigorously campaigning for a second term for Buhari? Only recently, the EFCC came out to tell Nigerians that the star prosecution witness in its case against the former governor has suddenly and conveniently disappeared. Yet, this same anti-graft agency wants to be taken seriously for fighting corruption. Who is gaming the system here? One day, monkey go, go market, e no go come back.
Chief John Odigie-Oyegun today regales us with “if not for Buhari, Nigeria would have ceased to exist”. But Oyegun is a man in the twilight of his life. Unfortunately, he still lacks the courage to call a spade its true name. Under Buhari, Nigeria is gradually disappearing and if this government continues, as Oyegun wants, his children’s children may have no country to inherit.
As worrying as that may seem, I am more troubled by the indifference of a great many who have refused to speak out in the face of a clear and present danger to our country. The time of choosing is fast approaching, everyone must play a role. It is either you are with Buhari or you are with Nigeria. This is not the time to sit on the fence because in the immortal words of Martin Luther King Jr, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
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