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 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? To put it mildly, the enablement the state apparatuses provide these herdsmen that has made them so pompous, lawless and daring is perplexing.
Apart from the danger in the insane logic of comparing men to cows and placing a higher premium on cows than the lives of fellow humans, the gleeful display of violence and savagery towards people deemed to have committed any infraction against their cows by their warped logic is befuddling. Watching videos of dead bodies – all victims of herdsmen, drove me numb. How can this be happening in Nigeria of the 21st century? The sheer audacity and brazen effrontery of the leadership of the association of the marauding herdsmen – Miyetti Allah, beggars belief. For God’s sake, how can the life of a cow be more precious than the life of a human being? They justified the killings as if they were in the right; and with such condescending callousness and casual cruelty that leaves you at a loss for words. They even exhibited this provocative attitude in the presence of the Inspector General of Police, with all his accoutrements backed by the force of office and other security operatives who have so far done absolutely nothing to enforce the law – call it unbelievable abdication of responsibility and scandalous betrayal of the oath of office.
It is this reluctance to act and apply the full weight of the law against these killers and the cold silence of government officials that is raising articulable suspicion of official connivance. Buoyed by this official enablement, there is now a constant contemptuousness to the behaviour and attitudes of the herdsmen that give one a chilling feeling of unease that danger lurks – even more and more menacingly by the day.
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.
It is strange to witness our dear country in this state. Words fail me to express how I feel about what is happening to Nigeria. Words fail me to describe the tragedy of our failed leadership model that produced myopic, ethnic and religious bigot as leaders. Nigeria was not always like this. What happened? Fulani herdsmen were not always like this, what happened? What has transformed these once-upon-a-time peaceful nomads into marauding, blood-thirsty murderers? Who are the suppliers of their arms? Why is the government turning a blind eye to the ongoing slaughter of its own citizens on the weak premise that it is a state affair? The present escalation of violence by killer herdsmen appears to be a direct result of Buhari’s election as president. And his government’s negligent handling of the crisis is quite telling.
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.
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. 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. “We are politicians and those of us you see here want the president to contest the 2019 election. We have no apologies for that.
“We believe in Mr. President; we want him to continue running the country in the right direction. People can speculate about 2019, we have no apologies. Whether they are right or wrong is beside the point.
“Everybody is entitled to his own opinion, but as governors, and most of us here with the exception of the Yobe governor, are first-time governors. We are interested in continuity and stability and we want the president to continue with that,” he concluded.
I felt sick to my stomach as I read that statement several times to be sure I was reading correctly. How can these people be this insensitive? Why couldn’t they just wait for a few days to allow the nation heal before endorsing their hero who at that time had yet to condemn the killings? What has happened to our humanity? What a shame! The arrogance of these governors is clearly palpable and it is frightening how they treat those who elected them.
Bello and El Rufai have even contributed N50 million each towards the president’s yet-to-be-declared ambition. None of these governors has commiserated with the families of the victims of the herdsmen attacks. However, the Plateau State governor, Solomon Lalong after initially displaying his dark pleasure at the plight of Benue people, wore back his humanity, did the right thing and apologised for his insensitive remarks about the Anti-grazing Law enacted by Benue State legislature.
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. Folks, the more this government shouts “change”, the more things get worse.