By Femi Fani-Kayode
‘’No man is an island entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is less, as well as if a promontory was, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee’’ – John Donne (Meditation XVII of Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, 1600)
Today the bell tolls for Nigeria. The Department of State Security (DSS) have claimed that five Fulani herdsmen were abducted, killed and buried in a mass grave by members of IPOB in Abia state a few days ago. They have also claimed that there were up to fifty more bodies in that mass grave and that they are all Fulani.
The implication of this announcement is obvious. It will create more tension and fear in the land and it will lead to reprisal killings in the north. Violence is never the way out and I have always believed that it has no place in any civilized society. Yet, what I find curious about this announcement is the fact that it is unique and historic.
I say this because thousands of Igbos, Yorubas, Niger-Deltans and Middle Belters have been killed by Fulani militants and herdsmen over the last ten months since President Buhari came to power yet the DSS has never announced it and told the country about the details and ethnic identities of the victims.
When Shiite Muslims were slaughtered in Zaria and buried in mass graves the DSS did not speak. When Idomas were massacred in Agatu by Fulani militants the DSS did not speak.
When hundreds of southern and Middle Belt farms were raided by AK-47-wielding Fulani herdsmen who murdered, raped, burnt down and took over the land of their victims, the DSS never gave us details of the victims or made any announcements.
When our leaders in the south were kidnapped and when men witnessed their wives and children being raped and butchered by the Fulani militias before their very eyes, the DSS made no announcements. When the International Terror Index told the world that the Fulani militias in Nigeria are the “fourth most deadly terror organization in the world” the DSS said nothing and neither did they give us details about their activities or their victims.
Worse of all is the fact that our government and our President, who himself happens to be a Fulani, has never deemed it fit or necessary to condemn the activities of the Fulani herdsmen and militants and neither have they expressed any sympathy or displayed any empathy for their victims.
Let me be clear: the murder of anyone, regardless of their ethnicity or faith, is unacceptable to me. I deplore murder and violence and in my view the killing of one innocent soul diminishes the humanity of every single one of us as a community and nation.
However, it seems curious that the minute that Fulanis are killed in the east, the DSS is quick to rise to the occasion and express concern about it whilst they do not express the same concern when Nigerians from other ethnic nationalities are killed by the Fulani in their own homes and land.
Therein lies the double standard and it is sad and unfortunate. Furthermore, not only is it very dangerous but it also confirms the view that our government and security agencies are not only partial but that they are also attempting to implement an ethnic and religious agenda.
Three questions must be answered: firstly, who is funding the Fulani herdsmen and where do they get their weapons from? Secondly, why does our government not only turn a blind eye to the mass murder and genocide that they regularly indulge in but also go out of their way to protect them?
And thirdly, why do the government and security agencies have so much hatred and contempt for those that the Fulani regularly target and their victims and why do they believe that those victims do not deserve to enjoy the full protection of the Nigerian Federal Government?
Could it be because they are regarded as slaves and second class citizens? Is Fulani blood and are Fulani lives more important than others? Indeed do non-Fulani lives matter in President Buhari’s Nigeria?
Are we compelled to begin a ‘’non-Fulani lives matter’’ movement which is based and fashioned on the ‘’Black Lives Matter’’ movement in the United States of America before we can draw the attention of the world to what is going on in our country?
Is it not obvious and logical that when the security agencies refuse to protect the citizens from the murderous hordes and herdsmen from hell those citizens will eventually seek to protect themselves and go on the offensive? That is human nature and it is to be expected.
Is it not clear to those in power that when a people are convinced that their government is no longer impartial in any conflict and that the security agencies of that government have been directed to go out of their way to actively and openly support those that constantly and regularly slaughter their people, it will eventually lead to open war?
Is it so difficult to accept the fact that no government and no force from hell or on earth can compel or intimidate a man into lying down passively and silently watch his family, loved ones and kinsmen being butchered and slaughtered morning, day and night without trying to protect them and without indulging in some form of retaliation?
With the sort of things that are going on in our country today, it is time to tell ourselves some home-truths. No-one wishes to accept it let alone say it but sadly war will come to Nigeria again within the next few years. I do not want war and I consider it to be the ultimate evil but I am constrained to speak the truth and say things as I see them.
Consider the dangerous mix. A crumbling economy. An inept, weak, failing and paranoid government. A hungry, angry and increasingly desperate civilian population. An ignorant, obsessive, arrogant, insensitive, corrupt and self-absorbed political class who are out of touch with reality.
The ruthless implementation of an ethnic and religious agenda by a reckless and irresponsible government that refuses to consider the implications of taking such a course of action and that have an early-1960’s mind-set. The growing unrest, ethnic killings and sectarian murders.
A relentless clamp-down on and persecution of the opposition and all dissenting voices by the government and the use of fear as a tool of governance and control.
The constant and open abuse of power. The impunity and insensitivity of the Buhari administration to the plight of the masses. The hunger, hardship, poverty and suffering in the land. The failure of the government to get rid of the fuel queues and supply electrical power.
The demonisation of peaceful and law-abiding self-determination groups and the unlawful incarceration of their leaders. The breach of the constitutional rights of the citizens and the ignoring of court orders and judicial processes by the government.
The attempt to intimidate and control the Judiciary and Legislature by the government and so much more. The list goes on and on and history proves that such a mixture of circumstances is dangerous and can only lead to open conflict if not halted.
The country is badly divided today and the people are suffering as never before. The division and hatred amongst some of our ethnic groups has reached pre-civil war levels.
We must do our best to ensure that that division and hatred does not spill over into open war. This is because war is a terrible thing which must be avoided at all costs.