How many people will have to be killed before President Muhammadu Buhari wakes up to his responsibility of protecting Nigerians, Tobi Soniyi asks
Hardly a day passes by without a disheartening report of killings in one part of the country.
While the nation was still mourning the death of 36 people killed in Birane Village in Zurmi Local Government Area of Zamfara State, news broke out that 18 people had been killed in Borno by suspected Boko Haram suicide bombers. Not less than 22 people were badly injured as a result of the attack
Last month, Nigerians watched helplessly and with anger as 59 victims of Fulani herdsmen’s attacks in Benue State were laid to rest.
Before then, many people have been killed in Taraba and Zamfara states While the controversies over the killings in Benue State raged on, there were several killings in the state.
At the time this piece was being written there was a report that at least nine people have been killed in Oyo State in violence between herdsmen and farmers.
Oyo State police commissioner, Abiodun Odude who announced the killings said the deceased included a senior police officer.
Speaking after a meeting to review the security situation, the Oyo State governor, Abiola Ajimobi, directed security agencies to begin the immediate arrest and prosecution of any herder caught carrying guns and other dangerous weapons across the state.
The governor gave the directive at a stakeholders’ meeting aimed at dousing the tension triggered by the incessant herdsmen-farmers clash in the state.
The meeting was attended by the representatives of farmers, Fulani herdsmen, security agencies and other stakeholders, at the House of Chiefs, Secretariat, Ibadan.
In Delta State, the Isokos have made a passionate appeals to both the state governor, Ifeanyi Okowa and the President Muhammadu Buhari
As it is, no state is safe from herdsmen, bandits or militia’s attacks. The nation obviously has a national crisis in its hand but the leaders and those in charge of the country don’t seem to know. At the rate at which we are going, many more will still lose their lives to these killings because our security agencies are not smart enough to stop the killings.
Elsewhere, the death of a policeman will spur the authority into taking decisive action. But not in Nigeria. Policemen are killed like fowls but nobody is arrested and prosecuted for the killings! In the circumstance, no one should expect our policemen to do magic If we don’t care about their lives why should they risk theirs protecting us?
It is bad enough that people are being killed without anyone being held accountable for the killings, it is even worse that government does not have the actual number of the people killed. Even though this is 2018, Nigeria is back in the ancient world depicted by Thomas Hobbes where life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”
Nigerians were further enraged by the response of President Muhammadu Buhari to the killings. Even though his aides had attempted to prove otherwise, the president was nonchalant. He even refused to sympathise with those who had lost relatives to the killings. In the United States of America, President Donald Trump visited relatives of the victims of the Florida school shooting.
Like many other Nigerians, Kassim Afegbua, the media aide to former military head of state, Ibrahim Babangida expressed his frustration thus: “They were burying 73 victims in Benue, my president was having dinner with already overfed APC chieftains. They were burying 41 victims in Zamfara, my president was having talks with APC governors. Trump addressed America over 17 victims of a gunman. Actually it may not be about age, but value system, exposure and leadership style If I complain now, Buharists would come for my neck. There is no value for human life in this clime. And the government of President Buhari is making matters worse. Do you need further evidence why i should not withhold my vote in 2019?”
Unable to hold back his anger, the former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Prof Chidi Odinkalu condemned the narrow-minded and sectional handling of the killings in Nigeria by President Buhari.
Odinkalu berated the president for not sending even a representative to the people of Benue State after the mass killings of at least 73 persons by Fulani herdsmen.
He condemned the sectional argument by some people that the Fulanis were also killed in Numan, Adamawa State as inhuman and baseless.
He stated that the president’s authority was being destroyed by the perception of his ethnic proclivity and stressed that Buhari has failed to protect the lives of Nigerians.
He said: “Every Nigerian is president Buhari’s person.
“Once a president gets involved or gets caught in the perception of being involved in that kind of mindset, his authority is destroyed.
“He cannot afford to be put in the position of being portrayed as your people, my people.
“Every Nigerian whether you are 97 per cent or 5 per cent, to use his words, you are President Buhari’s person.
“So what happens to you should bother him and according to our constitution, the protection of the people is the responsibility of the president and as far as I am concerned, the president has failed in that primary responsibility.”
Odinkalu also condemned the federal government’s treatment of Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky and the shiites in Nigeria and accused it of siding with the Saudi Arabian Wahabbi Sunni government.
He said: “In 2015 December, six trucks collected the bodies of 347 dead Nigerians and in an operation that included over 47 soldiers, they took over six hours to bury these Nigerians in mass graves.
“The only reason this happened to Shiites is because they are Shiites.
“There is a lot of Saudi money flowing into all manner of places promoting their version of Islam.”
Odinkalu also raised the alarm over the various arrests of persons, including bloggers, for exercising their freedom of speech.
A former Chief of Defence Staff, Alani Akinrinade had also criticised the federal government’s handling of the herdsmen crisis in the country.
The retired army general noted that armed herdsmen had been on the rampage months killing, maiming, raping, burning, kidnapping without any efforts by the federal government to stop them.
“It was recently when our president was called out as the patron of his kinsmen, the herdsmen, that letters of complaints and its denials between the federal executive, the police and governors in distress started circulating that he gave feeble, unclear, halfhearted order to stop the carnage.
According to him, the last two or so years in our country, appears to be like a tragic thriller movie in slow motion, full of abject cruelty of the highest order of barbarity, edged on by those we elected or selected to give us leadership in this country.
He also warned that another attack on the likes of Olu Falae, might lead to anarchy in the country.
Because of their perverse views, those in charge of security are unable to come up with any strategy to stop the killings. They are only waiting for another killing to happen. The confused minister of defence, Dan Ali has not told us why 41 people were killed in Zamfara State afterall Zamfara has yet to pass an anti-gazing law. He also needs to tell us why nine people were killed in Oyo where there is also no anti-grazing law. The least Nigerians expect from him is to resign his appointment Why holding on to a job if you can’t do it?
Similarly, the Inspector General of Police, Abubakar Idris, despite all the intelligence reports in his possession, described the killings in Benue as a communal misunderstanding.
Moving forward, something has to change. First, even though it is belated, the president should visit states affected by these killings to reassure them of his commitment to protecting lives and properties.
Secondly, he should change the leadership of security agencies and appoint people with fresh ideas to help him tackle the problems.
Government should give all herdsmen an ultimatum to surrender their arms, after all these arms are illegal. After the ultimatum, government should disarm those who refuse to surrender their arms. Nobody has denied the claim that herdsmen carry arms but yet no one has made attempt to collect the arms from them. The police have accused the Benue State government of giving arms to vigilante to attack herdsmen, an allegation vehemently denied by the state. Does it not bother the police that the herdsmen are openly carrying and displaying their arms?
In the interim, vulnerable states should come together and adopt measures that will help to reduce the influx of herdsmen into their states since the federal government has refused and neglected to come to their aid.
The president will have to mobilise Nigerians behind him to come up with a solution to these killings. He will have to show leadership.
Even though this is 2018, Nigeria is back in the ancient world depicted by Thomas Hobbes where life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”