THE CHRISTMAS EVE KILLINGS ON THE PLATEAU

 THE CHRISTMAS EVE KILLINGS ON THE PLATEAU

Ike Willie-Nwobu writes that the authorities must do more to protect the poor in the countryside

For five communities of Bokkos and Barkin Ladi Local Government Areas of Plateau State, Christmas turned to carnage when their eager expectations were extinguished in the most horrible way.

 According to survivors, the killers who were dressed in military fatigues operated with military precision, slaughtering men, women, and children and sending a clear message in the process. The affected communities have continued the body count said to be above 200.

Following the devastating attacks, in which properties worth millions of Naira were also destroyed, the Nigerian authorities have sought to make all the right noises.

The Plateau State government, while lamenting the attacks, has said that a repeat cannot be risked. The military authorities have promised the most forceful of responses to what was a devastating act of terror.

The federal government had sent a delegation led by vice-president Kashim Shettima for an assessment of the wreckage, and to condole with the victims.

Looking at the response since the devastating attacks which turned hitherto wretched communities to death zones, it is impossible not to be hit by a familiar wave of nostalgia and even nausea.

Nigeria has been here before, many times, and the attacks in Plateau State showed a country still firmly wedded to its recent past. Nigeria may have turned a new leaf in May, but its recent past is punctuated by as much horror as incompetence. In the days when Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s immediate former president, held the reins of power, attacks such as the one recorded in Plateau State regularly claimed lives and properties while the authorities did next to nothing.

Plateau State has long been a boiling pot of simmering ethnic and religious tension. Things have often boiled over in the past, and while the peace in the state remains largely that of the graveyard, attacks recently have had a terrorist as well as a political texture to it.

Resource control may be at the root of the attacks, but there is also evidence that the sponsors and perpetrators are inspired by politics.

While Nigeria hurries to hatch a belated response to the horrific attacks, the survivors and victims nurse an overwhelming sense of disappointment in a country that has again failed to protect them.

It is an incontestable truth that Nigeria’s virulent brand of terrorism has heaved its biggest victims out of Nigeria’s poorest and most vulnerable communities. Already lacking necessities as a result of the country’s failure to make its rural communities the centerpiece of its apoplectic development, they have often been forced to endure and survive atrocious conditions and circumstances. Without adequate electricity, water, healthcare and infrastructure, the standard of living in the rural areas is generally appalling

If Nigeria’s rural communities also have to weather attacks like that of December 24 in addition to the poverty and neglect they have had to endure, then they have every right to question their place within the entity called Nigeria.

It is heartbreaking that just about a month after the tragedy at Tudun Biri, those forced to live on the margins of the Nigerian society have again been inexplicably forced to bury their dead.

The Nigerian experience is that in the face of such tragedies, empty condolences and commitments flow. The empty words only paper over the cracks and muddle up issues before the next attack.

President Bola Tinubu promised Nigerians renewed hope upon resuming office on May 29, 2023. He has been in office for a mere eight months and fully deserves the benefit of doubt. But if an attack of this nature becomes the theme of his first tenure in office, then he can only expect that his administration will be remembered as one in which doom and gloom prevailed while terrorists enjoyed a field day.

As for those who play politics with the lives of innocent men, women and children, Nigeria has to finally confirm it has no place for them.

Ikewilly9@gmail.com

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