By Chris Gyang
“A stitch in time saves nine” is a timeless adage handed down to mankind. It’s meant to always remind us that, when we squarely face seemingly intractable problems and immediately proceed to find solutions, the possibility of solving them is much greater.
But when we deliberately procrastinate for selfish reasons and allow them take root, they grow and then threaten our very existence.
In September this year, the Global Terrorism Index ranked Nigeria as the third most terrorized country on earth. Afghanistan and Iraq were first and second respectively. But that was only a confirmation of a very familiar and vicious reality that many Nigerians grapple with daily.
Aside the Islamist terrorists that have pursued a relentlessly brutal jihadist campaign in Nigeria’s North East, the Central Zone is also experiencing an unprecedented onslaught by Fulani militia. They have killed, maimed and destroyed property of the indigenous peoples; forcibly annexing and occupying ancestral lands.
International human rights groups have also labelled these brutal herdsmen as terrorists. But, interestingly, their atrocious activities have gained the greatest momentum during the presidency of Buhari – a Fulani himself. It’s instructive to note that, up till today, not a single Fulani herdsmen has been brought to justice on account of these atrocities – even when they openly boast about their culpability in the media.
Today, for instance, thousands of indigenes have been rendered refugees in their homeland as they have fled and are living in squalid IDP camps. The situation is the same in most parts of Southern Kaduna where the killings, destruction and land-grabbing are rife.
Sadly, Nigeria’s North West has not been spared these growing waves of unbridled violence that are gradually becoming the norm rather than the exception nationwide. For instance, in Buhari’s own Katsina State, citizens have been forced to resort to public demonstrations, carrying placards, to express their anger at the inability of the central government, controlled by their son, to save them from the hands of the well armed bandits who roam freely, pillaging, kidnapping, raping mothers and daughters and killing defenceless citizens.
On this score, youth in that state have even held protests demanding the resignation of the president.
This state of apprehension and uncertainty pervades most of the other states in this region. That was why, recently, the Sultan of Sokoto, one of the most respected Islamic leaders in the country, lamented that the situation has so deteriorated that citizens who perpetually live on tenterhooks now wait in their houses ready with their ransom payments and payouts for the bandits to avoid being kidnapped or attacked.
There are also reports that in some parts of that region, the bandits regularly collect taxes from citizens. They have become recognised legal entities in themselves.
It’s against this backdrop of growing unease and lawlessness that the jihadists struck Zabarmari. They left in their wake 43 bodies of slaughtered rice farmers who had gone to harvest their crop. The United Nations office in Nigeria has disclosed that after the initial victims were buried on Sunday, about 110 more bodies were later discovered.
Certainly, the entire world was as shocked by the number of victims as by the sheer barbarity and the meticulous and calculated manner they went about the gory business of either slitting their victims’ throats or beheading them. But this is not the first time Nigerians are witnessing these kinds of unspeakable atrocities.
As Boko Haram and its offshoot, the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), the Fulani milia and the well organised gangs of bandits continue to wax deadlier and become even more brazen, more and more Nigerians are being killed in cold blood, many more are abducted, their means of livelihoods destroyed and their lush ancestral lands annexed and converted to cattle grazing fields.
Unfortunately, this is happening just as the Buhari government continues to dish out its traditional platitudes about having “technically defeated” the terrorists, given the armed forces the marching orders to mop up the few remaining terrorists and assuring citizens of its commitment towards restoring permanent peace to all trouble spots.
Nevertheless, most Nigerians strongly believe that the Buhari administration has not shown the much desired commitment towards tackling these spiralling waves of insecurity in the country. They think that the government is merely paying lip service to a very complex and life threatening matter that deserves seriousness, courage, wisdom, political sagacity and military tact.
Analysts say that, in the case of the Middle Belt, the Buhari government took the side of the Fulani herdsmen immediately he became president.
And although the respective situations in the north east and west may be attributed to the fact that Buhari has totally lost control of Nigeria’s armed forces, Nigerians argue that if the administration had decisively and swiftly nipped the Fulani terrorism in the Central Zone in the bud, the reign of the bandits in the north west may have not even started in the first place.
They contend that allowing the killer herdsmen to carry on their heinous crimes against indigenous peoples unhindered was giving the signal that violence is not only permissible but can even be openly, unashamedly, aided by state players.
It must be stressed that many here are of the opinion that had the Buhari government not played the Islamist/expansionist card with regard to the Middle Belt carnage, most other violent situations, especially that in North West, may most likely not have had the impetus to materialize.
Definitely, a stitch in time would have saved nine. And, consequently, even the Boko Haram insurgency would have been minimised because the same measure of determination, fairness and honesty would have been invested in the campaign against them.
And still dwelling on determination, fairness and honesty, it is worthy of note that Nigerians were justifiably outraged at the comments attributed to the President Buhari’s senior media aide – Mallam Garba Shehu – in the aftermath of the Zabarmari massacre.
He had maintained that the victims did not seek “clearance” from the military in the area before embarking on that ill-fated rice harvest. He was implying that, had they sought that “permission”, they would have been stopped from going to the farms and, therefore, would have surely not met such brutal deaths. In other words, the victims were solely to blame for the fate that befell them.
Once again, the president’s chief spin doctor was callously dancing on the graves of innocent citizens whose lives were needlessly wasted due his boss’ inability to live up to his main constitutional duty of protecting their lives and property.
But according to political analysts, this is not surprising considering the administration’s lack of seriousness, direction and political will to decisively deal with this lingering danger. They note that had the president been deeply concerned about this deteriorating state of affairs, he would have since hearkened to the unanimous and collective plea of majority of Nigerians to change the current service chiiefs.
This is not only because more than 90% of them are of the same religion as the president (which goes against the spirit of our constitution), but these security top brass have apparently run out of ideas on how the current challenge of insecurity can be successfully confronted.
Most of them are more concerned about the perks of their offices rather than the responsibilities and obligations that of necessity go with them. In fact, some of them are known to have lobbied and got federal universities to be sited in their villages!
In the meantime, the terrorists, the Fulani militia, bandits, kidnappers and sundry criminals continue to become more and more sophisticated. And while they are are also progressing in strategy, motivation and drive, our security chiefs have not been able to reinvent themselves and their officers and men to be able to effectively preempt their every move.
Many other Nigerians have observed that Mallam Shehu’s insensitive position about the Zabarmari bloodbath is a common and familiar thread that runs through the views and utterances of most of Buhari’s principal officers. They attribute this to, first, a dearth of ideas necessary for handling sensitive, critical and strategic state matters. Second, this is due to a general lack of direction on the part of key officers because the president who is supposed to give that direction has himself lost focus.
Nigerians still recall the comments of the other media aide of the president, Femi Adesina, when the country stood up and resolutely rejected plans by the administration to corner indigenous lands for setting up cattle colonies for Fulani herdsmen. An exasperated Adesina had said he thought it would have been safer and more appropriate for Nigerians to cede their ancestral lands for the cattle of the Fulani rather continue to be under deadly attacks by their militia.
This immediately drew nationwide approbrium. All of these utterances by the president’s Mene should serve as red flags about this administration’s lukewarm and lackadaisical attitude towards not only sensitive security issues but the general governance and well being of our country and her citizens.
Which is why we must point out that underlying the security challenges confronting Nigeria are some fundamental concerns that must be resolved before our country can experience any meaningful, sustainable peace.
These concerns relate to the nature and extent of the inequitable distribution of our nation’s commonwealth and the imbalances in the power equation – all of which are skewed in favour of only one religious and two tribal groups. This is in a geo-political entity comprising more than two hundred ethnic nationalities, most of which are fiercely independent and proud of their respective ancestral pedigrees.
In short, therefore, without a total restructuring of Nigeria’s economic and political superstructures, the attainment of any semblance of peace will continue to be a mirage. This is because there can never be peace without justice.
Those who deceive themselves into believing that the #ENDSARS protests were strictly against SARS operatives’ brutality, extortion, etc, and that the protests are over for good need to do a thorough rethink. The objective truth is that those spontaneous erruptions of the anger of Nigerian youth was deeply rooted in the inequities outlined above.
But Buhari and his people staunchly oppose any move that will upset the status quo because it unduly favours them, to the detriment of the majority of Nigerians.
But could this general state of apprehension and tension just be providing Buhari and his people the convenient atmosphere, cover and diversion to perfect their nefarious agenda of further tilting the balance of power in their favour?
Their ultimate goal: A colony?
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