FEATURE ARTICLE

Tuesday, June 8, 2021
okerekeoc@gmail.com

THE PRIMACY OF HUMAN LIFE AND FREEDOM - A NIGERIAN LIFE MATTERS

Expect shock of your lives, Buhari warns secessionists", this was the headline of a Nigeriaworld report of Wednesday, June 2. His very words as quoted were: "Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand. We are going to be very hard sooner than later. I receive daily security reports on the attacks, and it is very clear that those behind them want this administration to fail. These attacks are totally unacceptable, and we will not allow those behind them to achieve their evil objectives."

hese statements are liable to interpretation in at least, two ways. The first is the warning that irrespective of your complaints and how you express them, stop everything and fall in line, accept whatever the government is doing unconditionally, otherwise, we are going to deal with you "very hard, sooner than later".

The second interpretation, which is quite charitable because it is not really in consonance with the words of the warning and their meaning, but it is more appropriate as a presidential and statesmanlike statement. I would suggest the following message: Fellow compatriots, irrespective of your grievances and how you express them, I request that we need to engage in constructive discussions by bringing to the table our problems so that we can discuss and resolve them peacefully in the interest of our nation.

Going forward with this second constructive interpretation, it is pertinent to submit that some policies and activities of this Presidency have created problems which majorly cause the insecurity and dangers in the country that greatly devalue human life. Two of them are discussed in this write-up in the hope that the Presidency will be challenged to address them, if nothing, to prove that they are interested in working for the unity of our country. The term, Presidency, written in the capital and may be used in plural in this write-up to represent the President and his team. It is preferred to the use of President except when the statements of the President are being addressed.

The grievances that need addressing include the following:

" Deliberate and persistent ignoring the federal character principle in making federal government appointments.

" Unleashing the Fulani herdsmen on the nation

Expounding these two points

" Deliberate and persistent ignoring the federal character principle in making federal government appointments.

It was a surprise to read, as reported in a headline of the Nigeriaworld of Tuesday, May 25, that Mallam Garba Shehu, speaking for the Presidency, stated that it is the "constitutional right" of the Fulani herdsmen to enjoy the same rights as any Nigerian in any state of the country. No one should deny any Nigerian the right to live normally as others. However, it is observed, through many reports, that the Fulani herdsmen kill the members of the local communities they invade with their AK47 rifles and destroy their homes. A list of some of their killings is discussed later in this paper in the section on "Killing Fields of Nigeria".

Nevertheless, the surprise here is the emphasis on the constitutional right of every Nigerian to expect and receive fair treatment. Can it really be the case that Mallam Shehu and his colleagues cannot and do not see the glaring injustice, and destruction of the sense of belonging of other Nigerians, represented in the deliberate policy of this Presidency to make most appointments to favour the Fulani Muslim North only. This policy is clearly a calculated negation and nullification of the tenets of the federal character requirements that should ensure that every Nigerian is treated fairly. Mallam Shehu, please understand that this is a major cause of dissatisfaction and rejection of the current federal government. The Presidency is deliberately disregarding the federal character requirement, thereby destroying an important component of the "glue" that should help hold together the multicultural and multitribal groups that constitute the Nigerian nation into an egalitarian society. Yet, the Presidency is talking about one Nigeria, a country whose unity is being destroyed by the deliberate presidential actions and appointments.

Therefore, going forward in our presumed desire to build a united and egalitarian country, the abandonment of the federal character requirement has to end. Reparations should be made to the marginalised non-Fulani Nigerians by reviewing the appointments to reflect the federal character. This will demonstrate that the talk of one Nigeria by the Presidency is not just empty, window-dressing political slogan. Otherwise, the Presidency should realise that they are majorly contributory to the insecurity and divisions in the country, including responsibility for the "secessionist" moves.

Unleashing the Fulani herdsmen on the nation.

In the same report alluded to earlier, Mallam Garba Shehu, addressed the decision of the Southern Governors on May 11 in Asaba, banning open grazing in their states, describing it as "politicking" and that it offered " no solution" to the "herder -farmer clashes that have been continuing in the country for generations". According to Mallam Shehu, the President had "signed off" back in "April, specific measures to permanently end the frequent skirmishes". This was supposed to have been done "well before the actions of the Southern Governors' Forum".

With all due respect, Mallam Shehu, since the President stated that he receives daily reports from the Intelligence on the security situation in the country, he should be well informed of the continual killings, and wastage of human lives perpetrated by the Fulani herdsmen. The "solution, approved and signed, by the President" has not made any impact because the killings continue.

There are questions that beg for answers on this subject, and they include the following:

  • Why should the Fulani herdsman be carrying about the deadly AK-47?

  • Why can they not be arrested by the security agencies even when it is clear that they are murdering peaceful communities?

  • One other salient point is that each of those herdsmen could not have bought his rifle. Who are those buying and distributing them to the herdsmen?

  • Why are the officers of Department of State Security (DSS) not charged with tracking and arresting their sponsors?

  • There are other tradesmen in the country, why is the President particularly interested in the Fulani herdsmen?

  • Why is he protecting and encouraging these herdsmen who are rampaging the whole country, shedding blood of peaceful communities who they attack at night?

  • Operation "python dance" was visited on the South-east; why should the Presidency not use such an operation to stop all the killings?

It is equally relevant to disagree with the statement that the "herder -farmer clashes that have been continuing in the country for generations". The fact is that country had never seen a situation in which herdsmen carried about, AK47 rifles killing innocent Nigerians in their sleep. It never happened until the coming of this Presidency.

Unleashing the killer herdsmen onto Nigerians has led to the response by various states of assembling local vigilante groups. The killings by these herdsmen have resulted in blood baths in which even the security agencies have been implicated as not only protecting the herdsmen but also in colluding with them to kill the local vigilantes and other youths not involved in the fighting. The Igbo youths of the South East states have suffered so many ex-judicial killings by the security agencies; some of these are published "triumphantly" .

No Nigerian should be killed, Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Fulani and security persons. However, unleashing Fulani herdsmen who go on killing sprees with their rifles is a serious crime against this country and destroys the argument for one Nigeria by the Presidency.

It is the case that the human lives being wasted are also protected by the constitution. It is certainly a constitutional responsibility of the President to protect the life of every Nigerian. With the overly emphasis on the activities of the herdsmen, please, a human life is far more important than the life of a cow.

The Killing Fields of Nigeria

Originally, "The Killing Fields are a number of sites in Cambodia where collectively more than a million people were killed and buried by the Khmer Rouge regime (the Communist Party of Kampuchea) during its rule of the country from 1975 to 1979, immediately after the end of the Cambodian Civil War (1970-1975). The mass killings are widely regarded as part of a broad state-sponsored genocide (the Cambodian genocide)".

The Killing Fields of Nigeria have been used to describe the killings that have been going on by the Fulani herdsmen under this Presidency. Sadly, their interest has been to state the constitutional rights of the herdsmen to go to any state of the country without any let or hindrance in spite of the many killings attributed to them.

The list below contains brief reports of the killings and their dates. It could be a "tip of the iceberg". It will require research and the publication of a book to record most of the killings that have taken place in this country since this Presidency.

This short list is given in two sections, which are: incidents when the killings were first reported in 2017 and incidents happening in May and June 2021.

To start with, two cases are discussed briefly below to show that the evil of the killer herdsmen came into the country with this Presidency. The first is taken from a report with the headline: "Soyinka condemns Buhari, El Rufai's handling of Southern Kaduna killings" on 12/01/2017, by Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief, Vanguard: "Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka has condemned the manner President Muhammadu Buhari and Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El Rufai handled the mass killings in Southern Kaduna.

Indigenes of Southern Kaduna claimed that more than 800 innocent and defenceless people, mostly women, children and the elderly were brutally murdered and whole villages burnt down by suspected Fulani herdsmen without the state and federal governments doing anything concrete to stop them, until much havoc had been done.

He spoke at the launch of the book entitled: "Religion and the Making of Nigeria", in Abuja. Among other statements, he said: "And yet some weeks before the latest outrage, the governor of that state was quoted to have claimed that peace was nigh since he had sent funds to the earlier wave of killers and they had agreed to end their killing spree".

This report underlines the fact that the activities of the herdsmen killing innocent persons and burning communities were new to the country such that even the state governor was quoted as stating that he had offered money to stop the killer herdsmen from continuing with their activities and they had agreed to end their killings. With the benefit of hindsight, they have not stopped since 2017.

The second account had the headline: "Herdsmen attacks: Defend yourselves or you'll all die -T Y Danjuma". This was reported by Nwafor Polycarp Vanguard, Sunday, March 25, 2018. Speaking in Jalingo, Taraba State, during the maiden convocation of the state university, Retired Lt. General T.Y. Danjuma advised Nigerians to depend less on the Nigerian Armed Forces who are now reportedly biased in their operations. He accused the Armed Forces of "colluding with the armed bandits to attack innocent Nigerians. He continued: "if you depend on them to stop the killings, you will all die one by one". He advised the people to rise up and "protect themselves" from killings by "ethnic cleansers." He warned that unless there is a rethink in the way the military carries out its duties, "Somalia will be a child's play. Defend your country, defend your state and defend yourselves. "He stressed that since the people have nowhere else to go, they must "collectively resist any attempt that would frustrate the growth of the country."

General Danjuma, like many other Nigerians, was informed of the violent attacks by the herdsmen which in the first 10 weeks of 2018 alone, resulted in reportedly over 1351 deaths. It was also reported that suspected herdsmen at Dong village in Jos North Local Government Area of Plateau State displayed a show of force on Saturday, March 24th, shooting sporadically into the air. The SATURDAY PUNCH reported that "between January 25 and March 12, 2018, the Irigwe area in Plateau state lost over 70 persons to the armed Fulani herdsmen terrorising Bassa and part of Jos North LGAs. It was also reported that between September 2017 and February 2018, some villages in Bassa LGA came under heavy and gruesome attacks by Fulani herdsmen in a genocidal manner. The spokesperson for Miango Youths Development Association, (MYDA) an affiliate of IDA, Lawrence Zongo, blamed the attacks on the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Plateau State chapter. He said, "No fewer than 26 villages were attacked, 99 people killed, 44 people injured, 863 houses razed down with food bans, 347 farmland produce worth millions of Naira destroyed, 15 motor bikes and a bus burnt".

Some recent reports of killings in 2021 include the following:

  1. Killings in Kastina-Ala in May 2021: According to a Nigeriaworld Headline of Monday, May 31, 2021, armed men suspected to be Fulani militias, on Thursday night killed 36 residents of Shikaan Mbagena Kpav community in Katsina-Ala Local Government Area of the state. The armed men invaded the community and slaughtered scores at midnight when residents were fast asleep. 36 bodies were recovered while an unspecified number of persons sustained various degrees of injuries.

  2. Killings in Kastina-Ala on May 22nd - 23rd: This was said to be happening after at least 100 people were killed in four council wards of Kastina-Ala Local Government Area of Benue State at the weekend of May 22nd & 23rd after gunmen unleashed terror on communities. A spokesman for the Kastina-Ala council chairman, Tertsea Benga, disclosed this in a statement yesterday. Benga said over 100 dead bodies had been recovered from many villages in the four council wards. He alleged that the gunmen stormed the communities on Saturday and burnt down houses. He listed the initially affected villages to include Vingir, Tse Nyipila and Tse Guji all in Mbayongo ward, adding that the attackers proceeded to Kenvanger in Mbatyula council ward on Sunday afternoon.

  3. The same report had it that gunmen suspected to be herdsmen also attacked the Tse Amgbem community near Aondoana in Gwer West Local Government Area of the State, killing 11 persons as residents deserted the community and increased the number of Internally Displaced Persons camped across the state.

    The Gwer West Local Government Chairman, Mrs Grace Igbabon, who confirmed the incident to DAILY POST, lamented how her people were sacked from their ancestral homes by the militias.

    Similarly, a few weeks ago, about seven persons were confirmed dead, with many others injured, after armed Fulani herdsmen attacked Abagena community housing Internally Displaced Persons' camp in Makurdi Local government Area of the State.

    Subsequently, the youths, who were angered by the killings, stormed the Makurdi-Lafia road with the lifeless bodies of the deceased to protest incessant attacks on their communities.

    Reacting, the State Governor, Samuel Ortom in a statement, described the attack on the IDPs camp as inhuman, barbaric and unacceptable. The Governor called on President Muhammadu Buhari to live up to his responsibility of protecting the lives of Nigerians.

    In the same week, more than 17 persons were confirmed dead while many others injured after militia herdsmen attacked Tse-Ayeli village, Tse-Gborigyo and Udam in Mbayer-Yandev in Guma Local Government Area of the State.

  4. Ebonyi state: In a Headline of Nigeriaworld of June 2, 2021, Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State described the recent killing of Ebonyi and Benue indigenes by herdsmen at the border between both states as a wicked and satanic act. He spoke on June 1, when he visited victims of the attack at the Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital (AEFUTHA). More than 30 persons were killed in the attacks, which occurred at the weekend, although locals said the death toll was more than 50. The governor said he could not understand the raping of little children by the killer herdsmen.

    "What I saw this afternoon is nothing but an act of wickedness and Satanism. I do not know for any reason why people should be raping two-year-old children, putting knives on one-year-old children, killing mothers and fathers, for what reason!"

    Umahi also urged the people of Benue state to form their own vigilante to secure themselves and stop blaming President Buhari. He vowed to assist the communities in Benue with a large concentration of Ebonyi indigenous people to set up their own security outfit similar to Ebube Agu, to enable them to protect themselves.

  5. Oyo state: As reported in a headline of the Nigeriaworld of Sunday, June 6, at Igangan, Oyo State, Fulani herdsmen killed at least 20 people in Igangan, Ibarapa North local government of Oyo State on Saturday night. Houses, including the palace of the Asigangan and a popular petroleum station were burnt in the attack which was staged when people were asleep. The herdsmen, said to be over 50, invaded the town around 11 pm in more than 20 motorcycles, The Nation reported.

Restructure or Destructure Nigeria - a Nigerian Life Matters

As already discussed, the complete abandonment of the principle of federal character by the Presidency such that top positions are occupied by Hausa Fulani Muslim North is divisive and destructive to the country.

Further, the unleashing of the Fulani herdsmen on the country who continually kill other Nigerians is not only unacceptable because the value of human life but is such that stopping their murderous actions should be the priority. The list given in the preceding section presents a horrible truth of how fellow Nigerians are being killed and should be halted immediately. This is exactly what the Southern Governors tried to do by banning the rampage of the Fulani herdsmen throughout their states. The Governors are being true to their oaths of office to protect their people.

It beggars belief to understand the moral authority of the President to castigate anyone in the country over his perceived failures when since 2017, Nigerians have been killed continually by the Fulani herdsmen. Instead of stopping them, he is defending their "constitutional right", which certainly does not include perpetrating murder of the local communities they go to. These Nigerians being killed are under "the watch" of the President, which he swore on oath to protect. He talks of persons trying to stop his administration from succeeding, please, what criteria does the President use to measure success which exonerate him from the protection of lives of all Nigerians?

That the primacy of a human life should be valued and protected is beyond contention. Black life matters, the murder of an American, George Floyd, set the whole of the United States and most large cities in developed nations alight with the affirmation that black lives matter as well as white life. Please fellow countrymen, a Nigerian life matters, irrespective of the state of origin. This underscores the need for the Presidency to stop the murderous activities of the Fulani herdsmen by banning open grazing so that they can be contained in specified places in their states, from where they can carry on legitimate activities.

In order to stop these two evil practices of rejecting the federal character principle in making appointments and also the killings by the Fulani herdsmen unleashed on the nation, drastic actions are required.

Restructure the country so that each group can protect its people and guarantee their safety and freedom which is clearly not being done now by the Presidency.

Destructure the country is the sad and unpleasant option. This could mean breaking up the nation into different nations.

Our country Nigeria has great potentials which lie unrealised and will remain so until as a nation we shall agree to a constitutional arrangement that will stop the persistent divisive actions by this or any future Presidency. Every Nigerian is entitled to life and fair treatment as these are the guarantees that will enhance the primacy of a human life and freedom to achieve the best they can. These are some of the inalienable constitutional rights of every Nigerian irrespective of their tribe of origin.

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