FEATURE ARTICLE

Wednesday, October 6, 2021
okerekeoc@gmail.com

CONCERTED EFFORTS TO STOP THE KILLINGS, KIDNAPPING, BANDITRY,
AND EMBARK ON PEACE TALKS TO SALVAGE THE NATION

he President in his Independence Day broadcast said among other statements, that he was using the opportunity "to ask all Nigerians to embrace peace and dialogue, whatever your grievances." The subject of this write-up shares this commonality with his broadcast, of requesting that we, Nigerians, should embrace peace and seek to embark on dialogue to resolve the grievances in the nation.

This paper will try to be pragmatic by suggesting how the embracement of peace and engagement in dialogue for the resolution of grievances could be effected. The request to embrace peace is an admission that there is currently no peace in the country. Key issues that destroy our peace, from our assessment, will be listed and discussed. Suggestions on how they could be resolved through peaceful dialogue will be made.

Killings. Kidnapping and banditry are destructive acts prevalent in the nation. Some examples and their implications are discussed briefly in the next paragraphs.

  1. Gunmen kill Chike Akunyili, husband of late minister Dora

    Dr. Chike Akunyili, the Medical Director of St. Leo Hospital Enugu, a philanthropist, and husband of the late Information Minister and NAFDAC DG, Prof. Dora Akunyili, was killed at Umuoji in Idemili North LGA of Anambra State on Tuesday evening, September 28th. The murder happened some hours after he attended an event at Onitsha, where the University of Nigeria Nsukka Alumni Association (UNAA) honoured his wife posthumously.

    It is a dastardly wicked and cold-blooded murder of an innocent man, and a huge loss to the nation.

    Some other persons have been murdered in the ex-judicial killings taking place currently in Nigeria, especially in the South East state. One of such persons was Dr. Ezenwa who owned a private hospital at Okija, Anambra State. Whoever the killers of these people are, they are doing grave damage to the nation. Reference is from NIGERIAWORLD: HEADLINE | Posted: Wednesday, September 29, 2021

  2. Gunmen freed the remaining pupils of an Islamic seminary.

    Gunmen freed more than 100 pupils kidnapped from an Islamic seminary in Niger State nearly three months ago, the school's head teacher stated on Thursday, August 26th. It was on May 30th that heavily armed men snatched 136 pupils from the seminary in Tegina in one of a series of mass abductions targeting schools and colleges in Nigeria since December. Six of the pupils reportedly died in captivity and fifteen escaped in June, according to school officials.

    It is sad that kidnappers seize pupils and negotiate payments before they release them. Officers negotiate with and pay them. This happens repeatedly. It is a lucrative business to the kidnappers, and they get away with it scot-free apparently. This account is taken from "Gunmen freed the remaining pupils of an Islamic seminary" NIGERIAWORLD: HEADLINE | Posted: Friday, August 27, 2021

  3. Thirty-two of the remaining sixty-three Bethel Baptist students abducted is Kaduna regained freedom yesterday

    Thirty-two of the remaining sixty-three Bethel Baptist students in Kaduna State were released by their captors after 52 days in captivity. The Guardian reported that the students were released on Friday, August 27.

    The chairman of Kaduna State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev. John Hayab, confirmed the development. He said the children looked feeble, sick and malnourished, adding that they have been reunited with their parents. It is said that with the release of the thirty-two students by the bandits, thirty-one were still in captivity. The total number released by the bandits so far was 90 as of August 27th.

    The bandits had abducted 121 of the students on July 5, 2021, at the school premises along the Kaduna-Kachia high way Damishi in Chikun local council of the state.

    Again, negotiations took place with the inevitable payment of ransoms. The bandits dictated how many children they could release at a time probably in proportion to the payment they receive. In all these kidnapping of helpless pupils and students, our children and their parents suffer. It is any body's guess how keen a mother will be to encourage her child to go back to school after 52 days in captivity. A nation bringing up its future generations this way, will not find any educated persons in future.

    In all these, it is an inexcusable failure of the government and security forces that some criminals will take to kidnapping and banditry as their occupation and thrive in their crimes. They cannot be arrested and disciplined because " they run into the forest" when security persons go after them. Yet, people negotiate with them and pay ransoms. It is a case of crass failure to safeguard Nigerian children from bandits who may not even be Nigerians.

    Reference is taken from NIGERIAWORLD HEADLINE | Posted: Saturday, August 28, 2021

  4. Gunmen storm Kogi church on Sunday, September 19

    Gunmen, yesterday, attacked the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) church at Okedayo, Kabba, Kogi State, killing a worshipper and abducting three others. The current incident came few weeks after hoodlums invaded the correctional centre in the town, murdering the guards on duty before freeing hundreds of prisoners. It was gathered that the well-armed team, numbering five, invaded the church around 8:00a.m. during the Sunday service and shot sporadically to pave way for entrance.

    This is one of many examples of gunmen invading churches and killing some people. It is also the case that they are always heavily armed. Again, before the incident, they had already killed some guards and freed hundreds of inmates in prison. Reference is taken from NIGERIAWORLD HEADLINE | Posted: Monday, September 20, 2021 " Gunmen storm Kogi church, kill one, abduct three worshipers" By Ibrahim Obansa, Lokoja

Observations, Comments and Suggestions

The four examples given in the foregoing paragraphs have been taken from four different states. A common thread running through them is that they represent responsibilities of this presidency in which the country has been failed. The President himself stated that he has the responsibility to account for everything that happens under his "watch."

Another intriguing aspect is that guns are all over the country with heavily armed persons committing crimes and apparently getting away with them. Someone has given the following explanations in their write-up which I have adapted here as a plausible explanation of the reasons for this ongoing failure of the government to protect the country's people and our school children. The explanation goes as follows:

"Apart from Boko Haram and the North West "Bandits," armed herdsmen embedded in farmlands and forests all over the North Central and Southern parts of Nigeria constitute the biggest threats to our collective safety.

Herdsmen, in times past, were harmless nomads who went about tending to their livestock. But since Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, and its sibling, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, MAKH, came into the picture about three decades ago or so, herdsmen have increasingly become violent towards their hosts.

Joined by Fulani elements from other countries who were exposed to armed conflicts, they took up arms against their benevolent hosts. The rogue elements among them resorted to kidnapping for ransom, raping and terrorising local communities.

They started claiming "ownership" of the lands of indigenous peoples and forming themselves into terror groups to kill, burn down villages, abduct people, rendering them refugees and taking over their villages.

From Southern Kaduna, they pushed into Plateau, Taraba and Benue states. Within the past six years, they have stormed forests all over the South where they have set up terror camps.

It is apparent that the Federal Government, which is supposed to maintain law and order and protect the lives and property of Nigerians, has done little or nothing to call them to order. Besieged local communities are not allowed by law enforcement agencies to protect themselves. They are harassed by policemen and soldiers for doing so.

Some states have decided to enact laws banning open grazing to keep these agents of terror away from their forests and farms. These include states in the Middle Belt and the seventeen states of Southern Nigeria.

Miyetti Allah has repeatedly vowed not to abide by the laws of their host states. They spuriously and scandalously claim that Nigeria belongs to their ethnic group. Their militants pursue this claim with the force of arms without any response from our security agencies.

The Federal Government refuses to even acknowledge the threat that their activities pose to the country. When they kill and destroy, the Police, Army, Security Agencies and the Presidency call it farmers-herders "clashes" to divert attention from their murderous aggression while criminalising the hapless victims." Reference: Adapted from NIGERIAWORLD HEADLINE | Posted: Saturday, October 2, 2021 : "Halting acts of lawlessness by herdsmen" , VANGUARD

Our first suggestion in this writeup is that the President's statement to all Nigerians to embrace peace should be demonstrated in actions as he organises the chasing and arresting of the Fulani herdsmen in the forests in whatever guise they choose to manifest themselves whether as herdsmen, kidnappers, or bandits. Your Excellency Sir, Mr. President, any talk of peace in the nation without the arrest and stopping of the wicked, nefarious and bloody activities of these people is just paying lip service and cannot be taken seriously.

No parents will feel confident to send their children to school as long as the kidnappers are not seen to be removed from the scene. Equally, the vigilantes, who seek to defend themselves in various states, will not be confident to lay down their arms as long as they know that the herdsmen, who attack in the night when everyone in the community is sleeping, are still around and well-armed. Please, Mr. President, help move the nation to the path of peace by practising what you preached in the Independence Day broadcast.

The second suggestion is that "Killers, Kidnappers and Bandits are the problems and not Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu."

The consensus of the views, stated by some well-meaning Nigerians, is that the problems of the nation are killers, kidnappers and bandits and not Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu. According to the National Publicity Secretary of the notable Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, Jare Ajayi, the government should concentrate on putting a stop to banditry and terrorism. His quoted words: "Afenifere feels government should concentrate on putting a stop to banditry and terrorism rather than dissipating energy on hunting for those who are advocating for true federalism or self- determination.

"The phenomenon of Sunday Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu in terms of desiring their own nations came about as a result of the failure of the Nigerian state to cater adequately for Nigerians.

" lf insecurity and social dislocation in the country are brought to an end, the agitation for separate nations will fizzle out".

As he discussed the 61st anniversary speech of President Buhari, the group spokesperson said government should face reality and tackle the challenges facing the country. Reference: "Leave Igboho, Nnamdi Kanu alone, face bandits, terrorists, Afenifere tells Buhari" By Dayo Johnson, Akure, NIGERIAWORLD HEADLINE | Posted: Sunday, October 3, 2021

In a similar vein, elder statesman, Chief Chekwas Okorie, stated that "Buhari missed a golden opportunity in his anniversary speech to douse rising tensions and agitations in the country by offering political solutions to the incarceration of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, and Yoruba nation agitator, Sunday Adeyemo, better known as Sunday Igboho.

He urged the president to take decisive action against herdsmen that were creating challenges for farming and farmers across the country.

"Okorie, who said it was preposterous to continue pointing accusing fingers at Kanu and Igboho as those attempting to cause disaffection in the country, stressed that people were responding to them based on the mood of the nation, even as he volunteered to be part of any dialogue that could be provided by the Federal Government about them".

He said: "On the president's stand on Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho, my position is that dialogue is the answer. Going through the court, following legal methods, and constitutional definition of offences to resolve what is clearly a political issue will not solve the matter. The South East Caucus of the National Assembly has made itself available to engage the government to find the solution to the political problem. I urge the government to take advantage of that offer. I also offer myself for that engagement. I urge the adoption of dialogue, and if we don't accept that approach, we may not be able to resolve this problem." Reference: "Curious gaps in Buhari's Independence Day speech"

NIGERIAWORLD: HEADLINE | Posted: Sunday, October 3, 2021

Comments:

It is clear to many observers that both Mr. Sunday Igboho and Mazi Nnamdi Kanu have substantial followings in their respective tribes. The followers of Nnamdi Kanu have implemented a sit-at-home programme as they choose in honour or sympathy with Mazi Kanu. What is more, whatever means they use to implement it, they get most Igbos in their states to comply with their instructions. They repeated the same on Independence Day, see the reference: " S/East totally complies with IPOB's Independence Day Sit-at-home order" By Vincent Ujumadu, Steve Oko, Emmanuel Ijeaka

NIGERIAWORLD HEADLINE | Posted: Saturday, October 2, 2021, VANGUARD

One of the lessons which is being suggested here that the government should take away from these observations is that Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and Mr. Sunday Igboho are not "lone rangers," going on their own without the backing of the people. The fact is that they have good support by many people in their respective tribes.

Suggestions for Dialogue

Many Nigerians, especially southerners, reject the 1999 constitution as an imposition. [Reference: "Nigeria must restructure or go separate ways, Yoruba groups tell North" By Seye Olumide and Rotimi Agboluaje, Ibadan. NIGERIAWORLD HEADLINE | Posted: Friday, July 16, 2021]

The President states the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable. The natural question follows; on what terms? A situation in which the President has discarded the checks and balances, of compliance with the federal character requirements, in the constitution in making appointments, and treats others, not of his tribe and religion, as strangers and not shareholders in the nation, is completely unacceptable. As long as he does not treat every Nigerian as an equal stakeholder, so long will he continue to fan the embers of fire of disunity that is destroying our country. No Nigerian wishes to be treated as a second-class citizen at best, and at worst a slave who can be dumped in prison perpetually without any rights. The Ohaneze ndi Igbo, Igbo national group, pleaded with President Buhari during his visit to Imo state, to release many Igbo youths who are languishing in Nigerian prisons without trial. Are these not being treated as slaves? Meanwhile, the Fulani herdsmen, go about killing, kidnapping, and committing banditry freely. They negotiate and are paid ransoms, over and again, as they kidnap and starve or kill our school children as exemplified earlier in this write-up. How many of them are in prisons? It is certainly in order that people who commit crimes, whether Igbo or Fulani should be tried, if found guilty, should be imprisoned to serve their terms. But Mr. President Sir, we should have one law for all Nigerians, and not one law for the Fulanis and another for the Igbos and others. Reference: " Empty streets in Southeast welcome Buhari to Imo" By Vincent Ujumadu, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Omeiza Ajayi, Peter Okutu, Chinonso Alozie, Ugochukwu Alaribe, Chimaobi Nwaiwu, Chinedu Adonu, Ikechukwu Odu, Steve Oko & Emmanuel Iheaka. NIGERIAWORLD HEADLINE | Posted: Friday, September 10, 2021

Conclusion

This paper suggests the following statesmanlike actions that the country needs now for peace are as follows:

  • Concerted efforts led by the presidency to stop the killings, kidnapping and banditry in all states. The Fulani herdsmen should be sent away from forests where they hide. Nigerians do not live in forests, it has never happened in the history of the country until now, under your watch.

  • All the states in the nation should embark on peace talk, initiated and organised by the presidency, without any preconditions. The objective should be to determine how Nigerians can live together peacefully and with mutual respect.

  • Lastly, if the President will respect and treat Nigerians as fellow and equal stakeholders and initiate moves to achieve this, as against threats and use of force and firearms, there will be many Nigerians who will work together with others to build an egalitarian society that will make for peace and prosperity. For the umpteenth time, no one accepts to be treated as a second-class citizen or a slave in their own country.

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