The concern now is not just about the ease with which these harbingers of tears, blood and sorrow perpetuate the act. It is more about the sophistication of the weaponry and the expertise of the operation in a country where only the nation’s legitimate forces of coercion and the likes of Boko Haram have claimed near-exclusivity in the widespread use of AK-47. Yes, it is not impossible that the nomadic Fulani herdsman may have an axe to grind with those perceived as impediments to their cows’access to free grazing, what we did not question as a people in most of those attacks was the haste with which every murderous action became the burden of the Fulani herdsmen to bear.
For me, it is very easy to fathom why the coalition of northern governors has become united in staunch defence against what appears to be the ‘persecution’ of the Fulani. Basically, it is in line with our general leaning to primordial sentiments of race, religion and culture. I think we underrate the damage these primordial sentiments inflict on our collective psyche as a nation when we theorise the timeworn belief that corruption is the biggest malaise bedevilling the Nigerian nation and that spirited efforts must be made to stop its spread before it consumes us all. How long did it take for these governors to know that it was an ‘insult’ for people to continue fingering Fulani herdsmen in the massacre of hapless citizens in different settlements from Maiduguri to Kaduna and from Jos to Benue? If the Enugu killings had not generated such heat with a dangerous slant of ethnic cleansing, I doubt if we would not have continued with a crazy conspiracy of silence that somewhat emboldens these marauders of hate to perpetuate more havoc.
While we relish the public show that we have made of our unity and indivisibility as a people lumped together with the 1914 amalgamation, we have collectively refused to let go of our ethnic cleavages and tribal affiliations. That is why, for us, every criminal act must be contextually located within a geo-political or religious prism. That is why it was easy for a section of the country to heap unmitigated invectives on President Muhammadu Buhari on the assumption that, as a Fulani man, he must have armed ‘his people’ to kill ‘their people’ as payback for his electoral setback in that particular region. It is even more shameful that among those peddling the rumour would be found otherwise well-enlightened public figures. I understand that tensions are justifiably worked up in times like this but nothing justifies the hypocrisy of hate and illogic. Perhaps, if the governors, including those in states that were initially attacked by these herdsmen or cattle rustlers or terrorists, had not maintained a discomfiting silence at the onset of what has become commonplace, maybe these killers would not have transformed into daredevil kidnappers and wasters of precious lives.
Of major concern to this writer is the clear and present danger the unbridled lapse into primordial sentiments poses to Nigeria’s unity. It is like there is no limit to how far people can go in the vomit of irrational and provocative statements. Everyone, including the leaders, appears to be poking peace in the eyes and daring it to do its worst. While Nigeria longs for those to defend its sovereignty, ethnic jingoists have taken over the public space vomiting absurd and incendiary rant. If the Northern Governors Forum is not threatening fire and brimstone over the matter, Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State would be unveiling a plan to poison the source of water for the herdsmen’ cattle in Ekiti State should any community be attacked. If a so-called Northern Senators’ Forum is not making salaciously indicting statement about a potentially deadly reprisal should any Fulani herdsman be flushed out of the South-East region, you can be sure that their counterparts in the South-East are equally beating the war drums and pointing accusing fingers at a Fulani President whom they perceived as biased. It is a crazy orchestra of broken rhythm in a country inhabited by ‘blood brothers.’ Shame.
The sad reality is that Nigeria gains nothing from this loud conspiracy of silence. When the South-West militia called the Odua Peoples Congress goes on the rampage, you can be sure that a large number of Yoruba people would be backing them in solidarity. It doesn’t matter if what they commit genocide against another race. It is the same case with the Niger Delta militants in the South-South, the MASSOB or latter day IPOB in the South East and the insurgents in the North until they started turning their weapons against their people in a crazy frenzy to turn the streets into a canvas of blood. This hypocrisy is the oil that fuels the multidimensional crises that tie us to the rudder of underdevelopment. The same tendency switches on the mute button in us when one of our own is indicted for stealing the country blind.
That is why, in spite of all the stories of billions of dollars returned loot, the late General Sani Abacha remains an idol among his ‘people.’ It is exactly the reason why the muted stories of diverted funds has not stopped the eager reception of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s endless pontificating about his presidency being the golden age in Nigeria’s fight against corruption. It is also the reason why the immediate past President of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan swaggers on as the hero of democracy in spite of the jaw-dropping heist that was allegedly perpetuated under his watch. It would be the reason why the likes of Mrs. Dieziani Madueke may one day be welcomed by her people as the hitherto unsungheroine of the Jonathan era. It would only conform with the past tradition of thronging the airport with drumming and praise-songs to welcome those who fled the country years earlier, over past misdeeds.
That is our story. We are a country that idolises shameless villains. That is the story of a country that flourishes in selective amnesia a conspiracy of silence garbed in vile hypocrisy. Pity.
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