I didn’t have a very good last week. the reason is because of the needless, senseless and unending killings in Benue State. After that attack by suspected Fulani Militia on parishioners  and priests  (one of whom had warned about the presence of Fulani Militiamen in their immediate surroundings in a post he made on Facebook in January), during an early morning mass at a Catholic Church, I was so pained that I decided to qwerty and vent my frustrations at my helplessness, the helplessness of people  of and in Benue, as well as the seeming helplessness (intentional or otherwise) of security agencies, and of the government at local, state and federal levels, whose primary responsibility should be the protection of the lives and property of Nigerians. My attempt to blog that day about that particular incident failed because I didn’t want to create the impression that that incident mattered more than the ones before it, or those to come (pardon my bluntness), but seeing as I couldn’t stomach any more of these killings without lending my voice, even though I’d written severally in the past on the subject, I had to just give in today.

It is true that the killing zones in Nigeria goes beyond the boundaries of Benue State, extending to neighbouring Nasarawa and Plateau States, then onto TarabaZamfara, Southern Kaduna, and the perennial killing fields of Nigeria’s Northeast (BornoYobe and Adamawa States) where the Islamic Fundamentalist and terrorist group “Boko Haram” holds sway. However, only the killings in Benue is beginning to assume the dimensions akin to what can be described as, GENOCIDE and ETHNIC CLEANSING, in what is increasingly looking like an attempt at wholesale “land grab” of the Benue basin known for its rich and lush vegetation, by herders. It is true that clashes used to be the order of the day between farmers and herders as President Muhammadu Buhari would easily, hurriedly and conveniently allude to these days, but these were few and far between even then and didn’t necessarily lead to loss of lives.

In recent years, the skirmishes had given way to asymmetrical warfare, where the herders had become better armed, with capabilities to wreak havoc over large expanse of land, especially those on which cultivation has been done, while the farmers run into hiding to save their skins; but these pale in comparison to what is obtainable now, with the “formation” (what it seems like) of the “Fulani Militia” (ranked fourth on the list of terrorist groups worldwide, with collaboration among the ‘home’ and ‘away’ groups to which Kaduna States’ Governor Nasir El-Rufai claimed he allegedly “paid off” to stay away from attacking indigenes of Southern Kaduna, with no respite in return for the gesture); with the introduction of sophisticated weapons, a spy network that can be the envy of most intelligence agencies worldwide, and the infiltration of security agencies that raises the question of of the possibility that the marauding group colludes with security forces, in their modus operandi that seem to allow them avoid direct confrontation with military or police patrols, checkpoints (especially those set up recently in the wake of widespread killings in Benue and other parts of Nigeria, where counting and disputing the number of dead by the day has become the preoccupation of security forces, when another spate of killings, sometimes even of some of their own men occurs), and the likes, allowing them gain undue advantage when they lay ambush against the security forces.

Sadly, not much in terms of lessons have been learnt as regards the terminology to ascribe to what is ongoing in Benue. The fact that by the time it was agreed to call the unfortunate events of the nineties in Rwanda Genocide, and Ethnic Cleansing, the number of dead had risen to close to a million just within a month, has done very little in hastening the time required of series and frequency of Bloodshedding to have take place before such claims are made today. The question of how many people from a certain stock, tribe or ethnic nationality or group have to die before such a distinction is made, remains yet a knotty one to crack. Unfortunately, even that isn’t an end in itself, as in the best case scenario it earns mostly, international recognition for the deaths of so many, and the usual condemnation (which are the bland responses retrieved from files, and modified to include the names of the new places where ignominious acts occurred, then date and time where necessary), with little or no attempt to seek and execute justice on behalf of the dead, maimed and affected, despite assertions, sometimes with commitments to the contrary.

Therefore, even though I recognize the importance of calling what is presently going on in Benue State by its real or implied name, what is more important is ensuring an end to the wanton destruction of lives and properties, and bringing the perpetrators of the dastardly acts to book, as deterrent. But how can this even begin to be done, when those saddled with the responsibility of protecting hapless and defenseless Nigerians, have yet to truthfully acknowledge what is going on there. The Inspector General Of Police was quoted as calling it “communal conflict” between neighbours, even when it was apparent that one side was attacking the other, many times, even while the other slept. How could anyone with such a thinking, be a part of the solution? The same person couldn’t even stay up to twenty-four hours in Benue, after the President ordered him to relocate to Benue State, to personally oversee efforts by the police to contain the activities of marauding herdsmen militia, who’ve become so brazen in their activities, that they now even post videos of post-conquest celebrations, in the gowns of the choristers and drums stolen after attacking a church, online.

You’d think the Minister Of Defence, will be more circumspect, but alas, he advised the people of Benue to be more accommodating of herdsmen, and treat them as one of their own, in the spirit of One Nigeria. The same people who murder kids? At a time when the Cattle Herders Association (Miyetti Allah) continues to make threats of dire consequences, should the governor of Benue (described by a police spokesperson, without recourse to impartiality and neutrality, as a “drowning man”), insist on executing his ANTI OPEN-GRAZING LAW to the latter. In the end, affirming the fears of many who weren’t comfortable with the fact that the people at the helm of Nigeria’s security apparati hail from a section of Nigeria’s public, sympathetic to the Fulani tribe, who see nomadism as their culture and way of life, to be jealously guarded and protected, by all means necessary.

Seeing, as his statement on the underlying issues fanning the embers of the massacre in Benue, especially during the CHOGM meeting in London weeks back went almost unquestioned (though with some noise in the background, amongst the discerning), President Muhammadu Buhari doubled down during his visit to President Donald Trump two days ago, that the perpetrators of the killings in Benue are the late Libyan dictator, Ghaddafi-trained soldiers, who are bent on destabilizing the West African region; conveniently forgetting that even if it were so, the efforts of other countries affected by same menace seem to be yielding better fruits, making their countries unsuitable to the so called Fulani militia, while so far Nigeria seem to be the only country in the sub region doing next to nothing to engage the threat. Even this claim is besides another, propagated by some members of the Buhari government, to the effect that the killings are politically motivated (the refrain now used in response to areas where government is failing woefully, another of which is that “corruption is fighting back“), to derail the so called successes attained by this government in the area of security, of which they point to the alleged “technical defeat” off Boko Haram; yet another farce!

So I ask, does the fact that these killers are from Libya, or have the backing (financial or otherwise) of President Buhari’s political opponents, make them immune from tracking and annihilating? When has those reasons become cogent enough for security agents to ignore the carnage we are witnessing today? When did posing such excuses become the sort for which affected Nigerians are simply supposed to lay down their necks to be slaughtered, since the only response government has so far was to vehemently criticize the call for self defense? The security agencies have even gone ahead to arrest members of vigilante groups, and individuals (including the ransacking of the home of a Catholic priest  recently on suspicion of possession of arms) who armed themselves in order to protect themselves from those desirous of not just their blood, but also of those of their families and kin, seeing as the government seem to have long since abdicated their responsibility of protecting them. In the heat of it all, soldiers even went ahead to set houses in a community (already traumatized by herdsmen attacks) in Benue ablaze,  on suspicion of murdering one of theirs, who they claimed strayed out of their base to make a call because of “poor network“.

This is why I was unhappy last week , and still finding out difficult to still find joy in little pleasures, even as the number of dead continue to flood in, not only from Benue, but other parts of Nigeria already aforementioned, while the president who claimed in London, that he was particular about security in Nigeria and not politics and campaign, did exactly that before (in declaring his ambition to seek for a second term as president) traveling to London, and after his return, in embarking on what is more or less a campaign visit to Bauchi State, before proceeding to meet with Trump in the United States, where his most patronizing self was on display. His response to Trump’s appeal to him, to put a stop to the killings of “Christians“, was the very lame reply that the clashes between herders and farmers preceded him, which signaled to the discerning that we aren’t about to witness an end to these killings.

Unless something drastic happens, nothing is likely to change in the minds of the people at the helm of this government, as well as security agencies, as to the urgency of the matter at hand. Maybe, it’s time to beckon on powers outside of Nigeria, like the United Nations (in spite of the fact that it’s a toothless bulldog), to condemn these acts, then foreign powers to prevail on the government to act faster and tactfully deploying intelligence (even if it requires bringing in foreign help). No options should be off the table, including strong arm tactics, without excluding economic sanctions, to ensure that the tribes of the Benue River Basin aren’t totally wiped out from their ancestral homes. As it presently stands, all hope seems to be lost, with no one in particular, with the capability and political will to come to the aid of the people of Benue from where I stand. Oh Benue!

‘kovich

PICTURE CREDIT:
– http://www.fabmimi.com

 

https://madukovich.wordpress.com/2018/05/02/oh-benue/

Published by m'khail madukovich