Two weeks ago, Fulani herdsmen invaded Gaambe-Tiev, Benue State and killed 14 people. Last weekend, they overran Kodomun, Adamawa State and killed 30 people. Before the middle of the new week, they had marched across Ungwan Anjo, Akwaa and Gida Biyu, Kaduna State and killed 10 people. In the three incidences, the herdsmen destroyed farmlands, razed homes to the ground, set off a refugee race… and threatened –as they are wont to –to return for a bloodier encore!
To be sure, the aforementioned is not a tally of the carnages Fulani herdsmen visited on quiet, agrarian villages in the past three weeks. These killings are merely samples of the slaughters that received media attention. Many more that occurred within the same time period went unnoticed.
The greater part of the genocidal escapades of the herdsmen is unreported because most of the killings take place in the hinterlands where journalists don’t cover. And it is the token coverage of the massacres that is sustaining the currency of the lie that the prolific killers are not full time terrorists but belligerent pastoralists.
Any Nigerian, however, who doesn’t live under a rock knows that the killings of the herdsmen are not intermittent. Neither do they happen too frequently. No. They are ceaselessly continuous slaughters. They are fluid acts of a vampire drama. They are seamless episodes of an infinite evil.
President Muhammadu Buhari is aware of the killings. The problem is that he insists on recognizing them as a blood sport. He is adamant that his interest in the massacres should not exceed relaxed spectatorship!
To show that Buhari’s non-intervention has the distinctive character of a policy position: It is radically different from his stance on relatively less significant domestic threats. For example, he makes very clear –as often as he finds a microphone and an audience –that he conceives of Biafra canvassers as enemies of the Nigerian state. He usually refers to them as ignorant ”kids’‘ who are asking for a sequel to the Nigeria/Biafra civil war. He likes to warn that he is ready to crush any attempt to interrogate the unity of Nigeria.
And he shows that he means his words. He unleashes a lethal hybrid squad of the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian police each time separatist protesters gather. Whenever the would-be secessionists take to the street, chanting freedom songs and waving placards, the soldiers and policemen at his command cock their guns and shoot scores dead.
Buhari also calls the Niger Delta militants who blow up oil installations enemies of the state. He approves of Nigerian soldiers sacking entire villages and traumatizing women and children in the name of searching for the economic saboteurs that are driving down Nigeria’s oil revenue.
Last weekend, he had the Nigerian Airforce rain bombs on supposed militant hideouts in Arepo, Ogun State. 114 militants were reported ”wasted.”
In the two cases above, the groups Buhari branded felons don’t kill. They don’t take human lives as part of a strategy to gain attention. Still, he visits them with the same full measure of brutality the Nigerian state would engage an external aggressor.
But what is his attitude to Fulani herdsmen, the ubiquitous militia that is killing Nigerians with reckless abandon? Silence and inaction. He has no outrage for the hyper-violent killing force that has leapfrogged to the top league of the Global Terrorism Index. In spite of the mounting loss in Nigerian lives and the loud laments of Nigerians, Buhari has remained resolute in his refusal to acknowledge and address the rampage of the Fulani herdsmen as a national security emergency.
Buhari is a woefully partial commander in chief. He rewards crime according to his bias. He would have the Nigerian military kill Biafra protesters and Niger Delta militants. But he winks at the Fulani herdsmen and permits them to democratize terror even while proposing to appease them by conceding arable land to them as ‘grazing reserves’!
It is beyond doubt that the Fulani herdsmen pose the most serious threat to the security of lives and property in Nigeria today. They kill and destroy at a rate and on a scale that defines impunity. They kill as if human lives are an inevitable expenditure in the business of cattle rearing.
And Buhari’s conspiratorial silence has enabled their audacity. They construe his studied silence as implicit support. The Nigerian security agencies take the same tack too: They are unwilling to tackle the terrorists purposefully because their reading of Buhari’s body language says he is the ultimate cheerleader of the herdsmen!
In a country where institutions are weak and heads of government agencies study the silence of the president to determine whether to perform their lawful duty or not, Buhari has effectively restrained law enforcement from going after the Fulani herdsmen. He has not denounced the terrorists as a person. He has not condemned them as a president. He has not referenced them in public in the same way he makes a refrain of condemning Biafra protesters and Niger Delta militants. He has not namechecked them as criminals on his to-be-crushed list.
He is very comfortable letting them kill on. He is satisfied that the herdsmen are not the victims. The victims are people who he feels no kinship for. The killers are Fulanis. And he is Fulani. He would not admonish them no matter the volume of blood they shed on Nigerian soil!
He is the patron of the umbrella body of nomad pastoralists of his tribe, a position that decency should have naturally prompted him to abdicate upon being elected Nigerian president; or shame should have driven him to abandon as soon as the killings became a veritable folk culture!
Needless to say, Buhari won’t stay aloof if Fulanis are the ones being wasted on daily basis. He certainly would feel diminished if the perennial killings consume Nigerians who speak his mother tongue of Fulfulde. He would feel obligated to stanch the bleeding and bring the culprits to justice.
Not too long ago, precisely on 13th October, 2000, he visited Ibadan in his capacity as the patron of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria. He went to query then Governor of Oyo State, Lam Adesina. There had been a fight between Fulani herdsmen and natives of Saki, Oke Ogun and 5 Fulanis were killed.
A mournful Buhari told Governor Adesina that he came to demand an end to the killings, the prosecution of the culprits and the compensation of the families of the dead Fulanis. He wouldn’t tolerate the ”unjust and illegal killings of Fulani cattle rearers.”
Now in office as president, the solicitous retired general that was moved by reports of the killings of Fulani herdsmen is not touched by the killings of other Nigerians by Fulani herdsmen. He is not saddened, not angered, not scandalized. He wouldn’t even pretend to be troubled.
The real tragedy is that whenever a psychopath shoots people overseas –in a gay club in Orlando, Florida or elsewhere –the Buhari who doesn’t care about the killings going on in his own country hastens to export empathy!
The other day, an 18 year old German boy of Iranian descent walked into a shopping centre in Munich and shot 9 people dead. As soon as it became breaking news, Buhari moved swiftly to condole with the government and the people of Germany.
In the message, part of which formed the body of a press statement signed by his spokesman, Femi Adesina, Buhari decried the horrific incidence as a ‘barbaric act’, a violent assault that has no place in human civilization. He said that it was ‘’unfortunate and inconceivable that the forces of evil do not relent on their activities.’’
Buhari went on to volunteer to help the bereaved country. He assured ‘’the people of Germany that Nigerians as a people are standing with them at this time and are ready to assist in any to defeat the planners and executors of such crimes.’’
Buhari’s offer of help to Germany came from pride. He flatters himself as a leader who has successfully rid his own turf of homegrown terrorism. The one who accomplished the ”technical defeat’‘ of Boko Haram.
Buhari chest-thumped from a presumed position of strength. He imagined that having conquered the mass murderers in his territory, he can afford the charity of lending his anti-terrorism expertise to other far-flung countries.
That’s nonsense. The prevailing facts contradict Buhari’s self-congratulatory claim that he has mastered terrorism in Nigeria. Nigeria is still under the scourge of terror. Except that he is loath to recognize Fulani herdsmen as terrorists.
It’s a wonder Buhari didn’t pause to ask himself why Germany shut down to grieve the loss of 9 of its citizens. Germans stopped to mourn and introspect because they prize human life dearly. They would not discount one of their own citizens not to talk of 9.
In Nigeria, the value of 9 human lives is approximately zero. A tragedy has to produce staggering statistics to qualify as a national disaster. The body count has to be in hundreds in order not to be a non-event. Even in certain cases, as in the Zaria massacre where 350 were killed, the Nigerian state could dismiss the affair!
But whatever the number of people killed in a terrorist attack abroad, Buhari would join the chorus of global outrage. He would commiserate with the head of state of the attacked country. He would affect to be horrified and appalled.
Buhari takes the view that the killing of nationals of another country is unjustifiable, even if they are ‘only’ 9. He would purport to stretch his hands across the Atlantic to help a European country that is light years ahead of Nigeria in homeland security.
Here at home, the aspiring missionary do-gooder endorses the butchery of his own countrymen with his callous unconcern. He watches Fulani herdsmen kill and kill and kill. He doesn’t try to interrupt them.
Candidate Buhari promised to do three things if elected. He said he would restore Nigeria to security, fight corruption, and grow the economy.
The slow-motion judicial process is hampering the war against corruption. The economy has collapsed while he is busy parroting the promise to diversify it. And the only thing he should have a firm grip on, which is security, he has thrown it to Fulani herdsmen.
It’s incredible how hard Buhari is working to impress Nigerians with his ineptitude!
Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu
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