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Time to tell the North: Think

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Gun-wielding herdsman

As I write this with pain in my heart, the headlines in one or two newspapers sound familiar enough: “suspected herdsmen kill traditional ruler, wife and nine others in Kogi”.

The story had it that the Onu Agbenema, Musa Edibo and his wife had been killed along with eight other persons while many houses were burnt by suspected herdsmen in separate attacks on Agbenema, Aj’Ichekpa, Opapda and Iyade viallges in Dekina and Omala councils.

These latest killings came less than one week after the first major massacre in Dekina, Bassa and Omala councils of the state took place with more than 25 people killed.

The governor of the state, Yahaya Bello, promptly took off from the capital and drove for about 14 hours on very bad roads to get to the scene of deaths to condole the victims.

He promised succour for the people and vowed that it would not happen again. Of course it happened again. And if sincere measures are not put in place by government to checkmate these incessant killings, they will happen again.

This Kogi killing is reminiscent of the massacre in Plateau State. All in one week, there were about four violent attacks in various parts of the state, some happened before the visit of President Muhammadu Buhari and during his visit.

Barely a week after the official launch of the five-year road map for peace strategy in the state by the president, suspected herdsmen killed about 70 more people.

Apparently, the more officialdom and other concerned people condemn and bemoan the killings, the more the bloodletting by these merchants of death.

The latest voice against continued anarchy is that of the Jama’atu Nasril Islam, the umbrella organisation of the Muslim community in the country led by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar 111.

The body called on the president to wake up to his responsibility of safeguarding the lives and properties of the people. Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka had sounded similar note of warning against allowing Nigeria to drift into a state of anomie akin Hobbesian state of nature.

But do all these admonitions have the desired effect? Our search for a way out makes it mandatory that we begin to look beyond the cattle herdsmen. They may not be the sole culprit in this drama of untrammelled tragedy with surreal implications for national cohesion.

Crime and criminality, we are begging to learn, have a notorious capacity to give birth to petty but daredevil adherents in all communities.

It is amenable to producing a franchise for anyone so criminally minded especially in communities that have a fertile and conducive atmosphere for such criminal activities.

Armed robbery, for instance, was in existence before the civil war. But incidences of robbery were an occasional thing. But it became more ferocious after the war with the proliferation of illegal arms in hands of trained and untrained gunmen. Before we knew it, it had spread round.

The recent episode of kidnapping started, possibly, from the creeks in the Niger Delta and it became a profitable venture because the victims, mainly expatriates had to cough out some princely ransom to regain their freedom. Before you say ho ha, it had assumed epidemic proportion.

What I am saying is that kidnappers, both their apprentice and the veterans, have all procured the franchise from the creeks and turned the evil practice into Nigeria’s growth industry.

Is it for nothing that Boko Haram has split into various groups – divided along ideological lines but prompted mainly by the possibility of the ransom they stand to extort when they lay their hands on innocent school girls.

As we battle the menace of the Fulani cattle herdsmen, it is appropriate not to lose sight of the fact that these devils with AK 47 may not be the herdsmen we think they are. Tongues are wagging.

There are speculations about the ethnicity and nationality of some of the raiders that have fallen in recent battles. Certainly not all of them are cattle herdsmen, not from heir look, not from their shape. Certainly not with the kind of arms they are reported to be carrying for their deadly exploits.

But since the herders have opened the doors to other assorted criminals with sophisticated weapons of mass destruction, they, the flag bearers, must be prepared to take the blame. And the security men must sincerely, and with the fear of God, do what is necessary to safeguard lives and property.

We know that the police are ill-equipped and poorly motivated, but for goodness sake when the commander-in chief, gives an order to the Inspector General of Police to relocate to troubled spots at least for purpose of symbolic presence, he should do so, even if he is convinced that disobedience of such order may not carry any consequences.

Truth is criminality grows and thrives in a society where law and order have broken down irretrievably. We pray we don’t get to that point soon.

In a way there is a feeling of déjà vu in this grotesquely macabre narrative of the tales of horror – even of arson, of death and destruction, of sleepless nights, of internally displaced persons who are running from home that is no longer safe and secure. The Western Nigeria of the mid-sixties had the distinction of being the wild, wild west, when operation wetie became the unauthorised but potent weapon of revenge or an act of vengeance.

You ‘d recall that soon after independence, the struggle for political supremacy in the country was the next thing to a civil war. The two overlords in the West were the venerable Chief Obafemi Jeremiah Oyeniyi Awolowo, the frist premier of Western Region and leader of Action Group and his deputy in the party, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola.

Somewhere along the line, the two political juggernauts fell apart over ideological differences and Chief Akintola, popularly known as SLA went into another party, Nigerian National Democratic Party which was in alliance with the Northern Peoples Congress, the dominant party in the North and at the Federal Level. Akintola capitalised on the alliance to form what was seen as a minority government in West.

Not done, the new government began to dismantle the structures of the AG, the dominant party of the majority of the people in the West. The matter came to a head when the general masses of the AG supporters rose up in arms; they began to attack the big men who backed Akintola.

Not only did they burn down their homes and properties, they set fire to those they could lay their hands on. Some newspapers came out the following day with the grisly headline: Oba roasted!

The sad spectacle of the then wild West gave rise to Hubert Ogunde’s immortal hit song Yoruba ronu, which was an exhortation for the Yoruba, easily one of the most enlightened group, to Think! Though the hit song was a stinging criticism of Akintola but the entire Yoruba race was forced vicariously to share in the strictures.

Today, the so-called Wild West has turned a full circle. Not only they are no longer wild. The people have gone far ahead of their contemporaries in education, art and culture, social and economic development.

With their level of enlightenment getting to stratospheric level, every one, literate and no so literate, is fully aware of his rights and God save you, if you make any attempt to cheat him.

The other day, President Buhari was said to have admonished Nigerians from the North to learn one or two things from the Yoruba’s level of social and religious tolerance.

Perhaps, the North will need to invent its own Ogunde, revamp its education and re-examine its leadership recruitment process to stop charlatans, whose only qualification is their bottomless capacity to steal money, from getting into public office and play any leadership role.

It is time to tell the North, think.


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