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Benue killings: Grief and tears in myths

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Some of the caskets with bodies of the 73 persons killed during the Fulani herdsmen’s attacks on Benue communities in Guma and Logo local councils, during a funeral service for them at the IBB Square in Markurdi …yesterday. PHOTO: NAN


Myths are replete with tales of woes, grief and tears consequent upon wars, destructions and deaths. In Greek mythology an often quoted instance is that of Queen Niobe. She was the queen of Thebes and daughter of Tantalus whose six sons and six daughters were put to death by Artemis and Apollo. Artemis was a maiden warrior goddess and huntress while Apollo was god of the sun and sender of plagues. The grief in which Niobe found herself turned her into stone and the torrents of her tears caused streams to trickle down the rocks.

Niobe in this brief story is the bereaved while the dreadful words are death, grief and tears. Each word begets the other. In that order death comes first because it is the agent provocateur. Tears come last because they flow limitlessly as the loss of a loved one becomes a personal bereavement to millions of well wishers. 
Grief is sandwiched between death and tears because when it descends, it stings and clings permanently. Such was the grief that forced Electra the legendary mother of Dardamus in another Greek mythology to tear out her hair when Troy was destroyed. She never grew hair on that spot again. The combination of these three dreadful words never makes a pleasant scenario. 

That thus illustrates the graveness of grief which struck Governor Samuel Ortom and entire people of Benue community on the day of the mass burial of the seventy three men, women and children massacred by the suspected killer Fulani herdsmen. And the grief worsened there after because the killings had continued unabated while the Federal Government procrastinated in taking decisive actions to stop the carnage. 

Like Queen Niobe and the legendary Electra in Greek mythologies, the pains and grief of watching his subjects helplessly being massacred so hardened Governor Ortom’s resolve to damn whatever consequences even at the expense of being governor or loosing political party patronage, and fight with his last blood to protect his people. He cried out loudly to expose the injustice being visited on the innocent citizens through the war of genocide by a group that appeared to have the backing of some conspiratorial patrons. And instead of maintaining studied silence of helplessness or bias, some power brokers and attention seekers chose to add to the existing grief by making hate speeches to add salt to injury.
 
For instance to suggest that the killings in Benue State are as a result of communal clash or because of the enactment of anti open grazing law appears to be gross insincerity and a hate speech. For one to suggest that the killings are justified because of blockade of grazing routes smacks of complete ignorance, and it also amounts to hate speech.
 
Meanwhile the killings continued unabated and so also is the stream of grief and tears in the land. The massive deployment of police force and the relocation of the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris to Benue State which Mr. President graciously ordered became a hide and seek exercise and did nothing much to assuage the tension. Many people wondered and even cried out for deployment of the core military to crush the invaders as had been done elsewhere with Operation python dance and others but the Commander- in chief who himself is a war veteran had the ace. 

He had great confidence in the ability and capacity of the police to perform. Thus when Mr. President wrote a letter to the senate enumerating the steps he had taken to quell the crisis, ordering the relocation of IGP and the visit of the Minister of Interior to Benue State were listed as part of his efforts to tackle the menace.
Despite all that, the killings continued and even spread further. Citizens became completely disenchanted and called for more serious actions from the Federal Government. Those who criticized the poor handling of the situation by the Federal Government were branded as making hate speeches.Those who commended or justified the killings and condemned Benue State Government for enacting the anti-open grazing law were branded patriots and pampered with a studied golden silence. When the body language of officialdom suggested bias or tacit support for the agent provocateur, some poodles misread the horizon and played along. So instead of making statements that should help to douse the tension, they justified the killings through hate speeches including verbal insults by describing the embattled State Governor as a drowning man, feeling that such was the officially recognized position.

Thus despite the massive massacres going on, a Chief Executive of a State would describe it as a political game to beg for money. Ordinarily such would have been described as the worst of all hate speeches but it was greeted with loud silence as a mark of acquiescence. So the orgy of killings continued with its attendant grief and tears among the hapless natives.

However, during a recent visit to Nassarawa State, Mr. President came down heavily on the perpetrators of the senseless killings and threatened to have them arrested.He followed by directing the deployment a special military squad known as operation Ayem A Kpatuma or Cat Race to all the troubled areas in Benue and other States within the North Central Zone. With these presidential initiatives, it is hoped that the bloodbath in the Benue valley will subside and life return to normalcy again, and the citizens saved the reality and trauma of the mythological grief and tears. 
Professor Jerry Agada is a former Minister of State for Education and Chairman, Benue State Civil Service Commission.


In this article:
Samuel Ortom
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