Limits of presidential impunity
I watched in considerable trepidation and anxiety as my President who is vacationing in London, in the United Kingdom held a conversation with the Archbishop of Canterbury around the issues of the pre-meditated mass murders by armed Fulani herdsmen targeting rural Christian farmers. He showed no remorse or sympathy with the thousands of the victims cut down in their prime but was smoking with some hot air around some make-belief and hearsay proposition.
My trepidation and anxiety later turned into astonishment and disappointment when against every sheds of empirical evidence to the contrary, my president and commander-in-chief of Nigeria Armed Forces blamed a dead man, the erstwhile Libyan leader colonel Muamar Gadaffi for the upsurge in targeted genocides by armed Fulani herdsmen all around Nigeria. See how long Gaddafi had been slaughtered by Libyan rebels trained and armed by Europe and America.
The claim made by President Buhari is a sharp departure from some of the things he and his affiliates in the presidency have always told Nigerians on the remote and immediate causes of the armed insurrection against land owners and farmers by armed Fulani herdsmen. It contradicts his illegal initiative to colonise peoples’ landed for the purposes of using public fund to set up cattle colonies. Was he planning to set up cattle colonies to resettle the so-called Libya trained mass murderers or what?
For instance, in the wake of the mass killings by armed Fulani herdsmen in Benue State of over 100 farmers who were given state public burial by Benue State government, President Buhari told the visiting community and political leaders from Benue who had thronged the AsoRock presidential villa in Abuja that “they should learn to accommodate their neighbours.” Who are these neighbours if we go by the most recent hypothesis of Buhari who introduced the illogical Gaddafi narrative?
The Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris Kpodum, who clearly has demonstrated high level of incompetence and incapacity to tackle the rising rate of vicious attacks by hoodlums targeting civilians, had blamed what he called “Communal Conflicts” for the killings in Benue State. Who are these communities fighting if we go by Buhari’s tale by moonlight on the Libyan nexus?
Another narrative was however introduced by the Minister of Defence, a retired Major General from Zamfara State when he shifted the blame for the phenomenal bloody violence in Benue, Taraba, Adamawa, Southern Kaduna, Plateau, Nasarawa and Kogi states to what he termed “the blocking of cattle grazing routes by some states.” Who are grazing these cattle that found out that their traditional grazing routes are blocked if we go by Buhari’s sensational claim on the Libyan connection?
Buhari himself has prevaricated and has engaged in a multiplicity of narratives around the disturbing issues of armed Fulani attacks. His only consistency in the entire scenarios is his inconsistency.
Each time he is addressing foreign audiences in the West, he has attempted to market the Gaddafi’s narrative as the cause of the heightened state of insecurity in Nigeria. But at home, he oscillates between blaming foreign mercenaries to the illogicality of the blockade of grazing routes.
For one arm of the intelligence gathering agencies – Department of state services (DSS) also headed by Buhari’s Fulani kinsman, the main perpetrators of the killings are not Fulani herdsmen original to Nigeria but foreign fighters and terrorists affiliated to the Islamic state of Syria and Iraq (ISIS) that is already defeated by the coalition forces headed by the United States.
It would therefore seem that Nigeria under the current political leadership with a preponderance of Fulani/Hausa born heads of all the internal security agencies, does not have a harmonized theory about who is behind the ongoing attacks targeting largely Christian farmers in the North central and Southern Kaduna axis.
It can therefore be stated that so long as there is a deliberate policy of confusion amongst the security chiefs including President Buhari in the vexed issues of armed Fulani killings, it goes to show that there is no political will to tackle these crises and prosecute the sponsors and perpetrators of the large scale killings.
The angle of blaming the late Libyan leader is one of the greatest fallacies of modern day history. It is a highly annoying fallacy. It is a big fallacy for President Buhari to blame Gaddafi for training the armed Fulani killers because first and foremost, Gaddafi in his imperial majesty just before the West conspired to sponsor rebellion against his government to achieve their selfish regime change agenda, this man headed one of the most organized and fastest developing nation in the World. Libyans under Gaddafi had no reason to form internal rebellion. Libyans enjoyed a high level of comfort and all adults were granted housing rights. Families had access to quality education and free maternal healthcare. The Libyan economy was superb.
As a full fledge head of state who was respected as one of the very few African statesman and regarded as a World leader, Gaddafi had no reason in the World to train rebels to destabilize any part of Africa. Gaddafi as an African statesman, worked vigorously to Unity Africa and to bring about economic abundance and prosperity to Libya and the continent. He was respected and venerated. As a student some of my schoolmates in Kaduna State benefited from Gaddafi scholarship schemes. Gaddafi Green book contained some of the finest philosophies of peace and conflict resolution.
Again, just a simple research would have shown president Buhari that as a properly constituted government of Libya, Colonel Gaddafi was rather overthrown and killed by rebels most of whom had lived, trained and got their support by way of fund and logistics from the Western Societies. Take for instance, the bombers of Manchester when Ariana Grandy performed were Libyans whose father emigrated to UK during the regime of Gaddafi but had to return to Libya when the West funded the anti Gaddafi rebellion to overthrow Gaddafi. Gaddafi was a victim of rebellion and not the instigator.
So why blame Gaddafi for Nigeria’s current leadership failure? The Guardian international edition of June 9th 2011 captured the fact that Western government funded the Libyan rebellion against Gaddafi.The UK-based newspaper stated that Western and Arab governments had pledged more than £800m to support Libya’s rebel administration as they seek to keep the pressure on Muammar Gaddafi’s regime and prepare for the era after his departure.
It reported then that Italy announced a loan of €400m (£355m) in cash and fuel for the National Transitional Council (NTC) to be drawn from frozen Libyan state assets, while France offered a €290m loan. Qatar and Kuwait said they would to set up a $260m fund for the rebels, who have been fighting loyalist forces on several fronts since the February uprising, and are headquartered in eastern Libya. Turkey also promised financial support.
According to the news feature of The UK Guardian, the pledges were made in Abu Dhabi, where more than 30 countries and groups were meeting to discuss Libya’s future. As more Nato bombs fell on Tripoli, where Gaddafi is in hiding, it emerged that efforts were still under way to persuade him to leave the country.
Trinidad Jiménez, Spain’s foreign minister, said Turkey and South Africa were working on Gaddafi’s exit even though he has repeatedly pledged – as recently as Tuesday – to die rather than leave.
“We still don’t even know if Gaddafi will accept a negotiated exit, but of course there are many countries willing to facilitate this because it will end the conflict,” Jimenez told reporters in Abu Dhabi. “Finding a place for him is now the critical issue, since everyone has agreed he has to go.”
Senegal’s president, Abdoulaye Wade, also appealed to Gaddafi to stand down, and offered to help ease his departure.“I can be one of those who help you pull out of political life and the sooner you leave the better, to save the lives of Libyans,” Wade said on a visit to Benghazi, the rebel capital.
Gaddafi and his family have been forced underground by Nato’s bombing campaign against command centres and military sites. The operation has escalated this week, with air strikes day and night. But alliance defence ministers were warned on Thursday that without extra assets and participants the campaign could falter.
“Those who are bearing the brunt of the strike burden are increasingly pressed,” said Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, at a meeting in Brussels. “I think they’ll be able to sustain it. But the question is just how much more painful it becomes, if other countries that have the capabilities […] don’t step up.”
Only eight of 28 NATO member states are involved in the bombing campaign. France and Britain are doing most, while Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Italy and Canada are also heavily involved. The US is supplying the intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance air capacity as well as most of the air-to-air refuelling needed to keep the campaign running.
At a closed meeting of NATO defence ministers on Wednesday, Gates singled out the Netherlands, Spain and Turkey for refusing to take part in the strikes. He also voiced his exasperation with Germany and Poland, which have refused to commit to any aspects of the Libyan operations.
Liam Fox, the defence secretary, amplified the criticism. “We will await their responses to what were uncompromising and crystal-clear messages,” he said. “We need to show Colonel Gaddafi that not only is there no lack of resolve, but also that there is no lack of capacity.”
In addition to the military pressure, international criminal court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said on Wednesday he had evidence linking Gaddafi to mass rape by government soldiers, and was considering bringing charges on the issue. Moreno-Ocampo has already asked the court to issue arrest warrants for Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam, and Libya’s spy chief, Abdullah Senussi, for crimes against humanity while trying to crush the rebellion. He said there was some evidence that Libya had acquired impotency drugs “to enhance the possibility to rape women”.
In Tripoli government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim described the accusation as “the same old nonsense”.“Unfortunately many people accuse us cheaply of many crimes, and they refuse to come on the ground and investigate, not only on the charge of rape but to many, many charges,” he said. “This tells you there is a plan behind every charge. People do not want to listen and see with their own eyes, they just want to charge us.”
This media report has completely debunked the erroneous hypothesis by Buhari that Libyan late ruler played any role in training those who are engaged in the Fulani genocides in Nigeria many years after Gaddafi was brutally murdered.
From the Economist of April 7th/13th 2018 we were told thus: “High murder rates have lots of causes: fragile government; guns and fighters left over from wars; families broken up and force into the city by rural violence and poverty; drugs and organized crime that police cannot or will not confront; and large numbers of unemployed young men.”
“The mix of causes in each country is unique but in every case rapid, chaotic urbanization makes the problem worse. Urbanization itself is welcome, because it boosts incomes and growth. It need not lead to violence – look at India and China, which have relatively low crime rates. But it can feed a vicious cycle, as the proliferation of murder destroys trust between the police and the people they are meant to protect. Residents keep off the streets. They no longer support the authorities. Impunity grows and the level of violence climbs further. That is what faces some of the world’s poor cities. Many already have the ingredients of a murder culture. Over the next decades these cities are set to grow rapidly. As much as 90% of urban growth will take place in the poor world. By 2030, according to HSBC, a bank, 42 of the 60 most populous cities will be in emerging markets. Dhaka, Karachi and Lagos, each crammed with roughly 25m people, will join the ten largest”.
What I came out with from my reading of this current edition of Economist on the causes of conflicts, I think Buhari should stop the irrelevant blame game and take decisive steps to stop the genocides in Nigeria. Armed Fulani herdsmen are members of the Nigerian registered Miyetti Allah Cattle Owners Association so that group must be branded a terrorist platform and proscribed and the leaders arrested and prosecuted. Buhari should stop distracting us and disgracing us by introducing the Gaddafi narrative that lacks logic and believability.
• Onwubiko is the Head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and firstname.lastname@example.org; www.huriwanigeria.com.
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