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Dealing with root of the killings in Nigeria

By Luke Onyekakeyah
15 June 2021   |   3:03 am
The crises bedevilling Nigeria and leading to the massacre of innocent folks in Igbo land and other ethnic communities could be tackled by addressing the roots of the problem. It is obvious that so far

The crises bedevilling Nigeria and leading to the massacre of innocent folks in Igbo land and other ethnic communities could be tackled by addressing the roots of the problem. It is obvious that so far, the authorities have focused on the effect while ignoring the cause (s), which is why the crises have festered unabatedly.

The security agencies, acting on the command of President Muhammadu Buhari, have waged a vicious and bloody battle against perceived trouble makers in Igbo land and parts of the country. The so-called secessionists are particularly targeted for extermination if that is the only way to restore peace. But, that notwithstanding, peace has continued to elude Nigeria. The collateral damages of the military campaigns in the battle regions are unquantifiable.

Innocent youths are being killed with impunity. Families are put in perpetual agony and anguish. Economic activities are disrupted with more suffering and pain on the citizens. Fear and apprehension have enveloped communities being visited with mayhem. Arson, kidnapping, ritual murders and disappearances are the order of the day.

General fear and insecurity have enveloped the land. The atmosphere evokes a military regime rather than a democratic civilian administration. What are the causes of the state of anomie? Is there a way out of the ugly predicament? After a diligent consideration, I came to the conclusion that two critical issues should be addressed as a way out of the present predicament.

Over and above any other reason is the mindset of President Muhammadu Buhari. This is critical in finding a lasting solution to the raging crises. What is Buhari thinking about the ugly state of affairs in the country? Is he thinking of a peaceful Nigeria where equity, peace and justice reign supreme? How does the president see Nigeria’s multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural composition? Does he see great potential in Nigeria’s diversity where no ethnic group lords it over the others? Or, does he see his ethnic Fulani group as the superior race that should dominate the other groups?

President Buhari made history by being the first president who contested for the number one office in the country three times and got it at the fourth time. Over the period, he raised great hope among Nigerians who perceived him as holding great promise for the future of the country.

The birthing of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the wake of the 2015 presidential election and the promises he made, which anchored on Change, bolstered the confidence of many Nigerians to allow him to have a shot at the presidency. Consequently, he won the election in 2015 and subsequently in 2019.

However, since 2015, it is obvious that the actions and decisions of President Buhari are largely been in contra-distinction to what he promised. The singling out of the Igbo ethnic group as deserving punishment for giving him a five per cent vote in a democratic election where anyone is free to vote his mind is reprehensible.

In America, there are traditional red (Republican) and blue (Democrat) states. None of those states is punished for choosing to vote the way they like. Here, President Buhari’s discriminatory treatment gave rise to the near-total shutting out of the Igbo in his federal appointments. That same mindset is also responsible for the non-tolerance of the so-called secessionist agitation by the Igbo, which must be crushed at all cost.

President Buhari’s frequent reference to how he fought in the 1967-70 Nigeria-Biafra Civil War, to keep Nigeria together, makes a mockery of the present situation whereby there are agitations not only in Igbo land but also in the South-West and Middle Belt regions. What will it profit Nigeria if the Igbo are annihilated, which could plunge country into more crises?

Since the Biafra agitation is not new, the same diplomacy that has been used to maintain peace in the region since the end of the Civil War should be applied. Visiting Igbo land with bloodbath can only aggravate the problem. Igbo land is bleeding, even as President Buhari is threatening fire and brimstone on the hapless citizens in the region.

I went on leave last month May, only to be confronted with anarchy, chaos and blood in Owerri. I could hardly do anything in the beleaguered city. There was hardly a safe way to drive back and I had to abandon my car in Owerri and took a flight back to Lagos. It is as bad as that.

In all of this, President Buhari’s disposition, his mindset, is critical in restoring peace. Some right-minded Nigerians have called for dialogue with leaders of the agitation movements; is President Buhari disposed to that or is he bent on crushing the South-East to have his way? That is the crux of the matter. The buck stops on his table to choose the legacy he wants to leave for posterity. Is he to be remembered as the one who leveraged Nigeria to become a stronger nation or the one under whose watch the country disintegrated?

The second most vicious cause of the crises is the ravages of the Fulani herdsmen into Southern Nigeria. I have devoted more time on President Buhari’s mindset because everything depends on him. He has the power to call the marauding herdsmen to order and there will be peace. He is the Decider-in-Chief.

I had warned earlier that the crossing of major ecological boundaries, at a scale never seen before, by the Fulani herdsmen would lead to ecological contention in Nigeria. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo interpreted the development as Fulanization and Islamization of Nigeria, which is yet to be established. Different narratives are being advanced by pundits and commentators.

General T.Y. Danjuma (rtd), has also raised the alarm on what he perceived as the deliberate incursion of the Fulani into indigenous ecological zones of the Middle Belt and Southern Nigeria aimed at land grabbing. The killing spree is not hidden. The killings started from Plateau State and spread to Benue State. The tension in Ondo and Oyo states over a recent quit notice given to Fulani herders underscore the crisis at hand.

My take on the issue, at this juncture, is that the loss of vegetal cover in the north as a result of desertification is a dangerous development. It is the root of the southward advance of the Fulani herdsmen. The frequent bloodletting and clashes between the herdsmen and indigenous farmers in the Middle Belt and parts of Southern Nigeria is an indication of more dangerous impending confrontation over ecological resources. The imbalance occasioned by climatic factors is bound to escalate, thereby, forcing the Fulani, in particular, to seek desperate ways for the survival of their cattle.

The conflicts we are witnessing today will be a child’s play in the near future, except something is done urgently to address it. The likelihood of the north turning into arid and semi-arid landscape cannot be ruled out. What I am saying is real, for those who care.

There is a way out. Nigeria is not the only country in West Africa experiencing desertification. Niger, Chad and the other countries north of Nigeria have cattle and they have not migrated south into Nigeria. The way out is ranching. Open grazing in this 21st century is anachronistic. President Buhari should save Nigeria by not promoting open grazing that is spilling innocent blood in Nigeria. The Fulani should adopt ranching, which is the modern way to raise cattle. President Buhari should support ranching to save Nigeria.