Terrorism, escalating warfare and FG’s denial
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Nigeria, undeniably, is at war with itself and delicately mangled between brutal terrorists in forests and inept leadership at the peak. Nowhere perhaps is the war more evident than in the Nigerian Middle Belt, particularly in the Benue, Kaduna, Plateau, Nasarawa, Niger and Zamfara states axis. The persistent and methodical killings of natives in that axis should put no one in doubt of the plan of the aggressors to exterminate or forcefully dominate the indigenes of the area. The Federal Government’s denial of brewing existential danger and deodorising terrorists as bandits and herders is troubling. Most agonising, and completely detestable, are citizens that are wasted daily while the Commander-in-Chief, President Muhammadu Buhari, and his armed forces literally looked on. That is not the stuff of good or sincere leadership that Nigeria deserves.
Daily, the traumatic tale of violent attacks and killings are the same. Chilling narratives of survivors would cause anyone to cringe and pale in weariness. Indeed, reports have it that 1,031 people were killed in June 2021 alone, with the trio of Zamfara, Kebbi and Niger states taking the odd lead. Beacon Consulting, an Abuja-based security risk management and intelligence consulting company, estimated that no fewer than 390 others were abducted in 205 incidents recorded in 34 states. More than 800 students have been abducted this year alone. In the past six years, more than 11,420 Nigerians have been reportedly killed. Majority of the schools in the northern part of the country have shut down, worsening the high number of out-of-school children.
The question in this shameful scenario is: where is the Federal Government when citizens suffer? For a fact, Section 14(2) (b) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, provides that the primary function of government is security and welfare of the people. President Muhammadu Buhari was in 2015 elected as a rebuke to failings of his predecessor in office, and he swore to do better defending the people that accorded him the mandate. Where is his leadership when terrorists freely rape and slaughter parents and children in their beds? Where are the security agencies when farmers are murdered right in the middle of a-day job and their farmlands destroyed? Where are the protective arms of the state when bandits and kidnappers alike raid school dormitories, communities and roads for hours and abduct scores of students, travellers and villagers for millions of ransom; and raze entire settlements? These harrowing narratives run afoul of the constitution and Buhari’s fidelity to Nigerians. It is a sad case of dashed hopes.
Two hypotheses that are not mutually exclusive are evident in this raging conflagration. First, there is an inherent complicity and sabotage in the defence system and its strategy. Criminal gangs seem to have infiltrated the armed forces with military helicopters used to drop-off sophisticated ammunition to terrorists in the forest. Meanwhile, the same terrorists that are accessible to non-state actors and their apologists are oblivious to the ‘‘eagle eyes’’ of the Nigerian security intelligence! How come the well-sophisticated terrorists in the forests, with capacity to bring down fighter jets, are still mollycoddled as Fulani herders and bandits in need of state pardon and amnesty? Things are so awfully brazen that the so-called bandits now write letters on impending attacks, successfully abduct their victims on motorbikes, and collect ransom through bank accounts. Such could not have happened without collaborators in the Nigerian camps. Clearly, there is more to the matter than meets the eye.
How come the Federal Government and the northern governors are so laid-back to collectively fight back and disarm these maniacs, like they eagerly do to political issues? Why have bandits and machine-gun wielding herders not been declared as terrorists that they are? What is the crime of thousands that are being slaughtered in rural communities?
There is a subtle ethnic cleansing ongoing in parts of the country. The dichotomy between farmers and criminal herders, and Federal Government’s camaraderie for the latter readily expose nepotism and sectional bias of the system. At least on two occasions in recent times, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has come under near-fatal attacks from terrorists, otherwise called Fulani-herders, who as well owned up to the crime. No one has been prosecuted for the offence till date. If the state governor and his paraphernalia of assorted security guards could be made to scamper for their lives in daylight act of terrorism, then what is the fate of defenseless citizens?
About a week ago, suspected herders killed 13 persons in two separate attacks in Ortom’s Guma Local Council in Benue. Among them is a three-month-old baby that was shot in the chest, and mourners that were returning from a burial at Torkula village. About 24 hours earlier, eight persons were mauled in the same council area. In neighbouring Nasarawa State, at least five Tiv farmers were also killed by suspected herders. Plateau State is not any different. Thousands of people are fleeing Zangon Kataf, Kauru and other parts of Kaduna State as herdsmen sustain massacres. Those were the ones that hit the record book. A lot more die in droves and unnoticed. Isn’t this a deliberate act to decimate the people for whatever reason?
Put together, there is an indication of complicit leadership and a country fast ebbing into oblivion. Either by design or default, the security forces of the Department of State Security (DSS), police, army, navy and armed forces are helpless or noncommittal in keeping the country safe and secure. But beyond raising hands in submission and self-abandonment to evil and injustice, it is incumbent on all well-meaning Nigerians and in all areas of influence to decry poor approach to governance.
Sadly, the National Assembly of the peoples’ representatives has also failed in its responsibility to secure the people. All public office-holders are strangely quiet, unwilling to ruffle feathers or counting their gains. They are to speak truth to power and as gadflies, sting the sleepy consciousness of the current leadership and keep it awake. The National Assembly should rise from its reptilian obeisance posture to actively question sheer maladministration that is fast pushing the country to the brink. It will amount to shortsighted delusion for members to think they are insulated from the violence consuming the country.
Nigeria is under attack of daredevil terrorists, not bandits or herders. The Federal Government should call spade by its name to disabuse the public mind that it is not an accomplice. With the ban on open grazing in several states, those that are still hiding therein should be declared as terrorists and the state should waste no time in flushing them out. If government could go to the extent it did against agitators like Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Adeyemo, it has no excuse to not channel even greater force against the primary problem itself that is terrorism emboldened by sectionalism. Nigerians are tired of faltering, insincere leadership.
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