By Ucheuchukwu Ugboaja*
Plateau state has unfortunately become the global capital for eschatological discourse as the debate on death figures continues to overshadow the worth of human lives in Nigeria as a country today.
It is no surprise for analysts as Nigeria was recently named the global capital for poverty replacing India, who breathes a sigh of relief from years of occupying such an unenviable position. However, with the fast rising poverty index and a corresponding decline in life expectancy ratio in Nigeria today, life itself in the Sub-Saharan African country is no longer far from the Hobbesian state; solitary, poor, brutish and short.
In defense to the APC led federal government over the recent orgy of violence that have led to deaths of thousands in the country in recent years, Presidential Spokesperson, Mr. Femi Adesina, claimed that the sad and unfortunate killings in Plateau State over the weekend have basically been turned to an opportunity to once again play irresponsible politics, particularly by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which says it is declaring seven days of mourning.
Analysts would, however, wonder why should the same PDP who supervised the loss of thousands of lives in their 16 years of leadership either as a result of activities of the ‘terrorist’ Boko-haram or other forms of sectarian violence or the other.
But in fairness to the ‘failed’ PDP administration of that time, they declared the Book-haram group as terrorists after years of intense socio-political hassling over the modus operandi of the insurgent group, which set the tone for the Nigerian military forces to put the terror group in proper military perspective within the rules of engagement.
Today the scripts are flipped and the APC led administration is equally faced with a similar act of terror against the Nigerians. But the elephant in the room question for many remains why the government continue to adopt inaction as an official policy to these marauding herdsmen militia daring the government through different video recordings in the social media.
From the perspective of analysts, contradictory statements, ill timed recommendations and insensitive solutions have been coming from different key members of the same administration which shows either a lack of grasp of the issue at stake or an effort to deliberately divert attention from the reality on ground.
Mr. Adesina describes time dedicated to mourn the dead as “dolorous times that call for deep introspection on how cheap human lives have become, and the proffering of actionable ideas on how to get out of the bind.” For him, the PDP is dancing on the graves of the dead by playing cheap & infantile politics.
But what would Mr. Adesina describe the swift response the Federal Government took in ensuring that they obtain a proscription order against the non-violent IPOB, who never bore arms against anyone, not even against the military who killed hundreds of their members who only protested across the Southeast states. I’m sure George Orwell, author of globally acclaimed novel, ‘Animal Farm’ had today’s Nigeria in mind when he wrote that book.
Award winning journalist and broadcaster at CNN, world news leaders Christiane Amanpour have finally found her voice amidst the ongoing ‘carnage’ against Nigerians who massively voted for ‘change’. According to the ace journalist who have had the privileged of interviewing hundreds of world leaders including then candidate GMB on her program, ‘Amanpour’, she insists that, “By all definitions and descriptions, Nigeria’s so called herdsmen are terrorists and if President Buhari doesn’t believe so, then it would be difficult for anyone to reasonably absolve him (Buhari) from complicity”.
“I cover wars and crisis as a journalist, I think I know, and the world also knows how terrorists operate”
“The fact that herdsmen’s attacking pattern is focused primarily on wiping off farmers should rob Buhari who has achieved only little in his economic agenda that’s expected to be powered mainly by farmers. The impact of these well defined attacks on Nigeria’s economy are expected to be grave, maybe on the long run greater than that of Boko Haram which has been largely localized to the North East”.
In a sharp contrast, however, according to Presidency spokesperson, what we actually have in Nigeria are ‘PDP and APC deaths’, which Mr. Adesina gives a compendium of “some savage and brutal killings in Nigeria during PDP rule, between 1999 and 2015, for which no national mourning was declared”.
“November 20, 1999. Odi, in Bayelsa State, was invaded on orders of a PDP President. About 2,500 people killed. No national mourning.”
Between February and May, 2000, about 5,000 people were killed during riots over Sharia law in different parts of the North. No national mourning.”
In 2001, hundreds of people, including the old, infirm, women and children were killed in Zaki Biam. No crocodile tears,” he stated.
“Between September 7-12, 2001, Jos, Plateau State, erupted in internecine killings. Between 500 and 1,000 people were killed. Flags were not flown at half mast.”
In February, 2004, at least 975 people were killed in Yelwa-Shendam, Plateau State. No mourning by the then ruling PDP.”
Between November 28 and 29, 2008, Jos was in flames again, with 381 deaths.”
No mourning In 2010, 992 people killed in Jos. Mum was the word.”
In 2014 alone, according to Global Terrorism Index, at least 1,229 people were killed in the Middle Belt. No mourning.”
Boko Haram killings in PDP years were over 10,000. PDP flags were still fluttering proudly in the sky.”
For Adesina, “those who take pleasure in twisting statements from the Presidency may claim we are saying that many more people were killed under PDP than under President Muhammadu Buhari. It would be unconscionable to do so.”
According to Presidential spokesperson, “the intendment of this statement is to show that wanton killings had been with us for awhile; this government is working towards enduring solutions; and should be given the opportunity to do so.”
Considering Amnesty International’s damming allegations recently that herdsmen killings have continued unabated in the country because of the Federal Government’s failure to call the perpetrators to account, shows that the insensitivity and cruelty at the corridors of powers today can be mildly described as unprecedented and heart wrenching.
AI reveals that, “Independently verified estimated figures indicate that since January 2018, at least 1,813 people have been murdered in 17 states, which is double the 894 people killed in 2017.”
It noted that by failing to hold murderers to account, the Federal Government was encouraging impunity, which is fueling rising insecurity across the country.
“We are gravely concerned about the rising spate of killings across the country, especially the communal clashes between farmers and herders and attacks by bandits across at least 17 states.
“The authorities have a responsibility to protect lives and properties, but they are clearly not doing enough going by what is happening”, Amnesty International stated.
It said the latest incident in Plateau State, where gunmen attacked and killed over 80 villagers, should be investigated.
Speaking of response time in disaster management, some analysts wonder how the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA got to the scene of the Otedola Bridge explosion in 10 minutes and claimed about 9 lives, but it actually took President Buhari’s government nearly 72 hours to send soldiers and other security forces to the areas of Plateau where the herdsmen militia were killing Nigerians in their hundreds.
“AI’s investigations show worrying details of how frequently the security forces failed to protect villagers, which corroborates the earlier assertion made by former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. T.Y Danjuma, who alluded that the Nigerian forces were visibly colluding with the killer herdsmen, a claim the Army persistently refutes.
In all cases Amnesty International investigated, the attackers usually arrive in their hundreds, spend hours killing people and setting houses on fire and then disappear without a trace.
The middle belt is largely known for it being the food source of the nation, as Benue state in particular is called the ‘food basket of the nation’. For a government that preached diversification of its economy from oil, farming communities have witnessed ‘hell’ as their farmlands have become wastelands, many of whom voted for change but today get carnage in return.
According to AI’s reports, “We are at the peak of farming season, and communities affected by this wave of violence are largely agrarian. But because of fear of attacks they have either been displaced or unable to cultivate their farms. Therefore, their major source of food and income are threatened by the attacks,” Amnesty International urges the government to make arrests and bring to justice those responsible for the attacks.
In his reaction, spokesperson of pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin claimed that, what the Amnesty International said is very correct because the killings have been going on for a long time.
“Justice delayed is justice denied. The President, who is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces went to Benue State and said he asked the Inspector General of Police, IGP, to proceed to Benue over the killings there and the IGP disobeyed him.
“Is that how to run a country? Rejigging the security architecture is very important when we have heads of security agencies from one section of the country.”
Similarly, apex Igbo group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, said the position of Amnesty International on the killings vindicated its stand that the Federal Government was providing a fertile ground for herdsmen.
Media Aide to the President General of the organisation, Chief Emeka Atamah, said, ”Ohanaeze has been vindicated in its position that the Federal Government remains an accomplice to what the herdsmen are doing.
“If the federal government had been protecting lives and property, all these killings would have stopped, even in the face of the incompetence of those in charge of the various security agencies. Amnesty International is just echoing what we already know. The government should sack all the service chiefs.”
On his part, elder statesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, said: “It is the responsibility of the federal government and security agencies to tackle these issues and show how to overcome them.
“I don’t like the fire brigade attitude of the government to these issues. Whenever the killings happen, they make noise and everything dies down until it happens again. That is not the way to solve the problem.”
The Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, who visited Plateau state to commiserate with the state government and families of victims, said that, “This is something that is very sad, it is not only a loss to Plateau, but also a loss to the entire country. Words cannot describe how the affected families are feeling with this kind of loss”.
You have seen from the engagements that we are trying to do to review the security architecture of this country, definitely, something is not working right. Let us sit down, collaborate and find solution to a lasting peace.”
According to the governor of Plateau state, Simon Lalong, “It is quite surprising that in 3 years when we (APC) came in, we had a roadmap, but the same group who gave us that roadmap are now back to war. I agree with the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki that we need a new security architecture,” he stated.
In a related development, the United States Congress has flayed President Muhammadu Buhari over his refusal to publicly condemn attacks on Christian farmers by Fulani herdsmen from the Northern part of the country.
This was conveyed by Congressman, Rep. Chris Smith (Republican, New Jersey), Chair of the House Subcommittee on Global Human Rights and a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who spoke during the week while welcoming the release of the State Department’s annual International Religious Freedom Report.
Smith insists that the federal government of Nigeria under Buhari was indifferent to attacks by Fulani herdsmen on predominantly Christian farmers especially in the Middle-belt region of the country.
*Ucheuchukwu Ugboaja is a Social Conscience Crusader, Public Affairs Analyst, Journalist and Editor TMNews.ng