“Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee” – John Donne in his 400-year-old poem against isolationism.
Given the remorseless bestiality of the killings, in parts of the country, especially in Southern Nigeria, by persons suspected to be Fulani herdsmen, there is the temptation to see the equally bestial killings now routinely carried out by Boko Haram Islamists and bandits in parts of Northern Nigeria, as karmic.
In 2016, killer herdsmen butchered some 40 people, including women and children, in Nimbo in Uzo-Uwani LGA of Enugu State. In February this year, 14 people were reportedly killed by Fulani herdsmen in Uwheru community in Ughelli North Local Government Area of Delta State. On 6 April last year, unidentified assailants suspected to be Fulani herdsmen also attacked farm settlements in the Anambra West Local Government Area of Anambra State, leaving six dead and dozens injured. Survivors of the raid said that around 5:40 in the morning, the attackers set fire to farm houses and killed the men and raped the women whom they captured. Photographs from the attack showed several of the men had their throats slit or were beheaded.
About the same, it was reported that no fewer than three persons, including a father and his son were murdered in their farm, in Arimogija community, Ose LGA of Ondo State. The victims were a rice farmer, Jacob Odushe, his son, Adura and one Victor Ejeh. On May 4 this year, armed attackers suspected to be Fulani herdsmen killed at least 10 people in Ebonyi State, according to Ogbonnaya Chukwu-Ude, Chairman of the Ivo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State. About the same time the massacre in Nimbo took place, Fulani herdsmen also reportedly killed 12 in Rivers over missing cows. The herdsmen, according to reports, invaded a funeral and massacred people, including a pastor, over the disappearance of their cows.
Other examples abound of the chilling human slaughters that have been reportedly carried out by killer herdsmen in rural communities across Nigeria. Indeed, virtually every State in southern and Middle Belt parts of Nigeria has had to contend with the mindless massacre of their citizens by killer herdsmen, who would appear to enjoy tacit support from government or about whom the government would appear unable to do anything.
So, it must be karma at work that the North is having a taste of its own pudding, prepared by some of the worst among its people, those whose acts of terror in other parts of the country the northern establishment has been accused of condoning, sometimes even applauding (we were once told that any criminalization of Boko Haram was a fight against the North!).
But, no, the killings in the North, in our view, have nothing to do with karma. Because, come to think of it, the victims of these beastly killings are basically the same: almost always, they are poor, weak and unprotected rural farmers and families who are mercilessly killed or driven away from their lands to make way for new occupiers from goodness-knows-where. Whether it’s in Agatu, Arochukwu, Ughelli, Ifite-Ogwari, Owo, Ado, Zabarmari, Chibok or Ncha village in Bassa LGA of Plateau State, the mission seems always the same: kill without compunction and disperse populations so as to make way for forceful occupation of people’s ancestral lands by stranger elements. The degree of attacks and success of such pernicious mission may vary from region to region, but they have the same objective: to take lands from local populations by force and turn them over to strangers as new owners.
Which is why, even at the risk of being dubbed conspiracy theorists, we cannot but entertain this sneaky feeling that the war against Boko Haram was probably never intended to be won in the first place. Readers are invited to take a critical look at the nation’s current security challenges and draw their conclusions.
We are told, for instance – and we may well agree – that the Jonathan Administration didn’t do much about Boko Haram. That is in spite of what we know, namely, that, in reality, the Jonathan Administration had, before it left office in May 2015, namely, effectively beaten back and confined Boko Haram to their tiny hole in the infamous Sambisa Forest, leaving a badly weakened terror group for the incoming military commanders to finish off. But, assuming that Jonathan didn’t do much, the question is, what did the succeeding government, on its part, do to contain the insurgents? If, as we know it had, the previous administration had actually pushed back and confined Boko Haram to the Sambisa Forest, why didn’t the army under its new helmsman make that final push to terminally defang Boko Haram?
That, really, is the big question, which only the leadership of the army can creditably answer. What we do know, however – and that is our dilemma- is that rather than fight Boko Haram to the finish, the new army chiefs seemed instead to have re-drawn the national security strategy to include engaging the army in civilian space in 33 of the nation’s 36 States, most which have no security challenges, thereby spreading the army too thin to be effective on the actual war fronts.
We insist that this strategy, if it could be called one, is suspicious. We have no iota of doubt that the insurgents are not in any way, in terms of hardware and professional proficiency, a match for our army. We believe that if our troops had been sincerely, patriotically and professionally deployed, they would have since freed Borno and the rest of the North East from the terrorism of Boko Haram. But what we have seen, at least from the testimonies of deserters, is that the troops have been anything but professionally, patriotically and strategically deployed; if anything, they would appear to have been programmed to fail from the very drawings of their commanders and war planners. We still ask, why should the army be bogged down in 33 States of the federation with routine traffic work reserved for regular police and or FRSC road marshals, while citizens in Borno and other Northern States are routinely slaughtered by insurgents who seem to have a field day spreading terror among the population?
We believe that all the hues and cries about the recent dastardly killings in Borno, especially coming from the political elite, are hypocritical, to say the least. We wager that the tears shed by political leaders for Zabarmari are not sincere because we know they know what to do to end the people’s misery but are loathe to do it for the simple reason that doing what is right would mean taking bread from the mouths of some members of the inner circle. Did we not see how, in the wake of the killings, they rushed trailer-loads of relief materials to Zabarmari, a farming community with more food than they need but where all the people want is for their government to provide security for them to live and farm in peace? And what did the people say? They put it most poignantly: we want security, not food!
But, pray, if those needless food items were not sent to Zabarmari, how would the contractors, most of who are members, or proxies of members of the ‘Inner Circle’, make their money? So, in the end, it is all about the money. But isn’t there an end to such unconscionable profiteering from human blood and suffering?
We in AbeyaNews believe that the solution to Boko Haram is simple. And it is as simple as properly kit our soldiers, then taking them away from traffic road blocks in Enugu, Abia, Imo, Anambra, Ebonyi, Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa, Edo, Ogun, Ekiti, Ondo and all the other peaceful States in the country, indeed from all ‘soft’ engagements in civilian spaces across the country, and deploying them to the security-challenged Northern parts of the country to flush out, in no time at all, these rag-tag criminal elements that have been terrorizing our hapless, impoverished rural dwellers for so long – whether they are called insurgents or bandits.
It is not that the insurgents are unconquerable; it is just that our leaders aren’t conscientious and patriotic enough to muster the political will to do what they must to win the battle and, ultimately, the war against insurgency and banditry. With our dear Chief of Army Staff, the untouchable Lt. General Tukur Yusuf Buratai declaring that terrorism would be with us for another 20 years (some would say ‘forever’), what hope is there for us to defeat Boko Haram and save the hard-working Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State, and other men of good conscience in the North, the agony of helplessly watching as insurgents relentlessly and remorselessly slaughter citizens around them, while security agents busy themselves scavenging for crumbs from election day ‘logistics’? The answer is in the womb of time.