(By Iheanyi Ezinwo) – In January this year over 70 unarmed citizens of Benue State were horrendously slaughtered in their communities by invading herdsmen with sophisticated rifle.The victims were later given mass burial by the distraught government and people of Benue State, and until the time of this writing no one person has been held responsible for the callous acts.
Another set of Benue citizens have been brutally killed in their own state, awaiting mass burial, and the world is watching how the lives of lawful Nigerians have become very cheap in the hands of cruel fellows who go by different names. Curiously, these killer herdsmen are not spirits: They are seen to be unlawfully bearing arms but the security agencies, for curious reasons had been looking the other way. With all the killings in Southern Kaduna, Taraba, Enugu and other states not even one of the killers was ever arrested.
But look at another scenario: Following the new year eve’s killings in Omoku of Rivers State, Don Wanny, who was accused of being responsible for the attack was promptly arrested and killed. No body raised the issue of extra judicial killings of Don Wanny and some of his followers who were killed with him and others who were gunned down afterwards.
Interestingly, the Department of State Service, DSS, were in high spirits when they gave graphic details of how Don Wanny was trailed and killed but they failed to tell Nigerians why it has been impossible for them to also trail and promptly arrest the herdsmen who have been going about killing and destroying properties with impunity.
Curiously, while the Federal Government looked the other way as herdsmen created atmosphere of insecurity across communities in the country, the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, who had had no records of killings was haunted with Operation Python Dance, and promptly declared a terrorist organisation.
This alleged double standards of government has been condemned by observers, and is believed to be the reason why the attacks had persisted until over 70 unarmed indigenes of Benue State were slaughtered in their homes and farms in January this year. Devastated by the most recent killings in Okpokwu Local Government Area of Benue state, Governor Samuel Ortom was reported as saying that the herdsmen had arrogated unto themselves immunity against the law by disobeying constituted authority. He however pleaded with security agencies to do the needful by arresting the blood rampaging herdsmen.
While the killings are continuing and mass burials conducted, children of the slain, other Benue citizens and indeed the entire nation and the world are watching. Before our eyes, the peace in Benue, Taraba and indeed Nigeria is being shattered as strong feelings of bitterness, a feeling that is weighing heavily against harmonious relations in Nigeria is brewing in the minds of citizens who are pained by the uncivilised and flagrant disregard for sanctity of human life in the 21st century Nigeria. The emergent unbelievable cruelty is speedily making law abiding citizens to become so helpless and insecure in their own country, which prides itself as a democracy, and where the right to life is respected.
The Time Magazine, in one of its December 31, 1999 write ups probably had Nigeria in mind when it said: ”If the world wants to see an era of harmony and well being in the future , it must look out for the children of the present “.
There is no doubt that, all those who are directly or indirectly involved in the callous killings in Nigeria are enemies of the county and must be seen and treated as such. Unfortunately, the Nigeria Police Force, instead of going after the rampaging herdsmen, who unlawfully go about with sophisticated arms, terrorising and sending scores of unarmed people into untimely graves are turning to hunters and vigilante groups, who are no threats in the society to hand over their dane guns, a directive many Nigerians believe is not only uncalled for but will make the citizens to become more vulnerable to attacks at a time when government has not been doing enough to protect them.
Our considered opinion is that, until the police and other security agencies do their jobs professionally, the citizens will continue to explore other options of protecting themselves. Although a vast majority of Nigerians are resolutely minded in respecting the rights, feelings and aspirations of others, injustice is becoming increasingly pervasive in the country.
The truth remains that: if those who have been traveling in the wrong direction of unlawful killings are not seen to be brought to book, their actions will leave a lasting negative impression and malice in the minds of children of the victims and others.The implications will be many, including jeopardizing harmonious relations and making many Nigerians to doubt the claim of one Nigeria.
The aggressors must be told, like Odumegwu Ojukwu observed, that we cannot dominate; all we can do is to accommodate.Those who kill only succeed in spreading hate in the land: There is no greater sign of a general decay of virtue in a nation, than a want of zeal in its inhabitants for the good of their country, as succinctly posited by Joseph Addison.
Similarly, P. Riga, said that, “ Men must either work and love and strive together for peace or they will die together in an inferno of accumulated hate and suspicion. Therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee”.
If injury to one is injury to all, then all Nigerians must insist that the Federal Government do not only claim to be protecting lives and property, but are seen to be doing just that without fear or favour.
F. Scott Fitzgerald said it all: “When someone stabs you, it’s not your fault that you feel pain”. We must find the agents of pain and death in communities across Benue, Taraba, Plateau, Southern Kaduna, Enugu.We should not only find them, the authorities must bring them to justice to convince all that the law has no respect for persons in Nigeria.
# Iheanyi Ezinwo is the publisher of Notable Outcome newspaper