We are in a new year when we are supposed to jettison our old bad habits and turn a new leaf. As a nation, we badly need to turn a new leaf based on the many ugly incidents that rocked the nation last year.
On New Year's Eve, Nigerians joined their counterparts the world over to perform the ritual of bidding the old year good bye. They did that in their various ways. While others engaged in bonfires, others set off fireworks. Yet some went to the church to commune with God and thank him for past favours and pray for a better year. It was this last group that got into trouble; a familiar trouble, so to say.
Welcome, Omoku Mass Killing
The nation woke up to news of the callous shooting to death of 23 people who went for midnight church service. They were mowed down like rabbits on their way back from church in the early hours of 2018. For them, the New Year they hoped to see, was the one that snuffed life out of them. They were killed by a notorious cultist, Ejima Igwedibia, A.K.A. Don Waney. He was later killed by a combined team of the Nigerian Army and men of the DSS, along with his some of his accomplices.
The Omoku killing was yet another reminder that the ills of the past year were still very much around.
If there was a place last year that witnessed the worst kind of carnage in the hands of the world's 4th largest terrorist group, the Fulani Herdsmen, that place was Benue State. And the story of Benue killings cannot be told without the story of the Agatu massacre. But if the world thought that it would signal the end of such attacks, they were wrong. Several other attacks had followed and even unto this day. The latest one took a heavy death toll, forcing the surviving members of the village to flee their homes.
In all of this, not a single arrest was recorded as in past ones. The herdsmen seem to be above the law. They attack, maim and kill with impunity, probably because they have a sense of protection by the presidency. Because of this, even the security agencies appear reluctant to go after them for fear of the backlash.
But then, what goes around, comes around, as in this past week, suspected herdsmen attacked a police station, killing two policemen whose throat they slit. Perhaps, this will make the police and other security personnel to wake up and confront what is proving to be a common enemy.
Indeed, some people have started believing that there is a grand plan by some people to use the herdsmen as Jihadists to overrun the rest of the country. It may sound alarmist for now, but recent patterns point somehow to such.
The intriguing thing about the herdsmen's menace is that not one of them has been arrested. But the security personnel who shy away from doing the needful against the herdsmen, do not hesitate to come down hard against other groups or people.
Just the other day in Delta State, a woman had engaged the Fulanis in a stone throwing fight after their cattle had destroyed her farm. In the course of the fight, the woman's stone hit one of the herders, a 15-year old, who died shortly after. The police immediately issued a statement, vowing that they would organize a man hunt against the woman. They said nothing about those whose cattle destroyed the woman's farm.
The New Year has also seen the terrorists extending their Jihad to Edo State whose indigenes protested the other day against the killing of their kinsmen. Thus far, the New Year seems to have carried over the ills of last year to this present time.
It does not need a soothsayer to predict that something is about to happen in this country. There is no way these killings will continue unabated and something will not happen. I see many communities ravaged by the herdsmen revolting and damning the consequences. This is because the federal government will as usual turn a blind eye to the Fulani killers, while going after their victims. But then, there is a limit to docility. I feel sure that sometime in the course of the year, the country will be enmeshed in crises which will spill over to the general elections. These crises will determine whether we remain as one or part angrily.
This situation is still something that can be averted but then I see no response coming from the right quarters. This is fast making a mockery of the ''One Nigeria'' slogan. To me, what we have is ''Two Nigeria''. One, for the sacred cows who pull all the strings, and the other for those at the receiving end.
What pains the most is that while these things happen, the Western part of the country which is part of the federal government (they have the vice president), and which the FG seems to respect more than other zones, is not talking much. It seems the West is happy with what they have at the moment and thus not ready to upset the apple cart. I think that if the West joins the rest of the country to protest what is unfolding in the country, it will be easy for the North-controlled FG to listen more.
But the West isn't talking and the North continues to plunder the nation. Have you listened to the Vice President speak about the killings? He usually refers to them as ''Killings across the country'', rather than call a spade by its name. Those behind the killings are mostly the Fulanis and the Muslim North in the forms of herdsmen and Boko Haram. The incident in Rivers State is different. Let no one be deceived.
I believe that once the West joins in seriously condemning what is happening in the country, the North will feel bare, seeing that the last bastion of her support has left them. Perhaps, they will not easily, or is it callously, wave away calls for restructuring of the country. A situation where a zone appropriates nearly everything to the detriment of other zones is not acceptable.
The other day, it was disclosed that Zamfara State had only 35 students passing WAEC. Yet that state is part of the zone that lords it over all the other zones in politics, appointments, admissions and whatever. Yet when others protest and call for restructuring, their calls are dismissed. In all this, I blame the West for staying aloof. Are they afraid of acting, or are they playing the fool? We shall see.
For now, I don't see anything worth celebrating this New Year. The old things haven't passed away yet; they are still very much with us, in us and around us.
On Saturday, the 6th of January, the Niger Bridge witnessed a massive traffic gridlock. Those who returned home for the Christmas festivities and who were returning to their base, discovered that they could not go beyond the bridge or go back. The reason given was that Delta State was conducting local government elections! To justify the sealing off of the bridge, they said that it was announced over the radio, warning travellers to find alternative routes. But I ask, what alternative route will those going to Lagos take? Why should a mere election stop those not involved from going about their business?
The result was that the stranded travellers got stuck on the bridge and behind; neither moving forward nor moving back. They had to wait till around 2pm when ''an order from above'' finally allowed them to move on. While waiting, a pregnant woman was delivered of her baby right there, probably because of the stress.
When the travellers finally got into Delta State, they found to their shock that the roads were deserted. So why put those travellers to such stress? Are elections conducted on highways? When I asked why Delta State should do that, I was told that the same happened during the Nov 18 guber election in Anambra State last year. They said the bridge was also closed to traffic.
Well, these things can only happen in Nigeria where the leaders spare no thought for those they govern. That was why they kept travellers on the Niger Bridge for six hours even when the road was wide open at the Delta end.
I use this opportunity to appeal to those responsible to desist from such stupidity. If any state cannot plan adequately for security in the conduct of her elections, let them put off such elections rather than inconvenience those who have nothing to do with such elections. What happened that day on Niger Bridge was such a crying shame and more of that could push the citizenry out of their lethargy and spark a kind of revolution against their oppressors.
As we watch things unfold in this New Year, we hope that some miracle would make the country turn a new leaf. It is just a hope, as the reality holds no indication of such. But at least, hope sustains life, as they say.