By Jude Atupulazi
As I drove home on the night Nigeria lost to Argentina to crash out of this year’s world cup, I kept passing groups of Nigerians huddled together by the road side, some hands akimbo, obviously talking about the match; while I saw others walking like war stragglers to their homes. These were probably those who found it hard to come to terms with the fact that Nigeria would be taking the next flight home, hence their leaving the viewing centre last.
There’s no need telling you that sports; football especially, is the opium of Nigerian masses. It soothes like a balm and unites the people more than anything. It goes without saying that the successes recorded over the years by various Nigerian teams had saved lives. Yes, there are many people who are as addicted to the round leather game as those addicted to drugs, and just as they find themselves on cloud nine any time the country does well at competitions, they also find themselves in the depths of depression when we lose as we have just done.
Nigeria’s defeat came in a week that the country recorded her worst human carnage in recent history. It was the horrendous killing of 86 innocent civilians – men, women and children – in Plateau State by (who else?) Fulani herdsmen. I don’t want to use that deceptive word usually used after such attacks which is ”suspected”. We are past the stage of suspecting who such killers are because we have all come to know the signature killings of the murderous Fulani herdsmen who have been unleashed on us from the depths of hell.
Those men, women, youths and children who were butchered like Sallah rams, were possibly among Nigerians who celebrated Nigeria’s win against Iceland. They must have looked forward to the last game against Argentina; but they did not live long enough to watch that match. They have been forever shut from watching any football game again.
Although official sources put the number of the dead at 86, the locals in the three local governments where the killings took place said the dead were up to 150. Regardless of whatever is the actual number, the fact remains that Nigerians died (yet again).
The vice president first came and spoke to the people of the state. But it was clear to anyone who listened that he didn’t even believe what he was saying. This means that whatever he said was perfunctory, something he felt he had to say before quickly boarding his plane back to his comfort zone of Aso Rock.
Next to come was the president himself. Rather than soothe frayed nerves, he ended up reminding the people and the rest of Nigerians what they have always known and that is that the president is handling the Fulani killers with kid gloves.
In the president’s speech, one expected to hear him descend heavily on the killers, but he chose, in his now usual way, to skirt around the topic and play safe. He described the killings as an offshoot of herdsmen’s/farmers clash, asking the people of the areas to accommodate one another.
He never showed the mien of one who was greatly saddened and pained by the death of the people whose lives he ought to be protecting. He never berated the herdsmen for their wantonness. All he said was a rather feeble assurance that the killers would be brought to justice (as usual).
Now, Nigerians had long expected that this issue of herdsmen should have been history by now if the right and obvious steps had been taken. For instance, why is Buhari and the security apparatuses not concerned with finding out why in this so-called herdsmen’s/farmers’ clashes, only one side in the conflict is being annihilated. In any way, no matter the gulf in the strengths of any two sides, casualties must be incurred by both sides. But in the case of this ”herdsmen’s/farmers’ clashes”, only the farmers are victims.
They have not also bothered to find out why only one side uses high calibre weapons; in this case, AK-47 Rifles, while the other side uses cudgels, hoes and machetes. We have also been waiting to be told where those using the sophisticated weapons have been getting those guns, especially in a country where such weapons are supposed to be exclusively used by the country’s security personnel.
Buhari had told us earlier that the perpetrators of the heinous crime are not Nigerians. So if they are not Nigerians, why haven’t they been dealt with as external aggressors? Why does he keep going after those agitating to be set free from the useless contraption called Nigeria? He does this even when those agitators have flags and ogenes as their only weapons. But despite this, the president had gone on to declare them as terrorists; while the killer herdsmen are probably saints.
It is because of this disparity in the treatment of issues bothering the country that many people have now come to see Nigeria as a Fulani country; a country where the Fulanis can do anything and get away with it.
To add insult to injury, a group known as Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, reportedly issued a statement not only claiming to be behind the killings in Plateau State and justifying why they struck, also went further to threaten to attack other parts of the country unless the peoples of those parts accept their dominance.
Now, if the security apparatuses in the country are up to scratch in their duties, they would have moved to arrest those who issued that threat. But as they did when Arewa Youths in the North issued a quit notice to Ndigbo to leave the North, the security apparatuses are yet to arrest the Miyetti Allah group.
Indeed, arresting them would have come as a huge surprise to Nigerians, given that arresting the murderous Fulanis has since become an ”impossibility”; after all, who arrests sacred cows?
But those who are expected to talk and be listened to, are not talking. Rather, they are after protecting their business and political interests. This is why I doff my hat for Dr Oby Ezekwesili, a former minister. This woman last Tuesday embarked on a solo protest march to Aso Rock to speak against the killings in the country. After she was expectedly blocked by security people from gaining access into Aso Rock, she opened up to the press and berated Buhari for failing to protect the lives of those he is leading. She described this as proof of failure, even as she also called for the replacement of the country’s security chiefs since they have failed in their duties to protect the citizenry.
Indeed, their failure isn’t something to be debated. The Plateau killings went on for seven hours without any single security personnel appearing. It is a far cry from what would have happened if any opposing politician had criticised the president and his party.
I recall that when Onovo, an Igbo man, was the inspector general of police, he was immediately relieved of his position and retired for ostensibly failing to stem the tide of crime in the country. Now the incumbent police chief has been in the saddle for months and under his watch, Nigerians have been killed like never before in her recent history. Worse still, those behind the killings always go free, while those who try to defend themselves are arrested and accused of planning retaliatory attacks.
When security personnel in a country operate like this, the obvious thing to do is to honourably resign or be booted out. But in Nigeria, the reverse has been the case.
Well, what does one expect when only those from a particular ethnic group and religion are in charge of security and when those they are supposed to arrest and deal with are their brethren and fellow religious adherents?
This is why Nigerians are not deceived by Buhari’s utterances in Plateau State. We will only begin to believe him if he arrests and prosecutes the killers in the same record time he uses to arrest political opponents and agitators for Biafra.
I’m certain he came to Plateau to fulfil all righteousness, following the barrage of criticisms that trailed his failure to visit Benue State in the immediate aftermath of the Agatu Massacre.
As for the vice president, I’m sorry for him. He knows what to do but too afraid to talk or take action. As a minister of God that he is, what has been going on in the country is enough to make him resign in protest but he is still there.
I’m just waiting to hear what Buari will tell the people of the areas the Fulanis are killing when he comes there to campaign, if he ever comes, that is. What about his ministers? What will they tell us when they visit home? The answer is obvious. They will tell us that Buhari is a godsend, but it is left for you and me to believe them.
It was certainly a week to forget by Nigerians whose country has been taken over by the Cow Fulani.