Last Monday, Nigerians of good cheer must have heaved a sigh of relief when they either read or heard the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa'ad Abubakar 111, talk on the dreaded herdsmen. The Sultan, quite unlike his people, came down hard on the herdsmen whom he described as terrorists. Not just that, he prescribed a very harsh punishment to them reminiscent of the type given to terrorists.
For those who may not know, the herdsmen in Nigeria have been proclaimed as the fourth largest terror group in the world by an international index group. They have been responsible for hundreds of mindless killings in their host communities across the country. Worse still, those killers always go scot free, making it seem as if those they kill are not human beings but animals.
The silence of the federal government coincides with that of the leaders from the north; factors which have no doubt, emboldened the perpetrators of the heinous acts.
Before this latest type of killing, had existed the religious one which dates back to even the post-civil war era. Since the pogroms then, through the Maitasine killings of 1980 to what plays out now, northern elders/leaders and the federal government have done little or nothing to convince those being killed that they are humans. And thus, the bloodletting orgy has gone on unabated.
But last Monday, the Sultan of Sokoto, the spiritual head of Moslems in Nigeria, finally came out to condemn the evil called herdsmen and called for the strictest sanction on them. Although many feel he spoilt it all by describing them as strangers, that is non-Nigerians, it was still felt that condemning the menace of herdsmen at all was good news, a development that could trigger a chain reaction of other such condemnations by eminent political and religious leaders form the north.
As stated earlier, religious, political and ethnic killings in Nigeria have blossomed all these years as a result of the silence/inaction of those well placed to stop them. Knowing how things operate in the north where the perpetrators, who are largely from the lower rung of their society, look up to their leaders for direction, it has always been felt that the right word from those being looked up to would have done the magic.
Thus, the Sultan's condemnation is coming at the right time, even if some may feel it is a tad belated. Now that he has voiced what the rest of Nigerians had been expecting to hear, we expect that other northern elders/leaders will follow suit in order to check the excesses of the perpetrators of this evil.
Beyond that, they should equally look for those lurking in the background as their sponsors. It is no longer safe for anyone to feel unconcerned about certain developments. The menace of Boko Haram in the northeast, took the turn it took because of the silence of their leaders. Thus what started as the prosecution of non-Muslims, later snowballed into the persecution of everybody there.
We welcome the Sultan's intervention at this critical time and hope it will not end up as mere rhetoric. There is no second name for evil anywhere. What is evil is evil and should therefore be always condemned. God bless the Sultan of Sokoto for his courageous intervention.