By Jude Atupulazi
The reported killing of 86 people by suspected herdsmen in Plateau State last Sunday was easily the most gruesome happening of the week. Although the police put the official number of the dead at 86, locals claimed that up to 140/150 lost their lives, with many others wounded.
The casualty figure which surpassed any of its kind so far in the country, hit this all time high because of the duration of the attacks which lasted from Saturday night to Sunday afternoon. The duration of those attacks however leaves a sour taste in the mouth as far as security is concerned in the country.
The attacks were carried out in the villages of Gashish, Nyarr, Gana Ropp and Shonong in Barkin-Ladi and Riyom Local Government Areas. Earlier in the year, 73 people had been massacred in Benue State, leaving the grieving people of the state to organize a mass burial for their slain people about one month later.
The latest killings in Plateau are just part of many across the country and most of them by the same people: Fulani herdsmen. The worrisome aspect of the entire bloody scenario is that the killers are yet to be apprehended and brought to justice.
Another unsettling aspect is the seeming lack of respect for the dead by the Federal Government of Muhammadu Buhari. A day after the mass burial of the 76 from Benue, the country’s president, who as at then, was yet to utter a word in condemnation against the killings, was busy entertaining a group of 7 APC Northern governors who were begging Buhari to run for second term!
Such was the callousness of the Federal Government’s silence that the faith of many Nigerians, especially Benue people, in their country was seriously shaken.
In saner climes, life is held sacred and enjoys priority above all else. When anyone dies from terrorist action, or even accidentally, the entire nation mourns such deaths, with the president leading by example. The government also goes the extra mile to arrest and prosecute the killers in the case of acts of terrorism.
But in Nigeria, the reverse is seemingly the case. Human life is worth nothing and no matter how many people are killed, life goes on. Worse still, the aloofness of the Federal Government to these killings has only served to embolden those behind the massacres. While the herdsmen go about wielding sophisticated weaponry with which they kill and maim members of host communities, harmless groups like Biafra agitators are hounded and proscribed.
It is now a situation where the country can be said to be at war with herself. The number of those being killed almost on a daily basis is such that can only be seen in a war situation. But then the country is not at war with any known external force. This is therefore why it is worrisome.
We are therefore calling on the Federal Government to put a halt to these killings by declaring war on herdsmen the way it has declared war on Boko Haram and the way it quickly proscribed the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and branded them terrorists.
If the Federal Government fails to apply the sledgehammer now on herdsmen, no matter where it says they come from, then, it should accept that it has failed in its essential duty of protecting life and property. And any government which fails to guarantee that should have no business staying in power.