We are de­scend­ing into hell

Sunday Trust - - VIEWPOINT - ochima44@yahoo.co.uk with Dan Agbese 08055001912 (SMS only)

The gov­er­nor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Ru­fai, vis­ited one of the badly af­fected ar­eas in the re­cent erup­tion of a killing spree at Ka­suwan Ma­gani in the state on Oc­to­ber 22. The Daily Trust of Oc­to­ber 23 pub­lished a front page pho­to­graph of the visit. The pho­to­graph tells the story with­out words.

The usu­ally lively gov­er­nor looked shell shocked and ob­vi­ously dazed by the scale of de­struc­tion he saw. Not many peo­ple would look at that pho­to­graph with­out iden­ti­fy­ing with his pain. He im­posed a 24-hour cur­few on the state to help stem the cri­sis - a nec­es­sary step but one with un­in­tended con­se­quences of dis­rupt­ing eco­nomic and so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties in the state to the loud com­plaints of res­i­dents. I of­fer him my com­mis­er­a­tions.

We now know for sure how many peo­ple were sud­denly despatched to the mass graves in this lat­est mad­ness. The gov­er­nor put the num­ber at 22. It could be any­thing but that. But what­ever the num­ber is, high or low, does not mat­ter. Even if only one per­son was killed it still points to the in­escapable fact that while our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers are strut­ting the stage of po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic power, our coun­try is rapidly de­scend­ing into hell. And no one seems par­tic­u­larly moved to halt the heady de­scent.

Kaduna, no stranger to sim­i­lar killing and de­struc­tion in the past, is merely the lat­est in the grim sta­tis­tics of a na­tion awash in the blood of its own cit­i­zens in the hands of its own cit­i­zens. Think back on th­ese states that have buried more men, women and chil­dren in mass graves this year than at any time in our his­tory: Benue, Nasarawa, Taraba, Adamawa, Borno, Yobe and Zam­fara. This is no way to unite the peo­ple and build a united and egal­i­tar­ian so­ci­ety.

What has gone so badly wrong with our coun­try that we have be­come our broth­ers’ killers, not their keep­ers? I am will­ing to bet that mil­lions of our com­pa­tri­ots are ask­ing them­selves this ques­tion. I am sure that they too, like yours sin­cerely, are baf­fled by the si­lence from the quar­ters from which we ex­pect some in­formed re­sponses to the ques­tion.

Here is a tiny but pos­si­ble clue to what our na­tion faces to­day. In Novem­ber 2017, killings and de­struc­tion in some parts of South­ern Kaduna were at­trib­uted to Fu­lani herds­men - the same roam­ing band of elu­sive men who make our se­cu­rity forces look in­ept. The mem­bers of the Kaduna State branch of the Nige­rian Bar As­so­ci­a­tion paid what was said to be a sol­i­dar­ity visit to the gov­er­nor. He told them that “since 1980, about 10,000 to 20,000 (peo­ple) were killed in Kaduna State dur­ing cri­sis and govern­ment did not pros­e­cute any­body.”

Do you find this baf­fling? It is called im­punity. It is what hap­pens when peo­ple are not held ac­count­able for their ac­tions. It is what hap­pens when there are no con­se­quences for the naked com­mis­sion of heinous crimes. It is what hap­pens when the govern­ment ne­glects the num­ber one duty im­posed on it by our con­sti­tu­tion: se­cu­rity; mean­ing its du­ti­ful pro­tec­tion of lives and prop­erty.

This is not about Kaduna. It is about North­ern Nige­ria and the cyn­i­cal ab­di­ca­tion of re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to­wards the former re­gion by the lead­ers who were and are be­cause they are north­ern­ers. How did the most peace­ful and se­cure re­gion in the coun­try sud­denly be­come the most vi­o­lent and the most in­se­cure in our con­tem­po­rary his­tory? Boko Haram has held the north-eastern parts of the coun­try hostage since 2009. They choose when and where to carry out their very deadly strikes.

Th­ese killings and de­struc­tions have been go­ing on for so long that I would ex­pect the north­ern lead­ers, in­clud­ing the pre­tenders to the throne, to hun­ker down in search of so­lu­tions to­wards the re­cov­ery of the soul of North­ern Nige­ria and make it peace­ful and se­cure once again for their sake and for our sake and for the sake of our dear coun­try. Is there no north­ern leader to­day who has the clout to sum­mon such a meet­ing to de­lib­er­ate on end­ing Boko Haram, stop­ping the Fu­lani herds­men and the ban­dits in Zam­fara State? Let such a man stand up. Times like th­ese try pa­tri­otic men and women. It is a shame that while the other re­gions are peace­ful and se­cure, every­thing is rapidly fall­ing apart in North­ern Nige­ria.

I think it is no longer wise or re­spon­si­ble to leave the prob­lem of in­se­cu­rity in North­ern Nige­ria to the fed­eral govern­ment alone. Its as­sur­ances to end the killings ring jar­ringly hol­low be­cause the more it of­fers those as­sur­ances, the more the killings go on. A north­ern se­cu­rity sum­mit rec­om­mends it­self in the cir­cum­stances. We need fresh and prag­matic think­ing on how to end th­ese killings as soon as pos­si­ble. Prob­lems do not solve them­selves. Since they are cre­ated by hu­man be­ings, they must be solved by them. But the hu­man be­ings must wake up to the clear and present danger. It is the busi­ness of a leader to lead; it is the responsibility of the fol­low­ers to fol­low. Lethargy or in­sou­ciance is fa­tal to se­ri­ous se­cu­rity chal­lenges such as we face in North­ern Nige­ria to­day. I ask our north­ern­ers to think about the im­pli­ca­tions of the in­se­cu­rity in the re­gion for the re­gion it­self and the coun­try as a whole. Po­lit­i­cal power is not held or se­cured for its own sake. It is a means to an end in this case se­cu­rity in the land and peace among the peo­ple. It is the busi­ness of lead­ers to make us our broth­ers’ keep­ers again. Yes, it can be done if we show the will and the com­mit­ment.

When a coun­try is con­fronted with this sort of chal­lenge, it has two op­tions. The first is to seek ways and means of ad­dress­ing those things that have over the years pro­moted eco­nomic and so­cial in­equal­i­ties in our dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties and dis­united the peo­ple. Cir­cum­scribed eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal op­por­tu­ni­ties in­fect com­mu­ni­ties like the virus and drive peo­ple to take the laws into their hands to ef­fect a favourable par­a­digm shift in their so­cial, eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal cir­cum­stances.

The sec­ond op­tion is to take con­trol of the means of vi­o­lence. Var­i­ous in­formed re­ports and stud­ies have re­peat­edly pointed to the pro­lif­er­a­tion of arms and am­mu­ni­tions through­out the coun­try. The ready avail­abil­ity of th­ese weapons has fu­elled armed rob­beries, kid­nap­pings and killings. Th­ese arms and am­mu­ni­tion have grad­u­ally shifted from the Niger Delta to North­ern Nige­ria. Things can only get worse if noth­ing is done to stem the pro­lif­er­a­tion of arms and am­mu­ni­tion.

Our north­ern lead­ers need no one to per­suade them that th­ese mind­less killings threaten their power, their wealth and their com­fort zones.

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