By Mayowa Tijani
LET me tell you a sad story: Nigeria.
Yes, Nigeria is my sad story. I think I am in an emotionally abusive relationship with Nigeria. For a few days now, I have been dealing with nightmares and waking up to news of gloom and doom. The boom of good news has been replaced by the bust of sad events. And we seem to be nowhere near enough, the land seems to be nowhere near sufficient bloodshed. Enough remains a mirage.
I was born in Oyo town, Nigeria. But I lived the early years of my life in Makurdi, Benue state. My childhood memories were built around, Inikpi street, High Level, Makurdi. I loved the peace, serenity and love around and in Wadata Market, where another chunk of my childhood days played before my very eyes.
During those years, I saw Fulani herdsmen, leading a mass of cattle with a long wooden staff, which could pass for a cane. As children, we, like many of our parents, always wondered how one or two small boys with canes lead a mass of cattle, without hassle. It was always fascinating to watch.
Fast forward to 2010, one or two cases had been reported in the news, stating that gun-wielding herdsmen had killed farmers in some part of the country. I was one of those who said the herdsmen I knew never carried guns. Those boys and men only carried canes. Five years down the line, this pattern had repeated itself so much, that we had confirmed that herdsmen were now wielding guns.
Sumner Shagari Sambo, a Nigerian journalist with TVC, did an elaborate investigation into cattle rustling in northern Nigeria in 2015, and by December 2015, he said the rustling story was underreported and could turn out to be another brand of terrorism. Time has proven him right.
‘HERDSMEN KILLED 3,536 NIGERIANS’ SINCE BUHARI TOOK OFFICE
As a child who grew up in Benue, I was very concerned and connected to the state as it recorded a surge in herdsmen crisis. Monitoring the numbers in 2016, I found as early as April, that these herdsmen had killed 440 people in the region, more than double of Boko Haram’s death toll as at that time of the year, and I raised alarm. By the end of that same year, security statistics showed that herdsmen killed more Nigerians in 2016 than Boko Haram did.
For 2017, the numbers were not different; Nigerian Security Tracker data, also shows that these herders, regarded as sectarian actors killed 1,022 Nigerians from December 2016 to December 2017, beating Boko Haram’s record for 2017. Need I speak of 2018? From May 2017 to May 2018, 1,587 Nigerians have lost their lives to the violence led by these criminal herders. Note: Boko Haram killed 1,065 within the same period.
From June 2011 to May 2018, militant Fulani herdsmen have killed 4,594 Nigerians, according to sub-Saharan Security Tracker. What is more disturbing is the fact that these numbers actually increased dramatically after President Buhari took the helm. These sectarian actors have killed at least 3,536 Nigerians since the current government came on board.
This sounds like just a number, so let me give you a picture to work with; imagine 117 30-seat coaster buses filled with Nigerians, and these herdsmen kill all of them. That is what 3,536 looks like — many of them innocent women and children.
So somebody tell President Buhari that we are not blaming him for not cautioning herdsmen because he looks like them, we are blaming him for what the data shows us. Data shows vividly that these herdsmen have become ruthless under your watch. And yes, you don’t have to caution them, just bring them to justice. Real justice.
IF HERDSMEN WERE TAKING TERRITORIES…
President Buhari and his team have had a sad retort to every security complaint raised by Nigerians following deaths of fellow countrymen and women.
“I have directed the chief of defence staff and the inspector-general of police to secure all communities under attacks by herdsmen, and to go after all the groups terrorizing innocent people all over the country. This government will not allow these attacks to continue,” this was a statement released by Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture, on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2016.
“It is unlawful of anyone or group to take the laws into their hands in the name of revenge or reprisals… such aggressors, who will be made to face justice,” Buhari said via a statement in 2017, after killings in Ancha village.
“This is one attack too many, and everything must be done to provide security for the people in our rural communities,” the President said after the 2018 new year day killings in Benue state.
“My deepest condolences to the affected communities. We will not rest until all murderers and criminal elements and their sponsors are incapacitated and brought to justice,” the president said via Twitter after 86 people were killed in Plateau over the weekend.
Same response, no action. If you take things deeper with any member of this government, they would take you back to 2015, and tell you how more than 14 local government areas were under Boko Haram’s quest for an independent state. They will tell you how 2015 elections were postponed because of the security situation in the country. “We have tried and technically defeated Boko Haram, they can’t lay claim to a single street in Nigeria,” they will conclude.
But let us ask ourselves; if herdsmen were taking territories… how many local governments would be under their control today? Some in Benue, Taraba, Plateau, and perhaps Adamawa.
“This government will not allow these attacks to continue” — 2016
“Aggressors… will be made to face justice” — 2017
“We will not rest until all murderers… are brought to justice” — 2018
Let me tell you an even sadder story: If the history of this government is anything to go by, this will be the same retort in 2019. Every time they promise to stop the deaths, the government fold its hands and watch the numbers increase!
So don’t blame me, when I stand with Asa, and say:
I feel like we’re all following shadows
And shadows they don’t know where to go
I feel like we are waiting for tomorrow
While today wastes away
I feel like we are a child without a father
I feel like the world is on our shoulders
and we wonder why, oh we wonder why
I feel like we are not the only ones frustrated
I feel like something is going wrong
I feel like everything is going wrong
I feel like the destinies of those meant
To be the best
Are in the hands of liars and now our world is on fire
I feel like we’re not angry enough
That while we wait, time’s ticking away.
Follow Tijani on Twitter and other major social media platforms @OluwamayowaTJ