By Jude Ndukwe
The March 8, 2017, crisis in Ile Ife between the host Yoruba community and the settler Hausa community that led to the unfortunate loss of lives on both sides has further exposed the delicate nature of our union as a nation and the need to find urgent solutions to these crises which have bedeviled our nation like never before under the current administration of president Muhammadu Buhari.
The regularity and severity of these avoidable and preventable crises from Agatu and other communities in Benue State to the Nimbo community in Enugu State, Ndi Okereke Abam and Ozu Item communities in Abia State, several other communities in Nasarawa State, Ekiti State, Ondo State, Delta State, Southern Kaduna among many others are most worrisome.
From community to community and state to state, the response of the federal government to these killing sprees has been unbelievably drab and uninspiring. For example, the Southern Kaduna killings by suspected Fulani herdsmen continued for so long with so much flagrance and impunity to the extent that that part of the state became an ocean of blood and a field of wanton destruction.
No minister visited the place to commiserate with them or even assure the victims that the culprits would be brought to book. When Nigerians got so worried about the silence of the federal government on such a critical matter of extreme criminality, the lame excuse a listless presidential spokesman in the person of Femi Adeshina could give was that the state government was handling the matter and there was no need for the president to interfere. This gave the murderous Fulani herdsmen the audacity to continue their killing of innocent Nigerians with much braggadocio.
In fact, they even received a reward from the little Emperor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El Rufai, who took the infamous step of diligently seeking out the killers in far away countries and compensated them. It took much pressure mounted on the federal government by the people, including local and international organizations, before any concrete steps were taken to reduce the frequency of carnage in that area.
Many have said that the reason why the federal government and the state government were slow in acting on the Southern Kaduna matter was because the aggressors are of the same Fulani stock as the governor and the president. Whether this assertion is right or wrong is left for observers to judge.
And as if to confirm this, no sooner had the Ile Ife Crisis ended than two federal ministers in the persons of Abdulrahman Dambazau (interior), and Geofrey Onyeama (foreign affairs), visited the scene of the crisis, and the police, swung swiftly into action, arrested, investigated and are ready to charge the purported culprits to court in record time.
The summary of the Ile Ife crisis is that the Yoruba stood up to the Hausa/Fulani and inflicted terrible damage on them, so enormous they would never have bargained for such, or ever saw it coming.
Could this have been behind the swift reaction of law enforcement agents to the crisis, the type of swift reaction that was not seen in Agatu, Lafia, Nimbo, Ozu Item, Southern Kaduna or any other place?
Could this be the reason why high-powered delegation of the federal government led by two very senior and prominent ministers visited the scene soon after? Which minister has visited Agatu till date? Which one has visited Abia, Nasarawa or Enugu to commiserate with the people over their unfortunate losses in the hands of the ever marauding Fulani herdsmen? Usually the victims in these areas are left unattended to until they begin to protest before any ear is given them.
The best Dambazau did on Agatu was a press release made on March 14, 2016, by his press secretary urging the then IG of police to arrest the perpetrators of the dastardly killings there; yet, the killings have continued. It took the protracted absence of Buhari from the country for Osinbajo to do something sane by visiting the people of Southern Kaduna over the crisis that had engulfed the area.
One can only imagine what would have happened if the Delta monarch that was kidnapped and killed by suspected Fulani herdsmen a little over a year ago was a northern monarch. Hell would have let loose and many Deltans would have been arrested and prosecuted by the police the Ile Ife style. In fact, lives and properties would have been destroyed by northern youths who would go all out unhindered to carry out reprisal attacks. But what happened to the man’s killers? Nothing!
Although some Nigerians have read ethnic and religious meanings into these bizarre developments, it is actually beyond that! My interpretation of the actions, reactions, and inactions of government and its officials to these crises is that it is only expected.
A situation where a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation like Nigeria has its minister of defence, minister of interior (who oversees the customs, civil defence, prisons and immigration), minister of justice and attorney-general, national security adviser, heads of the army, police, DSS, customs, immigration, prisons, civil defence are all muslims from the north, it is only expected that events take the turn they have taken under the current administration even in critical security matters.
When Sister Eunice, the woman evangelist was hacked down by suspected Islamic fanatics in Kubwa, Abuja, sometime ago, our police became handicapped in getting the killers. When the septuagenarian Mrs Bridget Agbahime was hacked down in the open in a Kano market, the suspected killers who were eventually apprehended were let off the hook simply on the advice of an official of the same Kano State government that had vowed to bring her killers to book, yet, federal agencies looked on as if Mrs Agbahime’s life did not matter, as if she had no family!
So when federal government and security agents reacted so swiftly the way they did in Ile Ife, many have said it is because their kinsmen were worse off in the crisis, something that came to them as a rude shock. It was so bad that one of the Hausa/Fulani settlers wrote on a slate in manageable grammar: “This is the true Life. Ife has finished US… 8-3-17”.
Rather than look for scapegoats to assuage their kinsmen whose stock in trade has since become to embark on the costly expedition of conquest in faraway lands, the Dambazaus of this country should school them on how to carry on their businesses within the limits of good neighbourliness, respect for their host communities and humility. One can only hope that they have learnt their lessons that it is foolhardy to mistake the tiny tail of a rattlesnake for a worm, or the meekness of an elephant for weakness.
The “yeyerity” (which is the mischievous reduction of serious matters to comedy) of our government and security agents as they continue to apply double standards in the discharge of their duties as evidenced from above is legendary. It is time for Nigerians to begin to speak up against selective application of our laws to issues based on some mundane considerations that only end up dragging us centuries backwards. It is the continued glorification of such “yeyerity” that has made the restructuring of the country more imperative now than ever before.
We can only delay, but we can never run away from doing the right thing!
—firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @stjudendukwe