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Jos And The Unknown Fulani Herdsmen: Who will give a damn?

*What nobody will tell you about the killings!
*Sen. Datong may have seen this coming

By Jide Ajani

It represents a tragic parody. The killing, in broad day light, of a senator and the Majority Leader of the Plateau State House of Assembly, only serves to make blind folly of the assurances given by Information Minister, Labaran Maku, that parents who were worried about the posting of their wards for the mandatory national service were creating unnecessary panic.  For a nation where presidential condolences have become two-a-penny, the latest round of attacks would swell the cabinet wherein condolence letters are filed – one to the deceased senator’s family; another to the Majority Leader’s family; a special one to the government and people of Plateau State; and for the villagers, they do not really matter so you needn’t “give a damn”.

Well, with the spineless killings in Jos, last weekend, would anyone “give a damn” now?  On a matter as weighty as moral force in a corrupt society, the leader who says “I don’t give a damn” in any context particular only presents himself as one with little or no commitment to the fight against the monster.

In a country where police and army camouflages as well as bullet proof vests have become so cheap, where AK-47 rifles come in handy for ‘herdsmen’ on a mission to kill and destroy, then there is more than meets the eye in the unchecked activities of a few untouchables.  It was even so bad for Senator Datong and the Majority Leader that they were forced to join those they planned to bury in the great beyond via a mortal ambush.

And whereas leaders of the Jamaatu Ahlil Sunna Lidawati wal Jihad, otherwise known as Boko Haram, have jumped into the fray claiming responsibility, the point that concerns Nigerians now is not about who did it but the way it was done; and why it should be done.

Had the herdsmen known, Datong was already fighting their cause in the Senate.  Senator Zaynab Kure from Niger State had presented a Bill for an Act to provide for the Establishment, Presentation and Control of National Grazing Reserves and Livestock Routes and the creation of National Grazing Reserve Commission and for purposes connected therewith.

When this Bill went through second reading on March 1, 2012, before it was referred to the Committee which was expected to report back early next month, Datong spoke passionately in favour of the Bill, noting that since rearing of animals was done by a particular group of people in the country, there was the need to encourage them to acquire land for the venture but stressed that such should be done without encroaching on other peoples’ rights. During his presentation, as if relating to the incessant crises sparked by grazing, Datong would have wanted the legislation ready last month.  He should know.

His Plateau State has become a war zone on account of grazing and the repeated clashes between herdsmen and indigenes leading to loss of lives.  People have been killed and may be killed many times over because of this.  Datong needed a stop to this hence his passionate presentation in support of the Bill.  He spoke as if he knew something might give again as had almost always been the case.  But little did he know that, as noted by Senate President David Mark, “he would become a sacrificial lamb.” (See SENATE SESSIONS ON WHAT DATONG WOULD HAVE BEEN DOING IF HE WERE ALIVE)

For the once peaceful city of Jos, Plateau State, which was not conquered by the Hausa Fulani, the present series of crises rocking the area borders on nothing more than attempts at a renewed form of Jihad by other means; but this time, for political reasons.

Gyang Fulani,and Senator Gyang Dantong

Yet, to fully understand the implications of Nigeria’s own Nero fiddling while our Rome burns, just imagine a crusade as in yester-centuries being re-enacted in Nigeria under the leadership of a Muslim President.  Or imagine a Nigerian President of northern extraction fiddling away while militants in the south target only Muslims.

Whereas the insurgency in the North continue in a seemingly unbridled manner, the mix of herdsmen in this fray only serves to further poison and exacerbate an already bad situation.

Firstly, it should be understood that the killings are  not about to stop in so far as President Goodluck Jonathan is seen for what he is: A pacifist. In any case, if Jonathan continues to think that those doing what they are doing would empathize and stop, then he wants something to give – from him, might it be added.  Is it not obvious to him now that his tenure, which some still see as having been hijacked, is meant to be made miserable?

Secondly, because dialogue is not about to be explored, but which itself continues to be seen as a poisoned chalice by those for whom it is meant, is it not time for those in authority to device other means of stopping this carnage – at least that was one of the reasons given by Mr. President, a need for a change of tactics, for removing his National Security Adviser, NSA, and the Minister of Defence?

In addition, how does a government hope to stop an act when serial offenders have never been known to have been convicted?  The impressions is already out there that the herdsmen are untouchable, therefore, why should the herdsmen not continue to torch, maim and kill brazenly?  Mind you, this did not start today. President Jonathan’s luck ran for cover because he merely inherited this.  It is not his making  There had been instances of wanton destruction of lives and property by the herdsmen in times past (see 2010, Killings and Destruction Unlimited; or JOS KILLINGS: HIGH PROFILE DEATHS AS METAPHOR)

Another issue to ponder is:  Why, in the last 11 years, has Plateau State become a killing field such that the federal authorities have become so complicit.

If in doubt, check this out:  During one of the earlier killings, the state government filed a suit seeking to affirm its right to investigate the crisis but later backed out under apparent pressure from the federal authorities and, therefore, the attempt to prosecute suspects arrested in connection with the carnage could not happen as their case files were taken to Abuja and were never returned! In fact, this was a major issue presented to the Abisoye Presidential Panel investigating the 2008 crisis which, ironically, was holding public sitting in the state when one of such violent attacks erupted.

“We note with concern”, a memorandum from the state to the panel insisted, “the apparent confusion in a matter that should have been guided by the Constitution and rule of law. This not only characterized the numerous investigative panels set up by federal and state institutions on the crises but also followed through in the investigation processes as to who has jurisdiction over what. And here we hasten to mention the case of the 26 suspected mercenaries who were arrested in Jos but mysteriously moved to Abuja and released for undisclosed reasons by the Police Force Headquarters,” the memorandum concluded.  Governor Jonah Jang repeated the importance of sanctioning those behind the crises when he received the then Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau, and the then Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ogbonna Onovo, when they paid separate visits to the state. He said punishing offenders would serve as a deterrent to would-be trouble makers. Nobody would tell you that earlier offenders have almost always been set free.

The herdsmen who kill and destroy are not spirits. They come from a direction and head back in a direction.  So, the question to ask is, why have they not been apprehended?

Well, if those apprehended are moved to Abuja and released, why should right-thinking members of the public in Jos risk their lives to attempt an arrest again?

Verdict:  Preparations should be made for more condolence letters from the highest authorities.
And why not, since the nation has equally written condolence letters to Britain and Italy on account of the  activities of insurgents in Sokoto.

At least 24hours after, the appointment was not turned down by the First Lady who could turn round when the heat turns on to say she never solicited for it, nor was she consulted.  Such acts only tend to make a mockery of governance at a time of serious national calamities; worse, coming from a state governor endorsed by Mr. President; and at a time like this.

In truth and indeed, except President Jonathan disembarks from his pacifist posture, Nigeria may be in for a long season of mourning and condolences.  Those who are ready to make his administration miserable are not about to stop and they will continue in the face of shambolic policy framework and mode of engagement.


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