By Dele Sobowale
“All animals are equal; but, some animals are more equal than others”. George Orwell, 1903-1950 in ANIMAL FARM.
“Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.”—Eleanor Roosevelt, 1884-1962, wife of late American President.
From Agatu to Akure to Aba the story is the same. For that matter from Abia to Zamfara states and the Federal Capital Territory, the Federal government and its security agencies have apparently created two classes of Nigerians – herdsmen and the rest of us. Notice, please that I did not add Fulani because they are not all Fulani or even all Nigerians. The reason is simple, I was once a cattle owner and several of the nomads engaged by the later supervisor, Yinusa Idi, who lived in a settlement near Gezawa in Kano State, were Fulani or Nigeriens.
From what seemed like time immemorial, the herdsmen and women, it needs to be added, had been given a special licence to trespass on the lands and farms of other Nigerians with impunity. Although it is difficult to determine the date when it occurred, they now seem to have also acquired the licence to kill with impunity. During President Shehu Shagari’s administration, Nigeria’s Mobile Police became known as “Kill and Go”. Today, the herdsmen have become the unofficial “Kill and Go”. The evidence is not difficult to find and indeed it was the official response to two incidents in Agatu, Benue State and Abia State which eventually triggered my anger against the Nigerian government and the security agencies. The two episodes represented the face of the Nigerian government as seen by the rest of us who are not part of the nomad community.
Before proceeding let me ask a few questions of the Nigeria Police, the DSS, and the Army. Is it possible for me, a responsible citizen, never convicted of any crime, or even charged to court for any crime, to carry an AK-47 strapped to my back and openly walk through Lagos for three hours without being stopped and arrested? Is it possible that I could, still with the weapon, stroll into the compound of a man in Ningi, Kano State, sit under a tree and not get arrested? Twelve years ago, in Oyo State, before getting the property fenced, herdsmen, with weapons, who had invaded the area for more than three days, ended on my property and decided to camp for the night. Nothing would move them. I leave that incident for now, because of what followed that insult and assault on the community. Now, let us turn to the Agatu and Abia cases which have made anger to boil over.
As the whole world is aware, herdsmen invaded Agatuland, not once but at least three times. Unknown numbers of people were slaughtered, houses were razed and other properties destroyed – leaving thousands of Nigerians homeless and destitute (the living dead) or dead (perhaps the lucky ones). Based on the response from Aso Rock, the Police, the Army and the DSS, the death of so many cockroaches might have received more sympathy. The Police rubbed salt upon an open sore when they tried to play down genocide which left a United Nations official, not a Nigerian, in tears after visiting the area. So, we know how government officials feel about the Agatu people and their assailants. The Agatu cannot expect any security from the government. They are strictly on their own. The killers also received a signal, loud and clear, from government. They can do it again and get away with it.
The story moves to Abia State where incredible news reports informed us that the DSS was investigating the alleged murder of five (5) (that is right; 5 not 500-plus as in Agatu) herdsmen among several others buried in a mass grave in a bush somewhere. Since the DSS had again demonstrated that the majority of the victims of the mass murder don’t count, and only the “untouchable” five matter, let us then make some observations and raise a few questions.
I know from personal experience that herdsmen usually don’t file any itinerary, i.e travel plan, with anyone. So, how on earth did the DSS know that five of them were in that vicinity? If they were among a larger group, and the rest escaped to report, who showed them the way to the Police or DSS office? During their initial investigation, did the DSS attempt to find out from the communities around, the atrocities the nomads had committed? There is another report that DNA test will be used to determine which of the corpses are those of the invaders (because that is what they are) of the Abia communities. What if the DNA test proves that none of them is a herdsman, are we to assume that the investigations will end, that the other Nigerians don’t count? If so that tells the rest of us a lot about the DSS.
Let us now face some facts which have prompted the question asked at the top. It is possible that the Nigerian armed forces have less than 500,000 under arms. It is perhaps the largest in Africa. The group of nomads operating nationwide is about the same number and the communities over which they roam nationwide are almost 700,000. Even if a soldier is stationed in every community, a bloody waste, the armed forces can still not protect all of us. Each time a government official utters the statement “people should go about their legitimate business government will provide security”, I know a liar is talking. Routinely, armed herdsmen invade communities with no policeman or soldier within twenty kilometers of the village or farm. We must now ask the President of Nigeria what his advice for us is on this matter. Should we queue up one by one to be slaughtered when they come to our communities or should we fight back? As for me, like Eleanor Roosevelt said, I don’t accept second class citizenship. After building my wall, my community made it clear to the invaders that we will not lay down and die. There the matter stands.
STOP TELLING US YOU SHARE OUR PAINS; YOU DON’T.
“I share your pains”. President Buhari to Chibok parents.
“I share your pains.” Governor Ambode to Lagos motorists broiling on queue waiting for fuel.
President Jonathan, after driving the pump price of fuel up to N141 per litre on January 1, 2012, pronounced two weeks later “I share your pains” to citizens suddenly made poorer. I wrote on these pages NO, MR PRESIDENT, YOU DON’T SHARE OUR PAINS.
I not only voted for Buhari and Ambode in the last elections, I championed the cause of a Christian Governor in Lagos State at a time when the owner of ACN had no such plan. I have been with Buhari since 2011. Until better candidates come along, I stand by them. But, they should stop telling us they share pains which they don’t. As the father of six daughters, my skin still crawls trying to imagine how I would feel if one of the Chibok girls is my own. Even then, it would be dishonest to say I feel the pains of the parents.
As for Ambode, only someone who has received an uppercut in the jaw followed by foul expletives aimed at his parents at a filling station can share the pains – not one who doesn’t know how the fuel got in the cars in the convoy. Please tell us something else; but not this fib again.