“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
-Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
VEXED voices have, in exasperation, been asking where Reverend Father Ejike Camillus Mbaka is. They are absolutely right who expect the priest to speak up. People should ask where Bola Tinubu is, the one who covets the feat of unknotting Pandora’s Box. People should be asking where many other previously vocal Nigerians are. People should conduct an investigation on the seemingly abrupt dryness of Niyi Osundare’s inkpot, for he has put an incongruous halt to his fondness for poetizing on national questions. All those experts on radio and television, all those incisive analysts on cyberspace and concourses – know you one thing! People have a right to ask what sneaked in and stole your voices. What crept in and rendered you incapable of standing up? What stealthily stymied your very humanity?
People also have another responsibility, which in fact is more fundamental than pointing accusingly at the supposed guilty. People should be asking themselves where they stand.
People will, perhaps, temporarily desist from wondering whether Wole Soyinka had embarked on a journey out of the planet Earth. The Nobelist’s voice finally crashed against the wall of eviscerating injustice: “Impunity evolves and becomes integrated in conduct when crime occurs and no legal, logical and moral response is offered. I have yet to hear this government articulate a firm policy of non-tolerance for the serial massacres have become the nation’s identification stamp.
“I have not heard an order given that any cattle herders caught with sophisticated firearms be instantly disarmed, arrested, placed on trial, and his cattle confiscated. The nation is treated to an eighteen-month optimistic plan which, to make matters worse, smacks of abject appeasement and encouragement of violence on innocents.
“Let me repeat, and of course I only ask to be corrected if wrong: I have yet to encounter a terse, rigorous, soldierly and uncompromising language from this leadership, one that threatens a response to this unconscionable blood-letting that would make even Boko Haram repudiate its founding clerics.”
Fantastic! Except that Soyinka’s reaction is like that of a fowl on virgin territory that stands tentatively on one leg. For the murderous activities of Fulani herdsmen, he faulted “this leadership”. Well, “this leadership” has at its head someone with a name. Why is the man’s name unmentionable? On Soyinka, there will be much more to say as the unfolding scalping encompasses the variegated swathes of the entity. For now, it requires to explore and expand his observation.
The Government of Enugu State received intelligence on the impending carnage by Fulani herdsmen. Dutifully, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi summoned a 10pm State Security Council meeting attended by the following on the state government’s side: Ugwuanyi, the Deputy Governor, the Secretary to the State Government, the Governors’ Chief of Staff, the State Attorney-General, and the Chairman of the State Traditional Rulers Council. President Buhari’s government was represented by the following: Brigadier General Olufemi Akinjobi, the Commander of the Enugu Garrison (representing the GOC 82 Division of the Nigerian Army); the Enugu State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Nwodibo Ekechukwu; the Enugu State Director of the Department State Security Services (DSS), Mr. M. Abdul Malik; the State Commandant of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Mr. Lar Stephen; and the representatives of the Nigerian Air Force, the Federal Road Safety Corps and the Nigerian Prison Services, who attended as observers.
Yet, the carnage took place, costing anything between 60 and a hundred precious lives; leading to widespread destruction. Would this have happened if the threat had been on Muhammadu Buhari’s hometown of Daura?
The attitude of three politicians in this dispensation – Buhari, Fayose and Ugwuanyi – best illustrates contemporary Nigerian antinomies. About Buhari, his inertia and nonchalance hardly surprise. Hadn’t he told the world that his stance on governance was preferentially tied to the quantum of votes he amassed from different constituencies during last year’s presidential ballot? On Governor Fayose, there is clear evidence of leading from the front. He has not, since his election, shied away from meeting the aspirations of his people upfront, doing so fearlessly, clearly conscious of the fact that he owes his gubernatorial mandate to the good people of Ekiti, not some potentate in Abuja.
But, what has been happening to Fayose? His own people mostly – not those who elected him, mind – but his own people, nonetheless, have been vociferous in damning and condemning him at every juncture, to sustain an untenable patchwork coalition of Masters and Slaves. Some have hung a label of Afonjaism on the perversity.
And then, there is Ugwuanyi. This man looks and sounds pathetic. This was how he started his statewide broadcast: “Four days ago on Monday April 25, 2016 many of our brothers and sisters in Nimbo in Uzo Uwani Local Government Area of the state were murdered in cold blood by suspected Fulani herdsmen…” Four whole days passed before this man deemed it necessary to address his massacred and traumatised people. What was he doing in the interim, apart from leaving his handkerchiefs sopping wet with tears? He found time to be “very grateful to the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, Muhammadu Buhari, for his prompt and decisive reaction to the incident in Nimbo.”
Someone certainly is trapped in cloud cuckoo land. The President hadn’t visited the scene of the massacres. He hadn’t sent a condolence message. He hadn’t ordered an investigation. When he met with Ugwuanyi, it was at the Governor’s instance. Still Buhari got effusively appreciated for his “prompt and decisive reaction”. This beggars belief. This provocative condescension was voiced in a broadcast that had the following only paragraphs away: “In less than three months, violent clashes have occurred in Enugu State in Awgu, Nike, Abbi and Nimbo between suspected Fulani Herdsmen and our people,” with absolutely no reaction from Abuja.
The genocide of 1966 happened before me. Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the then Governor of Eastern Nigeria, did not respond to that anti-Igbo pogrom by grinning ear-to-ear before the murderers of his people; he didn’t go about salaaming them. It is inconceivable that Governor Fayose, were he in Ugwuanyi’s shoes, would have allowed a single night to pass before taking exception, before acting like a man with his people’s mandate. That recommends itself as the stuff of commonsense.
The bloody trail of mass murders by Fulani Herdsmen is unfolding in front of all our eyes. Think of the quotes from Archbishop Tutu and Martin Luther King Jr. above. Think of the dictate of conscience. Think of the sacredness of life. Think of the impunity of these mass murderers. Consider that “Impunity evolves and becomes integrated in conduct when crime occurs and no legal, logical and moral response is offered.” Then ask yourself this question: Am I sitting on the fence, deadening my senses in silences?
Mr. Chuks Iloegbunam, an author wrote from Lagos.