By Clifford Ndujihe
LAGOS—LEGAL Icon and Elder statesman, Professor Ben Nwabueze, SAN, has thrown his weight behind call by former Defence Minister, General Theophilus Danjuma, retd, on Nigerians to defend themselves against killer herdsmen because the military was colluding with the killers.
In a statement, yesterday, Professor Nwabueze asked: ”Should Nigerians rise up to defend themselves in the face of the slaughter and havoc the Fulani herdsmen inflict on them and the failure or inability of the Federal Government to protect them?”
He answered the question with a positive nod, saying that General Danjuma only re-echoed Section 33 of the 1999 Constitution, which guarantees Nigerians the right to self defence.
His words: ”Anarchy and a consequent ‘ethnic cleansing’loom in the horizon if the attacks, killings, destruction of properties and displacement of people by Fulani herdsmen continue unchecked and unpunished, given the failure or inability of the Federal Government to take action to that effect, a state of things that may likely force the communities at the receiving end to resort to self-defence, as is guaranteed to them by section 33(1) & (2) of the Constitution. Gen T.Y. Danjuma (rtd), former Minister of Defence, was only re-echoing the guarantee of the Constitution when, in a statement on 24 March, 2018, as reported in the newspapers, he called on Nigerians to rise up and defend themselves against the murderous attacks by Fulani herdsmen and against the larger design at ‘ethnic cleansing.’
”The action which the aggrieved individuals may take in self-defence, guaranteed by the Constitution, must be viewed in the context of the extraordinary situation created by the Fulani herdsmen insurgency and the means they employ – Ak47 and other sophisticated weaponry. Faced by an attack by such means, self-defence using sticks, bows and arrows is futile and meaningless. What is the value in guaranteeing a person the right of self-defence and then denying him the appropriate means to exercise the right effectively when the need to do so arises? Self-defence, to be effective and meaningful in the prevailing context, must be by means proportioned to the means employed by the attackers. Disarming the citizenry and leaving them unprotected against the killer herdsmen would only render nugatory, to a large extent, the constitutional guarantee of self-defence, viewed again in the context of the extraordinary situation created by the herdsmen armed insurgency and the failure or inability of the Federal Government to stop it.”
The General did not just get up one happy, glorious day to make the call. He was moved to do so by the extraordinary situation, with its tragic effects, created by the Fulani herdsmen and the Federal Government.
”The result of Nigerians rising up to defend themselves may be indiscriminate killings, on both sides, ‘ethnic cleansing’ and anarchy. Our hope and wish is that such should not in fact happen. The experience of the United States does not lead us to think otherwise. The U.S. Constitution, adopted with effect from 1787, underwent its Second Amendment in 1791. The Amendment provides : “A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed…”
”Should allowing Nigerians to keep and bear arms ever lead to anarchy and ethnic cleansing, then, the blame for that should be laid squarely on President (Muhammadu) Buhari for failing to disarm the killer Fulani herdsmen at the early beginnings of the conflict. Had that been done, the killings, the destruction of properties and the displacement of persons might not have occurred to the point of their escalation to a national calamity, and the point where self-defence becomes a national issue. Still armed with Ak-47 guns, the Fulani herdsmen were thus enabled to kill people in Kaduna State on 29 March, 2018, and even on the very days the President was on a visit to some of the affected States – Plateau, Taraba, Zamfara and Benue.
”We must admit to ourselves that the affairs of this country have not been, and are not being, conducted with a due sense of responsibility as well as a due sense of shame. Is it not a shame that the Fulani herdsmen should have been allowed to inflict so much slaughter and havoc on innocent, law-abiding citizens without being disarmed at the initial stages of the conflict and without the wrath of the law being brought down on them? And we unashamedly castigate Gen Danjuma for calling on Nigerians to rise up to defend themselves.”