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Jos justice

Plateau State youths protesting killings by herdsmen in three local governments, weekend

By Donu Kogbara

MY phone rang a couple of early mornings ago. It was a female professional who happens to be a Christian indigene of Plateau State. She was feeling extremely downhearted and wanted to share her thoughts about the recent unbelievably savage slaughter, in three local government areas of her state, of over 100 people by Fulani herdsmen.

“I have many Fulani friends, but none of them wants to discuss this crisis or the issues surrounding it…It’s as if they don’t feel a need to engage,” she told me, her voice trembling with emotion.

Behaving like ostriches

She said that there is no Fulani equivalent of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, to issue responsible statements and claimed that the most wealthy, exposed and influential Fulanis are not making the “right” noises at this critical juncture. In other words, she is bitterly accusing members of the Fulani elite of behaving like ostriches who are firmly burying their heads in the sand because they don’t want to see, hear or talk about evil.

And I must say that I too have noticed a tendency to politely leave this toxic hot potato festering under the carpet – by flatly refusing to express opinions – whenever I have tried to raise the topic of marauding herdsmen with Fulanis who are normally happy to chat to me, frankly and at great length, about other political problems.

It’s as if herdsmen are a conversational no-go area for Fulanis, at least when the persons trying to have the conversation are Southerners or Christians; and I am wondering why so many Fulanis are being reticent, publicly at least, about such an important matter.

Sure, there are shameless, evil Fulani fanatics who defend homicidal herdsmen and regard Christian lives as meaningless. But I am 100 per cent sure that the Fulanis with whom I socialise wish no harm to their Christian compatriots and are, by remaining silent about this matter, not condoning violence. So why the tied tongues?

Is the failure to engage caused by embarrassment or resignation or confusion or some other factor like perhaps feeling that the anti-herdsmen narrative is unfairly demonizing Fulanis as a whole?

Anti-herdsmen narrative

Explanations from Fulani Vanguard readers will be much appreciated! Please send your views anonymously, if you don’t want to be quoted.

In the meantime, tempers are running high and the country feels like a pressure cooker that is about to explode. Enraged protestors marched on Government House in Jos on Wednesday. Things soon got ugly as they demanded justice. The President, Vice President and other dignitaries have flocked to Jos to plead for calm, but these pleas are falling on many deaf ears.

Two Christians I know have decided to leave the ruling All Progressives Congress party – APC – because they are convinced that Mr President and his security chiefs are biased in favour of herdsmen. This sentiment is echoed in many quarters, including social media platforms, one of which published the following post two days ago:

Even with the confessions of the Myetti Allah [the Cattle Breeders Association] in Plateau State, Buhari is still strongly defending the Fulani killer herdsmen. What else do Nigerians need as evidence that their President is completely taking sides with those who kill them? It is clear from his statements that he insists all these killings are not done by cattle herdsmen although the evidence is clear.

Simultaneously, Dr. Pogu Bitrus, the president of the Middle Belt Forum, MBF, has accused security and intelligence agencies of complicity, accused the government of abdicating its responsibilities and called on communities in the region to form trained vigilante groups and rise up to defend themselves and their property.

State of anarchy

According to Bitrus: “Section 33 of the Nigerian Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to life and nobody should be deprived of that right. The right to private self-defence is constitutionally recognized to protect that right to life…

“…Governors of the states of the Middle Belt should urgently bring to the attention of President Muhammadu Buhari the need to bring to an end this undeclared war against the people of the Middle Belt as it has the potential of degenerating to a state of anarchy…

“…Immediately after the genocide in Plateau, the Miyetti Allah claimed responsibility and their justification was that over 300 cows were stolen by some indigenous Berom youths…[and] the leadership of the Miyetti Allah has not been arrested nor has the government banned this organization…

“…We call on all Nigerians to note that the Middle Belt is the bulwark against these rampaging terrorists overrunning the entire Nigerian nation up to the Atlantic…

“Other Nigerians who stand aloof now do so to their damnation and that of their children, even those yet unborn,” he said.

I understand Bitrus’s fury and frustration, but his statement is so inflammatory – even going beyond calling Middle Belters to arms to also appeal to the deep-seated Southern fear of jihadi invasion and domination – that it will cause more problems than it solves.

If President Buhari wants to keep his job and regain the trust of the many Nigerians who have lost faith in him, he had better make serious moves aimed at stemming the dangerous tides that threaten to engulf his administration.

What a mess! I pray it can be resolved, but I am not optimistic.

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