TODAY, Tuesday August 9, 2022, is the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. The United Nations sets aside August 9 of every year to draw attention to the need to protect and promote the rights of indigenous peoples.
The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs designated the universal theme for this year’s celebration as: “The Role of Indigenous Women in the Preservation and Transmission of Traditional Knowledge”.
This year’s emphasis on the indigenous women’s role is rooted in the fact that women, being the hands that rock the cradles, play the leading roles in imparting traditional and other home-grown knowledge to the future generations. For this reason, they must be recognised and given better representation to partake in affairs concerning them.
Here in Nigeria, indigenous people face a different kind of threat which is existential in nature. These are: Boko Haram jihadist terrorism, bandit terrorism, armed herdsmen terrorism and terrorism by “unknown gunmen” and rampaging cult groups.
In the North-East, indigenous jihadists, Boko Haram, are in alliance with foreign terrorists such as the Islamic State in West Africa Province, ISWAP, devastating the Lake Chad region. Boko Haram and ISWAP are also active in the North-Central, including Niger State, Kogi State and the Federal Capital Territory. Bandit terrorists have the North-West by the jugular, while herdsmen militias are terrorising the North-Central and the Southern states, seeking to conquer indigenous peoples and annex their lands.
The main problem of the protracted insecurity of indigenous peoples in Nigeria is that the Muhammadu Buhari government is selective in deciding which of these invasive groups are terrorists. While our troops are fully deployed against Boko Haram, its captured or surrendering fighters are officially pampered and reintegrated.
The North-West Bandits are ethnic fighters brought in from neighbouring countries and armed to fight a rival political camp for power and be rewarded with indigenous people’s lands. Failure of the government to meet their expectations led the fighters into terrorism. Government’s commitment to confront them is largely in doubt.
The herders, on the other hand, enjoy a free ride. When they attack defenceless communities and commit atrocities, government and the armed forces describe them as “farmers-herders clashes”. Meanwhile, government continues to look for ways to seize indigenous people’s lands to settle these violent invaders, many of whom are foreigners.
If the United Nations is serious about protecting indigenous people, it must place the existential threat of Nigeria’s indigenous peoples on its agenda. It must stop pretending that all is well in Nigeria. Already, some indigenous groups have resorted to self-help since government is not interested in protecting them. Pressure should be applied to make the Nigerian government do their job of protecting indigenous peoples.
Unless this is done, Nigeria could face endless wars.