As Benue Marches On
While watching the telecast of the mass burial of the Benue killings on television, the son of a friend asked his father: “Daddy, why are they killing little children. My teacher told me that children are like angels, so why did they kill that little angel? He was pointing to the coffin of a child among those of the adults killed. Even a child was at a loss as to why an individual will kill another. The Benue killings – which is one too many – clearly shows that Nigeria is bleeding profusely and she needs “doctors” to help stop the hemorrhaging before she bleeds to death.
For the people of Benue and Taraba states, the New Year opened with unimaginable bloodshed – 73 people were gruesomely murdered in Benue while over 55 were killed in Taraba. Before these, there were several killings and wanton destruction of properties in some parts of the country. It appears to be getting worse. The mass burial given to the victims of the Benue massacre will move even the strongest hearts. What are the motivations for killing another human being in cold blood? Worse still, why kill a mere child?
All fingers pointed toward marauding herdsmen as those behind these orgies of killings. Are these herdsmen so elusive – like ghosts – that they cannot be apprehended or their activities checked by security operatives? The sometimes stoic silence of President Muhammadu Buhari is not helping matters at all giving credence to conspiracy theories that he may have a hand in the killings by tacitly supporting the herdsmen because they’re from the same ethnic makeup.
Nigeria is sliding and it is high time the president condemned these unnecessary killings in the strongest possible terms. Better still, perpetrators must be apprehended, tried and made to pay the price for their barbaric actions. A human life is sacred and no other human being has the right to take the life of another. Nigeria needs to heal, but the challenge remains: who are those that can start this national healing process?
Though it is only God that can really console grieving families in cases of this nature, the president’s sympathetic words, can go a long way in cushioning the grief of mourning families. We often watch on satellite television how former president Barack Obama of the USA often reaches out to his countrymen after senseless killings in his country. Our president’s sometimes stoic silence is giving room to the proliferations of conspiracy theories. Mr. President Sir, silence is not a strategy in periods like these. Nigerians need to hear your voice and not that of spokespersons. Nigerians need to feel your “hug” and a very big “hug” it should be.
As Benue mourns her dead, she has suddenly become the ‘beautiful bride’ as politicians’ cash in on the tragedy to subtly push their agenda. First to hit the trail was the leadership of ethnic nationalities in Nigeria, including Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo, Middle Belt and South South Forum. They urged President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress, APC, to embrace the call for the restructuring of the country to save it from imminent collapse. While declaring their support for the anti-open grazing prohibition law enacted by the Benue state government, they urged other state governments to adopt the law in their various states to check the menace of herdsmen in the country, noting that it was the way to go.
Also determined not to be caught pants down or napping, some Northern governors stormed Makurdi a few days later to push their own narrative. The Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, who led northern governors pleaded with the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, not to resign from the Nigeria Governors’ Forum over herdsmen killings in the state. Shettima was accompanied on the trip by governors Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna), Yahaya Bello (Kogi) and Simon Lalong (Plateau).
Governor Shettima, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues, said they were in Benue to commiserate with Ortom on the killings. But midway into his speech there was murmuring from some guests who expressed dismay that he did not condemn the attack or made mention of the Fulani herdsmen in his address. He however, used the occasion to accuse South West and South-south leaders of coming to score cheap political points by politicising the herdsmen killings.
As these dramas played out, I’m sure not one of these politicians would be able to name just one of the 73 people killed. The unfortunate thing is that the victims are just numbers – except to family members and neighbours who will continue to feel the pains. This is the sad part of our commentary as a nation; people hide behind outlandish rationale trying to justify the killing of another human being. Except we become rationale, things might sort themselves out the way we never expect.
Ripples from these visits are still being felt. Last week, The Benue Advancement Forum described the visit of northern governors to Ortom as “a mockery” and “belated.” In the same vein, the Tiv Professionals Group said it welcomed the alliance of the South/Middle Belt Forum with Benue State and expressed support for the restructuring of Nigeria. In separate press briefings by the two groups, they expressed support for the anti-open grazing law and insisted that there was no going back.
Prof. David Iornem, the leader of BAF demanded an outright apology from the northern governors because “There was no genuine intention in their visit, rather they came to mock us. Imagine them saying we have politicised the killings. It was an insult on the people of Benue. They should tender an apology, or else, we may be forced to back out of all the northern meetings.”
The tone was further echoed by Prof. Zacharys Gundu of the Tiv Professionals Group who applauded the visit of southern leaders to the state and welcomed their alliance. “We commend the National Assembly and other socio-cultural groups, including Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Middle Belt Forum and the South-South, for their alliances and solidarity with the people of the state.
“We commend them for condemning the Fulani genocide and ethnic cleansing of our people. We welcome their invitation to stand with us and consider our injury as their own. We strongly support calls for the country’s restructuring, including the establishment of state police, and will work with other groups to ensure the restructuring agenda is achieved as soon as possible.”
Americans often say. ‘The buck stops at the president’s table.’ It really does. I urge President Buhari to take a “trip” to Rwanda and learn an eternal lesson on how that country healed after an unimaginable genocide that exposes the crass wickedness of the human heart.
After the horrific and barbaric 1994 genocide, Paul Kagame, who became the president after leading a rebel movement, knew that the first step toward recovery is not revenge killings but to de-emphasise the word “tribe” and bring his country men and women together. He rallied his people together charging them to see themselves as Rwandese, and not “Hutu” or “Tutsi”. He was smart enough to know that the utmost goal of citizens of any nation is peace, security and prosperity, if these abound friction would be less likely. He was also smart to know that if the economy of any nation is robust citizens’ care less about which leader or political power is in power.
I make bold to say that leadership plays a crucial role in the development of any society; a look at the leadership structure of a society says a whole lot about that society, which is why John Maxwell, who has written and researched on the subject, said everything rises and falls on leadership. Leadership can either move a people forward or backward, it can cause incalculable damage that in some cases may require decades to amend. As a student of history and political economy, I’ve taken the pains to study the critical path of nations, and in my studies and research, I’ve discovered that leadership plays a fundamental role.
We need such leadership at this critical stage because it will take the highest form of statesmanship trying to appeal or convince the people of Benue – who are in so much pain right now – to “in the name of God” accommodate their “countrymen.”
Source- THE NATION