I do not get unduly worried when some people argue that Nigeria is gradually sliding into a totalitarian state. Rather, I am deeply worried about the conspiratorial silence on the part of the populace who seem to be sedated to an inexplicable slumber in the face of insecurity and consistent threats to their lives.
The discerning mind knows that it is only a tree that will remain rooted to the ground after it is announced to its hearing that it will be cut down the next day. One wonders if human beings in this part of the world have exchanged positions with trees in the forest. It is absolutely indefensible that Nigerians will keep quiet and remain unmoved in the face of approaching tragedy where they and their families will ultimately become victims.
I ask myself, is this the same Nigeria that rose and rejected tyranny from 1993 through 1998? Is this the same Nigeria where people put aside their differences and made sacrifices to enthrone the current democracy? Could this still be the same Nigeria of warriors, brave men, and brave women who resisted violence unleashed on the populace in the pursuit of inordinate agenda from 1993 through 1998 until the edifice of military rule was dislodged? Something indeed has happened to Nigeria. But whatever it is that has happened to us, objective voices must be raised to identify deteriorating aspects of our society among which insecurity now bulks large.
Following my essay “Confronting Nigeria’s worst enemy”, published in the Sun Newspaper of 20th June 2019, I got a total of 351 emails. The emails came from different parts of the country and in all of them, Nigerians poured out their hearts recounting gory details of security challenges in the country. From those accounts, it is certain that our country is in dire security situation. A recurring motif in all the accounts is the activities of Fulani herdsmen who are at the centre of many of the security issues across the country. In fact, a particular email from Mbaise in Imo state recounted how Fulani herdsmen invaded a community in the area and unleashed a herd on a farm. When the locals accosted the Fulani herdsmen, they said they had orders from above to graze their cattle in the area. Further probing from the locals forced the herdsmen, who spoke Fulani and Hausa, to display sophisticated weapons, AK 47 rifles, daggers, and arrows. In fact, the writer attached a video link to the email showing the exchange between the locals and the Fulani herdsmen.
The above scenario captures the precarious situation Nigerians find themselves in the face of insecurity across the country. These days, our nooks and crannies are unsafe with kidnappers, armed robbers, and all manner of criminality doting on our social fabric. Accounts by victims of insecurity in the country point to one trend, that Fulani herdsmen are increasingly emboldened to indulge in various acts of banditry, violence and bloody attacks. This is very worrisome. The question to ask is this, what is responsible for the spread and daredevil disposition of the Fulani herdsmen? Why are our security outfits handicapped to check their increasing spread around the country?
Some days ago, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria called for the establishment of Northern youth vigilante body in the whole of South-eastNigeria. The body, in their statement, maintained that the establishment of the vigilante group has become necessary in order to protect the herdsmen and their cattle in the region. The position of the group has elicited anger across the land with many people querying the rationale behind such impudence and disdainful courage. Expectedly, many youth organizations in the South-east part of the country and indeed across the country have condemned the call insisting that it was purely insensitive for Miyetti Allah to call for the establishment of such a vigilante group. For sure, more absurdity has not been seen in the system of power controls which makes it actually possible for a body seen by many as a terrorist group to ask for the official establishment of a vigilante group outside of their region.
If the Miyetti Allah is serious about providing security in Nigeria, they should immediately direct their brute energy towards combating Boko Haram, the most dreaded terrorist group in the whole of Africa. Is there any youth vigilante group of eastern origin in any part of northern Nigeria? The establishment of such a group in South-east Nigeria by a northern cattle breeders association is an open invitation for strife. I have read the history of the Fulani and their method of conquering their host communities after settling down. If such a vigilante group is formed in the South-east part of Nigeria, it is certain as daylight that it will be extended to all parts of the country.
One is bound to ask, why do these cattle breeders target peoples farmlands, why is the herd made to eat cash crops which cost people money to plant? What exactly is the mission of these cattle breeders? Are they subliminally embarking on a journey to conquer all parts of Nigeria? If that is the case, what must Nigerians do, to fold our arms and watch these marauding cattle breeders enter our homes, conquer us and lead us into captivity? It troubles the mind that while the federal government disarmed the populace and asked everyone to return their licensed ammunition, the cattle breeders walk about freely with sophisticated weapons. In fact, the Nigerian air force had to issue a statement denying that they used their aircraft to supply sophisticated weapons to Miyetti Allah in Enugu. Whether that is true or not, is a matter of infinite conjecture.
If vigilante groups are allowed to be established across the country, why can’t state police be so established? It is these issues that Nigerians must interrogate on a daily basis. The general silence in the land in the face of threats and insecurity is not only annoying but defies reason. If we continue to imbibe the spirit of “it is well”, that common salve of timid consciences, if we continue to promote such timorous platitudes like “let bygones be bygones” then we must all be ready to accept collective responsibilities in the case of any eventual tragedy that consumes the country. It is unfortunate that Nigerians now find consolation in such insignificant and ephemeral things like a few thousands or millions in their bank accounts which only guarantees an epileptic existence.
Even if we agree that unearned suffering is redemptive, it is only so as long as the sufferers are motivated to challenge the machinery of their suffering. Why is ASUU not talking, why is PENGASSON very quiet, why is the NBA ominously calm, what is the position of CLO, why are the governors quite, why is there so much silence in the face of impending death? Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka summarises my position in these words “the man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny”.
Dr. Adiele writes from Lagos via