STOP THIS CARNAGE NOW
As I predicted toward the end of last year, terrible things are happening. But let me cut in quickly and state that no matter the plans of the evil people Nigeria will witness a very robust year. For how long will evil thrive in a nation in which 80% of its citizens are claimed to believe in God? Every day, we witness the sprouting of new churches and mosques, yet God is still very far away from our hearts. All we demonstrate is outward signs of our faith.
I know deep inside me that something is endemically wrong with Nigeria. Almost all the articles I have written in this column have centred on Nigeria and the way forward. I take the pain to point out the evils of our society and in the same breath demand solutions to them. Who can confidently tell me Nigeria is not seriously sick when we consider the atrocities that go on daily inside it? If nobody wants to own it up I will. Nigeria has suddenly become a nation of lawlessness and brigandage.
When the United States labelled us a terrorist nation many Nigerians poured invectives and venoms on America. Even though I am morally against the labelling of Nigeria as a terrorism-prone nation and criticised it vehemently, latter events have given credence to the position of America.
How would one classify the sordid and monstrous event that took place in Dogo Nahawa, a sleeping village in Jos South Local Government Area of Plateau where over 500 innocent and defenceless people were killed in an early morning raid by a band of rampaging marauders and militants disguising as herdsmen? The merciless manner they mauled their victims demonstrated an inner feeling of hate and spite on the part of the killers. What reason can any man give for taking another's life? 500 persons - mostly women and children - sent to their early graves in one fell swoop, without any justification, was sheer madness. That it happened in a nation that professes rule of law and orderliness makes the whole thing more nauseating.
I wonder what difference is between Nigeria and Somalia or Iraq or Afghanistan where law and order have broken down irretrievably! The only difference arguably is that while other countries listed with it are in a state of war Nigeria is not. But what is war if not a state of anarchy in which people are killed without any recourse to justice?
Why has Jos become the killing mine of the nation? Why has a state once acclaimed for its calm and serenity suddenly turned a centre of orgy and senseless killings? The present notoriety of Jos started shortly before the end of the tenure of former governor Joshua Dariye when the Olusegun Obasanjo administration declared a state of emergency to curb the growing restiveness in the state. Even though the state of emergency ran its full course it only succeeded in worsening the animosity between the Hausa and Berom people. Obasanjo had every opportunity to resolve the problem once and for all but he blew the chance because of political hegemony. The truth of the matter is that Jos is peopled majorly by the Berom (mainly Christians) and Hausa who are made up of more Muslims. In all, the struggle for dominance by the two groups is ostensibly at the centre of the rancorous relationship between the two groups.
From information pieced from reliable sources the two groups have become irreconcilably pitched against each other such that only a stringent measure can restore normality between them. I must confess that none of all the steps adopted by the government since the crisis started some time in 2004 was nurtured by truth and altruism. Each approach initiated by government had been steeped in bias and insincerity.
What I am yet to fathom is what gave the perpetrators the impetus to embark on such a heinous atrocity if not backed by some highly-placed persons. I am even more amazed when it is considered that soldiers and policemen were actively on duty and a 24-hour curfew and surveillance in place when the militants struck.
The sad incident of March 7 reminds me of the genocide in Rwanda between the Hutu and Tutsi. There is no difference whatsoever between the two. In the Rwanda incident, about 800,000 were killed while in Jos about 2000 persons must have cumulatively lost their lives. The danger in the Jos episode is that it is a smouldering hell with unfathomable capacity to consume. The March 7 mass killings was the second this year, and the third since 2008. And each case assumes a more horrifying proportion than the previous one.
I think the evil men that carried out the Jos operation must have watched the tapes of the Rwandan ethnic massacre. Watch the pictures displayed in the media on the Jos incident and you will understand what I mean. In the recent pictures released I saw helpless children and their mothers hacked to death with machetes and swords with their stomachs disembowelled and their brains ripped open. Exactly the way the Rwandan victims met their end.
It is certain that if the masterminds are psychiatrically examined it could be discovered that they suffered from some form of dementia. This is so because nobody in his right senses would lift a machete or cutlass against a three-month-old baby. Those guys or whatever they are were nothing but beasts and cannibals. I cannot believe that such men live freely among humans.
The reports in the media on how the operation was planned and executed were damning. The alleged involvement of mercenaries from Chad and Niger makes the whole issue more worrisome. But wait a minute! Why did the soldiers drafted to maintain law and order in the aftermath of the January 2010 eruption not able to detect the underground movements of arms and other logistics by the perpetrators? Again, why did the military authorities in Jos not respond swiftly to the alarm raised by Governor Jonah Jang a little before midnight when the attackers struck? These are questions to which immediate answers are required.
As much as the crisis is being given an ethnic colouration by some interest groups, I beg to adopt a different point of view. My thinking is that the crisis should not be restricted to the Berom and Hausa.
This is so because some of those killed came from other ethnic groups in the country. The truth is that when anarchy ensues, it does not recognize one's ethnic background. In the crossfire, anybody can fall victim. And that was exactly what happened in Jos. In the January incident, for instance, a brilliant lawyer of Abia State descent and who was returning from an assignment in Kaduna and ran into the mob, was brutally killed in the crossfire. I know there were many similar cases unreported.
What bothers me right now is the aftermath of what happened in Jos. Already the impact is resonating across the country like hurricane - threatening to break it up. Several imputations are being made at different quarters across the country. Some of these insinuations have the potentiality of evoking a national dissension – even to the point of threatening national peace and cohesion. The Berom, feeling deeply aggrieved are threatening a reprisal attack while the Hausa have vowed to chase the Berom out of Jos. Even the non-indigenes from other geopolitical zones, especially southeast and south west, have expressed serious concern over the incessant loss of lives and properties in the entire Plateau State.
Another worrisome fall-out of the crisis is the steady exodus of people from Jos since the 2008 massacre during which some National Youth Service Corps members of Yoruba extraction were butchered.
The Federal Government and, indeed, all Nigerians should be concerned about the general insecurity in the country. Not long ago Bauchi, Borno and other northern states were gripped by sectarian violence unleashed on them by the dreaded Boko Haram religious sect. Despite the monumental loss in human and material resources recorded during the unfortunate incident no serious arrests have been made. All that was done was to console the victims by word of mouth. No compensation or reprieve was extended to those who suffered diverse degrees of losses.
The same scenario is playing out in the recent Jos crisis. The 44 persons arrested and being prosecuted are mere miscreants and scallywags caught on the wrong side of the offensive. The real sponsors of the carnage are yet to be arrested. And until they are arrested and punished the crisis will be still far from being over. The genesis of the crisis lies in the self-centred interests of some well-placed individuals who are beneficiaries of the upheaval. That the crisis occurred while a peaceful settlement of the previous one was going on speaks volumes of its real intent.
There is no doubt whatsoever that the blood of the innocent killed in Dogo Nahawa will hunt this country until justice is done. Each time I glance through any of the pictures of the massacre my heart bleeds. It bleeds because the perpetrators of the vicious act did not even consider the little children, many of whom had barely felt the full weight of life, before hacking them to death. Why apply such brutal force when these infants could hardly see let alone repel their attackers. Ripping their brains open, cutting off their heads and disembowelling them were quite unnecessary. What explanation will they give to God on the Day of Judgment for their senselessness?
The spirits of these innocents (some of who were being suckled by their mothers when death struck) are crying to heaven for justice. And God will not allow their assailants to go unpunished.
The incident has thrown up new challenges for the security agencies in the country, particularly now that the 2011 general elections are fast approaching. It shows that the Niger Delta crisis is just a fraction of the pandemic seething to explode. When considered holistically, it can be seen that every part of the country has developed its own peculiar security challenges. While the south grapples with kidnapping and militancy the north faces increased activities of religious bigots and fundamentalists. What this translates to is greater burden on the police and other security paraphernalia.
I do not feel very comfortable with the idea of drafting soldiers at the slightest outbreak of hostility in any part of the country when it is the primary duty of the police to maintain law and order. Soldiers should be drafted only in extreme circumstances when the overall security of the nation is compromised. What this means is that there is now an increased reason to fund the police and ensure that such funds are judiciously used.
I think the police have the capacity to handle security in Jos, and, in fact, all over Nigeria if given free hands to operate. There is no way the police can perform maximally when some powerful personalities obstruct its functions. For instance, it is being bandied all over the place that some governors, powerful politicians, serving security personnel and other unnamed persons were fingered for their involvement in the mayhem. How true this allegation is yet to be unravelled. Probably, that was what prompted the Federal Government to set up a panel to look into it in order to ascertain its veracity.
Whether it is proved to be true or false in the end, one thing that cannot be disputed is that the nation is sitting on a keg of gun powder, which can explode any time. As I have always written, this nation cannot afford another civil war at this time of its evolution. The 1967-1970 Civil War was triggered off primarily by the pogrom in the north, in which thousands of easterners were killed in cold blood by irate mobs. For how long shall we kill one another before we realize that we are one large family in the united Nigerian nation?
The Federal Government is tasked by the present security situation in the country to evolve a strategy to stem it. First, our porous borders should be securely policed while efforts should be made to reduce the large caches of arms in unauthorized hands. From where do these sophisticated weapons find their way into the country if not through the borders, airports and seaports? It is better to nip crises in the bud than adopting fire brigade approach to stem them when they erupt.
What will happen in 2011, considering the desperation among our politicians to win elections, is one big worry for all of us. But there is a way out: Let every Nigerian show commitment to security by exposing those who are behind the ceaseless mayhems that threaten our collective existence as a nation.
Like the American will always say: 'See something, say something'.