Buhari Should Unite Nigerians Now
Since the last eight months the incidents of inter ethnic conflicts have widened and the regularity has assumed such a frenetic status that a stranger visiting Nigeria would assume that Nigerians are waging silent internecine wars of tribes against each other and religions against the others.
The above postulation hasn’t in anyway reduced the validity in the fact that flashes of inter ethnic and inter religious conflicts have become a recurring decimal.
Right from the military junta of General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida Nigerians of different Ethno-Religious colouration have had clashes and indeed deadly conflicts that have led to the death of thousands of persons but not a single culprits have been punished. The fact that persons who kill are not punished in accordance with the law it follows therefore that impunity has gradually been institutionalised.
It was during the Babangida-led military regime that the Hausa/Fulani and the Indigenous tribes of Zango Kataf in Southern Kaduna State waged relentless battles of superiority just as succeeding administrations have also had their fair share of these bloody Ethno Religious upheavals. Sadly, no one has faced the full weight of the law for these mass killings.
For instance, Plateau State during the eight years gubernatorial administration of Jonah Jang a retired Air Force General who hails from Birom Ethnic nationality, the Fulani settlers waged intermittent warfare against the largely Christian indigenous people of Plateau State which resulted at a point in the total destruction by suspected armed Fulani mercenaries of Dogo Nahawa Community in Barkin Ladi Local Government Area of Plateau State in which approximately two thousand villagers were massacred in their sleep.
But the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is accused of largely not viewing the continuous attacks of some farming communities by armed Fulani herdsmen as threats to national security. For the first time since Nigeria gained Political independence the armed Fulani herdsmen have never been as daring and notorious as they are showing and waxing stronger under the current dispensation so much so that they have taken their forays of horrendous killing campaigns to as far flung States as Delta, Enugu, Ondo and Ekiti States. Benue, Taraba and Plateau have severally faced attacks from same armed Fulani herdsmen.
These armed Fulani herdsmen have branched off into other levels of criminality and terrorism such as armed kidnapping for ransom payments and other sundry crime like armed robbery and Nigerians are indeed mystified on how so easily they access dangerous weapons and they don’t get caught by the security agencies as if there is a well coordinated plot not to arrest and prosecute them.
Added to these serial attacks of the most vicious dimensions waged by armed Fulani herdsmen is the notorious resurgence of inter Ethnic Conflicts such as the one that was averted in the Federal Capital Territory last Week when a tricycle operator of Hausa origin conspired with his fellow Hausa tricycle operators to lynch to death a Young Igbo trader over minor disagreement of transportation fare. As reported only in a section of the media the Police Commissioner in FCT Mr Wilson Inalegwu prevented the riots from escalating because other Igbo traders who were told about the incidence rallied to take a revenge attack but were quickly stopped by the Police but till date the media hasn’t reported about the number of arrest over the killing of that innocent Igbo trader in Abuja which nearly sparked off a needless Ethno -Religious conflict in the serene and peaceful Abuja municipality.
But Lagos isn’t that lucky that Abuja because the commercial capital of the largest black nation globally has just witnessed an Ethnic conflict when a Yoruba lady was run over by a tricycle operator of Hausa origin but this tricycle operator refused to take the dying woman quickly to hospital thereby angering the Yoruba people who saw it when the accident occurred so they attacked the offending Tricycle operator resulting in a large scale attacks and running battles between Yoruba and Hausas who are also in greater number around the Mile 12 Market whereby this ugly incident happened. The Police were unable to quell the Lagos riots resulting in the deployment of few soldiers who are using all lawful means to control the menace of killings going on but reports have it that the killings have continued.
In some parts of the Mile 12 market and environs in Kosofe Local Government Area of Lagos, even as recently as Friday March 4th 2016, these areas were tension-soaked following fresh killings by armed hoodlums suspected to be from the Northern part of the country. Four persons were reported killed in the renewed midnight ethnic clash which started on Wednesday night.
Newspaper reports have it that in spite of the curfew imposed in the area, some armed men arrived at the early hours of Friday through the canal and destroyed some shops in the market. Some homeless persons sleeping in the market and adjourning streets were suspected to have been killed.
A resident, who simply gave his name as Oluwatimileyin to a newspaper reporter, said: “ The Hausa men crossed the Agilinti river with canoe and attacked residents of an estate at Isheri North, last night. They even burnt some buildings”.
Conversely, angered by the invasion, some armed Yoruba youths converged close to the market in readiness for another clash at about1pm on Friday . The irate youths, who chanted war songs attempted to invade the market and destroy shops belonging to Hausa traders. But they were dispersed by security operatives with tear gas cannisters.
Consequently, residents in the affected streets have been fleeing their abodes, following alleged threats by some Hausa youths to set their houses on fire at midnight.
Also, Hausa residents in the area have abandoned their homes for fear of being caught in the ethnic war. The
popular Mile 12 market was Thursday, turned into a theatre of war, during which no fewer than 12 persons were killed and several others injured. This newspaper reporter is indeed frightening.
Amidst these catastrophic Ethno Religious attacks against each other the Nigerian President must restore normalcy and ensure that the law enforcement agencies are not manipulated to look the other way when certain villagers or people are attacked by suspected armed Fulani herdsmen.
Government must decisively crush these killer gangs of armed terrorists that are on rampage across the country. Both the Nigeria Police Force and the Department of State Service must be thoroughly reorganized and persons who are professionally competent appointed based on merit and not the current status quo whereby the appointments are seen as rewards for political patronage and loyalty. This is the reason why the DSS under different regimes are known to only carry out their duties to arrest perceived opponents of the President who is the appointing authority of the hierarchies of these agencies. Nigeria needs State police in addition to a lean national police to coordinate amongst each other to carry out effective law enforcement and crime prevention activities. The different States must also be allowed by legislation to set up trained and armed vigilante groups to protect their communities from external aggression. Security of lives and property is imperative and democracy without these safeguards is as good as a Banana Republic.
The current status quo has failed us in terms of nipping in the bud these rampant killings of innocent people of different Ethno Religious backgrounds.
The DSS particularly are only carrying out directives to witchhunt political opponents of President Muhammadu Buhari and have neglected their main job of preventing these mass killings by a range of armed hoodlums. Not long ago we heard that operatives of DSS arrested an Igbo politician from Anambra State Chief Victor Umeh because he criticised President Muhammadu Buhari for abandoning his constitutional duty of preventing armed Fulani herdsmen from killing Nigerians.
Is this YES man job the duty of DSS? Both the DSS and the Police must be up and doing to curb the rising conflicts of different Ethno religious nationalities in Nigeria and whenever cases of killings are reported the culprits must be arrested, prosecuted and punished by the competent courts of law to show that Nigeria does not tolerate impunity because it is only in an atmosphere of impunity that those genocidal elements unleashing violence on the rest of the peace loving citizens would be motivated to continue to embark on their mindless rampage of blood cuddling violence.
Government at all levels must ensure that agencies such as the National Orientation Agency and the Federal Information Ministry and their counterparts at micro levels are empowered to implement their mandates by waging enlightenment campaigns on the significance of remaining law abiding and peace loving by all citizens including the leaders and followers .
Let President Muhammadu Buhari invest in peace building and let him show by his actions and appointments that he is not the sectional leader that most people have started saying about him since he gave majority of the strategic appointments to persons from his Northern Nigeria in clear breach of Federal character principle.
For instance President Muhammadu Buhari failed to pick one person from South East of Nigeria to be a member of the National Defence Council as against the tenets of the constitution regarding Federal Character principle. Buhari must start unifying Nigerians now. The current government must respect due process and must never promote impunity and lawlessness.
Written by Emmanuel Onwubiko, Head of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria.