Is it possible that Jihad and ethno-religious human cleansing that are causes for these upsurges of ruinous blood-letting in murderous crimes enveloping the country? Do they remind one of the horrendous Biafra experience? Never again! Nightmares of mass murder are rushing back into not just memories of witnesses of the Nigeria-Biafra war but are occurring in reality. People are killed, houses, property destroyed lands are occupied by invaders. Let Nigerians not walk again along paths of genocide and ethnic cleansing of any kind; the gory pathway to Rwanda! The scenarios of murder, destruction, repression etc. by one ethnic group using gory deaths over fellow humans. They are repeating the ugly History of blood-letting: sordid-macabre genocide in parts of Middlebelt: similar use of invading militias; use of similar techniques in vengeance; use of same weapons of guns, knives, cudgels etc. and positing of similar motives over unwarranted kill-and-destroy rampaging actions. Indelible and incredible nightmares over killings and pogroms that continuously-took place before, during and after the Nigeria-Biafra war are gradually-rushing back from one’s subconscious into reality today in Plateau, Benue, Taraba, Adamawa, Nassarawa, Zamfara, Southern Kaduna etc. It is conjectured that these killings would continue into southern States when present victims are subdued. These attackers are called various names: Fulani Jihadists, Fulani herdsmen/militia, terrorists from Libya, cattle rustlers, bandits, Myett Allah mercenaries/militia, ethno-religious cleansers etc. The Fulani ethnic group led by politicians and elite have disowned the killers as terrorists who are not sent by them. But some Fulani hardliners like FUNAM insist that the killings are justified on their tit-for-tat revenge as a result of killings of their herdsmen and rustling of cows by indigenes of communities. They insist that grazing routes earlier mapped out have been lost due to encroachment, population growth and agricultural practices; that they must recover these grazing routes/grounds. Some claim that Fulani territories cover parts of River Benue valley, rich in soils and water for agriculture. Indigenous communities claim ancestral ownership of these lands have also staked their lives to death and hold stoutly unto their land-inheritance. Even though the indigenes are not armed and do not stand the putsch by invaders, their untoward massacre and massive destruction of property and farms on regular basis. Some communities in southern States like Enugu, Anambra, Delta, Edo, Ekiti etc. have witnessed such killings and destruction of humans and farmlands by these killers-for-land-grab and for cattle-feeds.
The main causes of these life-losing encounters are attributed to various happenings, a combination of factors including Fulani herdsmen versus farmers clashes/invasions, cattle rustling, armed banditry/robbery/kidnapping etc. The herdsmen militia/attackers have made successful and debilitating attacks into some Middlebelt States. The attackers usually move secretly at night as small or large bands of well-armed men with modern weapons. They leave fortified urban cities but cowardly-attack rural and village communities as people are asleep. They do not spare anyone but kill and butcher their victims mercilessly, brutally and dastardly in the most ghoulish manner. Innocent children and women, the aged and infirm, adults who could not run away are routinely-murdered instanter! There are reported cases of pregnant women being sadistically-killed or women raped and killed or taken away as prizes. The modus operandi of killings are most repugnant to sights/feelings: victims including children are given severe butcher-like knife cuts on the head and body; pregnant women are disembowelled; some have parts of the body, hands, legs and abdomen dismembered; heads are decapitated and may be gruesomely-be taken away leaving bodies headless; very gory spectacles indeed! Fires are set on houses to burn them; heaps of yams and barns are burnt; stray farm animals like goats wonder about compounds. Some indigenes like women may be kidnapped as spoils of war. Corpses are found strewn about burnt houses. Many corpses counting in tens, or hundreds more or less, are buried in mass graves by the indigenes or State governments. You find escapee-women refugees straddling babies on their backs and walking long distances aimlessly and also dragging weary little children along to poor IDP camps that are of inhuman conditions. Typical instances of these gory melodrama have happened in Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Kaduna, Adamawa States etc. No one seems to know these killers and how they operate. There are conflicts of opinions even from government officials and security agencies on: their sources and origin; who they are; where they come from; the route of their movements; where they disappear into after killings etc. Even there is yet to be agreement on the motive, purpose and mission of these killers: Jihadist-capture of territories and occupy; forcefully-acquire lands for cattle grazing; enlarged ethnic hegemony; Islamize conquered territories; widen pains/pangs of terrorism through insurgency; long-term total hegemonic conquest/rule over Nigeria etc. These invaders usually operate for hours unchallenged; later they withdraw with their booty after the mayhem and disappear safely into nowhere. They freely-move and stay with arms/weapons and are never caught. It is difficult to determine the mind-set of what these invaders want: whether to destroy unity of Nigeria and exacerbate her cantonization or turn her into a Banana Republic.
One is yet to see serious police or military actions being taken against these heartless, barbaric and murderous invaders hiding under the facade of being herdsmen/militia or terrorists. It will take more than the so-called Fulani herdsmen to totally-destroy Nigeria. One has strong feelings that some shady yet-to-be-known-forces are stringing up Nigeria for another national civil strife of mass destruction; using some naive Nigerians/foreigners as agents. Unfortunately, some Nigerian leaders do not seem to listen to voices/calls of reason and dissent where they ought to take relevant effective actions to deal positively with their calls. Typical examples of calls on leadership include Convoking of national Debate into getting a new Constitution for the People of Nigeria to replace the 1999 Constitution birthed by Military Decree; the strident and genuine calls for Restructuring and Devolution of powers from Centre to Regions/Zones/States etc. The Executive and Legislative arms of government should allow enough freedom of speech, discussions and effective actions taken on these calls in order to bring people from various parts of the country to come together for fruitful discussions/actions for unity and national defense. If the country is in such national united mode, no section, group or so-called herdsmen/farmer imbroglio could be sustained to threaten national unity, peace and progress of Nigeria. But where the leadership does not take positive actions over issues when being hammered by dissenting voices in a Democracy, agents of destruction or even nuisance values could destabilize the system while others would look on or feel unconcerned thereby hazarding national unity and stability. As at now, we do not have only herdsmen versus farmers posing as problems to Nigeria. There are insurgent boko haram, armed bandits, kidnappers etc. There are peaceful IPOB declared as terrorist group that has stoutly-challenged in Court, MASSOB, Niger Delta militants, CG-IPOB also in Court asking for the Republic of Biafra, OPC’s case for Oduduwa Republic, Arewa Youths Forum for the north etc. In the spirit and honest practice of Democracy the Federal and State governments and their officials should look into the burning issues, convoke discussions and solve arising problems accordingly and promptly instead of allowing negative events to go on to deteriorate and thereby entrench fears and nightmares into the polity.
By Boniface Egboka, UNIZIK, Awka, Anambra State; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org