Like George Floyd, our lives equally matter

By Malachy Uzendu

A flory of debates erupted in Nigeria following the brutal murder of George Floyd, 46. The black American was on 25 May in Minneapolis, stopped by police officers investigating the purchase of cigarettes with alleged counterfeit money. Subsequent viral video showed Floyd being arrested by a white police officer kneeling on his neck for several minutes even after he pleaded that he could not breathe. He died.

Protests erupted across many US cities and internationally, with rallies in Australia, France, Netherlands and the UK. Here in Nigeria, the storm is gathering. Several people, in offices, homes, along the streets, in the markets, are discussing the issue. There is consensus of opinion that worse attrocities are peroetrated on citizens by our security forces – police, military, secret services, para-military. There have been several account of how lives of citizens were recklessly terminated by people who wear public uniforms.

According to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in its report spanning April 27th to May 4th, this year, a period of just two weeks, 11 people were extra-judicially killed in parts of the country by security operatives maintaining covid-19 lockdown. Prior to then and up till now, hardly do a day pass without an incident or the other where Nigerians who are privileged to adorn the insignia of one of our security aparatuses, especially, the Police, gun down a fellow citizen.

Aside this sort of fraticidal killings terrorists, bandits, herdsmen and kidnappers have been on a killing spree. The media are awash with such bad news, making it appear as the norm. Nigerians are tired of regurgitating same old tunes time and again, endlessly.

For instance, herdsmen, unfortunately, have become a major citizens’ nightmare. They sack entire local government, burn down peoples homes, take over their farmland, harvest their crops to feed their cows, ransack their crop bans, and destroy farm produce stored therein however way they wanted.

They rape even the elderly, rip open bowels of pregnant women and set ablaze their victims houses. Yet, efforts made to bring them to book do not jell, citizens doubt if there is at all. Just last week, when their mouthpiece, the Myetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, set sail on clear path of annoyance, by announcing the composition of thousands of their folk to “safeguard communities”, the federal government again adopted a wait-and-see attitude.

In the North-East zone in particular, the onslought of Boko Haram, ISWAP and their allies, have projected our Armed Forces and other Security Forces as Boys Scouts equivalent, having continued to descimate lives across the country. Their decoy to getting their operatives to parts of the country in goods and cement trailers during the covid-19 lockdown, with our security still unable to decode this modus opeandi, is likely to leqd to more theaters of terrorism war fronts across the country.

Murderous activities of bandits and kidnappers bring no cheery news either. While bandits successfully sacked several communities, leaving trails of blood, tears, anguish and destruction along their path, kidnappers even took to the unthinkable, invading the God’s sanctuary, taking Bishops, Priests, Imams, and seminarians on hostage and snuffing life out of some of such victims. They largely succeed because lives no longer matter in Nigeria.

What have the media not reported on this near suzeranity? When the Military report successes against these sons of dogs, it seems to make no difference as Nigerians generally believe those are mere propaganda, remotely tied to reality. And when in the next day, attacks by these same “technnically defeated” criminals hit the airwaves, the public pooh-pooh the military and the police. The distrust deepen, yet there appear to be no relief.

For a country that garnered several laurels in international security adventures, it remains a wonder that criminality have continued to fester, rather than abate. Same style of attacks are repeated, same mode of ambush to snatch arms and ammunition from our military, same mode of extra-judicial killing of the ordinary folks by security operatives detailed to man the highly convulted roadblocks, same provedure of sacking communities across the country, yet our Special and Tactical Forces have cintinued to engage in fire brigade approach; always trailing in medicine-after-death process.

Although this piece might not make any difference, but drumming the reality must continue. Can President Muhammadu Buhari realise that security is no longer guaranteed in Nigeria? Can the President wake up from slumber and rejig the security architecture? Can the president realise that we need a cross-fertilisation of ideas, not one-sided nepotic, myopic assessment of the debilitating security situation so as to bring about realistic game change? Can the garbing of Fulani hersdmen in sanctimonious robes (hearders/farmers clashes) be halted for a moment and we see them for who they really are, invaders and merchants of death ? Those guys are no law abiding pastoralists. They are nothing but terrorists, otherwise, they have acquired their art.

No people can harbour the level of tollerance heaped by the herdsmen, Boko Haram and other terrorists and bandits, like Nigerians. If terminating the life of a single black US citizen could evoke the level of emotional outbursts witnessed so far, it is a matter of time and such emotions would catch up with Nigerians. What needs to be done, should be done; time for resilience, patience and endurance are fast fading.

In Nigeria, every life should matter. We are no lesser mortals than the Americas, Britons or the Chinese. Our own lives matter as much.

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