March 24, 2017

ARE PROPHETS OF DOOM BEING PROVED RIGHT?

      7th May 2016 By DR. ORJI UZOR KALU THE recent events in our dear country seem to give some credence to the doomsday prophecy that was widely speculated some time in 2013/14 that Nigeria would be embroiled in crises of terrifying magnitude in 2015 that would lead ultimately to its balkanization. The purveyors of this fearsome ‘prophecy’ cited many reasons to buttress their point. Top American diplomats were among them. So when 2015 set in, fears heightened. As the elections approached, it got worse. People feared for the worst.  As God would have it, the elections came and went without serious consequences. But subsequent events, especially in 2016, seem to prove these ‘prophets’ somewhat right. I am particularly pained about last week’s murder in cold blood of over 45 innocent persons by marauding herdsmen (or terrorists?) in a sleeping town of Nimbo in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State. The incident has attracted all kinds of condemnation and, even, demonstration from all over the world.  Deep inside me, I have been very sad and pensive. I am yet to decipher the reason the attackers carried out the wicked act. I almost could not do this week’s article because of the pain in my heart. In fact, I would have skipped writing this week if not for the burning desire to pour out my frustration. I have kept asking nobody in particular why our nation should be made to go through these self-inflicted scourges. Are we never tired of negative media? There is no longer any respect for human life in Nigeria. Innocent people are slaughtered like fowls daily by demented persons in the name of terrorism or other forms of extremism. Who are the terrorists and why are they always successful in their operations, even with the large presence of security men around? Today, it is one case of kidnapping and assassination or another, tomorrow the story takes another curious dimension: mass killing of innocent, hapless civilians by their fellow citizens. Haba! What is happening?  As I predicted toward the end of last year, terrible things would happen this year. But let me cut in quickly and state that no matter the plans of the evil people Nigeria will overcome and remain united. For how long will evil thrive in a nation in which 99 per cent of its citizens are said 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. I know deep inside me that something is endemically wrong with Nigeria. Almost all the articles I have written in this column in recent times have centred on  Nigeria and the way forward. I take the pain to point out the evils in our society and, in the same breath, demand solutions to them. Who can confidently tell me Nigeria is not seriousl sick when w consider the atrocities that go on daily? 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 Americans. Even though I am morally against the labelling of Nigeria as a terrorist nation and criticised it vehemently then, events have since given credence to the position of the United States. 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 some time in 2012? The same thing repeated in Agatu in Benue State early last month where over 200 persons were despatched to their early graves in reprisal attacks by Fulani 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, in the Jos incident under review smacked of sheer madness. That it happened in a nation that professes rule of law and order makes the whole thing more nauseating and worrisome. I wonder what difference we have 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 have Benue and Plateau, and now Enugu, become the killing mines of the nation? Why have states once acclaimed for their calm and serenity suddenly turned centres 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 blew it because of political consideration. 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 them. Information pieced from reliable sources show 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.  Then enter the restiveness in parts of Benue and Nasarawa States, especially in Nasarawa Eggon, where many lives had been wasted on attacks by the same herdsmen. What I am yet to fathom is what gave the perpetrators the impetus to embark on such heinous atrocities, 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 in Jos. The same allegation is being made on the Nimbo, Uzo-Uwani imbroglio. It was openly alleged that the police and army were notified beforehand about the impending attacks, but did nothing. The sad incident of April 25, 2016 reminds me of the genocide in Rwanda between the Hutus and Tutsis. There is no difference whatsoever between the two. In the Rwandan incident about 800,000 were killed, while in Jos about 2000 persons must have cumulatively lost their lives between 2004 and 2012, in Agatu over 200 died, while in Nimbo, Uzo-Uwani 45 perished, with properties worth billions of naira destroyed. The danger in the Nimbo, Uzo-Uwani episode is that it is a smouldering hell with unfathomable capacity to consume more people if not arrested. Igbo are threatening reprisal attacks. Everything must be done to forestall it because of its attendant consequences. I think the evil men that carried out the foregoing operations must have watched the tapes of the Rwandan ethnic massacre. Watch the pictures displayed in the media 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, let alone a gun, against a three-month-old baby. Those guys or whatever they call themselves 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 makes the whole issue more worrisome. But wait a minute! Why did the security agencies drafted to maintain law and order in the states not able to detect the underground move­ ments of arms and other logistics by the perpetrators? Again, why did the military authorities in Enugu, for instance, not respond swiftly to the alarm raised by Governor Ugwuanyi a little before day break when the attackers struck? These are questions to which immediate answers are required. As much as the crisis is being given an ethnic coloration by some interest groups, I beg to adopt a different point of view. My thinking is that the crisis should not be restricted to ethnicity. The terrorism connection should be considered as well. The truth is that when anarchy ensues it does not recognise one’s ethnic background. In the crossfire anybody can fall victim. And that was exactly what happened in the Jos incident in 2012. In that 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 Uzo-Uwani. Already, the impact is resonating across the country like hurricane – threatening to break it up. Many 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 as Igbo, feeling deeply aggrieved, are threatening a reprisal attack. 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 these crises. Another worrisome fall-out of the crisis is the steady exodus of people from their homes, seeking shelter faraway. 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 losses 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 number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) has continued to rise as a result.  Usually it is mere miscreants and scallywags caught on the wrong side of the offensive that are arrested and paraded. The real sponsors of the carnage are not 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 these upheavals. There is no doubt whatsoever that the blood of the innocent killed in Dogo Nahawa, Agatu and Uzo-Uwani will hunt this country until justice is done. Each time I glance through any of the pictures of the massacres my heart bleeds. It bleeds because the perpetrators of the vicious acts did not even consider the 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 whom were be­ ing suckled by their mothers when death struck) are crying to heaven for justice. And God will not allow their assailants to go unpunished. The incidents have thrown up new challenges for the security agencies in the country. 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 in­ creased activities of religious bigots and fundamentalists. What this translates into is greater burden on the army, the police and other security agencies. Whether anybody likes it or not, it cannot be disputed that the nation is sitting on a keg of gunpowder, 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 realise 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 unauthorised hands. From where do these sophisticated weapons find their way into the country if not through the borders, airports and seaports? President Muhammadu Buhari must do something to ensure that Fulani herdsmen go about their business without molesting anybody. If the Uzo-Uwani episode repeats itself anywhere in Igboland then we are courting a serious trouble. Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu is the former Executive Governor of Abia State, Nigeria

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