Pogrom: Why US should intervene
Not many Nigerians know about Open Doors USA. It is a US-based NGO that advocates very strongly for freedom of worship especially for Christians around the world. Ahead of President Buhari’s visit to America earlier this year on the invitation of President Trump, the President cum CEO of Open Doors, David Curry, authored a commentary in which he charged Trump to prevail on Buhari to stop the killings of Christians in Nigeria. His analysis was published in the April 29th edition of USAToday.
Curry raised several issues all of which replayed themselves during the latest pogrom in Plateau State by the same group, the militant Fulani herdsmen. He concluded his treatise thus: “Just as with Boko Haram, the Fulani violence must be acknowledged in White House hallways, covered by media with depth and nuance, and confronted by the leaders of the free world, beginning with President Trump when he meets on Monday with President Buhari”.
As he counselled, Trump did confront Buhari with the issue of killings in Nigeria by Fulani herders. But the US president came short of expectation. He was not decisive in extracting any commitment from Nigeria’s leader on the matter. He merely mouthed it before the press but went ahead to undo the seriousness of the matter by describing Nigeria as “one of the most beautiful places to live on earth”.
By this alone, Trump played the clown. He merely humoured Nigerians and visiting Buhari. Trump knows that nothing can be beautiful in an island of blood, human blood. There is neither grace nor candour where human blood is spilled at some people’s warped whims. Beauty is not an attribute of banditry. The beauty of life and living is in the preservation of human lives, the recognition of people’s right to life, and in the responsibility of the state to protect lives and property. Outside this, no place should be called beautiful.
Nigeria has been a beautiful garden in years gone by but not this moment. We have lost our beauty, our humanity. And strangely, there seems no light anywhere; no redemptive ethos that reason will yet prevail over unreason. The nation hurtles deeper into the interminable abyss of bloodiness.
Last weekend’s pogrom in Plateau State put a bold veneer on our bestiality as a people. We have witnessed mass murders in the past perpetrated by armed Fulani herdsmen but never have we seen it in this manner of extreme brutality and unchallenged impunity. Unlike in previous killings, this one got close to me. I lost count of people I know whose friends, in-laws, relatives including siblings, colleagues, former classmates, etcetera were mowed down by the mindless murderers.
The police placed the number of the dead at 86. Pure fallacy. The locals who lost their children, parents, siblings, friends, have dismissed the police statistics as a mere fib, a grandiose understatement of the fact. Some who spoke in spasms of pain and teary eyes said toll cannot be anything less than 200.
My former colleague who is now in public service said her friend’s husband lost his siblings. Her sister whom she baked her wedding cake was murdered with her suckling child. Over 80 people were killed in that village alone.
The Plateau pogrom comes with a baggage of curiosities. How was it possible for carnage of such magnitude to go on for hours without timely intervention by Nigeria’s security apparatchik? Plateau, Benue, Taraba among others have of late become theatres of war, why is the Nigerian government not decisive in stationing formidable military presence in these flashpoints?
Shortly after the Plateau massacre, the leadership of Miyetti Allah group, the umbrella body for cattle breeders, impudently claimed responsibility for the murderous orgy. They justified it as a retaliatory onslaught to atone for the killing of 300 cows by the Birom youths, the natives of the despoiled communities. And they are not arrested and charged for murder? Or is the life of 300 cows now equivalent to the lives of humans? Cattle rustling is bad and condemnable but taking human lives in lieu of the lives of cows is worse than any act of Satanism.
If Birom youths actually stole cows, any number of cows, they should be investigated and charged appropriately. Ipso facto, those who instigated, supervised and carried out the pogrom of last weekend ought to be cooling their heels now in police custody waiting for their date in court. This is what should have happened in a civil and humane society. But Nigeria is not one, unfortunately.
President Buhari and his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, made quick visits to Plateau. Good, very good. But it is not enough to visit. The president should invoke his power as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces by ordering military patrol and presence in Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Zamfara and all the haunted states. The same military that danced through the streets of the South East and Niger Delta in a show of force and fury should double up their dancing skills in Plateau and other states where Nigerians are ruthlessly murdered for the sake of cows as Miyetti Allah has now made us to know.
But wait a minute, why is Britain coldly mum on this matter? Why is the United Nations not considering sending peace-keepers to Nigeria to protect Nigerians? This is not a conventional war, the type that meets the definition of UN, but it’s worse than war. In a state of war, there is semblance of balance of terror because both parties are armed but in this case only the attacker is armed. The UN, African Union, ECOWAS and other bodies should rethink the Nigerian situation. Where are the members of the National Council of State, past leaders and statesmen? They should compel the president to do more than telling the bereaved to “learn to live in peace with one another”. The bereaved and victims are already living in peace with themselves, but they were attacked. It is the attackers that the president should direct both venom and anger at, not the fallen and the frail. And can the National Assembly shut down for one week and march through the streets of Abuja in symbolic mourning and show of concern for what has befallen our nation? Can we have some form of heroism from any quarters?
It is obvious Nigerian government is helpless. I don’t want to ever conceive the idea that the Nigerian government is deliberately nonchalant about these killings. Such thought is even more damaging to the psyche than the sight of herdsmen butchering innocent women and children.
Now is the time to consider the suggestion of Open Doors. Washington must arise and help Nigeria for the sake of the voiceless Nigerians. Trump must do something about this bloodletting. America must not look away like Westminster did and is doing. Aside addressing the humanitarian crisis arising therefrom, the UN should consider sending peace-keepers to protect Plateau, Benue and others.
One area I expected Buhari to shine is in using his military background to dislodge militants in any guise from Nigeria. He betrays this trust in Plateau, Benue and other bleeding states. But I still thrust him to come good at least for the sake of the fallen.