If Nigeria ever built proper cemeteries for those lost in ethnic crisis and insurgency, the living would have little space to live on. In fact, homes are habitually built over shallow graves in this country. Such tenements are usually the only resort of families who have become refugees in their own country and who thrive in a climate of misery and loss. Nigeria is going the way of a doomed nation, our options for continued survival grow thinner by the day.
The recent killings in Jos is best described as a massacre. Mothers, fathers and babies of particular tribe and kith brutally mutilated and abandoned to the flies in open fields and burnt down homes. The true picture is much more gory than words can attempt to paint, so I ask; What sort of nation have we become ? What manner of evil prevails over this country and why does it continue in perpetuation without end ?
I looked with profound sorrow at emerging pictures from Plateau state, detailing in gory precision the emasculation of life in the most brutal way imaginable. I saw horrific images of babies gone to the grave with the stripes of matchet wounds, of mothers and women splayed out in the semblance of victims of rape and murder and of fathers aghast in the haplessness of their deaths. I saw in those cold, immobile bodies the illustration of a people paying the ultimate price for a crime not commuted, for the ineptitude and negligence of leadership. I was sad at first glance and remain so.
A thread of my sorrow is wound around a certain fact and that is that the killings in Plateau state is familiar, like a tragic déja voù or the fragments of a nightmare yet forgotten. In Benue, Zamfara, Yobe and Borno not many weeks ago, we had cause as a nation to collectively sigh in weariness as reports filtered in of the loss of lives and properties in the multitude in each state. The nation wept as it does now, swore itself sore to the promise that never again would live be wasted so cheaply without justice only for us to go round full circle in a matter of days to this.
I remember writing a few years ago, over the Book Haram insurgency, that death has become so common place that the human life has been reduced to cold stats and figures. Headlines grab for attention by screaming murder but hardly ever capture the severity of one live wasted, not to talk of a multitude of lives lost in senseless killings and attacks. When news reaches the public of an incidence of death, people shake their heads in shallow empathy and ask, ‘so how many this time?’. Nigeria has somehow found a way to normalize evil.
No one is safe, the exception being those who gird their political loins with the armory of state and federal protection. Ordinary citizens live in perpetual fear, mindful of the fact that life has been devalued in a nation led by experimentation. If bombs do not go off in Borno or Yobe state, faceless traders of death would be reported navigating bush paths to maim and destroy. Such is the nation’s sorry narrative in recent times, and no solution looms in the horizon.
To hope for the arrest and prosecution of those involved in this dastardly act is to, of course, search for the stars in a rubble of dirt. No witness, no perpetuators. It is this fact that informs further acts of violence. In the few instance of available witnesses, fear of personal safety and hounding from state and federal agents, more often than not, discourage witnesses from coming forth and laying the blame squarely where it should be. That said, I think we all have a fairly good idea who or what to blame for the recurrent pogroms in the nation. The question now is- What do we do with such an information ?
Do we continue to live in fear as a people ? Do we not ‘name names’ because from a dread of reprisals? Are we truly living if our security is not assured ? And do we truly know that a threat to life in one state in Nigeria, is a threat to live in all parts of the country ? How much more must our silence cost us in terms of human lives, labor and entrepreneurship ? How much negligence is considered too much on the part of those tasked with securing the lives of the people of Nigeria ? These and many more questions must truly be running through the minds of those genuinely interested in finding lasting solutions to the killings in all parts of Nigeria.
As a nation we have got so many things wrong in times past, but in no one time has Nigerian life be so cheapened, not even in the era of the military. The official reaction to the killings in Jos have further aggravated the misery of the survivors of these massacre; same old promises and expressions of regrets with no real effort at bringing the culprits to book. In habitual manner, the cattle herders association, Miyetti Allah, reacted to the killings by appraising it as a reprisal for 200 cattles rustled.
This effectively implies an admission of guilt or complicity, or at the very least, knowledge about what transpired in Jos and why innocent lives were wasted. Rather than begin a serious investigation on the issue, the government continues to hedge on non-issues while making empty promises, the Police Force and other security outfits in the country that should ordinarily have some answers to the incredulous public are themselves confounded in inaction and nonchalance. Is this truly a way of and system that we hope to bequeath to the next generation ?
Something urgent must be done to address the continuous killing of innocent men and women nation wide. There is yet a nation to save and it is a collective duty of all to seek new ways to address the fatal challenge before us. It is by now no longer news that we can no more hope on the government to bear the incidence of protecting and securing the lives of citizens of this country, while we endure such blatant ineptitude till the next election, we must individually seeks ways to be involved in protecting our lives and that of our neighbors. It is naïve and dangerous to conclude that one region is safe if the pogroms continue to persist in another for it is only a matter of time before the entire nation is consumed by the blood lust of marauding nomads basking in the euphoria of their bloody deeds.
While the nation continues to weep, and rightly so, for the many lives lost senselessly in the alleged herdsmen attack, may I extend my deep condolences to the families of those who lost their lives. I truly pray that God grants each affected home the fortitude to deal with such severe losses while also helping the nation chart a way out of such recurrent and regretful incidences. May I also take this opportunity to charge the government to be much more responsive to their duties to this nation and its people. We deserve better as a nation.
Pelumi Olajengbesi Esq. is the Executive Secretary of United Global Resolve for Peace and the Principal Partner at Pelumi Olajengbesi & Co. Law Corridor, Abuja.