Thursday, April 28, 2016 10:21 pm
The Annangs of Nigeria’s Akwa Ibom State practise a branch of esoteric physics called rainmaking. Like most aspects of traditional science, the knowledge is shared only with the initiated. However, some aspects of the science mirror statecraft, hence my reason for calling it up. In rainmaking, the practitioner (rain doctor) stops or causes rain to fall depending on the needs of the community. To be successful, the rain doctor must be good at reading the signs. This enables him know when and how to act to achieve the intended outcome. To arrest the rain from falling, the rain doctor spits into the air.
The art lies in striking at the right time. One of the don’ts of rainmaking is not to wait for the rain to start drizzling before attempting to stop it. The wise saying is that the rain doctor does not start spitting when it has started drizzling. As I reflect on the matter of the Fulani herdsmen, I begin to fear that that it is already drizzling. I fear also that the rain doctor failed to strike on time. As a result, there will be a down pour.
As a nation we failed to act on time and this is an indictment on our security services. The problem of the Fulani herdsmen did not start with the Buhari government. The difference is that it is under him that the attacks are exposing Nigeria’s fault lines. In July 2012, Fulani herdsmen killed more than 50 people in Plateau State. When the burial of the victims was being held, the herdsmen attacked again killing a serving senator (Gyang Dantong) and the majority leader of the Plateau State House of Assembly (Gyang Fulani) who attended the event. Up till today, no single herdsman has been prosecuted for that crime. In other words, the herdsmen acquired immunity for their crimes. If they could get away with the murder of a serving senator, any other person was fair game.
Fast forward to 2016. A new government and one run by a retired general is in place. The herdsmen attacked and killed 300 people in Agatu in Benue State. There was not even a word from the President. At times of national crises, presidential words matter. Any one saying anything to the contrary went to a night school. Rather than arrest the herdsmen to account for the murder of 300 Nigerians, they were invited by the police to a meeting in Abuja where they justified their heinous crime on the grounds that the people of Agatu have been stealing their cattle and even killed a prominent Fulani. In other words, the punishment for stealing cattle in Nigeria is 300 lives. If a group could kill 300 men, women and children with no consequence, what was going to stop them from killing more. Not long after that, they killed in Kogi, Anambra and Delta States. Nigerian continued to maintain a code of silence. No word from the president, the national assembly and even our ‘NGOs for hire’.
Before I go further, there are questions we must ask as a people.
1. At what point did the herdsmen start to carry AK47 as a fashion statement? Why did the security services ignore such a breach of the law?
2. Who gave the directive to the security services that the herdsmen should never be arrested no matter their crime? If no such directive existed, how did they succeed in intimidating the police and other services to become afraid of touching them? Or, who granted the herdsmen immunity from arrest and prosecution?
3. When the herdsmen killed 300 in Agatu, why was the crime treated as a handshake?
4. Why does our government place very little value on the lives of its citizens?
5. What is the job of the DSS if they cannot pick up intelligence on potential violence of this nature?
It was a matter of time before the Enugu massacre happened. What is different now? The attack has crossed a fault line. The attack has happened in Igboland, an area still nursing wounds from the civil war. If the government of Enugu State had two weeks’ notice as rightly reported, why did all the security agencies in the state fail to foil the attack?
At what point did the herdsmen start to carry AK47 as a fashion statement? Why did the security services ignore such a breach of the law? Who gave the directive to the security services that the herdsmen should never be arrested no matter their crime? If no such directive existed, how did they succeed in intimidating the police and other services to become afraid of touching them? Or, who granted the herdsmen immunity from arrest and prosecution?
Mischief makers like MASSOB and IPOB have just got fuel for their propaganda. I can bet that there would be no further attack on Igboland, not because the president has finally asked the security services to act but because no community is going to wait to be massacred in cold blood. Communities, especially those on the border, are going to arm themselves.
My fear is for Nigeria. What if the herdsmen are foolish enough to attack again and they are repelled and there are counter attacks? On whose side will the Army be? What will be the response of populations sympathetic to the affected ethnic groups?
In a multi ethnic society like Nigeria, our leaders needed the skills of the rainmaker. The president needs to go beyond his statement asking the security agencies to act. He needs to order for the immediate disarming of all herdsmen. You do not need an AK47 to protect cattle. I suspect, we have one last chance as a country to spit into the air.