The massacre in Ebonyi state, Southeast Nigeria, last week Monday, has again brought to the fore the existential challenges in Nigeria and the urgent need to rethink the present nation’s structure and relationships. Insecurity perpetrated by a section of the country on the rest of us has become an existential threat that could unravel the already stressed and sagging fabric of national foundation.
The current problem with insecurity in Nigeria is not that it is peculiar or unique to us; most countries, especially in Africa, have one issue with insecurity or another. The challenge with the present situation of insecurity across the country fomented by Fulani herdsmen is the unwillingness of government to stop its growing spate. This is what complicates the problem and makes it seem as if there is an official complicity or acquiescence.
It was a disaster waiting to happen, and unfortunately it took place in the Igbo soft underbelly. As the security challenge unfolded Ebonyi state under Governor Dave Umahi has been the political weak link in the Igbo chain. As the chairman of the South east Governors’ Forum, Umahi has deliberately and consciously steer the region away from confronting squarely the security issues presented by the herdsmen and adopting a firm and potent measure to curb it.
Through his policy of appeasement, informed by his romance with President Buhari and his ambition for the top position in the country, his state has been the most amenable and pliable to the federal government and its pro-Fulani policies, which lie at the root of the insecurity being experienced across the different regions in the country. Ebonyi state is the northern gateway to the Southeast and it is generally an agrarian community that depends on farming for sustenance.
So it is obvious that if violent clashes with herdsmen were to occur in the region on this scale, Ebonyi state would definitely be the first casualty being at the border with Benue state – the hot bed of herdsmen activities in the north central. But the governor pretended that personal relationship with the president would be sufficient guarantee against attacks. Well, he has been proved totally wrong, and the entire Southeast now mourns the death of 17 of its people.
This newspaper is embarrassingly affronted and humiliated by the Ebonyi massacre, and holds the political leaders of the region responsible for this needless lost of innocent lives. What happened in Ebonyi is not only inexcusable but criminally unacceptable given the impunity of those behind it and the disregard for the rights and sensibilities of other people in whose land and house the killings occur.
No people can live together peacefully where a group in that relationship arrogates to itself the power over life and death just because they want to satiate their inordinate ambition to conquer and dominate others; that is a recipe for crisis and disintegration.
The right to own property, which the ownership of ancestral land is the most inalienable, is a fundamental right and any attempt to dispossess people of this right under any pretext is unimaginable and the most desecration of the fundamental rights of people. This is intolerable in a democracy.
In the past few months, the South west had been up in arm against the activities of the herdsmen in the zone and, rose and stood together as one to deal with the scourge. Though politically inconvenient and seemingly confrontational, they were able to weather the storm and restored normalcy to their people.
What happened in the Southwest that precipitated the uprising against the Fulani herdsmen cannot be compared with the Ebonyi massacre; yet the tragedy is being greeted with near silence and muffled voices of protestations. This is a betrayal of the mandate of the Igbo people they represent. And it is this cowardly and self enlightened timidity that feeds into the separatist narrative of IPOB.
It is not sufficient to disown and disavow the IPOB and its politics without providing alternative leadership posture and narrative. All the noise coming out of the Southeast on the future of the country as a united country is being made by the fringe group championing the interest of the region. Although violence is not an option in national politics, however, violence is not a monopoly of one group. Southwest did not deal with the problem with words, the met violence with violence.
Without calling for violence, the massacre is eloquent indication that the region has to plan for its own protection through a legal instrument implemented by the governments. Having failed to overrun the South west, it should have been obvious to the political leaders that the South east will be the next target.
Yet they had no plan and strategy to respond to the emerging security threat. All the states in the South west have already created legally official security outfits – Amotekun – the South east is only content with community policing by the same government that failed to protect you against the herdsmen, rammed down their throats from Abuja.
The truth is that under this administration at the federal level, we will continue to live with the menace of insecurity imposed by the herdsmen because there is no committed willingness by the government to stop it. Those who believe, like Umahi, that the Fulani herdsmen are their friends, have seen the consequence of their determination to expand their caliphate to the Atlantic Ocean. For them, it is your land or your life.
There is only one solution to this brigandage: An alternative security network properly backed by law in the region as already in place in the South west. There is now precedent for it and all they need to do is to recreate what the South west has done. The federal security architecture has become a tool in the hand of the dominant group and part of the problem. Time is running out before another massacre takes place.
It is useless calling for the police to fish out the perpetrators because they have never done so, even where they culprits had been identified; they cannot begin with the South east. The South east must assume responsibility for its protection and take its destiny in its own hands before the region is systematically decimated.