By Josephine Collins
There is a joke trending in the wake of the defections of lawmakers elected on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC) to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The joke is to the effect that not much was heard about the so-called killer herdsmen in the week of defections because those sponsoring the assassins were busy relocating their stuffs from the APC to the PDP. Sadly, beyond the joke, the truth is that there was a lull in the activities of “killer herdsmen” in the week of defection; whether the lull was because their sponsors were busy with political manoeuvring or because of the gain made by the Nigerian Army in nabbing some of the killers (many from diverse ethnic nationalities) is a subject for a social science research.
The worrisome reality is that this trending joke is closer to the reality than being the product of an over active imagination of some internet troll. There have been indications long before now that politicians were behind these heinous crimes – including taking advantage of the Boko Haram crisis. And this is not empty talk: the news had been filled at some point about Benue’s Samuel Ortom arming ethnic militias to destabilize his own state, Taraba’s Darius Ishaku authorizing an ethnic pogrom hidden under farmers/herders’ crisis and Jona Jang in Plateau state allegedly massacring his own people to divert attention from his appointment with the court to answer charges of corruption.
There are those occupying high places who have been named as the gun issuers to political thugs that have now promoted themselves into armed robbers and kidnappers. These ones are bold enough to argue through their followers that the guns were handed out to the thugs to intimidate political opponents and not for robberies. One is then constrained to ask for what other uses guns are meant for because the calibre of guns handed to these killers are not the Dane guns for hunting squirrels at the grassroots. They are weapons of mass murder that many of these politicians have distributed in several parts of the country, which are now the root cause of a resurging Boko Haram, kidnappers, killer cattle rustlers, killer herdsmen and sociopathic ethnic militias.
These are symptomatic of the new low to which the desperation of the political class has sunken. In time past, the accusation was that Nigerian politicians were into politically motivated killing of opponents, which was bad enough because it implies people getting blood on their hands in the quest to win elective offices. Today, they have graduated to sponsoring ethnic killings on an industrial scale – sometimes killing the population of an entire village to make political points like accusing President Buhari of not doing enough to restore security. The way desperate politicians kill now would leave the devil guessing whether he is their inspiration or they are his master.
Current happenings in Nigeria confirm that morality has exited the political landscape, reasoning has deserted governance. Even those that are not decamping have not done enough to manage the damage being done by their desperate opponents. Consider the money for arms that have been embezzled, the 100 billion Naira fund for ranching that has disappear, budgeted amount for security that are never to be seen.
We have a National Security Adviser, who is helpless to save his own homeland from marauding bandits in Zamfara, which leaves questions on how he can be useful on the national scale. The NSA seems to be practically sleeping while those burning the country are having a free pass. Only those culpable in the theft of the arms funds are being prosecuted, which is an old story.
Tragically, citizens are being misled to think that there are “us” and “them” camps to pitch tent for and against. In reality, however, the options are one and the same because those who prop up terrorists and those who steal the resources committed to fighting terrorism are no different from each other irrespective of the political branding they chose to appear under or migrate to. They are all in the business of the killings.
The ultimate question then is “who will bell the cat?” We should have by now realize that those to salvage the country cannot be from among the itinerant politicians craning their necks to see where the next gravy train emanates from. They are also not the ones that have failed to translate the sincere wishes of President Buhari’s desire for Nigeria into the reality the nation desperately needs at this point.
Nigerians must thus rise to the challenge of consigning those that trouble the nation into the dustbin of history. We must at this point set boundaries for what is acceptable political calculation and what amounts to sheer scheming against the fatherland.
Good starting points abound for those of us that are desirous of making interventions in our own interests and those of our children. First, we must demand from President Buhari that those obstructing the anti-terror war must be shown the way out irrespective of the next General Elections being a few months away. We need to be alive to take part in the elections and Mr. President certainly wants a country with a living population to rule over. So, whether a minister obstructing the release of funds or party man putting his interest over that of the nation, all the undesirables in this war must be purged so that the true level of professionalism of the Nigerian military can be tested for Nigerians to know how soon they have to think of Boko Haram and other terrorists in past tense.
Secondly, any of the defecting politicians indicted in the manufacture of the violence that has claimed innocent Nigerian lives must be sufficiently punished. Punished in this sense is not the same as being charged before the courts – they will label this as political persecution and not prosecution. The befitting punishment is to ensure that they are rejected as leaders at any given level, even within the opposition they have defected to other deserving persons should be chosen by their parties as the flagbearers in the elections.
Furthermore, we must begin to properly document the ignoble roles being played by these individuals as we acknowledge the good work done by those that have genuinely fought terrorism and other forms of violence that desperate politicians have unleashed on the country. Perhaps when people realize that history will not be kind to them they will have a rethink before deciding to plunge the country into hell for votes to secure one more tenure for offices they are least qualified to occupy and definitely incompetent to manage. Their peers that are sabotaging the government’s efforts from inside will also come to learn that there is a limit to which grown men should bend to the allures of illicit lucre.
In the meantime, we should all agree that there is need to end all forms of support for terrorism, banditry, killer squads and all things that do not bode well for the future and integrity of Nigeria. We cannot continue to allow some people fuel the fire of terrorism and in the same breadth blame the Nigerian militray or other security agencies for not decisively ending the activities of terrorists.
Collins wrote from the United Kingdom.