THURSDAY Column with Mohammed Adamu
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Our once cooled volcanic plateau is at it again. Like Europe’s Mount Etna, just when we thought it had long lost its volatile vigor, it has become active once again -spurting red hot molten magma of ethno-religious hate. The killing fields of Jos, like the Hebraic Golgotha, are a-flood again with the skulls and blood of innocents. And we the people are are no less at it again, also: we are as usual consumed in the usual blame game across tribe and tongue, and between geography and religion. We bicker about who the aggressors are and who are the real victims. When our own aggress we insist that they are only exercising their right to reprise against past aggression, But when others claim to do the same we rise in condemnation of the right to reprisal even in the face of unremitting aggression. And now it appears we have lost count of who the first aggressors were in time, or who were the last to execute a reprisal on the plateau. In the instant case the Fulanis allegedly on a reprisal mission –from the grudge of previous aggression- killed the innocent. And almost immediately too, youth on the other side seized the highways, also on a reprisal mission killed innocent travelers.
This piece is not for the faintheartedly hypocritical. It is for those who have the courage to deal with the truth. Often we agonize over the gravity of the reprisals by victims of cattle rustling but we generally trivialize the magnitude of the aggression by cattle rustlers. And yes it is true that not even a million cattle are worth the life of a single human; but is the avarice of any one community worth a single Fulani man’s cattle? Or if the lust for the free cattle of the Fulani man is enough justification to kill and rustle, why should the defense of his single cattle not be sufficient casus belli to justify the herdsman’s attack? Why should it be good for the geese on the one hand and not be good for the gander on the other? Sometimes you cannot help having the impression that we always get our divisive groove only when disasters like this on the plateau happen. We have since shamelessly allowed our humanity to be violently snatched by the exigencies of partisan politics. Politicians all over the world politik with track record, antecedent performance or at least excellent credentials (of character or of learning) as proof of ability to deliver. But here we appeal to the base sentiments of ethnicity, religion and geography. And now the only thing that seems to keep especially partisan opposition politicians going is the hope always, that soon some calamity will befall the nation so that they can have ‘useful’ materials for campaign.
And you wonder who actually bays for the blood of the innocent: is it the war-mongering sworders themselves who, for their legitimate or illegitimate causes, have lost all sense of humanity and therefore have no scruples aggressing or reprising against the innocent; or is it our hypocritical selves who bay more for the blood of innocents? Yes, we the self appointed moral soldiers of a pretentiously godly nation who have no compunction always supporting those who play politics with the lives of the innocent? So much that we applauded a ‘bereaved’ Governor Wike of PDP, who was so filled with the ‘selfless’ milk of human empathy he abandoned his unsung body bags, felled by the jackknives of confirmed cultists, to come to Benue in profuse crocodile tears to bury APC’s Governor Otom’s dead only because they were allegedly felled by the swords of the more eminently culpable Fulani herdsmen. Not to forget the fact that Wike went to Benue with a token of N200 million, a princely sum that must have set bereaved riverians so green with envy they may have wished that their dead ones were actually felled by the swords of the inveterately-hated Fulanis and not by the petty jackknives of their fetish cultist brethrens. This is how much we have degenerated. Politicizing matters of life and death. So that even Otom who would scream blue murder against his people, facts would eventually reveal he had sneakily armed private militias and covertly engaged the services of boko haramists allegedly to kill his own in the guise of herdsmen atrocities. Nothing more poignantly illustrates Otom’s culpability than if you imagine it was a Kaduna’s El-Rufai who dared to have a secret private militia or who secretly hired the services of boko haram.
And now it appears that all murders nowadays, no matter how inexcusably perpetrated or no matter where and when or against who committed or by who committed or no matter even how gruesomely executed, are pardonable except those committed or allegedly committed by the ‘cursed’ hands of the Fulani herdsman –even when he is acting in self-defense or from provable provocation. Everyone is entitled to self defense; everyone is entitled to be excused from acts resulting from provocation. Everyone is even entitled to premeditated reprisals –against those who aggress them- but not the Fulani herdsman. Only the Fulani herdsman is not entitled to any remedy whatsoever even when a million cattle of his are rustled by communities he knows and can identify, or by persons that he knows and sees daily go by; or even when he can point at locations where his rustled cattle are holed up. The Fulani herdsman is to just say nothing and do nothing but wait to be killed or have his cattle rustled.
Hell, the Fulani herdsman is entitled to no remedy whatsoever even when a whole community of his kindred is conspiratorially wiped out either from fresh aggression or from so called reprisals resulting usually from previous reprisal which he may have undertook to redress established historic wrongs dating back to previous aggressions and or counter reprisals. This is how delicate sometimes these issues we so much trivialize can get. Not that anyone has the right to take the law into their hands. But truth is every wrong done to the Fulani herdsman, or any community of ethnic minority for that matter, which either conspiratorially or negligently goes unreported by the media, is a veritable vengeance bank that we the media help to keep and from which it is inevitable that the survivors will most likely draw, sooner or later. This is a fact we have to deal with rationally rather than emotionally. This is a fact we’ll continue to ignore at our own peril.
The whole world knew about and still remembers the gullies of blood let by the Fulanis on reprisals at the ill-fated plains of Dogo Na Hawwa in Jos only because the media was at hand to help Governor Jang parade the bloodied bodies of the hapless innocent victims; but virtually no one knew about, let alone remember the gory, unprovoked incident previously at Kuru Karama where wells and pit latrines were stuffed with the butchered bodies of Hausa-Fulanis. This is the crux of the matter. We must be balanced and objective in our reporting. We must return to responsible, non partisan journalism. But Government is even more eminently culpable in this. It must rise to be seen visibly as the avenging, even if unforgiving angel for all or it risks encouraging resort to self-help or vengeance-seeking. Said the English philosopher, lawyer and statesman Frances Bacon, “Revenge is a kind of wild justice; which the more man’s nature runs to, the more ought law to weed it out”. People will not take the law into their hands if law enforcement and the justice system do not give them reason to take laws into their hands.