Opinion: Beyond the madness in Plateau State – By AYO BAJE
As events have shown, not much has been achieved by those in the corridors of power to stem the tide of the unfortunate bloodbath that took place in Plateau State seven years ago. On August 29, 2011, 20 innocent Nigerians were gruesomely murdered during the violence sparked at Angwan Rukuba Road, Jos. Muslims had to celebrate their Eid-el Fitri indoors as nobody dared to visit the amusement park and other places of tourist attraction in the city. Yet, the worst case scenario was to follow.
Many newspaper headlines painted the picture of horror with facts and figures. For example, the Daily Independent of August 31, 2011 wrote, ”Five more killed in Jos.” Next came “Family of eight wiped out in Jos .”(Daily Sun, Sept 5, 2011) and “Another family of eight wiped out in Jos.”(PM News Sept 9, 2011). These despicable killings, added to the highly disturbing massacre of 500 Berom natives in Dogon Nahawa by some blood-thirsty herdsmen on Sunday, March 7, 2010, were akin to a horror movie than harsh reality. My immediate response back then was this question: Has Nigeria turned into such a lawless state that evil now holds sway with impunity?
Precisely on September 11, 2011, this was the concern I raised: “For how long are we going to tolerate the crass absurdity of unmitigated murders in our nation state, Nigeria? Indeed, my continued outrage at the recurring bloodletting on the Plateau since 2001 is predicated on the apparent impotence on the part of both the Federal and state governments through the security forces to rein in the monster of the orgy of violence”.
According to reports then, some armed Fulani herdsmen went on a bloody rampage in Heipang near Jos on Sunday, September 4, 2011. By the time they were through, the family of Chollom Gyang, including his wife Hannatu, six children and a four month-old baby were dispatched to their early graves. Also, in a subsequent sweeping strike by unidentified gunmen another family of eight, including a visitor, were hacked to death at Foron village in Barkinladi Local Government Area at about 1.00 am. That was on Friday, September 9, 2011. It was the fourth of such beastly attacks in Plateau State within one week.
Worse still, on Sunday, June 24, 2018 some 135 innocent souls were summarily dispatched to the great beyond in Razak, Ruku, Kura and Gana-Ropp villages, all in Gashi District in the Barkin Ladi LGA of Plateau state.
Expectedly, the persistent killings have triggered global outrage. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, has expressed concern over violent conflicts between farmers and herders, particularly the Plateau attacks. The Amnesty International has said that, by failing to hold murderers to account, the Federal Government is encouraging impunity that is fuelling rising insecurity across the country. The Director Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, stated that AI independently verified estimated figures, indicating that since January 2018 no fewer than 1,813 people had been murdered in 17 states, which is double the number of people killed in 2017.
Ojigho also noted that the death toll reflected the killings resulting from farmers-herders conflict, communal clashes, Boko Haram attacks and banditry. He said that the AI was gravely concerned about the rising spate of killings across the country.
Cumulatively, the mindless mass murders have equated life in Nigeria to the Hobbesian state of nature. Thomas Hobbes describes sovereignty as the soul of the Leviathan. According to him, a “natural condition of mankind” is what would exist if there were no government, no civilisation, no laws, and no common power to restrain human nature. Under such a situation, life would be “nasty, brutish and short.”
The gory situation symbolises a country whose leaders cannot afford the much needed security of lives and property in line with the basic principles of government. That is, as enshrined under Section 14, Sub-Section 2(b) of 1999 Constitution as amended.
So, what is the way forward? While awaiting the reordering of the security architecture by President Muhammadu Buhari, one would state the obvious. The current over-centralisation of the Nigeria Police Force cannot help us out. It must, like the all-powerful federal structure, be diffused to the states and their communities. Those at the corridors of power know where the insecurity shoes pinch them and should find the requisite solution.
Secondly, Nigeria is under-policed. According to IGP, Ibrahim idris: “To attain the UN ratio requirement of one police officer to 400 citizens of a country, the Nigeria Police Force needs to recruit 155,000 personnel to police the country’s population of approximately 182 million,” . Besides, even with the number we have, only 20 per cent of the nation’s police strength of 350,000 is engaged in core police duties of protecting lives/properties and ensuring peace in the country. The remaining 80 per cent, representing the lion’s share, “are just busy providing personal security to some prominent people on guard duties”. That is, according to the Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Zone 5, Benin City, Mr. Rasheed Akintunde.
The third significant factor is to critically analyse and find lasting solutions to the recurring war over land ownership between the natives and the herdsmen. To do so, we need the Root Cause Analytical Approach. It would be recalled that Mario Machungo, in his poignant piece, entitled ‘Good Leadership Counts’ and presented at the 1999 Kampala Conference for Security, Stability, Development and Cooperation in Africa, had focused on the imperative of strengthening internal security. He stated that the interrelated problems of security, stability and development must be solved through home-grown methods.
And most importantly, we must do away with the cruel, callous and crass culture of impunity. All those found to have killed innocent souls must be fished out and made to face the full wrath of the law. Only this will send the warning signal that no Nigerian, no matter his social/political status, ethnic or religious coloration, can kill a fellow citizen and got scot-free.