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Sunday, March 4, 2018

Mambilla Again: Will the President Act This Time?

The Mambilla genocide is becoming one too many. Having gone unpunished of the mass killing of 727 sedentary pastoralists last year, the Mambilla tribesmen are back at it again. From last Thursday, they have been going from one cattle ranch to another, killing families, destroying cattle and setting homes ablaze. The news that started coming in last Thursday was further confirmed this morning on BBC Hausa Service by the Senator representing Taraba Central, Yusuf Muhammad Yusuf.

The senator said the killings are still continuing unstopped. Given the dispersed nature of the families affected where they live in their ranches isolated of one another and the difficulty of the mountainous terrain where even motorcycles cannot reach some areas, the full scale of the killings and destruction cannot be ascertained yet. Like in the first case last year, it will take weeks before the full statistics of victims and damage is gathered.

The ranching practice which the Fulani on Mambilla Plateau adopted over 70 years ago has made them easy targets of attacks. Each pastoralist family lives in isolation surrounded by several hectares it owns in places that are not readily accessible. This makes it difficult to forge a common cohesive defence and leaves every family open to attack by gangs of Mambilla militia. This is evidence that private ranching - in contrast to open ranching - can only be tenable in societies where law and order prevail.

Meanwhile, not a word has come from the Taraba State government. It did everything possible under the sun to play down on the magnitude of the first killings from reducing the number of the dead from 727 to 8 to its Attorney-General getting the Commissioner of Police release the few detained suspects of the genocide. Two of its top officials – the Speaker of the House of Assembly and the Chairman of Sardauna Local Government – were reported to have masterminded the atrocities. The silence of the state government this time too is, therefore, understandable. It will soon start glossing over this one, as usual.

The army this time is quiet, unlike in the first attacks when its GOC, 3rd Division, personally defied the terrain to catch a firsthand glimpse of the mass killings and report his shock to the world. Instead of reporting on the second spate of Mambilla killings, the spokesperson of the Nigerian Army could unashamedly present to the world pictures of some minors with cutlasses who were arrested in Benue for encroaching on a farm and counting their arrest as part of the “tremendous success as herdsmen are being arrested destroying farmland and large number of weapons recovered in different locations“. Will the Nigerian army and the police be bold enough to tell Nigerians how many of the killers in Mambilla they have been arrested so far?

In all these, one wonders the kind of President we have in office. Honestly, his inability to stop these killings – even to acknowledge their happenings when it involves the pastoralists – is both shocking and disappointing. It appears that he lacks the brain to perceive the killings, the heart to sympathize with the victims and even the sense of fairness to treat them with the expression of concern he accords other people. As usual, not a comment may come from him on the ongoing killings, much less the determination to pursue justice for the victims. Very soon, he will shake the hands of Taraba State Governor and plead with him to “please tolerate other Nigerians living his state”, as he did to the Governor of Benue State.

The degree of ineptitude exhibited by President Buhari is becoming unprecedented and intolerable. The Fulani on Mambilla will continue to suffer from his incapacity to do the needful that will stop further attacks by bringing the perpetrators to justice. He is too timid to even commiserate with them because he is afraid that supporters of the killings will accuse him of siding with “his people.” When on January 1 Fulani pastoralists successfully defended themselves against attacks from Livestock Guards state sponsored militia in Benue, the President was eager to join the bandwagon that condemned them as killer herdsmen and has since been doing everything in his capacity to ensure that Ortom continues to succeed in cleansing the state of innocent pastoralists.

This is the same President that is yet to utter a word on the mass killings of sedentary Fulani – not the hyped “marauding herdsmen” – in Mambilla, Numan, Kajuru, etc. He could not even condemn the killing of hundreds of Hausas in Ife. Never in his life has he condemned the killing of Muslims, to put it bluntly. I stand to be corrected. The truth must be told that Buhari is too weak to protect Nigerians, especially Muslims and the Fulani in particular. I have never seen a leader as Buhari that is so easily and cheaply given to blackmail and false narratives of the press and the governors that are architects of these crimes in their states. This level of timidity is dangerous and shameful of a leader. It is already costing the lives of hundreds of innocent Nigerians.  What is the big deal in forcing the Inspector-General of police to arrest perpetrators of the crimes and bring them to justice? Yes. Something big is there. The heart that is not strong enough to utter even a word of sympathy cannot command the arrest of criminals especially if they are backed by governors. 727 people were killed and nobody is condemned by the President or is standing trial for it? All the promises made have turned out to be false? Sad!

While as ordinary citizens, we can only express our frustrations on the unwillingness of the government to protect the lives and property of the innocent, we pray to God Almighty to give this country a leader who will unite us under the law, who is strong enough to stand up to injustice regardless of the criminals that perpetrate it, who will not be intimidated by blackmail and propaganda to let the lives of ordinary Nigerians in state of perpetual danger and peril, who will pay attention to his achievements in this regard more than he would pay to the display of his self-righteous character, for in these principal potentials of a leader, the incumbent, President Buhari, has proved himself to be utterly wanting.

May God bless whoever says amen!

Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde
4 March 2018

Inset: Pictures of some victims of the ongoing killings in Kakara and Yarimaru, Sardauna LGA, Taraba State.

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