Thursday, June 2, 2016

This Commander-In-Chief Is AWOL

By Lewis Obi
As President MuhammaduBuhari was completely unperturbed by the Army’s mas­sacre of hundreds of Shi’ites, so was he utterly indifferent to the slaughter of hundreds of local farmers by Fulani herdsmen. His silence was astonishing, his inaction frightening.
The Shi’ites are a tiny minority Muslim sect often looked upon by the majority Sunni as a nuisance at best and fool-hardy, stubborn in their beliefs and doctrines. They are exactly the kind of group that a president must go the ex­tra mile to protect. Not only are they politically weak and they tend to have a persecution com­plex, they are also easily bullied or victimized. The President was asked what he thought about their massacre. He was dismissive of the mat­ter, but he made the remarkable statement that he has been told the Shi’ites constituted “a state within a state.” He did not elaborate. In classi­cal times ‘a state within a state’ readily attracted a charge of treason. In any case, he said, the Kaduna State Government was already taking care of the matter. It was heart-breaking to see a Nigerian President shirk his primary respon­sibility, contracting out his responsibility to pro­tect Nigerian citizens. It was like the Biblical Pontius Pilate washing his hands off the case of Jesus Christ.
Now, Kaduna State Governor Nasir El- Rufai, an otherwise deliberative man, from whom the President took his briefings on the matter, had arraigned, tried, and sentenced the Shi’ites. He was so sure their leader, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, would be tried for whatever crimes he must have commit­ted. He didn’t say what those crimes might be, but it was the government’s way of warn­ing that the Shi’ites were expendable.The most cursory observer could see that taking a cue from El-Rufai, the Northern Gover­nors began venting and piling on the Shi’ites, forcing everyone to run for cover. It was like kicking a man when he is down. So, when the commission of inquiry was announced, it looked like an after-thought and an attempt at a cover-up.
If the President’s silence on the Shi’ites af­fair was astonishing, his indifference to the slaughter of local farmers by herdsmen was dangerously confounding. The conflict of farmers and Fulani herdsmen is not new. But herdsmen armed with weapons of war are novel. Worse, President Buhari himself is a cattle breeder and is expected to understand the conflict of the interests of both sides. But it would appear that his ascent to the throne got the herdsmen intoxicated with power which ought to have been anticipated and squelched. Hence the impunity.
Unlike the Army’s attack on the Shi’ites which was a single orgy of blood-letting and destruction spanning three days, the attacks on the farmers are a repetitive provocation and savage aggression. As late as this week, on Monday to be precise, Fulani herdsmen attacked Tse Aondo and Tse Ankou farming communities, in Benue State, killing seven.
Each Fulani attack was in the pattern of a violent Genghis Khan-style “destroy what you can’t kill, burn everything that can be burned.” Thousands were rendered homeless and more thousands became refugees. Hun­dreds of women were raped, hundreds were killed and thousands wounded.

For a president to watch these atrocities and keep silent is tantamount to governmental mal­practice, a gross abdication of responsibility and an explicit statement of the unwillingness of the state to protect a weak and vulnerable section of the citizenry of which, constitutionally, the presi­dent owes a fundamental responsibility to pro­tect. It is an admission that a president has fallen down on his duty. He failed to protect the weak and the innocent.
Then the Fulani herdsmen massacre at Nim­bo, Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State on 25th April 2016 created a na­tional uproar. The invasion force killed 46 men, women and children and burned down seven villages. Only then did the President issue a half-hearted statement that “ending the recent upsurge of attacks on communities by herdsmen reportedly armed with sophisticated weapons is now a priority of the Buhari administration’s agenda for enhanced national security and the Armed Forces and Police have clear instructions to take all necessary action to stop the carnage.”
The President’s unnatural silence and tepid statement were such that one of his most cred­ible protagonists Nobel Laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka clearly lost his cool and publicly repudi­ated the government in the strongest term pos­sible: “When I read a short while ago, the Presi­dential assurance to this nation that the current homicidal escalation between the cattle prowlers and farming communities would soon be over, I felt mortified. It is not merely arbitrary violence that reigns across the nation but total, undisputed impunity. 
Impunity evolves and becomes inte­grated in conduct where crime occurs and no legal, logical and moral response is offered.I have yet to hear this government articulate a firm policy or non-tolerance for the serial massa­cres that have become the nation’s identification stamp. I have not heard an order given that any cattle herders caught with sophisticated firearms be instantly disarmed, arrested, placed on trial and his cattle confiscated. Let me repeat, and of course I only ask to be corrected if wrong: I have yet to encounter a terse, rigorous, soldierly and uncompromising language from this leadership, one that threatens a response to this unconscio­nable blood-letting that would make even Boko Haram repudiate its founding clerics.”
Even after those Soyinka’s words of advice and wisdom President Buhari did not deem it fit to devote even a sentence to the depredations of the Fulani herdsmen in his anniversary speech early in the week. He probably has chosen to assume that his failure to acknowledge the disease makes it go away. But the World Index of Terrorism has placed the Fulani herdsmen as the fourth most vi­olent terrorist organization in the world, just two notches below Boko Haram.
President Buhari’s grand theory, the Maghreb hypothesis, that the herdsmen were as offshoot of the Libyan Revolt of the Arab Springs is insup­portable and the absence of any shred of evidence to support it ought to make government officials from peddling that fiction. Incontrovertible, however, is that the cattle breeders have created, funded, and armed a militia which can be mobi­lized at short notice for a commando-style opera­tion as happened in Enugu State.
The evidence was uncovered fortuitously when the police arrested a man for a different reason and going through his phone they were shocked with the graphic video images of the Nimbo mas­sacre. He told the police in greater detail what happened in Enugu: that the Enugu attackers were drawn from seven Northern states; that the assembly base was Kogi State; that kola nuts were passed around to enlist support from the various states. Through him the Police were able to arrest four other perpetrators. Contrary to the Maghreb hypothesis, not one of the five was non-Nigerian.
Nothing would solidify the commitment of Nigerians to Nigeria than a feeling that they are safe anywhere they may find themselves in the country; that if they are threatened anywhere their President would move heaven and earth to ensure their safety. President Buhari manifestly scored a failing grade in that department.
*Obi is a former Editor of the defunct African Concord magazine (08173446632 sms only;

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