Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Plateau Carnage And Antics Of A Low-Road Government

By Ikechukwu Amaechi
On Saturday, June 23, Dr. Sylvester Ugoh, former Minister of Education, sent me a video clip of Chimamanda Adichie delivering a speech as the Harvard University 2018 Class Day Speaker.
*President Buhari 
It was the quintessential Chimamanda at her literary best – evocative and enchanting. She was selected by the Harvard students, as it is the tradition, to act the role, another validation for the lady of letters who has become Nigeria’s foremost 21st century literary ambassador.
I don’t know what informed the leitmotif of her speech which she titled, “Above All Ese, Do Not Lie,” but she handled the concepts of falsehood and truth in a uniquely fascinating way asking some fundamental questions such as: “Should we call a lie, a lie? When is a lie, a lie?”
She didn’t exculpate herself from the delinquency of lying but was quick to admit that, “The biggest regrets of my life are those times when I didn’t have the courage to embrace the truth.”
But in admonishing everyone to embrace the truth, she was not naïve about the outcome.
“Telling the truth does not mean that everything will work out. Actually, sometimes it does not. I am not asking you to tell the truth because it will always work out,” she told the starry-eyed students and quickly added, “But because you will sleep well at night and there is nothing more beautiful than waking up everyday holding in your hand the full measure of your integrity.”
And then, the clincher: “Sometimes, the hardest truths are those we have to tell ourselves.”
When I read the Federal Government’s reaction to the latest carnage in Plateau State, Chimamanda’s words that, “At no time has it felt as urgent as now that we must protect and value the truth,” concentrated my mind.
We have simply lost the capacity to be outraged by anything no-matter how despicable.
On Sunday, June 24, the Plateau State Police Command confirmed that 86 people of the Berom ethnic nationality were killed by herdsmen in Riyom, Barkin Ladi and Jos South council areas. Eye witness accounts say the casualty figure may well be over 200.
Over 200 people slaughtered in one night in a country that claims not to be at war and the government is pathetically wringing its fingers in self-pity?
Unbelievable!
Hear President Muhammadu Buhari: “No efforts will be spared to bring the perpetrators to justice, and prevent a recurrence/reprisal attacks … The grievous loss of lives and property arising from the killings in Plateau today is painful and regrettable … We will not rest until all murderers and criminal elements and their sponsors are incapacitated and brought to justice.”
Haven’t we heard this before? Such rhetoric has become deja vu and I don’t know how many Nigerians still believe the president has the will to walk his talk on these killings. Nigerians are simply no longer interested in politicians’ well-worn platitudes such as this.
The theatrics of the security services that will suddenly become hyperactive after each episode of bloodbath is even more absurd. We end up with frenzied motion, but no movement.
As they are wont to do, Buhari’s spin doctors, a day after the carnage, blamed it on some unnamed politicians, who they accused of orchestrating instability and chaos in the country with an eye on the 2019 polls.
“We know that a number of geographical and economic factors are contributing to the longstanding herdsmen/farmers clashes. But we also know that politicians are taking advantage of the situation. This is incredibly unfortunate,” the president’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said.
He didn’t stop there. Some local thugs took advantage of the violence, Shehu claimed, “Turning it into an opportunity to extort the public, and to attack people from rival political parties. There were reports of vehicles being stopped along the roads in the state, with people being dragged out of their cars and attacked if they stated that they supported certain politicians or political party.”
Even falsehood and indecency must have limits.
Only the president can explain why the government decided to politicise the crisis by laying emphasis on the “number of dead bodies thugs had killed, lying along the road,” assuming there were such corpses, rather than the hundreds butchered by the herdsmen.
The president and his spin doctors know for sure that the so-called thugs are aggrieved citizens protesting the wanton violation of their inalienable right to life and government’s inexplicable helplessness.
But that was not the first time the government would make this egregious claim. In a syndicated article on Sunday, April 22, 2018, Shehu said the government had evidence that most of the attacks were sponsored by politicians trying to blackmail the government.
And he is not straddling this boulevard of untruths and obfuscation alone.
During an interview on Arise TV on Wednesday, June 20, Femi Adesina, presidential spokesperson, also blamed the opposition lusting for political supremacy for the killings.
In April, Brigadier-General John Agim, Director, Defence Information, said the military was strategising on how to go after the herdsmen and their sponsors.
“We want to say this to the killers and their sponsors that the military is coming for them. We are going to get both the killers and their sponsors very soon.”
Hot air! Sheer obfuscation aimed at wheedling the unwary.
What is going on beggars belief. I don’t know how public officials manage to sleep at night with truth so insouciantly sacrificed on the altar of mendacity.
There should be a moral and psychic cost to whimsically rationalising ethnic cleansing.
Now, a president that told the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, during a meeting in London on Wednesday, April 11, 2018 that the former Libyan president, Muammar Gaddafi, who died in 2011 was to blame for the bloodbath, is now trying hard to create the patently false impression that he is also a victim in all this.
He conveniently forgets that he had earlier admonished visiting Benue elders to take in and accommodate killer herdsmen as fellow countrymen.
Truth be told, no depth is too low for the Buhari government to sink in its determined effort to elevate falsehood to a statecraft.
So, what happened to Defence Minister Mansur Dan-Ali’s theory, supported by the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, that the carnage in the Middle Belt is the inevitable consequence of anti-open grazing laws, the abrogation of which is the only condition for peace?
Has Plateau State, whose governor, Simon Lalong, indicted and mocked his Benue State counterpart, Samuel Ortom, over the killings also enacted the law?
If the government is sure of its claim that the opposition is behind these killings, what is stopping it from doing the needful? Why is Buhari refusing to deploy the bully pulpit of the presidency in addressing this issue?
This finger pointing tactic, a tiresome trick, only proves one thing – Buhari’s approach to governance yields nothing but smallness.
As Professor Wole Soyinka noted on Thursday, entire communities have been erased from the national landscape, thousands of family units thrown into mourning and survivors scarred and traumatised beyond measure, yet the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic says there is nothing he can do.
“There is nothing I can do to help the situation except to pray to God to help us out of the security challenges. What has happened is a very bad thing, the bottom line is that justice must be allowed to take its course,” Buhari reportedly told Plateau leaders of thought on Tuesday in Jos.
Really? How will justice take its course? The truth is that in this conflict, our president lacks the courage to embrace the truth.
What is happening is ethnic cleansing. And land grab is the name of the game. If Buhari says he does not know that many communities in Benue and Plateau states are occupied by Fulani herdsmen after sacking the indigenous population, then, he is lying to himself.
If he claims he is doing enough to solve the problem, he is not telling himself the truth.
Just as the hardest truths are those we tell ourselves, the worst lies are also the ones we tell ourselves.
By theatrically throwing its hands up in the air, pretending there is no solution to this carnage other than indigenous people ceding their ancestral lands to invading herdsmen, the Buhari government is travelling on a low road. The consequence of such tomfoolery is predictable.
*Ikechukwu Amaechi is the Editor-in-Chief of TheNiche newspaper

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