What I state here is in addition to what I stated in the past. The problems with our nation are clear. We know things degenerate to this point security-wise because our people who find themselves in offices serve themselves, rather than national interest. While they are in office they band together, irrespective of tribe and religion, to loot what they should utilize in the nation’s interest. But the day they are out of the place, they sit in their living rooms and accuse tribes and religion other than theirs of being the cause of all of Nigeria’s problems.
The other time, I watched a Nigerian doing some things in his community that I thought were worth celebrating. He belonged to one of the minority tribes and minority religion up North. I wanted to know more about this individual. The piece of news about him online was a court case involving billions of naira which the EFCC instituted against him when he was heading a Federal Government agency. I’m sure though that this man must have been selling stories to his community that a certain tribe or religion is responsible for all of Nigeria’s problems. There’re others as well who use our security challenges to spread hatred against people of other tribe and religion. It’s one reason I point to any event that helps prove such divisive narratives to be false. The killings that happened recently in Igangan, Oyo State are one of such.
How many times have issues been of one nature, but parties with other primordial interests give them a different interpretation? How many times do parties engage in reprisals but one side sells this as persecution of their religion and tribe? They are so effective at this dis-information that even prominent public figures and religious leaders who are driven by sentiments rather than objectivity regarding the issues involved key into the narrative. Some of them go to the streets to protest what they called a plan to annihilate members of one tribe or religion. Some say the government supports a tribe to kill members of another tribe. Yet others say the government encourages a group to kill because it wants to hand over their part of the country to members of another religion.
The public figures referred to ignore the fact that reprisal has been part of the crisis in such areas, and that it’s what has contributed significantly to the constant violent attacks. It’s with regard to the same part of the country that international think-tanks have, through careful studies, concluded that what is happening is rooted in a struggle over scarce resources, but for primordial considerations, has been given religious and ethnic coloration by some. Even the leader of the tribe and religion being hatefully accused has said he doesn’t know of any grand plan by his followers to annihilate members of the tribes and religions that make the claims. For stating his view on a national issue, some have the temerity to rudely say he should have “remained quiet.” That speaks to how even they believe in the deliberate lies they peddle about a purely security matter. People who aren’t given to sentiments and ethnic hatred know it when they hear deliberately designed falsehood, fabrications from persons who have a historically undiluted hatred for people that the religion they claim to have instructs them to win over. They’re causing division in our country, and because many Nigerians don’t want this house to be set on fire, we mustn’t keep quiet for as long as they keep spreading hatred among our peoples.
The other day, one of the governors in the North-West explained that acts of criminality were being committed by a few undesirable elements in one state in the zone. Initially all the state governors in the zone collectively confronted it. Later, some of them pulled out, believing the matter was over. The governor says his colleagues don’t realise that criminality that’s not effectively curbed in one state will resurface in other states in a more virulent form. Of course, this is what we’re seeing now. Acts of criminality perpetrated in one state which became a challenge for the government, and which some falsely claimed were a persecution of their religion and tribe have since graduated into other forms; now other states in the North-West are on the receiving end. Rather than for lie peddlers to acknowledge that their claims are false based on the criminality happening in other places in the North-West, they say “it serves them right.” Maybe, they’ve also said that act of criminality in Igangan serves the people of South-West right.
At the time kidnapping and killings perpetrated by the same criminal few blamed for the violence in the North were reported in Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Ebonyi states, I asked on this page if residents of these states had no religion. I asked because someone needed to tell us why these people shouldn’t make the same claim since the same herders attacked them. It’s a logical question because acts of criminality that come from the gaps left by the security apparatus in one of the North-West states have been projected as the persecution of one religion or tribe.
Many reasonable people know though that the illness which the nation’s security apparatus suffers from is the reason those violent attacks have not been curbed in the places where claim of persecution is being made. This gap is the reason people of the same religion in Benue and Taraba kill one another and it hasn’t been stopped. I’m still waiting for a superior argument that will justify why actions of criminals blamed for attacks in one North-West state amount to persecution of a religion and tribe; but the same criminal activities attributed to the same group in states such as Zamfara, Kebbi, Oyo, Ogun, Ondo aren’t persecution of religion and tribe of the victims. It’s important that we debate these things now and make conclusions, so that tomorrow some won’t hoodwink anyone with the false narratives they promote in Nigeria and abroad about persecution in a conflict where all parties involved now engage in reprisals.
For we can see that as it has happened where claim of persecution is being made, the same incapacity of the security apparatus to tackle criminal elements is showing in the other places such as Igangan even long before the latest killings happened. We know that this gap in security capacity is the reason governors call for state police. They have to because they know that a combined army and police force of less than seven hundred thousand men cannot police all of North-West’s forested areas, let alone 200 million Nigerians spread across the 36 states and Abuja.
People and farmers in northern parts of Oyo State where Igangan is have been attacked by herders for years, but they never claimed religious persecution. After Igangan, those who claim persecution of their religion should give us a break. This is a security challenge and we should collectively focus on it, rather than follow diversionists. The South-west governors have said they will collectively confront criminal elements with strength in Igangan. They should go ahead; they shouldn’t let the mistakes that the North-West governors made to repeat itself in the South-West. They should bring down the state force so hard that whoever has grouses is unable to engage in reprisals in Igangan, rather they should go to the law court. We can’t continue to permit some elements to use the lapses in our security structure to pursue tribal interests as they habitually do. Such will only make us engage in wrong diagnosis, which can’t help us arrive at the right solutions in what is a serious national dilemma.