THE European Union (EU) has flayed the Federal Government (FG) over its alleged lackadaisical attitude towards reining in the deleterious activities of Fulani herdsmen in the country. Expressly, the EU says that President Mohammed Buhari has done nothing to arrest the killing and persecution of Christians by the killer herdsmen. This is a damning verdict and a big indictment that Buhari’s handlers may be tempted to controvert and wish away by mere rhetoric. And judging by the patently ineffective official response to the atrocious activities of the herders, no dispassionate observer can credit this administration with any genuine intention to stop the killings and that is why virtually nothing has been achieved in the areas of arrest, prosecution and punishment of the killer herdsmen. Perhaps it should be mentioned that the EU’s finding is nothing new; it is not something others have not said before. There have been similar allegations by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the United States (US) government over the years. But now that another international organisation has joined the fray, it is hoped that the government will take notice.
In a tacit acknowledgement of the sectarian nature of the herdsmen’s attacks, the Federal Government advised Nigerians not to see such killings as targeted at Christians alone; that the herdsmen target Muslims too. But even at that, should there be pervasive and unremitted attacks on Nigerians of any religious persuasions without potent official response to stop them? The Federal Government needs to sit up and avoid religious crises in the country. No responsible leader sets out to deliberately invite religious crisis, but there are certain official acts of omission and commission that have religious crisis as one of its unintended consequences and sadly, it is currently difficult to exonerate the Federal Government from such acts.
The official handling of the killer herdsmen with kid gloves, the Federal Government’s overt but surprising opposition to state laws and measures aimed at curtailing the pernicious activities of the herdsmen, and the concerning absence of ethnic and religious balance in the leadership of the country’s security architecture are worrying and incontrovertible cases in point. Specifically, despite public outcry and their lacklustre performance, virtually all the heads of security organisations in the country belong to the same ethnic group and religious persuasion. Government’s unhelpful reticence has in turn bolstered the confidence of the bandits and engendered a sense of impunity. It does not help the image of the country that the global community sees its leadership as biased and nepotic. It needs to demonstrate impartiality and responsibility and hunt down the herdsmen.
The Adamawa Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) chairman has just been executed while another Christian, Ropvil Daylep, a student from Plateau State, was also murdered by Boko Haram. The CAN chairman was reportedly beheaded by the terrorists after rejecting any offer of ransom. The terrorists are reputed for such discriminatory treatment: on February 19, 2018, about 110 schoolgirls who were abducted by Boko Haram from their boarding house in Dampchi, Borno State, were released five weeks after, sequel to a successful negotiation with the Federal Government but one of the girls, Leah Sharibu, a Christian who refused to convert to Islam, is still being held. In terms of their nomenclatures and motives, there may be a thin line of distinction between Boko Haram and killer herdsmen, but their modes of operation and especially their preferred target of attacks are similar. Both organisations exhibit legendary mindlessness in executing hideous attacks on their victims. This, perhaps, was one of the reasons the United Nations (UN) counts the killer herdsmen among the topmost terror groups in the world, a designation the Federal Government disagrees with.
To be sure, it is not being suggested that Christians cannot come under persecution anywhere in the world. But the veritable issue is, what is being done about it? Evidently, the Federal Government has much more to do and requires much more than platitudes to assure the citizenry and the international community that it can summon needed political will to halt its alleged proclivity for ethnic and religious biases and their fire-sure but unintended consequences in a pluralistic society.