Reforming nomadic killers

Armed-Fulani-herdsmen

Ace Omozuwa

Rampaging nomadic killers made it impossible for many empathic detribalized Nigerians to bask in the euphoria of the New Year. On Tuesday 2nd January, suspected Fulani herdsmen attacked communities in Benue State. They killed and maimed many people, even children and women. Unprovoked, they profaned the sacredness of human life in a season of renewal of hope, friendship and cooperation.  The timing is as atrocious as the premeditated barbaric act. These recurring reprehensible acts of violence,if not swiftly and decisively curtailed could shatter the foundation of national unity, and banish peace and development from our land.

Violence is becoming too rife in Nigeria. Senseless killings occur every day and everywhere. No part of the nation appears safe anymore.  No one moves about with a sense of maximum security, not even top government functionaries with retinues of security aides, and bulletproof cars and vests. This portends evil.  Sadly, the miasma of fear is destroying the spirit of Good Samaritan that Africans are known for. Communitarian cooperation and harmony are seemingly consigned to our historical past. Peaceful intertribal relations now exist in our imaginative space, more in the minds of people of conscience, less in our existential spaces.

When many citizens are animated by primitive animosity, national security becomes tenuous, incentives for growth become nonexistent, and good governance becomes as remote as afterlife celestial luxury.

Democracy is weak; becomes weaker when national security is tenuous. For democracy to count, it must guarantee the security of human life and property. Democracy is tyranny by another name when extrajudicial killings are rife. It cannot be overstated that the vaguest abstraction of democracy extols the sanctity of the human life. The virulent scourges of killings in the nation make a caricature of democracy. They mar our democratic credentials. Indeed, they question our human credentials. For, only debased humans do not take proactive measures to forestall bloodbath, and subvert the course of justice when they occur.

For the purpose of repetition for emphasis, it is worth stating again that the episodic barbaric killings of innocent and defenseless compatriots do not only trivialize our humanity, but also animalize it.  In the face of eco-resource scarcity, animalized humans make a living by killing instead of thinking innovatively. Animalized humans cannot express pathos when carnage occurs. Imagine for a minute, if this kind of killings occurs in Western Europe. Days of national mourning will be declared by the state. Mountains of flowers will emerge at the site of the violence. Their funerals will be beatific, televised live.  The victims of such massacre will be immortalized by the state and denizens. Security operatives will hunt down the criminals. The courts will serve justices. But here the opposite is almost always the case. Everything will be laden with tribal toxics.

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Our sensitivity has been calcified by ethno religious myths and hatred. Sediments of mutual suspicions, fears, misanthropic sentiments, and religious bigotry in our collective memories have estranged us from the spirit of human kinship. We do not know what it means to extend our humanity to those outside our self-built hermits.

Nomads againstnatives as experienced in Nigeria maybe a peculiar kind of ecological resource conflict. Nonetheless, its persistence, prevalence, frequency and mode of occurrence speak volumes about human depravity.    When state and society are decadent, they sensationalize the profanation of the sacredness of the human life. The public square will be characterized by a consistent avalanche of gory images.  Some of the images of the New Year mayhem are shocking.

The exhibition of victims of violence is not a human culture; it is an animalistic act of re-victimizing victims, and desensitizing the spectators. Therefore, to re-humanizing the Nigerian state and society, we must end the spectacle of horror.

The frantic struggle for survival andsubsistencein a society challenged by ecological scarcity and livelihood insecurity will keep exacerbating if government functionaries are beclouded by identity politics. Primordial violence has weakened the ideals of democratic governance because the ruling class always demonstrates crude allegiance to divisive ethno-religious ideologies.  Indeed, they manipulate such ideologies for their own gains and in detriment to national stability and economic prosperity. They play the ostrich when the victims are not from their ethno-religious and political clans, or if it could secure them some selfish political advantages.

As long as our sense of moral judgment is skewed by ethno-religious forces, and thereby, we develop the habit of viewing objective reality with subjective prism, peace and prosperity will be missing elements in our national experience and history. Simply stated, Nigeria cannot move forward, if bizarre ethnic biases are controlling forces in the private and public spheres. The stories we tell about ourselves will determine the height we attain. If our metanarratives are injurious to our national identity and pride, we cannot pull ourselves from the borderline of disintegration to the summit of blazing glory and fortune in the comity of nations. Until we start highlighting sameness in otherness, unity in diversity will be an elusive quest.

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There is no conflict without resolution if there is sufficient political will. The quest for panacea to this lingering situation should begin with true dialogue. I mean a kind of therapeutic dialogue, which aids mutual understanding.  Living together in peace is not possible if all the parties in these conflicts cannot come together and find common solution. To make Nigeria great and peaceful, agents of peace must arise and facilitate intertribal and interreligious dialogue in different places, and without hidden agendas.

There is the need for civil society, faith organizations, charities, and donor agencies to step up action for peace education. It is one thing to denounce violence, it is another thing to teach people how to find inner peace and live in peace with others. Let our airwaves be filled with messages of peace. Let peace building be the central theme of our religious homilies. Let us organize civic, cultural and sporting events to promote peace. There is little big government can do to promote a culture of peace. Citizens must take the lead in the noble enterprise of peace building.

Peace is not a product of passive living; it results from constructive social engagements. Those leading a solitary, hermetic life due to their economic conditions can easily become agents of social chaos, if efforts are not made to move them from the fringes to the core of society. In this wise, government must create the enabling environment for industries to thrive so that everyone willing to work would have a meaningful and secured source of livelihood. Mass unemployment is a recipe for social and cultural disintegration.

Reprehensible acts of violence will remain widespread if efforts are not made to secure our porous borders and forestall illicit arms trafficking. In the same way, government should work in concert with civil society groups to reform violent Fulani herdsmen, and retrieve their arms.

Building a peaceful society is a multipronged and unending exercise. It requires the collaboration of all and sundry. Security agencies cannot secure human life and properties without the input of active citizens. 

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