The cry of my beloved northern Nigeria, By Majeed Dahiru

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Northern Nigeria is bleeding and many of its people are now calling for its rescue from an army of killers that is fast turning the region into the largest human slaughter slab in the world. From Zamfara to Katsina and Kebbi to Niger, bandits have unleashed terror on the people of the western flank of northern Nigeria, rustling their cattle, destroying their farmlands,  kidnapping them for ransom after carrying out mass slaughter of men, women and children in cold blood. These killings that started many years ago increased in the year 2021, as thousands of people have perished in the hands of bandits with many more people abducted for ransom.

According to the Nigerian Security Tracker, 1,525 people were killed in Nigeria in the first six weeks of the year 2021 mostly by bandits operating in Nigeria’s North West. And the trend will continue throughout the year. In November it was revealed by the Katsina state government that 213 people were killed by bandits and 676 others abducted between July and October. In the last week of November alone, the North West state of Sokoto, the newest entrant into northern Nigeria’s axis of evil, recorded the killing of 45 people from bandits attack on Goronyo and Ilellah areas of the state. Unfortunately, it was the burning to death in Sokoto of dozens of travellers in a bus in early December that sent shock waves across the region, leading to condemnations and call for action by relevant authorities.

In his reaction to the killings in his domain and region, the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III lamented that the north has been turned into a ‘’killing field’’ by bandits and terrorists. On its part, the Jama’atuNasri Islam, JNI in a statement accused the government of being unperturbed about the mass killings going on in the north, while reiterating that Nigerians are now being killed like ‘’chickens’’ by bandits and terrorists. Similarly, the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF has decried the lack of empathy for victims and action against bandits and terrorists by government at all levels even as the security situation is clearly getting worse in northern Nigeria. And a number of young men and women that are tired the security situation, have also taken to the streets of some northern states to protest against government’s inaction against the daily killings in the region.

However, northern Nigeria didn’t start bleeding in 2021 with increase in banditry in the western corner of the region. Northern Nigeria started  bleeding many years ago in Southern Kaduna, Benue, Plateau, Taraba and other places outside the predominantly Muslim Hausa speaking Fulani homeland of the north west. Interestingly, the bandits that are terrorising the north western part of Nigeria are of the same stock as those who carried and are still carrying out attacks on sedentary communities in Southern Kaduna, Benue, Plateau and Taraba. They are killer herdsmen of mostly Fulani ethnicity.

Sadly, some of the voices crying for rescue and protection from bandits that are terrorising their own parts of northern Nigeria were silent, unperturbed and in some cases provided justification for the mass slaughter of men, women and children in Taraba, Plateau, Benue, and Southern Kaduna  as ‘’reprisals’’  in the so called  ‘’farmers/herders clashes. When 72 people were slaughtered in one single attack in Benue in 2017, the Sultan of Sokoto, the JNI and ACF was not heard loudly condemning the gruesome attack by killer herdsmen on farming communities in the predominantly Christian and non-Fulani Hausa speaking parts of northern Nigeria. In 2018 when the Pan Fulani cultural economic group, Miyetti Allah claimed responsibility for the slaughter of over 100 mourners that were returning from a funeral church service in Plateau as punishment for the rustling of their cattle by ‘’youths’’ of the community, neither the Sultanate nor the JNI and indeed the ACF condemned the massacre of innocent, unarmed, defenceless Nigerians. And when the former chief of army staff and one of the pillars of post-independence northern Nigeria, TheophilusDanjuma cried out over the killings of his people in Taraba, he was vilified for daring to suggest a ‘’collusion’’ between security forces and killer herdsmen.

The spread of banditry, kidnapping for ransom, armed robbery and killings by killer herdsmen to the southern parts of Nigeria, which necessitated firm actions by the states governments of the region was met with stiff opposition by the Hausa speaking Fulani Muslim north. The ban on open grazing [not ban on cattle breeding] by a number of southern states and the directive to herdsmen to leave the forest reserves was described by self-appointed spokespersons of northern Nigeria as an ‘’attack’’ on the region by the south. And when the six states of the south west of Nigeria evolved a home grown security operation [Amotekun] to contain rising tide of insecurity in their region these self-appointed spokespersons of a region that was even more need of its own Amotekun mounted a fierce opposition to it, claiming it was targeted at the north.

While the north was busy playing the ostrich and arrogating to itself the right to decide for other sections of Nigeria how not to put out the fire in their houses, it left its own burning house unattended and today its lamenting over the burnt debris and the carcasses of the charred bodies of members of its household. For the Hausa speaking Fulani Muslim north the chickens have come home to roost. Bandits that were once hailed as freedom fighters ‘’away’’ are now been denounced as terrorists at ‘’home’’ but who will bell the cat? The cry of mybeloved northern Nigeria, can be likened to the lamentation of Martin Niemoller when he said of Nazi Germany, ‘’first they came for the communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a communist. Then they came for the socialists, I did not speak out because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.’’ 

Dahiru, a public affairs analyst, writes from Abuja and can be reached through dahirumajeed@gmail.com

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Sky Daily