On the 8th of July 2012, terrible news of death filtered from Jos, Plateau State. I logged on the internet and to my shock, I found that something major had happened.
As horrific as it was, I was convinced that good was going to come out of it.
But I was wrong.
Senator Gyang Dantong representing Plateau North Senatorial District and Majority Leader of the Plateau State House of Assembly, Mr Gyang Fulani were killed while attending the mass burial of about 50 victims. The victims had been killed the previous day in villages in Barkin Ladi and Riyom local government.
The victims were mostly women and children. They had been hacked to death by suspected herdsmen.
This wasn’t new to that region.
Just two years earlier, the infamous massacre of about 500 people at Dogo Nahawa by suspected Fulani herdsmen had shocked the entire country.
You would think that something like this would be a one-off and that the country would learn from it and prevent it from ever happening again.
But the Dogo Nahawa was just a start for the subsequent overnight marauding in villages across the state.
Plateau State was no longer the home of peace. It became a mortuary and a site for genocidal killings.
The body count had been piling up. The whole state was reeling with the shock of this killing that had taken about 50 people. While they were being buried in a mass burial as it had become customary to do after these killings (mutilated decomposing bodies will little family left behind made it difficult to plan individual burials), gunshots reverberated everywhere. This was in spite of the heavy security because of the powerful political presence at the burial.
The unthinkable happened. A senator was dead. The Majority leader of the House of Assembly was dead. Further, the member representing Barkin-Ladi/Riyom constituency in the House of Representatives, Mr Simon Madkwon, had sustained injuries.
This stirred a lot of us up.
But it was a different stirring. We were not pleased with the news. But for a split second, we were so sure that when something that a state had been crying about for years finally was touching highly placed people, something was definitely going to be done about it.
From Senator David Mark to Speaker Aminu Tambuwal, the condemnation reverberated.
But youths were angry and had commenced a reprisal of sorts on people sharing ethnicity or religion with suspected attackers.
It took a while for some form of order to return to the state. But it did.
And we then waited with bated breath for that magical thing that the-then government was going to do about this thing that no one could ignore. Lawmakers had been killed for goodness sake. Surely that was enough for the government to double down and stamp out the fire burning.
The lawmakers were buried and life continued. The killings continued too. In fact, just last year, the same general region was attacked by suspected Fulani herdsmen. Over 200 people were killed and buried hurriedly.
A few days ago, news filtered in about the death of Mrs Funke Olakunri. Funke is the daughter of the Afenifere Chairman, Pa Reuben Fasoranti.
Prior to this, there have been so many reports of such killings and kidnappings in the south-western part of Nigeria. Horror stories involving rape, kidnap and murder just kept on popping up.
But in the usual Nigerian style, verbal condemnations were all the people got from the government and their leaders.
On September 21st 2015, the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation and chieftain of Afenifere, former Minister of Finance and also once a presidential aspirant, Chief Oluyemi Falae was kidnapped by over 20 Fulani herdsmen. This was also on his 77th birthday. He was tortured and eventually released three days later after the payment of ransom.
So many conversations were sparked by this event. Hitherto, marauding herdsmen were not a common thing in the West.
The outcome of this event that happened to a prominent member of the society did nothing to curb what was to come. Stories of crimes committed by these men only known by their tribe and ties to cattle rearing became rife in the region.
The news of the death of Fasoranti’s daughter has hit the people of the West hard. Her brother has said unequivocally that she was killed by Fulani herdsmen. This is despite the attempts in certain quarters to call this an act of random criminality.
The condemnations are coming from the top to the bottom. This is not unusual. There might even be a parade in the next few days.
But will this be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back? Will this be the ‘enough is enough’ that Nigeria needs to stop this menace that is eating through the fabric of our unity?
Will this stir our government enough to stop these half-hearted approaches at solving this growing crisis?
I would hate to be the pessimist but to be realistic, our history says that this will not be the turning point.
Our recent history shows that we will talk about this death for a while. Then we will move on with our lives till the killing gets to our doorsteps. Even then, no outcry will be enough.
Our leaders just do not seem to have the capacity to solve the problem. Let me question myself. Could it be that they do not have the will to tackle it?
Senator Dantong and Mr Fulani died in one day. Nothing changed.
At this juncture, I am inclined to think that even if a sitting governor became a victim, condemnation and denial will follow. And then nothing.
But this should strike at the heart of everyone. No one is impervious to this menace. No one is fully insulated.
Dear government, if nothing else will motivate you, how about self-preservation? Even if you use choppers and travel with motorcades, one day, you will retire. And that which you ignored will be waiting for you.
This is not a threat.
This is just a piece to motivate you to act. You may just be saving yourself or your family member.
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