It is almost natural to put one’s mouth where one’s sentiments lie. But if one takes a closer look, one would discover that man-made categories such as race, religion, ethnicity, race, political interests, around which we form our sentiments or emotional allegiances, are the problems of our very existence as we are always too ready to mirror situations along these lines. We owe our conscience the right to stand with and for the truth. If a man goes wrong, despite the fact that he is “with” us, it is our prerogative to call him to order.
The recent developments in the Southeast, where security officers and Fulanis have become targets of unknown gunmen leave so much to bear. In the past weeks, several security operatives have lost their lives. Even so, reprisal attacks have greeted many Fulanis living in the Southeast.
Recently, in a video clip that has gone viral on social media, a number of able-bodied young men, armed with guns and dressed in the dark blue uniforms of the Eastern Security Network (ESN), marched through farmlands in Awgu, Enugu State.
A voice running in the video said the ESN men were looking for Fulani herdsmen who were grazing cows on farms. At a point in the video, the ESN troops raced off in pursuit of herdsmen who were sighted with cows inside a farm.
The video ended after a cow that was grazing on the farm was shot dead by one of the ESN members. As the cow fell, dying from the bullet wound, the voice in the video vowed that herdsmen would not be allowed to graze cows in farmlands in any part of Igboland.
Mr Gidado Sidiq, the leader of the Miyetti Allah and the Fulani community in the Southeast also alleged that more than 50 Fulani in the region have been killed, or gone missing between January and March.
According to Sidiq, about 22 Fulani were killed in Anambra, while over 30 were lost in Ebonyi State. He also alleged that no fewer than five herdsmen were killed in Enugu during the period.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian police are currently investigating the murder of a family of 19 Fulani herders in the Southeast. The victims, including children, were attacked in their settlement in Oyi area of Anambra state last weekend by gunmen who shot them at close range before mutilating their bodies. Local media said the victims were the family head, nine women, six children and three men. Some cows and sheep belonging to the herders were also killed while their houses and belongings were vandalized.
In the words of a state police spokesman, Tochukwu Ikenga, “We are investigating the unfortunate incident to determine who are behind these gruesome murders of innocent people,”
Recall that tensions flared earlier this year in the mostly Yoruba-speaking Southwest as some local leaders blamed Northern Fulani herders for an increase in crimes in their regions. Several attacks have been carried out on Fulani settlements in Yoruba areas and the Igbo-speaking Southeast by mobs from local communities.
While some Fulani have been responsible for some of the crimes, the innocent lot has been made to pay for what they know nothing about. Most of the herders in the Southeast grew up there and have never left the region. Even so, a good number of them have maintained peace with residents in their communities. Isn’t it rather apprehensive that they are made targets for killings, and their means of livelihood destroyed?
It not only smacks of sheer turpitude to kill or victimise many on account of one or two persons, it is against the ideals of humanity; and anybody that allows sentiments and ethno-religious attachment becloud their sense of reasoning deny the truth.
More heartrending is how the Igbos, including the youths, maintain an unruffled stance or support the killings. Isn’t it also condemnable that fellow Igbos are burning their homes because they want to pursue a rat? Public and private properties have been destroyed in the Southeast.
Those who know in the deep of hearts that ethnic profiling or killing is wrong are afraid to speak up for fear they might lose followership, get attacked on the media space, or that the insurgents might come after them. But the reality is that insurgents know no friend or foe; they come down on whoever they face.
We are always fond of politicising issues. When Boko Haram started with their brazen attacks, we said it was the plot against Christians. Some even went as far as saying it was a Northern scheme to make the Goodluck administration ungovernable and see him out of office. But has Boko Haram not continued in their wanton killings? Who has been at the receiving end? Yet, we are always too ready to colour things along ethnic, religious, or political lines, which are man-made categories that continues to destroy us.
The honest truth is that evil is evil. In other words, evil knows no race, religion, ethnicity, or political affiliation. All of these categories are just blindfolds. They do not make us see the real enemy. How easy it is to use religion and ethnicity to cause strife?
If one gets an idea of this, then they would see where the problem lies. We are who we are and that is the fact that we are Nigerians. It doesn’t include the fact that we are Nigerians. The remark is that WE ARE NIGERIANS. We need to start seeing ourselves for who we are and that is without any “colouration” of race, ethnicity, or political affiliation.
If blood is thicker than water, then we should wonder why it bleeds. In the words of William Sherman, “it is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation.” At the end of the day, the thirst for blood has no name written on it.