A lot was happening on the night of April 24: Mercenaries (now widely called “Fulani herdsmen”) were meeting at Odolu (Kogi State) to put finishing touches to their plot to invade Nimbo community in Enugu State. The governor of Enugu State, Mr Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, was also meeting with security operatives who assured him they were “on top of the situation” at Nimbo. And, in Abuja, I was preparing to travel to Onitsha through a road built in 1981 that passes through Nimbo.
Before I reached Nsukka on Monday, I received information that scores of corpses were being deposited at the Bishop Shanahan Hospital’s morgue. Hacked limbs and heads were being picked from homes and bushes at Ukpabi Nimbo by “gallant” security operatives. I had to stop over in Nsukka and postpone the trip to Onitsha. After three days, I went by another route – through the dilapidated Enugu-Onitsha expressway.
By the time I decided to leave Onitsha on Thursday, the news of the massacre at Nimbo had triggered a wave of anger throughout the south-east. Nevertheless, I resolved to return through the original route: from Onitsha through Omou and Adani to Nimbo and Nsukka. As expected, the single-lane road that passes through Nimbo was filled with checkpoints. After every 200m, there were policemen or soldiers asking for “pure water” or bribe money from motorists.
The massacre at Nimbo happened because Governor Ugwuanyi was naïve enough to trust the wolves in sheep’s clothing called security operatives. How often have we heard that the people entrusted with the security of the nation are the same people that undermine it? They created Boko Haram; they sponsor it. Some work together with kidnappers and armed robbers. They believe that the only way to make good money is to generate crises that would consume security vote. A car seller once told me how an aspiring police commissioner bought a N6m car as a gift to a new inspector-general whom he would lobby to be posted to a “juicy” state. A state is “juicy” when a CP can easily extort millions from a governor for use in “preventing” or “quelling” crises. Small wonder each time a case is reported to a police station, the policemen see it as an opportunity to make money from both the complainant and the suspect. However, if crime prevention had been goal of Nigeria, most security operatives would have been forced to live and work in rural communities where they wouldn’t be under financial pressure or seek air-conditioned offices from where they would give directives to impoverished subordinates.
Governor Ugwuanyi has been narrating the efforts he made to forestall the Nimbo mayhem. I believe he’s sincere. But naïve. He should have known that the garrison commanders, CPs, state commandants, area commanders, directors of SSS and others were more interested in getting their cut of the state’s lean resources than in preventing “Fulani herdsmen” from killing innocent villagers. After the carnage, the governor was left asking, ““What happened between 6.30am and 7.30 am on Monday, 25th April, 2016, despite assurances from the security agencies?”
He answered his own question: “Only the security agencies can answer this question.” Really? They will have no answers to give except to give more assurances that they would cooperate with the judicial commission of inquiry which the governor has promised to constitute “to investigate the immediate and remote causes of all the violent occurrences in the state associated with suspected Fulani herdsmen and recommend appropriate measures that will be put in place to prevent future occurrence”. That’s the trend we’ve witnessed from time immemorial. Yet, a better option would be to dismiss all those security chiefs and their accomplices and then put them on trial. Won’t President Buhari grant such request?
Boko Haram has transformed to “Fulani herdsmen” overnight. It’s true that, on occasion, herdsmen clash with crop growers, but such are little skirmishes that hardly claim human lives. Those who wield AK-47 rifles are not herdsmen. They are terrorists that have sworn to dismember Nigeria. The bad news is that they are succeeding in their mission.
Now, the terrorists have put the lives and livelihood of actual herdsmen in danger. Innocent Fulani people who have lived in peace in Enugu and other south-east states are now relocating to the north or to the bushes for fear of reprisal attacks. This is despite the usual assurances announced on the radio. They are not easily deceived like Governor Ugwuanyi who had listened to security chiefs or their assurances of safety.
The governor of Enugu may be naïve, yet he is one of the most sincere and hardworking governors in the country. It’s left for all governors whose states are ravaged by terrorists and other criminals to know that security operatives (with high-sounding titles) are after money they extort from them. The police commissioners, for instance, could have indeed deployed men to Nimbo on the night of the attack by creating checkpoints along the road. But the attackers did not follow the road – they passed through bushes to the homes of their victims.
A little less than six years ago, I forewarned that evil people would overrun Nigeria [read “Evil Seems to Be Winning”, The Sunday Column, October 24, 2010] unless a brutal war was launched to dislodge them. My submission then: Evil thrives only when good people choose to do nothing. So, this is no longer a time for lamentation. Or for people to stoke the fires of tribalism or religion. We can now see that the marauders are spreading blood and tears across all Nigeria – north-east, south-east, north-west, south-west, north-central and south-south. We have to start organising in our communities. Each rural or urban community should form their own vigilante groups and work without seeking any assistance from the so-called security agents. All the criminals in our midst are known; we have merely allowed them to stay unchallenged over the years.
I’ve kept repeating this line: “I recommend a one-day war between the good people and the evil people of this country.” Not a war on “Fulani herdsmen” or on Igbo traders in the north but on all evil people in our midst. Kidnappers, armed robbers and terrorists are the same.
The war on evil should not be organised like “Operation Wetie” or “Bakassi” formerly used in the south-west and south-east respectively to slaughter sundry bandits. Every vigilante group has records of criminals operating in its domain. So do villagers. It’s a matter of good intelligence. Organisers of the “war” should determine how to deal with the mega thieves in business and in government as well as the secret societies outlawed by the Nigerian constitution. Everyone could be called upon to show how he acquired his wealth.
Since good people are far greater in number, I guess the “war” wouldn’t last beyond a single day. After that, law and order would return. Good governance would begin to take roots in Nigeria, and happiness will return to the faces of Nigerians. Our lust for money is only beginning to bare its fangs.