The road to justice is often intertwined with dynamics. Silence in the face of injustice to a particular group is akin to endorsing an act that betrays justice. According to the Romanian-born American professor, Elie Wiesel, “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time we fail to protest”.
Against the backdrop of security challenges facing our nation, maintaining neutrality has the capacity of destroying our corporate existence. Neutrality can never be an answer in staving off forces threatening the foundations of our country.
The killing of travellers in Jos last Saturday resulted into an outrage that has not been witnessed in recent times. Many citizens were drawn to the horrifying incident and categorically condemned these killings, with many groups calling on the government to quickly apprehend the perpetrators and bring them to book.
In less than four hours after the Jos killing, the police had unveiled identities of both attackers and victims, fueling national discourse along ethnic and religious fault lines. In a state that has witnessed numerous bloodbath and destruction on a frightening magnitude for several years, it has become apparent that the monsters of ethnicity and religion are determined to foist doom on our nation. The report by the police on the identities of the perpetrators and victims of the tragedy set the ball rolling in determining where the pendulum would swing to in national discourse. I have followed the trend of conversation with increasing fear over how our citizens and groups have been divided over the tragic event. I must state without any iota of doubt that I have become flustered by some of the comments that have clearly reflected the tragedy we all have found ourselves as a people.
However, it is far more acceptable to speak out than maintain a neutrality on the raging forces attempting to torpedo the Nigerian ship. In the circumstances we find ourselves, Bishop Desmond Tutu notes, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”
Living in today’s Nigeria is full of challenges and I really feel sad that the lives of citizens no longer matter anymore. Even when it matters, the ethnic and religious basis of perpetrators and victims determine the type of reaction from security agencies. While some are wont to note that some persons are quick to condemn crimes in particular regions or states; ominous silence over despicable act of killings has assisted in foisting pretended justice.
Some of us are living witnesses of the peaceful past that was devoid of ethnic and religious inclinations. In schools and workplaces, we were bonded by the vision of working collectively for the greatness of our nation. Having found ourselves in a situation too incredulous to be believed, our humanity has been assaulted owing to the apparent failures of the state.
Even before these demons of death threw their wings over Jos last Saturday, no fewer than five Irigwe communities had come under severe attacks by suspected killer herdsmen. Within a span of no less than two months, no fewer than 100 homes were decimated and vast farmlands destroyed without any response from the police and other security agencies. To make matters worse, over 70 Irigwe people were reportedly massacred within three days, with the police unable to arrest the coldblooded murderers.
Even when over 45 towns and villages on the Plateau had been sacked over the years, and the invaders now occupying these communities, loud silence has been the response from the security agencies. Our national leadership has adopted pretended justice and double standards as the operating system. The refusal of security operatives to arrest and tackle previous orgy of violence led to Saturday mindless mayhem that led to the murder of innocent travellers.
I am yet to understand the rationale behind the police’s disclosure of the ethnic and religious identities of the perpetrators and victims. It is strange that despite months of attacks on Irigwe communities, the police never found it expedient to identify those behind ceaseless attacks. However, within a few hours of last Saturday’s attack, the black uniformed security outfit found its voice as it quickly woke up from their self-imposed slumber to unveil those they considered as the perpetrators of the bloodbath.
It is ill-omened that on the day the Irigwe people were burying their murdered relations, the security forces failed to fathom the need to beef up security presence along Rukuba Road that leads to Miango, venue of the mass burial. The inability of the security forces to combat previous attacks on Plateau communities turned out a curtain raiser to last weekend’s tragedy.
With Plateau about to cave into another round of tension and violence, made worse by the prospects of expanding this violence beyond the area of conflict, there is need to be cautious and avoid any act capable of threatening law and order.
Last Saturday’s tragedy was avoidable only if the security forces had tackled previous violence and outlaws who took the law in their hands. Owing to the fact that killings in Irigwe land had gone unnoticed by the security forces, it was just a matter of time for some criminals to take the law in their hands.
While we get enmeshed in the veracity of various narratives on Saturday’s attack, it is obvious that ordinary Nigerians are still engrossed in love for country and humanity. When penultimate last Tuesday we were travelling to one of the North-eastern states for an assignment, we had a flat tyre in the middle of nowhere. Several cars and villagers stopped and offered help. When it all seemed that replacing the bad tyre was becoming impossible due to a worn out nut, I was offered a ride to another village, about 26 kilometres away, to get a mechanic.
Returning to the place where my fellow travellers were still waiting in anxiety, the task to replace the tyre became an impossible feat. With the approaching dusk, we quickly took the decision to ride on the punctured tyre, while the mechanic rode with the Okada man for a return trip to the village where he quickly fixed the problem. In a period when our humanity has been decimated and divided along ethnic and religious divides, the concern they demonstrated was exceptional as they were only interested in our safety as citizens and human beings.
Thomas Paine once said, “If there must be trouble, let it come in my day, so that my child shall have peace”. As a nation, we are most challenged in standing up for humanity because of the failure of the state to protect us from the wickedness and bloodthirsty nature of coldblooded murderers turning our country into flourishing killing fields. We must never allow ourselves to be deceived by those whose happiness is always found in our collective tragedy.
We are sure living in a world of barbaric display of wickedness that has neither been seen nor experienced in Nigeria. Governance has been reduced to lamentations and issuance of press statements, and we do not need anyone to tell us that our journey could be curvy and uncertain.Those who unleashed attacks on Irigwe communities and other zones of death are no less criminals than the evil characters that attacked travelers in Jos last Saturday.
When we endorse criminal acts by maintaining neutrality; it comes back to hunt us. The act of revenge does not remove the pains of loss but infuriate and aggregate the sense of grief with additional fury for more vengeance.
As Plato noted that “No democracy can exist unless each of its citizens is as capable of outrage at injustice to another as he is of outrage at injustice to himself”, the Nigerian government and citizens must treat all sides in the conflict with equality, irrespective of religion and ethnicity of perpetrators and victims.
Our pretended justice that elevates other groups over others must stop. We must go after criminals, no matter their faith and ethnic membership to serve as a deterrent to others. It is only through this we can end this crippling insecurity threatening our nation. Let our police, led by IGP Usman Alkali Baba, not only go after the killers of these travelers, but also other coldblooded murderers wasting the lives of vulnerable citizens and decimating our communities.