Plateau’s patchwork of pain

Villagers look on as others prepare to evacuate the Ganaropp village where 35 people were killed by Fulani herdsman in the Barikin Ladi area near Jos on June 27, 2018. Plateau State in Nigeria has seen days of violence where more than 200 people have been killed in clashes between Berom farmers and Fulani herders, Nigeria is facing an escalation in clashes between farmers and Fulani herders over land use and resources that is deepening along religious and ethnic lines. STEFAN HEUNIS / AFP

Plateau State, a land of intricately beautiful hills, picturesque plateaus, storied farming and boundless hospitality is perilously perched on a bloody precipice whose ragged edges are awash in the impaled bodies of its own people who have been on the receiving end of crimes by Fulani herdsmen. The irony for the home of peace and tourism state is as staggering as the silence of security forces is deafening. In gleeful tow,a peace of the graveyard gradually grinds its way to a grotesque generational crises. It was at mark of this millennium that a senseless religious crises first shattered the serenity of Jos, its state capital, known for its sensational weather. Before then, there were negligible eruptions of violence around the state. After the Jos crisis, there was a relative return to normalcy. However, killers prowling the state and launching episodic attacks have more than ensured that complete normalcy remains a distant dream. Pockets of violence continue to shred the image of the state as a haven of peace and tourism.

As defiant as they are, the very good and hospitable people of Plateau state have always managed to somehow pick up their lives. In always managing this big feat, they have become a puzzle that savage killers, unable to decipher, have resorted to hacking into pieces .Thus, on the night of June 23,2018, while men, women and children slept, they struck again. The cowards took the cover of night because they lacked the courage to face children whose little bodies they savaged on that desperately dark night. These latest abominable crimes have left the long-suffering people of Plateau State with another patchwork of pain. Nigeria also faces painful questions over the viability of the acutely fragile contraption of convenience and circumstances that it is.

In many ways, Plateau state has become a victim of nature`s beneficence and the tireless hospitality of its people. Blessed with an alluring weather, fertile lands and rolling hills, it has always attracted people of all ilk, eager to savour nature`s bounty. Farmers, including farmers of cattle, eager for better food have always found the state accommodating and hospitable. It is thus not hugely surprising that it is cattle and their rearers , insufferable beneficiaries of Plateau`s hospitality, that have become battlefields.

The battle is so bloody that Nigeria must now openly confront those who seek to exploit an enterprise of innocent animals in their desire to commandeer the lands and livelihoods of others and hasten the disintegration of Nigeria.Emboldened by an unspoken sympathy and even outright denial from quarters that ordinarily should be roaring with condemnation and disapproval of the carnage, Fulani herdsmen have run wild. Marauding through defenseless communities in Benue, Nasarawa, Kaduna Taraba , Plateau, Edo, Kogi , Enugu, Cross-River, Delta states, they have killed, maimed and raped in their desperation to eviscerate entire communities and leave more spaces for their insatiable cattle. The effects on Nigeria have been harrowing. It is the perfect scenario for those whose ultimately ulterior motive is the gradual end of Nigeria as it is presently constituted.

Since a painful descent into a calamitous civil war at the infancy of its nationhood, Nigeria has never been the same. Ethnic suspicion and patriotism have been passed like genes from one generation to another. The result has been a national stagnation which pays ugly tribute to what division can do. To say that the current killings only add fuel to the suspicion and division is to put it mildly. It mocks even those who continue to call for Nigeria`s unity.

Comments and actions from some government officials have not helped to bandage wounds and douse tension . From promoting the extraordinary injustice of grazing reserves to making light work of security complaints, they have in more ways than they care to reckon contributed to these continued killings.

Many have come to rue the colonial amalgamation of the southern and northern protectorates into one Nigeria in 1914 as the moment when the hotbed for this clash of identity and unity was spread. Perhaps , for a country of such remarkable diversity, Lord Lugard should have done more introspection. He did not and he is now faded into a distasteful colonial history. But Nigeria is still here, and in spite of the many wedges driven between Nigerians by the sowers of disintegration and chaos, we must find a way to band together, work together and fight back. Crucially, we must provide a space within which everyone will live and thrive in spite of ethnic, religious or political affiliations. There must exist a space where every one feels his life is just as important and valuable as the life of the man in Aso Rock.Unfortunately, Fulani herdsmen have sworn this will never happen.

These continued killings that systematically move across a select number of states does great disservice to the Nigerian project of unity in diversity. It is why absolutely everything must be done to stop the killings.The perpetrators must be brought to book. Their victims deserve a measure of justice. It is urgent that this be done with more rigour and vigour than is currently the case because adding the extraordinary injustice of these murderous rampages to the boiling cauldron of simmering differences that Nigeria is might just be the final spice that the witch`s broth of national disintegration has been waiting for to boil and tip over, scalding whoever and whatever it can find.
• Obiezu wrote from Abuja

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