The herds, the herdsmen and men in Nigeria

February 6, 2018 Nigeria , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

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Prince Charles Dickson



Today I saw two blind people fighting; I shouted, “I am supporting the one with the knife.” They both ran away.


I have watched, read and listened; it’s been one news report after the other, commentary-by-commentary, grief, pain, sorrow, and trading of blames. The causalities have been on the increase, it’s close to averaging two dead per day, and depending on whose figures we are relying on.


However the issues still remain virtually the same, very little is known about the true causes of what narratives have termed the Herdsmen Killings. But a fact remains that we are on our way to Mogadishu…one brutal step at a time.


In many parts of Nigeria, it has all gone so sour; we all talk about peace, without realizing the amount of hate in the open market free for grasp. Everybody has his/her version based on religion, ethnic cleavages, and economic leverage.


In Nigeria, no one has opened up to say, how we got to this point…Where children and women are butchered with savagery irrespective of faith and creed, where family breadwinners and bakeries are hacked down in their prime.


We have closed our eyes, ears and noses, lost our consciences, as we have become victims of our own self-inflicted docility. In parts of Benue, local youths now will kill and eat those they perceive to be enemies…The Newspapers did not tell you this, nor did anyone tell you that in many parts of Nigeria today, there is an average of one gun for every ten houses, unlicensed arms and ammunition.


These exclude cutlass, machetes, and other such forms. That when these fights break out the orgies of killings and wanton destruction are only comparable to places like Rwanda, Kosovo, etc.


I am sure most Nigerians in other parts are unaware that we have gotten to the level where we get text messages and WhatsApp communications that bother from the mundane to the highly insane.


I am sure many Nigerians on facebook, twitter, various social network groups and listserves do not know that we have redefined terms that are part of our conflictology. There is the ‘them, us, they, namu, nasu, harane, dan kasa, tiv, and the fulanis’.


It all depends on which parts you belong to. Benue vs Fulanis, Hausas vs natives, Hausas vs Igbos; as this was being penned it was vs students. Landowners vs settlers, the dominant vs the domineering, PDP vs APC, Obj vs PMB, Kwankwaso vs Ganduje, the rich vs the poor, the state government vs the special task force, women vs army; it’s just endless.


It all depends on where you stand, how it affects you and how much you care.


Whether it is in Enugu, Taraba, South of Kaduna, or Zaria, Zamfara or Benue, Adamawa or Nassarawa, the narratives are similar, neighbors have not been seen for weeks…many killed and burnt! Several even killed by their own in mob frenzy, as they are not given the opportunity to state tribe, religion or anything.


How did we get to where we are? When did we descend to a state where we have to be careful of the kinds of clothes we wear, you dare not wear a kaftan if you are not Muslim, and trust me it’s no use wearing jeans and a shirt looking like James Chuwang in an environ where you should ordinarily be Aminu Mohammed.


Did you know that motorbikes have their operational zones, that you do not dare enter a vehicle without making sure the composition of the passengers?


That no matter the situation peradventure you are Muslim, you dare not by mistake, error or omission hit a Christian on the road, even if the accident was his fault and that the city centre is on a self-imposed curfew, with citizenry all home and in their comfort zones between 5 and 6pm.


Most of us, or put rather politely some of us sit in comfort zones and watch as militias take over in the name of vigilantes, commit arson, and look for justification forgetting that in the real sense these are acts of treasonable felony.


Some say Buhari is the problem, others say it’s his enemies, Natives are killed by the dozens almost weekly in their local villages, settlers, indigenes, Christians, Muslims, Fulanis and pagans are slaughtered, hacked down and accidentally discharged by fellow Nigerians in uniform and without uniforms.


No sane person is going to have his ward serve or even get to school in some states of Nigeria.


No one is being held responsible. There is a threateningly alarming increasing level and dose of distrust. Mr. Buhari, his administration, security agents, the legislative and judicial arms have completely failed, not as a multiple result of a person but a function of a complete failure of the entire security network and leadership and citizens apparatus.


In Benue, The Special Task Force reports to the Defence Headquarters, the Commissioner of Police reports to Abuja, and Ortom sits receiving sympathizers, he cannot even pay workers as he battles saboteurs from his own backyard and contends with his self-denial that he is in charge, after an abysmal failure before now.


It’s more of Buhari’s problem than a collective problem of a people; of course he is the President. The Fulanis are aggrieved, rightly so too, the Igbos are weighing the option of Biafra, with right to do so. Yorubas are caught in-between with its Christian and Muslim population. Indigenous persons are tired and believe that the answer is wholesale, pursuing of all strangers, which is not a bad idea too, so let’s see how it plays out.


I once said when this year’s killings commenced that it represent a failure in all ramifications on the part of those that have been vested with authority whether by votes or rigging, from Buhari as C-in-C to Ortom, religious, civil, opinion, and traditional leaders.


But as a people we are all even more concerned about Trump and Jerusalem, forgetting that even these places and persons have a far more enhanced level of comfort than our backyard here. Yet these places are feeling the heat. So we have failed, we have just failed to live as brothers and sisters because ‘maybe’ we are not?


Civil wars or uprisings only need a conflagration point to explode. People live their lives in fear; neighbourhoods are raising militia groups in the guise of neighbourhood watch. We are breeding a disaster.


Better a bomb, than pathways riddled with landmines. We see it as it has become in Borno, Kaduna, Benue, Adamawa, and Taraba states…I could go on and on. But what is there to say, to families that have suffered losses in these senseless killings, how do we explain to the orphans, are we sure we discern the magnitude of socio-psycho economic damage we are planting?


To families that have lost loved ones, in this Farmer and Herdsmen ethno-religious cum political crisis. I say take heart, as painful and naive as I sound, still preach peace. We read of different solutions, and colonize all the bitterness, and the elite watch on, and very little is done.


God save Nigeria, but Nigerians need to save themselves. Do we really desire peace, or will we continue until the last man is standing—Only time will tell.






Prince Charles Dickson

Currently Prince Charles, is based out of Jos, Plateau State, and conducts field research and investigations in the Middle Belt Region of Nigeria with an extensive reach out to the entire North and other parts. Prince Charles worked on projects for UN Women, Search for Common Ground, and International Crisis Group, among others. He is an alumnus of the University of Jos and the prestigious Humanitarian Academy at Harvard and Knight Center For Journalism, University of Texas at Austin. A doctoral candidate of Georgetown University

Born in Lagos State (South West Nigeria), Prince Charles is proud of his Nigerian roots. He is a Henry Luce Fellow, Ford Foundation grantee and is proficient in English, French, Yoruba Ibo and Hausa. Married with two boys, and a few dogs and birds.

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