The cautionary aspect in underestimating an evil genius is that before you wake up to his ingenuity, he may have taken you for a ride. Take the case of information minister, Lai Mohammed! In a major propaganda coup, which definitely lends itself to academic study and research, he has succeeded in labeling a holocaust/pogrom as a clash. Consequently, instead of talking of the Fulani herdsmen’s pogroms (or genocides), the world is talking of the herdsmen/farmers clashes in Nigeria. We are so immersed in this propaganda and deceit that our senses and morality have been numbed.
According to Joseph Goebbels, the notorious propagandist who drove the frightful propaganda machine of Hitler’s Germany, “The secret of propaganda (is that) those who are to be persuaded by it should be so completely immersed in the ideas of the propaganda, without ever noticing that they are being immersed in it.” Precisely what Lai Mohammed and the other spin masters of the Federal Government have done to our nation.
Actually, what the Fulani herdsmen are doing to farming communities in Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Adamawa and Kaduna, is akin to what Germans did to Jews in Hitler’s Germany. From the “Night of Broken Glass,” (November 9-10, 1938) when rampaging Germans went on a killing spree of Jews under the pretext of avenging the assassination of German diplomat, Ernst vom Rath, in France,by a teenage Jew, Herschel Grynszpan; to when over six million Jews were killed in concentration camps, the Jews were on the defensive – just as the farmers are on the defensive in Nigeria. How can it, therefore, be a clash when one group is persistently attacking, killing, maiming and destroying; and the other group is persistently being killed, maimed and destroyed? How can it be a clash when the herdsmen are hunting the farmers, and the farmers are running for their lives? How can it be a clash when the herdsmen are the predators and the farmers are the preys? To sum it up, calling what is happening in our nation “a clash” is like describing the Holocaust as a Germans/Jews clash.
So, what is a “clash”? The relevant dictionary definition of a “clash” is “a violent confrontation or fight.” Is that what we have been having in these states? Are the herdsmen involved in a fight or violent confrontation with the farmers? The answer is “No!” What we have is a group of heavily armed rampaging Fulani herdsmen hunting down and massacring unarmed farmers and their families – including women, children and the aged – for not allowing their cattle graze in their farms. So by what stretch of imagination is this a clash?
Of course, the clash only exists in the minds of Lai Mohammed and the other spin masters of the central government. The tragedy is that they may actually believe it because according to Goebbels, “If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself.”
It was the utter and frustrating helplessness of the farmers that compelled General Theophilus Danjuma (retd) to urge farmers “to stand their ground” – to borrow an American legal term. The “Stand-your-ground law” in America (also called “line in the sand” or “no duty to retreat”) justifies a man standing his ground and using maximum force to defend himself or others from threats and perceived threats in criminal cases. Therefore, clashes can and will only occur if farmers follow Danjuma’s advice, stand their ground and defend themselves.
When violence is met with violence it multiplies violence. Therefore, though I do not support meeting violence with violence; but I definitely support a man defending his wife, his children and himself from criminals. Louis L’Armor, the celebrated novelist, posits that, “Violence is an evil thing, but when the guns are all in the hands of the men without respect for human rights, then men are really in trouble.” In our country, there is little gain saying that the guns are in the hands of men without respect for human lives. Danjuma’s comments were anchored on the truth that self-preservation is the first law of nature.
Lai Mohammed et al’s semantic gymnastics was necessary to prepare the grounds for executive inaction. By rendering these pogroms as clashes they hoped to achieve two things. One, conveniently create a semantic cover for inaction. Two, offer platitudinous solutions to appease the murderous Fulani herdsmen and reward their belligerence. Such solutions include canvassing for the creation of grazing routes and ranches for them. And offering them cattle colonies to be built by the federal government with the taxpayers’ money in interested states.
The logic in the argument that cattle rearing, like fish farming, architecture and tailoring, is a private business and should not attract public funding is unassailable. But even if you step away from that logical fortress, puzzles still liter your path. Cattle rearing is not native to the states where these pogroms are taking place or have taken place. It has greater roots and history in Sokoto, Kano, Jigawa, Katsina and Borno – major Moslem states. So why are we not having these “clashes” in these states? Why do Fulani herdsmen not drive their cattle into the farmlands in these key Moslem states? Why are they no “clashes” between Fulani herdsmen and Fulani farmers in these states? The reason is simply because where faith is shared, guns are not fired and rights are not violated. Which puts a religious coloring on these pogroms.
American President Donald Trump was, therefore, in order when he asked Buhari to stop the killing of Christians. Nearly all the farmers killed are Christians, yet we have Muslim farmers in the North who have never been attacked by the herdsmen and have never had any trespass on their farms by herdsmen.
The first step in finding a solution to this madness is to call it the way it is – a pogrom, NOT A CLASH. Labeling it right is desired to get the right global reaction. We should let the name and the shame prick the conscience of the world in the faith that the world still boasts of enough good women and men to rise up against another holocaust. We should tell the world the way it is in the hope that like Dr Martin Luther King Jr. was right when he said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. Justice will not fail, though wickedness appears strong, and has on its side the armies and thrones of power…Justice will not fail and perish out from the world of men, nor will what is really wrong and contrary to God’s real law of justice continually endure.”
Ukpe is a media practitioner based in Uyo.