Killings and 2019: At this rate, would there be anyone left to preside over? By Buchi Obichie (Opinion)

Killings and 2019: At this rate, would there be anyone left to preside over? By Buchi Obichie (Opinion)

Editors’ note: The writer, Buchi Obichie, laments over the state of insecurity in Benue and elsewhere around the country. She notes that killer herdsmen are cutting people down with impunity, while citizens remain helpless. She cautions the president to step up to his responsibility and bring an end to this carnage, instead of focusing his energies on getting reelected.

It’s been another all-too familiar bloody week in Benue. Every single day beginning from Monday to Thursday, scores of people were killed by depraved, blood-thirsty individuals, in mindless unwarranted attacks!

On Monday, a soldier and passerby were killed; on Tuesday, 19 people including two priests were killed during morning Mass at a Catholic Church; on Wednesday, 22 people were reportedly slaughtered; and on Thursday, seven IDP’s were killed! I woke up on Friday, April 27 (today), expecting the worst!

What is happening? Nigeria has become a war-zone, and Benue state is the battlefront! How did we get here?

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Some people say these killer herdsmen are being sponsored, and are doing the most because 2019 is around the corner; others (like the president), have attributed the crisis to the fall of Libya.

The military is vowing to deal with culprits (and their sponsors), the state governor is crying that he has been abandoned by the federal government, the Catholic Church is asking Buhari to resign, the president’s aides are trying to offer explanations on behalf of their boss, the opposition is crying wolf, accusations and counter accusations are flying all over the place…and all the while, people are dying!

Like any other concerned Nigerian, I believe that the federal government (and president in particular) has a duty to protect lives and citizens; and if those in authority cannot live up to this fundamental constitutional obligation, then they have failed, and cannot lay any claim to our allegiance!

There is no use offering countless explanations if concrete results are not seen on ground; and while I realize that the military is overstretched at the moment, I cannot deny the fact that Benue’s security apparatus is weak.

But the killings are not just taking place in Benue; it’s happening in Taraba, in Nasarawa and many other states. Citizens are being slaughtered in their homes, in farms, in places of worship, on highways…everywhere. They are scared to leave their homes and scared to stay in their homes, scared to sleep and scared to be awake, scared of everything that moves and everything that stands still, scared of each other and each other’s shadows…scared of everything!

And in the midst of this madness, President Muhammadu Buhari has announced that he would seek election in 2019; and the opposition parties are gearing up to do battle against him. But I wonder: if these killings continue, would there be anyone left to govern over in 2019? Who would be left to rule over when the poor and defenseless get killed and the rich run out of the country in fear?

Make no mistakes; no one is safe in this climate. If thugs could invade the National Assembly and steal a mace, and a state lawmaker could be abducted and killed, then anyone can be targeted. Just because they have not come for you, does not mean that they cannot get you!

Instead of focusing on getting elected, the president ought to be focused on getting to the root of this matter; and one way he can begin, is to label these killer herdsmen as terrorists, because that is what they are! If people who did not go as far as going from house to house slaughtering others could be labeled terrorists, then there is no reason why these criminals who are perpetuating these barbaric acts in defiance of the law, should not also be classified as such!

If the current security arrangement is not yielding results, the president needs to sit down with his security chiefs and come up with a new strategy for defense. And this time, he needs to make sure that his orders are strictly carried out. You can’t send a security chief to a troubled state; only for him to go elsewhere! Everyone needs to sit up…people are dying!

Reacting to the situation in Benue, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria recently stated: “Since the president, who appointed the heads of the nation’s security agencies has refused to caution them even in the face of the chaos and barbarity into which our country has been plunged, we are left with no choice but to conclude that they are acting a script that he approves of.”

The late dictator, Sani Abacha is reported to have stated: “If insurgency lasts more than 24 hours, the government has a hand in it.”

Now, while I won’t go so far as saying the president approves of the lapses of his security chiefs in this matter or that the federal government has a hand in this violence; I do believe that as commander-in-chief, Buhari does have a duty to ensure that his officers are doing their jobs effectively. And with all the monies being withdrawn to fight insecurity, there is no reason why they shouldn’t be!

Gen TY Danjuma had earlier accused the military of complicity in the killings in his own state of Taraba.

He said: “This ethnic cleansing must stop in Taraba, and it must stop in Nigeria. These killers have been protected by the military; they cover them and you must be watchful to guide and protect yourselves because you have no other place to go.”

In light of all these claims and accusations, I do believe that there are things that the president has to look into, seriously, concerning the security apparatus…except they want citizens to be pushed to the point where they bear arms to defend themselves!

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I repeat, tackling the insecurity in the country should be Buhari’s main focus at this point; not reelection. Not only is it his constitutional and moral duty, it would also be a wise strategy because as I pointed out before, the opposition is already using the issue as a talking point…and their statements are not being ignored, as the killings show no sign of letting up.

If these senseless acts are being sponsored, then those responsible must be apprehended…fast…them and their errand boys. And if there are loopholes in the military and other security agencies, then those holes need to be plugged, fast.

Waiting for another minute before taking action, would be another minute too long and too risky…one which holds the potential of resulting in the deaths of more people!

This opinion piece was written by Buchi Obichie.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of

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