There seems to be some quiet in the South East after the national uproar that greeted the massacring of over 50 indigenes of Ukpabi Nimbo community in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State by Fulani herdsmen.
A lot of steps in the right direction also seem to have been taken since then.
Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who was summoned to Abuja by President Muhammadu Buhari, has since returned to address the highly traumatised people, indicting the security agencies for ignoring security report that an attack on the community was imminent.
He has constituted a judicial commission of inquiry “to investigate the immediate and remote causes of all the violent occurrences in the state associated with Fulani herdsmen and recommend appropriate measures that will be put in place to prevent future occurrence.”
Traditional rulers and town union leaders from over 400 communities also met with Ugwuanyi and resolved to reactivate vigilante groups in all communities.
To underscore the importance of this initiative, Ugwuanyi pledged to provide an initial seed money of N100 million to support the security efforts.
The meeting urged him to prevail on the state House of Assembly to amend the law establishing vigilante groups to strengthen them and possibly enable them bear arms, while the communities were mandated to pay security levies as counterpart funding.
But there are also some missteps.
For instance, in his address, Ugwuanyi, whose picture with Buhari in Aso Rock had offended many people who reasoned that the occasion did not call for such broad smiles, was effusive in praising the president.
“I am very grateful to … Buhari for his prompt and decisive reaction to the incident in Nimbo.
“[He] came out with a clear and unmistakable condemnation of this dastardly act and gave clear and definite directives to the security agencies to fish out these criminals and bring them to justice.”
Buhari is undeserving of this applause. His actions and inactions were clearly not presidential. He showed no empathy when it mattered most. He was uncaring, in fact, scornful of the victims in particular and the people of Enugu State in general.
If he cared, he would have visited Enugu State immediately the news broke, rather than summoning Ugwuanyi to Abuja.
If Buhari cared, he would have made a national broadcast, condemning the wanton killings in very strong terms and outlining sanctions rather than issuing tepid statements through his media aides.
What Ugwuanyi calls prompt and decisive reaction was a halfhearted statement issued by the president’s media aide, Garba Shehu, three days after the attack.
In any other country that places greater premium on human life, killings, even on a smaller scale, would see the president coming out personally to address the country. Not in Nigeria.
Buhari had better and more important state matters to attend to than to bother himself with such inconsequential issue – killing of 50 people – who possibly had no name recognition beyond their villages.
The irony is that had this attack occurred in any other country, especially in the West, Buhari would have been one of the first world leaders to offer his condolences.
Enugu State Police Commissioner, Nwodibo Ekechukwu, who ignored the security report of an imminent attack, has since been redeployed. Some reports claim that he was sacked.
The House of Representatives summoned the director general of the Department of State Security (DSS) over the matter and the Senate held a public hearing.
A 16-man delegation of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, led by Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, the archbishop of Jos, had audience with Buhari.
Governors elected on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) went to Enugu to condole with the people of the state.
Buhari reportedly assured the Catholic bishops of the determination of his government to secure all Nigerians, disclosing that he had told the Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, and other security agencies to deal decisively with the herdsmen.
For the first time also, he condoled with the Catholic bishop of Enugu, the people of Ukpabi Nimbo and all other communities that had suffered fatalities and other losses from the recent attacks.
Every well-meaning Nigerian has condemned the attacks. It was as if the Nimbo massacres became the rallying point for Nigerians to vent their frustrations over the lethargy of the government to acts of impunity.
Taken on its face value, it would seem that given the condemnations and government’s seeming awakening from its slumber, we are beginning to get a handle on things that matter. But something tells me that this is all motion and no movement.
Buhari is just making the right noise so as to erase the perception that he does not care as long as the killings are carried out by his kinsmen – Fulani herdsmen.
Why do I say so? Almost two weeks after the Enugu massacres, not even one herdsman has been arrested. Several weeks after the Agatu killings, not even one person has been arrested.
Instead, the herdsmen are still occupying the lands from which they drove away the indigenes. They are still herding their cattle, destroying farmlands and the people are too scared to confront them. The herders are still clutching their AK47 rifles and they have not been disarmed.
It would seem that all the noise by the government and state officials were attempts to ward off reprisal attacks, to calm the victims down and protect the murderers.
It seems we are all waiting to hear where the next attack will take place and then re-enact the condemnation ritual. It is this perception that forced the United Nations (UN) to voice out its worry over the “complete impunity enjoyed so far by perpetrators of previous attacks.”
How is it that in a country where mass murder has become almost a daily ritual, nobody has ever been successfully prosecuted and punished for such crimes against humanity?
For those who are already celebrating that these carnages will soon become history, my advice is that, as Chinua Achebe (God bless his soul) would say, it is morning yet on creation day.
Why? Because as Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, said in his very strong intervention in the matter, “impunity evolves and becomes integrated in conduct when crime occurs and no legal, logical and moral response is offered.”
As long as the Buhari government is yet to “articulate a firm policy of non-tolerance for the serial massacres that have become the nation’s identification stamp,” Soyinka cautions optimists to be wary. I can’t agree less because eternal vigilance, they say, is the prize to pay for liberty.