Genocide in Nigeria: Time to Speak Daggers to a Murderous State

Arthur Anyaduba [1]

Just within a few months into 2016, several communities in Nigeria continue to witness scores of herdsmen attacks. In each instance of these barbarous attacks, hundreds of people get murdered or maimed for life. A typical scene after these massacres usually assaults the conscience with dismembered bodies, decapitated heads, raped corpses of women, looted and burnt buildings, bullet and machete wounds, and disembowelments. But what really baffles one about these unimaginable atrocities is not just their level of organization and cruelty. Or in the sophistication of the weaponry used to carry out these murders. But rather, it is in the fact that the kind of national moral outrage one expects from such a state as Nigeria is nowhere to be found.

President Muhammadu Buhari, who was massively voted into office in 2015 partly with expectations that he could stop the menace of Boko Haram and ensure the security of lives and property in the country, has till date maintained a hypocritical silence over these slaughters. Where statements issued out from his government, it had been half-hearted and without effect. He has neither addressed the Nigerian people directly on these herdsmen terrorism nor shown any concern whatsoever, notwithstanding pockets of protests and outcry from victims.

Strangely, Mr. Buhari was quick to send formal condolences to the Belgian government after the Brussels attacks in March. At about the same time that Nigeria’s president issued his formal condolences to the Belgian people, hundreds of human beings had been murdered in the most gruesome way in Agatu, Benue State. Since that time, several hundreds more have been massacred in several other states of the federation. Many of these victims were burnt alive after some parts of their bodies were dismembered with machetes. No official condolences came from the Federal Government of Nigeria to the families and communities, not even the usually empty performances of official regret and sorrow over the deaths of innocent citizens. No national mourning, no national protests, nothing at all to show that human lives had been callously destroyed. In such an atmosphere of national indifference and state silence, to speak of justice would only amount to self-delusion. It is not difficult to see why Nigerians care less about the atrocities happening around them: People exposed to constant experiences of callous murders and barbarity could easily become inoculated against such expected sense of moral outrage when murders are wittingly and senselessly carried out around them. They just lose connection with ethical imaginations of themselves and the world around. And that’s what must not be permitted: the death of humanity in Nigeria!

The danger in Nigeria presently is that the leadership is taking advantage of this condition of moral collapse to foster and execute genocides almost without resistance. It is not far-fetched to accuse Mr. Buhari of some form of complicity in these targeted murders by herdsmen. Since assumption of office in May 2015, there has been an exponential increase-over ten reported cases so far-in herdsmen attacks across the country. Victim groups have been basically Christian communities and peoples from non-Hausa-Fulani ethnicities. Most herdspeople population in Nigeria come from the Fulani-Mr. Buhari himself is Fulani and a popular defender of the rights of Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria. Survivors of some of these carnages have claimed that their attackers are Fulani herdsmen and that people dressed in military uniforms accompanied these herdsmen. Many people have equally spotted herdsmen brandishing AK-47 rifles and similar hi-tech weaponry. None of the attacks ever saw security operatives intervene in anyway. But security operatives would be quick to descend on murder scenes after the killings to cover up the murders or to deny outright that they happened.

Nigeria’s security operatives reputed for unimaginable atrocities and extra-judicial murders of those who they are paid to protect can be used for just anything. In December 2015, Nigerian soldiers murdered hundreds (if not thousands) of innocent Nigerian-many of them children-and claimed that they were Shiite protesters, as if being a Shiite in Nigeria was treasonous. The soldiers did not only murder these people, they criminally and hastily buried them up in mass graves, denying families the right to bury their unjustly killed relatives. Not even in a state of war are such inhumane atrocities permitted. But Nigeria permits barbarity because the state lacks a soul. A country that in the late 1960s murdered and buried over two million people in its history without even as much as raise a monument to commemorate the injustice done to the dead lacks conscience. Human life in Nigeria is not worth a horseshit. The country’s leadership has practically permitted and aided Fulani herdsmen and the military to murder innocent Nigerians and the government is doing everything to cover up the severity of these massacres. That is why Mr. Buhari cannot be exculpated from these state-sanctioned murders.

For a president who convinced himself and publicly announced it on several international media platforms that he was using his body language to discipline and rule Nigeria, the least he could do to show serious concern over these murders was to publicly put his body language to use by formally and openly condemning these crimes. But no! He has neither condemned it outright nor shown any sense of outrage that under his watch thousands of Nigerians lose their lives and property to senseless murders. If Mr. Buhari does not feel any moral scruples about these massacres, it could also be because he is deeply complicit in these crimes, if not masterminding them. Anything is possible in Nigeria. The pettiness of the country’s elite and its leaders knows no bounds. Any senseless past acrimonies could trigger off genocidal vendettas. That has always been Nigeria’s history. A murderous and shameless state!

But this is not the time and space to discuss the soullessness of the Nigerian state. It is rather the time to pressure Mr. Buhari to not just ensure that the murders by Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria come to a complete end, but also that the perpetrators of these mass murders are brought to immediate justice. If Mr. Buhari lacks the capacities for humaneness, we must help him feign some. If the Nigerian state refuses to accord any value to human life we must not allow it to sully our collective conscience. This is the time for the international community to speak daggers to Nigeria and possibly be ready to use them, if it becomes necessary to do so.


[1] Arthur Anyaduba is a graduate student in English, Film, and Theatre, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada.