…and Nigeria will go blind

“An eye for an eye makes the world go blind” — an expression frequently attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, but in actual fact first recorded to have been said by George Perry Graham when he was arguing against the death penalty in 1914. While this is not the subject of this piece, I think it is important to produce Mr. Graham’s entire statement here, just for the record.

“We can argue all we like, but if capital punishment is being inflicted on some man, we are inclined to say: ‘It serves him right.’ That is not the spirit, I believe, in which legislation is enacted. If in this present age we were to go back to the old time of ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,’ there would be very few honourable gentlemen in this House who would not, metaphorically speaking, be blind and toothless.”

Thus it was that I read with trepidation a statement attributed to the Kaduna State chairman of the Miyetti Allah cattle breeders association, Haruna Usman, “What happened was that these people went and killed a Fulani Chief in one of the villages and burnt his house. The Fulani are just revenging.”

Dictionary.com defines “just” as simply.

“The Fulani are simply revenging.”

In what circle of hell, is taking six lives, for the life of one, simply revenging?And what if the Godogodo decided to simply revenge, and take six Fulani lives, for each of the six, Monday Hamza, Toma Masara, Chaka Rubutu, Linus Golkofa, Julius Golkofa, Boboo Okocha, and Sambo Golkofa? By the way, Okocha sounds Igbo, so what if in some random village in Igboland, the people decided to simply revenge, and take six Fulani lives in exchange for someone who’s presumably their son?

At some point this madness has to stop. But unfortunately, the people who should be solid enough to put a stop to all of it, have decided to look in another direction. This will not be the first time that a Fulani association will be bringing up revenge as a reason for a mass killing. In March, Saleh Bayeri, the national secretary of Gan Allah, a Fulani association, said that the Agatu massacre, in which at least 300 people were killed, was in retaliation for the killing of a prominent Fulani man. 300 lives for the life of one. To my knowledge, Bayeri is still walking free.

No way to cut it, this sends a message. A lot of others are looking on, and taking notes. Those notes sadly, cannot be good.

When peoples meet, there will always be misunderstandings, and sometimes, those misunderstandings will boil over. Nigeria is not exceptional in that regard. Where Nigeria begins to move away from civilisation, is in the manner that Nigeria handles those misunderstandings, and the sometimes over the top reactions that happen. In 2012, there was a misunderstanding between Fulani herdsmen and natives in a Tiv village. A herdsman was beaten up severely. Sadly, he died from his wounds. The Fulani in that incident did the right thing, and reported the incident to law enforcement, who in their turn did the right thing, and went into the village. Arrests were made, both communities met, and a resolution was reached, restitution was paid. I do not know for certain how the legal process went, but what I do know is that a tragedy was averted. Sometimes the Fulani report, and the police look the other way. At such times, is massacring a whole village the right thing to do? No it is not.

This is not to paint the Fulani as a people who just sit by happily and get wronged all the time. In many cases, they are clearly the aggressors. The point of this is to show that there is clearly a failure of the legal/judicial process, which ends up encouraging people to resort to self-help. The silence of the central authorities in many cases of Fulani self-help, looks like acquiescence. What this means is that down the road, other communities will resort to self-help. If, as a result of the current omissions, the Fulani everywhere are painted as the bogeyman, and that is happening already, at what point will we see an alliance of various ethnic groups against the Fulani? At what point will it become a tit-for-tat, or more accurately tit-for-six-tats, affair?

Again I ask, where does it all end?