Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Bakasi Boys to the rescue?

By Ochereome Nnanna IT is very interesting how the state governors of Southern Nigeria have reacted to the aggression of territorial Fulani militias masquerading as “herdsmen”. Let us take samplers. Fulani militiamen abducted and murdered the Obi of Ubulu-Uku, Agbogidi Akaeze Ofulue III in Delta in February this year. The police later arrested, paraded and identified the suspects as:  Usman Musbau, Suleiman Musa, Jaminu Ahmed, Umaru Baubakar, Garba Abubakar and a female gang member, Farida Abubakar. Governor Ifeanyi Okowa reacted to the
whole incident by – wait for it – appointing a Northerner as his Special Adviser, to facilitate understanding between the people of Delta and non-indigenes of Northern extraction. In Enugu State, after the massacre of about 50 innocent people in Ukpabi-Nimbo, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Gburugburu) broke down and wept like a baby. The following day, he surfaced in Aso Villa, dressed in babanriga, to see President Muhammadu Buhari. The massacre (and perhaps the visit) finally untied the lips of our President who gave a directive to the Police and other security agencies to do “all that is necessary” to stop the attacks and bring culprits to book. Days later, a delegation of governors of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) led by amiable Governor Kashim Shettima, paid Ugwuanyi a “solidarity” visit, though the governors of the nineteen Northern states had exonerated Fulani herdsmen of culpability. In Anambra, Governor Willie Obiano reacted in his usual grandiose style, and announced that his government was launching a helicopter patrol of the state to identify spots where the “herdsmen” could be up to no good. Nothing was said about what would happen if they were spotted being up to no good. Helicopter survey without a ground action component will not stop cows from eating up the products of the agricultural revolution Obiano says he is doing. In Ebonyi State, Governor Dave Umahi spoke, from both sides of his mouth. He announced that he did not have “any problem” with Fulani herdsmen grazing their cattle in his state. He stopped short of actually announcing the donation of land for their controversial and territory-expansionist “grazing reserves”. The same governor also ordered Fulani herdsmen occupying the premises of the State’s University to be flushed out by the State Commissioner of Police, Peace Ibekwe Abdullah. Why flush them out? After all, they were only harmlessly occupying university land! But by far the most decisive action taken so far came from Abia State. Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, after consultations with stakeholders and the State Assembly, ordered the resuscitation of the Bakasi Boys, which was regularised by an Act of the State Assembly into a vigilante service under Governors Orji Kalu and TA Orji. He also directed traditional rulers in the various autonomous communities to supply at least ten able-bodied young men to the vigilante service in their domains. This is the typical Igbo approach to confronting communal threats (especially invasions) not playing to the gallery or crying for sympathy. The Bakasi Boys are to act like the Civilian Joint Task Force (Civilian JTF) in the North East. These young volunteers who are not allowed to carry arms, work with the Army, Police and the law-enforcement agencies combating Boko Haram through intelligence sharing and providing the necessary backups usually required of irregulars in a conflict situation. So, the Bakasi Boys will work under the Police (and perhaps the army where they are involved) to help identify spots where the Fulani militia are causing trouble, with the hope that the law-enforcement agents will carry out the President’s instruction of bringing the invaders to book even before they strike. People have been asking the question: what should the Bakasi Boys do if the law-enforcement agents decide (as they have always done before the presidential order) to play to the gallery while the Fulani militia continue their expansionist campaign? What should they do if the law-enforcement agencies actually collude with them to continue their insidious activities in view of the pro-Fulani way the Directorate of State Services (DSS) behaved during the discovery of the fifty shallow graves in Abia State? What should they do if the law-enforcement agencies continue to work against the interests of the indigenous people as soldiers maltreated the 76 Enugu men who went in search of their women abducted by the Fulani militias? What should the ordinary citizen do when the law-enforcement agents charged with the responsibility of protecting them from criminals, hoodlums and attackers turn around to support the attackers? What should they do if nothing changes in spite of the presidential order? The answer is obvious. Self-defence is the first law in nature. I do not think that the constitution and our laws will punish anyone who defends himself, especially where the law-enforcement agencies fail to carry out their duties responsibly and with despatch. Erecting high fences and gates and hiring security men to guard our homes is part of self-defence. Wealthy people who pay the police to provide them escorts are also engaged in self-defence. That the police hire out their men to such individuals is an affirmation of their right to self-defence. The Bakasi Boys and other vigilante groups should take all necessary and legitimate measures to defend their communities if the law-enforcement agencies fail or refuse to do so. This has nothing to do with asking Northerners to “leave” any part of the South. They are our countrymen and women, our brothers and sisters – provided they remain law-abiding, peaceful and agreeable with their host communities and fellow Nigerians. Herdsmen have lived among us forever unmolested. Why did they turn nasty? Why have they become territorial? Why have some of them turned to armed banditry? And why have the law-enforcement agencies condoned their open display of sophisticated weapons and criminality? Whatever the answers to these questions are, the people must rise and assert their right to self-defence when those we pay to do so sell out.