Editor’s note: The Department of State Services alleged tht five Fulani herdsmen were killed and buried in a mass grave by IPOB members and this has sparked reaction and the possibility of inter-ethnic tension.
In this opinion, Abimbola Adelakun wonders why the death of the Fulani herdsmen seems to matter more than the atrocities and killings they have committed and why the DSS should not be believed

Why do Fulani lives matter?

Ordinarily, the news that the Department of State Services “discovered” 55 shallow graves in Abia State should spark excitement. Of this lot were bodies of five Fulani who were said to be residents of the state. The rest, presumably victims of violence, have yet to be identified. At a time when public officials wield no magic wand, and cannot find solutions to Nigeria’s multifarious problems, the DSS’ rising to its own responsibility makes one almost want to deafen their ears with wild applause. Yet, to take it for granted that this affair is solely about administrative efficacy is to be naive.
First is the question, why do Fulani lives matter? No, I am not about to engage in whataboutery, that diversionary tactic people resort to when they do not want to engage in uneasy topics. To shift focus from the issue at hand, they respond with, “What about XX?” Instead, I am curious if their discovery is not the DSS’ way of playing politics with the death of those unfortunate victims. The DSS, like other state security agencies, has not been consistent in responding to such even when there has been raucous public outrage at violence. So, why this, and why now?

The numerous crimes of Fulani herdsmen

Not too long ago, the Fulani massacred Agatu people in Benue State. What was the DSS response to those Fulani who have yet to deny their role in those attacks? The Inspector-General of Police, Solomon Arase, has dredged up a number of reasons he cannot find enough adrenalin to pursue this cause; not even when those accused of committing the crime pompously raise a middle finger at Arase by swaggering in and out of Agatuland, taunting the impotence of the institutions he represents. In the past one year, the Fulani have allegedly carried out other dastardly acts such as killing, maiming, and raping women across the country. They have left sorrow tears and blood in their wake but what has Nigeria done in return? Coddle them. State officials have employed empty rhetoric to cover up their lack of moral courage necessary to redress the violence the Fulani have perpetrated. Instead, they want to talk about grazing reserves and the changing climate as if that will cure the murderous inclinations. Those who should be talking about justice for the dead are the ones who deflect from that very topic, instead choosing to play politics.

Just lately, Senator Shehu Sani joined the throng of other pusillanimous politicians who cannot confront the issue of violence carried out by these Fulani. When he went to a Fulani community, he could only whine about how all Fulani are labelled for the sins of the few. Sani, who in his days as activist would have stood on his Twitter Soapbox to point out what was wrong with the society, could only obsess about the maligned image of the Fulani community.

Is the DSS biased?

The DSS should realise the importance of consistency in the administration of its duties and treat all Nigerian lives as if they matter. We have had serious of violent deaths in Nigeria but in how many of those cases did the DSS issue a passionate press release?  In 2013, 24 dead bodies were discovered at the Amansea River in Anambra State, how many people were arrested and prosecuted? What of the 2013 Ombatse killings in Nasarawa State that claimed the lives of some operatives of the DSS itself? What has been the result of their investigation since then? What of the deaths of the Shiites in Kaduna? Recently, we were told how 347 corpses were buried in a mass grave. Should that kind of disaster not compel urgency in the DSS’ activities?

Again, one is curious why the DSS became the accuser and the judge in this case. The press release put out by the DSS spokesperson, Tony Opuiyo, is laced with tendentious words and phrases that suggest that the person who penned this is either letting his/her emotion run riot or has an underlying agenda. I do not think that the public relations department of the DSS is made up of mentally lazy people who do not reflect on the wordings of their own material before pushing such out. Rather, this seems like a calculated attempt to rile the public, ignite inter-tribal discord or at best, produce social media rants that will momentarily distract the nation from her many troubles.

Otherwise, why has the DSS concluded that the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra- whose activities the state has been desperate to repress- is “gradually showing its true colour” and was attempting “to ignite ethnic terrorism and mistrust”? How could they have known the motives of the killers when the identities of most of the victims remain unknown? The members of IPOB have been victims of violence themselves but their deaths have scarcely generated any outrage. At this stage, one knows Nigeria well enough that their death is not the kind that attracts retribution. So, if IPOB members have been victims of Nigeria’s characteristic nonchalance, then why the haste to push this on them?

This beats my imagination: If IPOB truly wants to ignite ethnic terrorism and mistrust, why would they kill and bury those Fulani in secret? Would their tactics not have been more effective if they had displayed some brazenness?

DSS is trying to create ethnic divide

Can one not conclude that it is the DSS itself that is trying to incite ethnic mistrust and create further disaffection for the IPOB, a group of ragtag fighters whose will and passion the DSS has not been able to curtail? If the DSS was not up to mischief, why identify only five out of 55 victims, write a press release where you shape a slanted narrative of the Igbo killing the Fulani? What was their point other than throwing red meat at the salivating dogs of war who hang around the highways and pathways of the internet, newspapers vendors’ stands, and Nigerian political talksphere?
Also, I am curious to know why a federal agency would identify the victims as “Fulani” rather than “Nigerians” as if they were not primarily citizens of Nigeria who only happened to be of an ethnic extraction. By reducing them to “Fulani” the statement becomes a dogwhistle in a country where most public issues are viewed through the prism of primordial identity. Did they even think of the implication of pushing such a story to a volatile public like Nigeria? Do they remember history at all?

READ ALSO: IPOB gives DSS 7-day ultimatum to prove killingallegation

Finally, I wonder why the DSS rushed to put this information out to the public without conducting a full investigation first and having their facts ready. Why did they not find out the names of other buried victims? Or, were they afraid that that would detract from the skewed narrative they wanted to sell? What was their hurry? Or, to ask broader questions, what is it about these Nigeria’s agencies that make them rush to feed the public with tales when their investigation is still as raw as uncooked cassava? In this case, the DSS claimed to have made arrests and investigation, but in another breath, it said it would not “hesitate to… ensure that the sponsors and perpetrators of this action are apprehended and prosecuted for their crime.” If in the same press release it claims to have investigated and made arrests, and contradicted itself some sentences later, then its level of competence becomes highly questionable. So, who were those arrested if the DSS has yet to apprehend the actual perpetrators? Is this kind of lack of thoroughness and flippancy not what has doomed a lot of corruption cases in Nigeria such that only in rare cases have people been actually convicted? What informs this level of sloppiness?

Whatever the DSS’ reasons for generating this needless controversy, it should know that making the deaths of these five Fulani a site to stake its politics is reprehensible, irresponsible, and morally wrong.

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