Friday, 23 February 2018

Benue Killings: Grief And Tears In Myth by Prof. Jerry Agada

SIR: Like Queen Niobe and the legendary Electra in Greek mythologies, the pains and grief of watching his subjects helplessly being massacred so hardened Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom’s resolve to damn whatever consequences even at the expense of being governor or loosing political party patronage.

He cried out loudly to expose the injustice being visited on the innocent citizens through the war of genocide by a group that appeared to have the backing of some conspiratorial patrons. And instead of maintaining studied silence of helplessness or bias, some power brokers and attention seekers chose to add to the existing grief by making hate speeches to add salt to injury.

For instance, to suggest that the killings in Benue State are as a result of communal clash or because of the enactment of anti – open grazing law appears to be gross insincerity and a hate speech.  For one to suggest that the killings are justified because of blockade of grazing routes smacks of complete ignorance, and it also amounts to hate speech.
Meanwhile the killings continued unabated and so also are the stream of grief and tears in the land.  The massive deployment of police force and the relocation of the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris to Benue State which the president graciously ordered became a hide and seek exercise and did nothing much to assuage the tension.  Many people wondered and even cried out for deployment of the core military to crush the invaders as had been done elsewhere with ‘Operation Python Dance’ and others but the commander- in – chief who himself is a war veteran had the ace.

He had great confidence in the ability and capacity of the police to perform.  Thus when the president wrote a letter to the Senate enumerating the steps he had taken to quell the crisis, ordering the relocation of IGP and the visit of the Minister of Interior to Benue State were listed as part of his efforts to tackle the menace.

Despite all that, the killings continued and even spread further.  Citizens became completely disenchanted and called for more serious actions from the federal government. Those who criticized the poor handling of the situation by the federal government were branded as making hate speeches.  Those who commended or justified the killings and condemned Benue State government for enacting the anti-open grazing law were branded patriots and pampered with a studied golden silence. When the body language of officialdom suggested bias or tacit support for the agent provocateur, some poodles misread the horizon and played along.  So instead of making statements that should help to douse the tension, they justified the killings through hate speeches including verbal insults by describing the embattled governor as ‘a drowning man’, feeling that such was the officially recognized position.

Thus despite the massive massacres going on, a chief executive of a state would describe it as a political game to beg for money. Ordinarily such would have been described as the worst of all hate speeches but it was greeted with loud silence as a mark of acquiescence.  So the orgy of killings continued with its attendant grief and tears among the hapless natives.
However, during a recent visit to Nassarawa State, the president came down heavily on the perpetrators of the senseless killings and threatened to have them arrested.  He followed by directing the deployment a special military squad known as operation ‘Ayem A Kpatuma’ or ‘Cat Race’ to all the troubled areas in Benue and other states within the North Central Zone. With these presidential initiatives, it is hoped that the bloodbath in the Benue valley will subside and life return to normalcy again, and the citizens saved the reality and trauma of the mythological grief and tears.

• Professor Jerry Agada,

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