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Defend yourselves order: Beginning of the end? – Godwin Etakibuebu

Gov Ortom visits wife of his assassinated aide, vows to fish out killers

Godwin Etakibuebu

The Executive Governor of Benue State was reported last week as calling on his people; all over the State, to defend themselves against the onslaught of the Fulani herdsmen in the State. It must have been a clarion call from a frustrated State’s Chief Executive who is saddened and tired of burying his people on daily basis without any help from the federal government.

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This is how the governor put it: “I think the people should have the right to defend themselves and not make themselves easy prey to be killed in their homes. Defend yourselves lawfully. So any lawful means you can adopt to defend yourselves in Benue State, just go ahead. We are not going to wait for the Inspector-General of Police to do it because he has failed in his assignment”.

From the statement of the governor, quoted above and which he has not been denied up till date but instead, has reiterated and even escalated into a national debate, there is no denying the fact that the man’s desperate efforts in securing his people through the Nigerian centralized security system failed woefully. Interpreting his clarion call for
“self-defense” further, one would see that the federal government agencies saddled with the responsibility of securing lives and properties of Nigerians, as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution, failed the people of Benue State.

The governor backed his accusation of the Nigerian State Security’s failure [in defending his people] with some hard facts; facts that the federal government is unable to dispute. What therefore is the implication of this call – “defend yourselves legally” – for both Benue State and the Nigerian Nation? We may be missing the devastative implication of this call unless we understand the origin of the Mafia and its Omerta. Let us take a very brief journey to the hilly Region of Sicily in North Italy, where “some gentlemen”, actually called “honourable” originated the rule of self-defense later to be known as ‘La Cosa Nostra Omerta”.

It is the invasion of some powerful foreigners into the Sicily region and forcefully taken over the land of the aborigines with iron-fist domination, and without any help from the central government that encouraged “some individual honourable men in uniting against tyranny”. So, Mafia was originally formed to “oppose tyranny of oppressed leadership”. Mafia therefore is coming together of tightly knitted people of the same mind, and agreeing on the same mission with the same objectives, standing in unity against one identifiable powerful enemy; with a pathological resolution of subduing the powerful one [which could be individual, organization, corporation or government], applying rules of internal justice [omerta] defined by the brotherhood”.

It is for the reason of the “alliance” that it is called “Family Affairs”. In prosecuting its aims and objectives, the Mafioso [individual members of the Mafia] takes nothing personal, even if there is killing, it is purely for “business interest in defending the survival of the group” – the Mafia. With time, through the ruthless application of the “omerta”, this organized people were able to rescue themselves from the oppressive machinery of the leadership and they were able to push the foreign invaders; with tendency of annexure, away.

By the beginning of the 19th century, the Mafia has grown beyond total control of legitimacy except, and strictly except by total adherence to the “Omerta”. The norms were lost while the contrary became the order of the day. This was the situation before the “La Cosa Nostra” was shipped abroad from Italy, first to America and then to major countries of the world. And as of the time this “Product” {Mafia] was exported to the larger world, the organization of these “honourable men” have professionalized and segmented into specialization of different “businesses or trades”. It has, as of the time, metamorphosed into totalitarian criminality.

Enough of discussing the origin and growth of the Mafia while we move to look at the lessons we can pull from this short narrative in a scenario when a people is forced to say “let us defend ourselves due to the failure of constituted governmental authority”. The first lesson we must take a critical look at is that the Mafia did not start as a criminal organization. It was not even formed for that purpose – criminality. It was formed to defend the right to live and enjoy constitutionally given rights and privileges at a time these rights and privileges were being taken away arbitrarily by the government that ought to have protected them.

The second lesson we must not forget in hurry from the emergence of the Mafia is that when a people are “forced to the extreme of endurance and perseverance, the otherwise good and governable people can become violent in preserving their identity, environment, land, culture, history and heritage”. The governable man and woman of yesterday could become ungovernable today – it is all about garbage in and garbage out. It is all about the government performing its bits and the governed doing its bits.

A former Chief Justice of America once said that “any man that has the right to give good judgment has the right also to give bad judgment because the difference between bad and good judgments is too narrow.” Adolf Hitler, the leader of the Nazi Party and Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945 made a statement in 1925 [as a Sergeant in the Germany Army then] that “if the State becomes a machinery of oppression, rebellion is not only a right but a duty for the citizenry”. This is to say that those in governmental authority must always be very “faithful and deliberately conscious in prosecuting their official responsibilities over the citizenry as actions and reactions are proportionate are more than just being equal in real life”.

The third lesson we can run away with from the Mafia history narrated is that whenever a normal and responsible citizen is caged like a wild beast such person, so caged, reacts like a wild beast and the end is anachronistic. This is the reality of life because violence is not monopoly of any individual or group of people. One respect here deserves another respect there. That is just natural justice. In life, the tide can always turn, and it is always turning, as such there is nothing sacrosanct about rigidity, instead, flexibility is the only navigational waters to safety, peace and tranquility. Let us go back to evaluate the essentials of Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State clarion call for self-defense and to identify the necessities.

Governor Ortom said the call for the people to defend themselves became necessary because the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris who should enforce security and safety of the people was playing politics with the unending killings in the state, and becoming the mouthpiece of the murderers of Benue people. Could this accusation be true? The governor seemed to have proved it by his analysis and yet, the Police are not countering these glaring facts of allegation. Listen further to what the Governor said about the Inspector General of Police.

“The Police said they arrested Livestock Guard members and termed them a militia group from Benue. It’s just a diversion from the main issue. If you want to hang a dog, you give it a bad name. That is what the Inspector General of Police is doing; he is the mouthpiece of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore. That is what the man represents. He should, therefore, resign his current position to serve full time in his new job. So bad, they plant weapons on people and take their pictures and claim they are Benue Livestock Guards. Those people are not members of our Livestock Guard. It is just a planned thing”.

“The fact is that I am facing a lot of intimidation and blackmail but I am firm and strong because I have trust in God. There are threats, even on my life, it is on record that I reported to the Police and those people responsible have not been arrested. “People say they are going to kill the governor. Is that not grievous enough to arrest the people concerned? “Miyetti came out and owned up and threatened that bloodshed will continue in Benue. Is it not enough evidence for the Inspector-General of Police to arrest one person out of the group? “Fulani militia have come out in video to display the kind of weapons that they have and everyone has seen it; that is also not enough for the IGP to arrest these people”.

We should not forget what the Governor said earlier when he alleged that he reported everything to the President of the Federal Republic and as well as to the Vice President but there was a conspiracy of silence from those quarters. When the Governor led Benue leaders of thought to meet with President Buhari in Abuja, the President was quoted as telling his visitors to “learn and tolerate living with their brothers”, referring to the Fulani Herdsmen.

These are more than enough reason for a good and genuine leader to look for an alternative ways of survival for those that elected him into office. This must have be the reason of the clarion call for self-defense. Though the extent of the “instrument of self-defense” in this clarion call is not defined beyond “legality”, the historical narrative of the Sicily Mafia should be enough to tell us that the “rule of black market are not always legal” hence it is not a wise thing to push people from the open democratic ethos of public discussion into sinister practice of the black market”.

With the presence of cows everywhere in Nigeria, including classrooms of most States in the South; some even climbing pedestrian bridges in Lagos, and with the audacity of killing with sophisticated weapons of AK 47 caliber by the Fulani herdsmen, and without challenge from the Nigerian centralized security outfits, it is not the best time to encourage [by conspiracy of silence from Federal Leaders] Regional or States leaders falling into the classroom of self-defense. A word should be enough for the wise.

Godwin Etakibuebu, a veteran Journalist, wrote from Lagos.

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