By KENNETH GYADO
In our part of the world, we celebrate with those who celebrate and mourn with those who mourn. In Africa, a neighbour’s tragedy is the entire community’s tragedy. This explains why neighbors overreach themselves in providing whatever assistance they can to a bereaved family to ease the burden of a loss.
A time of tragedy, especially when the corpses of the deceased are still warm, is not a moment for blame games or mockery. A moment when the ground is still wet with the blood of a multitude and the tears of mourners isn’t an auspicious time to mouth mocking obscenities, neither is it a period to say “ I warned you.”
Governor Simon Lalong of Plareau State, by his ill-timed statement, has proven beyond doubt that whatever is left of his humanity has left him. He chose the lowest moment of a people at their darkest hour to strike. His statement on a day dark clouds hung over Benue – saying he warned the Governor on the implementation of the Open Grazing Prohibition Law – is indeed the “ unkindest cut of all.”
It is an unkind cut because the people of Benue expected a message of sympathy and solidarity from a Governor whose state has equally suffered horrendous attacks from insurgent and mindless herdsmen. We expected a Lalong from a sister state to identify with the widows, widowers and orphans who have been victims of a soulless army of rampaging cannibals, and not his invidious and callous position.
What Lalong has done is an attempt to severe the age-long affinity between the people of Plateau and Benue States. In our hour of need, Lalong has slapped our faces in a vain attempt to ingratiate himself to our common enemies. His action can be likened to a neighbor who shuts his door to a fellow neighbor escaping from danger.
If Governor Lalong had been on record as opposing the anti grazing bill before now, one would have understood his current vaunting. However, he chose a moment when the entire landscape of Benue and the Diaspora was united in grief to throw a punch below the belt.
The Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, has rightly been outraged, not only because of the insensitivity of his colleague, but also by the barefaced lies that his so-called warning turned out to be. Governor Lalong’s half clever attempt to deny his taped statement further exposes the character of the man elected to pilot the affairs of Plateau state.
Lalong has betrayed the Plateau people, the Middle Belt spirit and all of humanity. He is a fair weather friend no one can rely upon, not even the people he is attempting to warm himself to.
It is important to point out that Lalong did not state what his alternative is to the anti-open grazing law in Benue. If indeed he warned the Benue Governor, what was his alternative prescription?.
It is common knowledge that the trigger that explodes into wanton killings and destruction is when the hordes of herders and their herds invade farmlands. What then should prevent this trespassing if not ranching?. What is the international best practice?. We do not produce 1% of the beef produced in South and North America. Do you see cows roaming the streets in those places? Why do some people want to hold us perpetually backwards by perpetuating primitive methods that add little value to us?
In this whole tragedy, a more tragic dimension has been introduced by people seeking political capital out of our misery. This pogrom threatens our survival as human beings and not our membership of political parties. This destruction reached its peak in 2012 when a different dispensation was in charge. To therefore attempt to impute partisan colorations to this unfortunate happenings is to dishonor the dead.
Let us all ignore Lalong’s spit on the graves of the departed and also dissolve our partisan sympathies and unite to fight these beasts who wish to wipe us away from the face of the earth and take our God-given land. It is not a time for opportunistic politicians, neither is it a moment to groan over betrayals of neighbours; it is a time to stand up as a people and say, NEVER AGAIN.