How would anyone expect that, in rural communities where cows are not deities, herds of cattle can march through and destroy farmlands and be spared? And how can anyone parade hundreds of cattle through a Nigeria filled with armed robbers and yet consider cattle rustling as such a crime which unfortunate local inhabitants must pay for with their blood? Human lives are worthless where every other thing is exorbitantly priced . You need not wonder, there is a death penalty for murder but mass murderers are rarely apprehended.
Some deaths are nightmarish. Olu Falae and his community were perhaps fortunate. Many seem committed to plumbing the depths of depravity. Cruelty in mass killings is steadily searching for the ultimate barbarism. Rwanda and the Holocaust were unspeakably horrible but Plateau state has since revealed something particularly gory. Janjaweed type midnight assaults that guarantee the total wiping out of whole villages. It’s exceptionally frightening because the victims can barely get out of sleep. Before they realize it is not a nightmare, they are mangled corpses. Death served in the dead of the night. Then everywhere is littered with bits and pieces of human flesh and everything is burnt. It has become the trade mark of a certain group, others are signing up. They are called reprisals. The perpetrators are conscious of their righteousness.
Then there are tales of retaliatory cannibalism. Kill, roast and eat. No mass graves, nothing left for an unlikely prosecution. A fiendish rivalry in that macabre enterprise. Rwanda may one day lose notoriety. There is no determined effort to make such horrific acts prohibitively expensive. Like a child toying with fire, the nation witnesses massacres happen again and again, and fiddles around with lame reconciliations. Culprits remain eternally at large. Herds of cattle are touched, humans are indiscriminately slaughtered. Reprisals. Feuds and disputes, thefts and damage to property are settled by massacres. The government finds not the fury to quench such depravity, Armageddon must be getting close. It is at least not as far fetched as our collective tepid moral outrage and near official indifference suggest.
Poor villagers are dispensable, disposable. Cheap lives. The nation only mourns when commercial airliners crash or big politicians die. I shudder at the thought whose possibility is now more palpable. A herd of cattle passes through my village and a fracas leaves herdsmen cursing and vengeful. I wake one morning and my village of Orodo and my ancestral linkages have been decimated, erased. But it could be worse. A weekend family trip could be punctuated with deathly shrills and booming guns and cracking skulls , one ordinary night. Avengers and their vampiric reprisals. And you don’t have to imagine Rwanda. Rwanda had a long build up. Tragedies of the Agatu variety can happen , comparatively, in a flash. There is something horribly disquieting about the sight of cattle herders, teenagers, hugging AK 47 rifles. But that which threatens apocalypse is the impunity flaunted. The inability of these horrendous evils to attract more than mere platitudes of condemnations. The abject impotence of a state that has failed to protect lives, to trouble mass murderers. After massacres, perpetrators don’t go to jail. Their emissaries attend reconciliatory meetings organized by bumbling politicians. Where is our sense of justice?
There is something that speaks of a yet brewing apocalypse in the pictures that came out of Agatu. The pictures of babies hacked to death in their ancestral homes. The picture of deep seated, blood sucking hate. It should be revolting. But it was not. Monumental evil can acquire banality through a terrible regularity. Massacres are now rampant, fairly routine. The middle belt is a seething volcano. That which will jar nerves and jolt senses is being awaited? Do the pictures therefore speak of violence yet to begin? Cattle rustling is criminal. It’s armed