At a special Town Hall meeting on security in Gusau, Zamfara State, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, reportedly claimed that there had been a drastic reduction in the spate of killings in the country. He said the concerted and committed actions by the Federal Government to rein in farmers-herders clashes, cattle rustling and other acts of banditry culminated in the alleged fall in killings. And in an apparent insinuation that the media had been shying away from proper reportage of the alleged declining killings, he challenged them to ensure proper coverage of the development. The minister’s claim would have been cheery news to Nigerians if it were a true reflection of the reality on the ground. But that is not the case as Nigerians still continue to read verified news of butchery across the land. For instance, how does the minister’s position tally with the renewed killings in Plateau, Adamawa and Taraba states?
Meanwhile, killings in Benue State have yet to abate even if they are now somewhat less than daily occurrences. And how can the minister claim that the killings have reduced when the Federal Government has declared that more people are being killed in Zamfara than other states? The minister’s claim is at best a wish which, admittedly, many peace-loving Nigerians share and hope will materialise presently. But for now, it has not. Unfortunately, Alhaji Mohammed did not furnish any statistics to buttress his claim and that would appear deliberate because such data would have been interrogated against the backdrop of what is on the ground. The victims of the needless killings in the land have families and relations who, understandably, cannot possibly share the minister’s fantasy about the status of callous slaughtering in the country.
To be sure, it is not being suggested that the Federal Government is not doing anything about the killings, as that would be hypocritical and uncharitable. But the question is whether the efforts of the government have yielded enough desired results to merit the apparent chest-thumping by the minister. Clearly, the actions of the Federal Government have not resulted in any substantial reduction both in the frequency and quantum of killings. For instance, after the minister’s shout of Uhuru in Gusau, two deadly attacks which were ascribed to herdsmen have been reported in Plateau and Adamawa. The last attack in Adamawa reportedly caused the killing of 19 people including the pastor of a Lutheran church.
The bitter truth is that much still needs to be done to arrest the killings and that will not happen by pretending or making false representations to the people that the critical challenge has abated. As it stands, the Federal Government’s scorecard on security, especially as it relates to herdsmen-farmers clashes, banditry and cattle rustling, is nothing to write home about. There is room for improvement in spite of the official efforts. Interestingly, at the end of the day, the major objective parameter of reward is result. What is rewarded is accomplishment and not some suboptimal efforts or strategies. By now, it would have been more comforting to hear from the Federal Government, the narratives of how the mindless killings have been stamped out and permanent peace restored in the affected areas rather than an imaginary tale of declining carnage that detracted markedly from the reality.
Alhaji Mohammed’s job as the image-maker of the Federal Government is understandably made difficult by the expectation-result gap which seems to impose on him a duty to go the extra mile to promote and burnish the image of the administration. However, the easiest route to achieving a favourable perception of government by the people is to urge his colleagues in government to up the ante and improve on their performances in order to earn the trust of the citizenry. Papering over obvious inadequacies and/or giving a patently wrong interpretation of the situation on the ground are unhelpful, and indeed could be counterproductive. For instance, to say that the rate of killings in the land has reduced drastically at this time is inaccurate and it smacks of perhaps unintended official disdain for citizens’ ability to observe their environment, process information and draw inferences.
We urge the Federal Government to take decisive and, more importantly, smarter actions that can put paid to the spate of killings in the country as no amount of bogus claims can make it happen.