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Herdsmen As Power Specialists, By Lasisi Olagunju

“‘How does one man assert his power over another, Winston?’

Winston thought. ‘By making him suffer,’ he said.

‘Exactly. By making him suffer. Obedience is not enough. Unless he is suffering, how can you be sure that he is obeying your will and not his own? Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation. Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing. Do you begin to see, then, what kind of world we are creating? It is the exact opposite of the stupid hedonistic Utopias that the old reformers imagined…”

“… The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. What pure power means, you will understand presently. We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognise their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?”  (O’Brien in George Orwell’s 1984).

The above is George Orwell’s very elegant celebration of power as we feel it today in Nigeria.

It is tragic that because we want beef in our plate of rice, we must now make cow our brother. We have been hearing the proud defiance rejecting beatification of beasts for generations. It sounds logical to say a cow must not be treated as our equal. But if you live in Nigeria of today, you won’t be sure again what your stand would be. It looks like we no longer have that luxury of rejecting the proposition to accommodate cows as our mates. Courtesy of the all powerful northern Nigeria, a mad cow is now more valuable than scores of humans in a country governed by law.

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How does the North feel being in the news everyday for horrible reasons? Where I come from, the one perceived as having unsightly intestines is counseled to pack well the contents of his bowel. If you are labeled a thief, you do not start dancing in dark places with goats. But you know if you are powerful, there is no magic you cannot perform with the lives of the powerless. Because the north has powers and uses it to the shame of decency, it has evolved to become not just Nigeria’s trouble, it is slowly unraveling itself as the country’s nemesis.

Some herdsmen claimed they ‘lost’ their cows in Benue; therefore, tens of human lives must be taken as price for the ‘missing’ animals. If revulsion is what you feel about the recent killings in Benue, remember that only the powerful does what happened there. There is nothing men who have power cannot do over the powerless. Those who have the force of power feel nothing making sentient animals of humans. Vagrants with crude backing of the powerful can invade villages, decapitate children and disembowel pregnant women, then bath with their blood.

There will be no consequences. There cannot be any because the killers are just celebrating the festival of power. The killers do not feel fear because you do not have the palace and be cowardly. Really, power in its absoluteness defines itself by the devastation it drops on the world below.

Northern Nigeria seized power in 2015. It has in the past two years, six months left no one in doubt that it is in power. It has always loved power. Its ancestors domesticated it as a prized, coveted pet. And it has behaved so clearly that it has no intention of relinquishing it. I watched and listened to Senator Shehu Sani in Osogbo last November at the Rave FM lecture he delivered. The truth-telling Senator told the South-West that unless there is a written agreement, let no one think that in 2023 the presidency would leave the north. Really, should it matter who rules so long the country is well run and the people live well? That is the way foolish southerners reason. But the North has behaved like a people who have literally internalized George Orwell’s 1984. To those ruling Nigeria, “power is not a means, it is an end.” It is in “inflicting pain and humiliation.” The power elite in the north is not interested in the good of anyone or in giving good governance. They are interested in power and in keeping it. And they are serious about it. The North is not a coward. It is not a hypocrite and does not pretend to love those it has subjugated. It is only a people who enjoy uncommon favours and privileges that do what herdsmen are doing across the Middle Belt and the South unchallenged.

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and other busybody groups and persons want herdsmen to suffer what the IPOB and the Avengers of the Niger Delta suffered. They wonder why the fate that befell these ‘renegades’ has not befallen the herdsmen. The CAN president surprised me. And he is a Yoruba man. Where he comes from, does the initiate die the same death as the novice?  The outsider is the uncooked, unschooled Ogberi who does not merit protection. These herdsmen who kill are inside the protected circle of power. They cannot dance to any beat of humiliation.

Northern Nigeria fascinates me. It has a very rich history of valour and conquests. Many times, it won its wars years ahead of the first battle. Very cold-blooded, it uses its hasty patience to gut the homestead of the enemy. Many times, it employs children of the house to set their home on fire. In critical moments, it files out its soldiers on crooked foot to deal fatal blows to the enemy. I don’t want to believe that is the mission of the murderous herdsmen killing men, women, old and young wherever they fancy. But the willful impotence of men invested with  powers to rein in the murderous herders is loud enough to warn everyone outside their skirted concave to take cover.

“Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation.” It is painful when mothers watch their sinless toddlers hacked to death by renegades. The worst of humiliation is hearing the chief law officer describe the mass murder as a mere case of “two fighting.” Or, what did the Inspector-General of Police call the one-sided harvest of deaths in Benue? He said it was a communal feud. The pains and humiliation will be complete this week when the nation forgets the dead and moves on to the next tragedy from the north. Everything is about testing and displaying power. That part of Nigeria is never tired of brewing plagues and tragedies for national consumption. It is its delicacy — its contribution to national ruination.

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