ABUJA (Sundiata Post) When gangs of criminals are described by the news media as Bachama, Fulani, Tiv and Mambilla militia, they cease to be mere criminals and become defenders or redeemers of their ethnic groups. It confers a noble cause on their activities and rallies members of their ethnic groups to their side. When a criminal cattle herder is called a “Fulani herdsman”, he is elevated to a representative of an ethnic group and culture which complicates the process of bringing him to book. Our media-nurtured national narrative on rural violence has elevated mere criminal acts to the status of ethnic civil conflicts. Unlike crimes, civil conflicts come with emotional, social and political dimensions and engenders divided loyalties and lack of consensus and resolve among the leadership and the citizenry. This is one of the reasons why we are nowhere near controlling the so-called farmers/herdsmen violence.
We must discourage the public description of criminals and crimes in ethnic terms – through legislation if necessary. When we recognise criminals as just that, it is easier to forge a concensus against them and to inspire the criminal justice system to go after them.