On Thursday July 19, 2012 the Senate, the nation and the family of Senator Dantong Dalyop bid the late senator farewell. The Senate thereafter went back to it’s business while his family went home to continue grieving. It is not that the life of Dalyop was more important than the life of any of the 140 people that lost their lives in the petrol tanker explosion in Rivers state two weeks ago, or any of the 23 people that were killed by gunmen believed to be armed robbers in Zamfara last month, or any of the four people that died as a result of flooding in Ibadan last week, or any of the estimated 1000 people believed to have died from bomb blasts across the country in the last one year.
But until his death, Dalyop was one of only 109 Nigerians, out of 160 million, that are privileged to be elevated to the exalted position of the nation’s highest legislative body, the Senate. Those 109, if they are so inclined, can change the country from the way it is (dangerous, backward, nasty), to the way it should be (safe, progressive, among the 20 leading economies of the world). If they are so inclined, INCLINED being the operative word. So being so favoured, even if he died in his sleep, Dr. Dalyop’s sudden departure would still be a national loss and should attract national attention.
In this context, I would like to join other Nigerians in praying for God to give late Dalyop’s family, and indeed the families of all those that have lost loved ones in our numerous tragedies, the strength to bear their unexpected departures. Only the fool and the ignorant gloat over death. We know that we live by the Grace of God, but none of us can explain why we are still alive while the deceased are not.
Many eminent Nigerians have expressed the hope that Dalyop’s death would in some way be a catalyst for peace in Plateau State. Well, I don’t know the source or reason for that optimism. My own pessimism stems from the so many questions that surround the death of Senator Dalyop and Honourable Gyang Fulani who died with him in circumstances that have hitherto remained shrouded in mystery. It is only in Nigeria that a man of Dalyop’s political importance would die and more than a week after his death, nobody can say how he died. Even more frustratingly bizarre, is the contradictory positions adopted by the family of the deceased, the authorities and the media.
First the Plateau state government announced that both Senator Dalyop and Honourable Fulani were killed by Fulani herdsmen during the burial of people killed by Fulani invaders the previous day. But the family of Dalyop contradicted the plateau state government and said he died of heart attack caused by fright when Fulani herdsmen opened fire at the burial ground. On its part, the leadership of the Fulani herdsmen, the Miyetti Allah organization, immediately refuted both claims, saying that the Fulani herdsmen neither killed those that Dalyop went to bury nor launched any attacks during the burial. It said instead, that its members were in fact the victims of those attacks. In the mix of all this confusion, someone claiming to be a spokesperson of what is popularly called Boko Haram sent messages to some media houses claiming responsibility for the killings (this claim itself was to be contradicted by no less a person than President Goodluck Jonathan himself, who said “Boko Haram had nothing to do with Plateau violence”, which could be right because the corpses of the deceased bore no gunshot wounds). Meanwhile what may be rightly regarded as the authentic voice in the Plateau violence, the Special Task Force (STF) which is in charge of the security in the state issued a statement that repudiated all other claims. It said that Dalyop, Fulani and Hon. Simon Davou Mwadkwon, a member of the federal House of Representatives, collapsed due to exhaustion when they took to their heels after hearing gunshots from the nearby mountings; and that while Rep. Davou was revived in a hospital, both Dalyop and Fulani could not be revived. The survivor, Davou, corroborated this version of the cause of death of the other two lawmakers.
Ordinarily, this should be satisfactory enough. But this is not an ordinary situation by any stretch of the imagination. Not least because of the extraordinary bizarreness of the entire tragic saga.
First, when a fatal coincidence is too precise, it deserves automatic investigation to ensure that there was no foul play. In this case, it beggars belief that among the hundreds of people present at the burial, exhaustion should zero-in on the three prominent politicians and eventually kill two of them. Even if those two gentlemen were members of the village council, it would be incumbent upon the state to investigate such a rare coincidence. In the case of Dalyop and Fulani, there is no report that even an inquest was held, to say nothing of a high level investigation.
Second, the behavior of the STF raises more questions without answering a single one. If the STF does believe the Fulani herdsmen leadership that the Fulani herdsmen have nothing to do with neither the attack that killed the people Daltong went to bury, nor the subsequent attack that caused the stampede from which Dalyop died, then on which theory is the STF acting? Why ask the Fulani to vacate their villages because the STF wanted to “flush out terrorists?”. Isn’t it reasonable to assume that whoever the terrorists are, they would be moving out with the Fulani herdsmen? Are those the STF believes to be terrorists so dumb that after the clear warning of the STF, they would wait to be flushed out?
Third, why is it that none of the powerful institutions that those affected by this tragedy belonged to, namely, the Nigerian Senate, the Plateau State House of Assembly and the Federal House of Representatives, has shown any inclination (remember inclination?) towards an investigation into the causes of the death of it’s members; why are all of them so eager to accept the puzzling explanation that only the lawmakers were susceptible to exhaustion, as if Death is a member of a political party?
Lastly, what happened to Daltong’s police orderly? Or did Daltong go to the burial without any kind of security cover? Surely there must’ve been security men at such an event? Did they also take to their heels? If they did, why is the police high command silent about the recent declaration by the IGP that any policeman that runs away from “Boko Haram” should consider themselves dismissed from the Force?
For now we don’t have the answers, and we may never have them. But then again, truth has a way of asserting itself, and with time whatever the death of the two lawmakers is supposed to hide may reveal itself. In the meantime, we are condemned to continue to live with the agony of living in a country where human life, including that of it’s most important citizens, has no value. We can continue to live in denial, in the self delusion that we care. But the stark reality is that no society has ever made progress, or even survived, where human life is treated with such callousness as obtains in our country. The Senate can hold a thousand valedictory sessions, Mr. President may continue to condemn “this violence” and order an “investigation”; and the rest of us may continue to trade blames and accusations. The bottom-line is that in our country, life, the most precious gift of all, is worthless.
Nothing can be more wretched than having to live with this.
By Garba Deen Muhammad