13 August 2017

Nigeria: Can Nigeria Afford One More Bloodshed?

In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., "We must learn to live together as brothers, or we will perish together as fools."

Fifty years after Nigeria was plunged into a deadly civil war on July 6, 1967 which terminated in January 1970 with an unprecedented massacre of over 2 million people in the nation's history, there has been a resurgence of strange drumbeats of war across its geo-political zones. As a result, many people have been left to wonder in utter despair, asking: "Can Nigeria really afford one more bloodshed?"

This is against the background of recent events in the country which tend to suggest that the nation may once again be thrown into another needless war, if the gale of hate speeches and violent messages being freely circulated among ethnic nationalities is allowed to go on unchecked.

It will be recalled that Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), had directed that all the people in the Biafra enclave and indeed, those residing in other parts of the country should sit at home on May 30, in remembrance of their compatriots who died during the civil war as well as other Pro - Biafra activists killed in different rallies across the country. In what appears to be a counter- reaction, a so-called coalition of Northern groups, including the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF) had on Tuesday June 6, 2017 given all Igbos in the 19 States of the North an ultimatum of October 1 to leave the region or be forced out.

In a related development, a coalition of Niger Delta Youths also issued an eviction notice asking northerners living in the oil-rich region to leave. According to a statement, "All northerners living in the Niger Delta have been given a three - month notice to quit the Niger Delta before October 1, 2017. We still stand by our previous decisions and we demand the immediate return of oil blocs owned by northerners to the Niger Delta people."

Indeed, the issue of quit notice in the body politic is agitating the minds of a large number of people across the political spectrum. Unfortunately, majority of the people agitating for the actualization of self- determination; for instance, MASSOB, IPOB, Niger Delta Militants as well as those issuing quit notices and so on are perhaps young adults in their 20s, 30s and 40s respectively. Certainly, those within these age brackets were born long after the civil war. Based on this fact, they lack a vivid experience of the brutal war and are furiously touting for violence.

This must be dissuaded by all and sundry. However, observers have argued that the Arewa Youths were perhaps merely acting out a script, orchestrating the northern agenda. Otherwise, how would one unravel a situation where a statement issued by the youths purportedly after a meeting received immediate endorsement by some of the northern elders, who were not part and parcel of the Arewa House resolutions? The conclusion was that they share in their frustrations. So, it could have been premeditated.

A case in point also, they say, is the statement credited to an elder statesman, Professor Ango Abdullahi. He was quoted as saying, "Whoever feels Nigeria is not conducive for him should quit." Interrogating further the emperor perception of the north by the former Vice Chancellor, many have equally asked on whose approval the learned Professor relied upon to make such a declaration, if the Arewa youths' threats as we are made to believe, did not enjoy the express backing of the northern elders?

Words, they say, are like a glass cup of water and once poured on the ground, can never again be scooped into the cup. To this end, political watchers have held that the elder statesman's utterance is seriously deficient of a standard behaviour and must not be condoned. This, they say citing the Constitution which is the ground-norm, as provided in Section 43, "That every Nigerian citizen shall have the right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria."

As if this was not enough, while the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo is making frantic efforts, to engage the leaders of the North and South towards finding lasting solutions to the myriads of agitations being thrown up by tribal and religious groups in the nation, the Arewa Youths again on June 19, 2017 issued a statement urging the Federal Government to let the Igbos go.

The northern youths said, "As the Igbo agitations persist and assume threatening dimensions, we submit that there is need to ensure that they are given the opportunity to exercise the right of self- determination as entrenched under the aforementioned international statutes to which Nigeria is a signatory."

But come to think of it, in a heterogeneous society such as ours where every move or pronouncement by an individual, group or section is viewed with utmost suspicion, does it not call for concern that such acts can be inimical to the country's growth and well-being; or be seemingly courting controversy? In other words, why should any individual, group or section behaves as though, it were simply accommodating others? There is a saying that "A butterfly that is dancing on the surface of a river, has its drummers beneath the water." Who are those beating war drums for these willing tools in the polity? We all must exercise restrain so as not to allow history repeats itself.

- Ikemitang wrote in from Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Abuja

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