NIGERIA IS BURNING WITH WARS RAGING ON ALL FRONTS (1)
Temple Chima Ubochi
Poverty is the mother of crime. (Marcus Aurelius)
To a man with an empty stomach food is God. (Gandhi)
One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. (Virginia Woolf)
A man willing to work, and unable to find work, is perhaps the saddest sight that fortune's inequality exhibits under this sun. (Thomas Carlyle)
An ''unemployed'' existence is a worse negation of life than death itself. (Jose Ortega Y Gasset)
The child was diseased at birth - stricken with an hereditary ill that only the most vital men are able to shake off. I mean poverty - the most deadly and prevalent of all diseases. (Eugene O'Neill)
Nigeria is on fire. Wars are raging on all fronts. In the north, religious groups are on the rampage. Islamic sects such as Boko Haram have declared total Jihad, and would want to islamise the entire nation by force of war. In the south-south, militants are blowing up pipelines and are fighting the joint task force (JTF) to a standstill despite the truce that is supposed to be in place because of the amnesty the federal government granted to the militants in return for their guns. Even the government and its agencies are deceitful about the whole thing. We just learnt that the Nigerian government has approached some of the militants in a deal for them (the militants) to own up to thousands of weapons belonging to the Nigeria Army, which would, thereafter, be delivered clandestinely at night to the arms collection centre to give a phoney impression that militants were truly turning in arms. MEND put up a statement to that effect: “The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has been approached by the Nigerian government to own up to thousands of weapons belonging to the Nigerian Army which would be delivered secretly at night to an arms collection centre if we agree to the plan. We know that some unscrupulous individuals will participate in this scam because of the money involved and as such we are using this opportunity to raise the alarm before Nigerians and the international community are hoodwinked. For a government that has perfected the art of rigging elections, this latest fraudulent attempt does not come to us as a surprise.MEND believes in a holistic process where the root issues that prompted the unrest are addressed and weapons are freely given up in exchange for justice. Already, we are being contacted by soldiers and policemen who have constituted themselves into emergency arms dealers that want to sell AK47 assault rifles for as low as N50, 000 knowing that militants who are paid N300, 000 can still make a profit. The armouries of the armed forces and police will be emptied and many guns will be stolen from individual law enforcement officers”. In the south-east, kidnappers and armed robbers are the kings as such that even the governors of the states in the zone are afraid to step outside despite the security detail and convoy at their disposal. In the south-west, armed robbers are walking into banks whenever they like, have taken over the roads and are killing travellers and policemen like rats with impunity.
Ethnicism/parochialism, religious fundamentalism, lack of leadership, failure of government, corruption, poverty, unemployment, ignorance, greed etc are the things fuelling the religious/sectarian unrest, Niger Delta crisis, kidnapping, armed robbery etc, which are ravaging Nigeria on all fronts (East, West, North, South and Centre). The sectarian groups might be terrorist organisations, but, their leaders, who have ulterior motives, co-opted innocent, but, hungry and unemployed people for the actualization of their objectives. The politicians and the northern elite are using ethnic and religious strife to cloak their incompetence, selfishness and care-free attitude to the plight of their people. At the state level, some of them (the elite) are gaining from the chaos in their respective states and might be the brains behind the anarchy in order to discredit and depict their political opponent, usually the governor, as not being upto his job. As 2011 elections approach, we will witness more crises.
Most of all, poverty and unemployment created by the corrupt ruling class are fanning the embers of these wars. An idle man is a devil’s workshop. The elite capitalises on the desperation, frustration and insecurity in the land to recruit people who had no other means for their survival. Just a single example out of thousands: A missionary doctor kidnapped early this month and held hostage for two days, said that he sympathizes with his young abductors. Dr. Robert Whittaker, 62, a surgeon, who is recovering at Vanderbilt University Medical Center from an arm wound suffered when he was shot on Aug. 2, 2009 at his south-eastern Nigerian home near Aba, said that he was taken by three or four young men to a bamboo thicket before a ransom was paid and he was released. Whittaker, whose missionary work was sponsored by West End Church of Christ in Nashville for some 35 years, said he was not mistreated while held about eight miles from his home. Whittaker said this about his kidnappers "They said there were no jobs, and they needed money by any means."
The crux of this part of the article will be on the north. Subsequent parts will look at the south east and south-south.
Extreme poverty is one of the causes of the recent religious unrest by the Islamic sect, Boko Haram. A hungry person is an idle mind that can be used once the promise of the next meal is made to him/her. The north has hold on to the political power of the country since the so-called independence, but, has failed to utilise the power for the development of the region and its people. Rather, for only the 8 years Obasanjo ruled from 1999 to 2007, they cried that they were marginalized. But who is crying for the other regions they (the northerners) marginalized for 38 or more years and the marginalisation has gotten out of hand now that Yar’Adua and his wife, the real boss, are in-charge? (All the juicy ministries, departments and agencies are in the hands of people of northern extraction; the oil and gas sector is in their firm control; petroleum university, for the training of senior oil sector staff, is to be established in Kaduna that has no drop of oil beneath, while Petroleum Training Institute (PTI) Effurun, Delta State, that Obasanjo upgraded to a university has been downgraded to train only middle and lower cadres oil sector staff).
The north has been islamising the federal government and is still crying of being marginalised. A letter an Islamic group wrote to the Federal Character Commission got leaked. The group, the Supreme Council for Sahari’a in Nigeria, in the letter, wants Muslims to occupy the key positions at the federal level, including the armed forces. The group said that this has become necessary in order to reverse what it said was done during the General Olusegun Obasanjo government from 1999-2007. The group went out to say that the opportunity of having a Muslim as number one citizen in the country should be used to entrench Muslims in government. In its words, the group said: it is important to note that Muslims are not asking for any favour on this matter. Rather, they are demanding their right, justice and equity. In our considered view, now is a God-given opportunity, which may not avail itself again, once it is not seized upon. We should, therefore, promptly seize upon this opportunity and in doing so, adopt a holistic resolution of the ugly and untenable trend in the marginalization of Muslims”.
The group even took the issue out of context by drawing inference from the genocide that happened in Rwanda some years back, when it said: “If we fail to do so (Islamize the central government), then we would unwittingly find ourselves in the helpless position of the Hutu complacent majority in Rwanda, who were overrun and massacred in genocide by the minority Tutsi, who had the foresight to plan the systematic control of the military and other strategic security agencies. For the first time, on realizing the level of marginalization of Muslims by the Obasanjo government generally, especially in the armed forces and police/security agencies, the Muslim leaders summoned up the courage to confront the former President Obasanjo, with a catalogue of complaints, supported by incontrovertible statistical data in this regard. Unfortunately, the representation was rebuffed by the former president with only promises, which he clearly never meant to fulfil. If one takes the issue of control of command positions, mass retirements that are continuing since 1999, involving largely Muslims and juxtaposes the unhealthy trend in recruitment in all the services, it creates a frightening scenario. We believe it is a fatal mistake to feel satisfied, as most Muslims do, with the mere fact of the enshrinement of the Federal Character principle in the constitution. The perpetuation of the status quo is an act of gross injustice and injustice can never be justified. It is an evil, which breeds resentment and unless such injustice is promptly redressed fairly, the resultant resentment can produce unpleasant and unpredictable consequences.”
Look who’s seeing injustice now as evil, when in actual fact, they (the northerners) are the real perpetrators of injustice against the people of the other zones in the country. The northerners are the most hypocritical people I have seen: their governors instituted Sharia law in their states, a man steals bread because of hunger, he loses a hand or limb, but, those governors are stealing billions of naira and still, nothing happens. For example, ex-governor Turaki stole more than N36 billion from his state as the governor and is now a senator. That’s the same case with Nigeria as a whole; a man steals N10 thousand and goes to jail for 30 years, but, the immediate ex-governors stole billions of naira each, but, none of them are in jail where they all are supposed to be cooling off by now. It’s hypocrisy here, hypocrisy there, Hypocrisy everywhere.
People might not understand the latent reason for some of the sectarian/religious riots. Christians in the North are complaining about the attempt by the Northern Governors Forum to regulate religious preaching using traditional rulers in the region. Those northern governors, who introduced Sharia law in their states for their personal agenda, first vowed that it (Sharia law) would not affect Christians. Now, having achieved the first aim by the introduction, they (the governors) are taking it to the phase two, which is using groups like the Boko Haram to wreck havoc in order to have the reason to make laws aimed at squeezing the Christians up there out of existence and making their territory pure Islamic/Sharia one. Who said the northerner elite has no knowledge of what Boko Haram stands for or that the crisis was coming?
The northerners have no love for the country, they are only paying lip service to the notion of one Nigeria because it serves their purpose. Once the oil wells dry up or when oil becomes worthless, they might secede. The northerners owe their allegiance to foreign lands rather than to Nigeria. I read this in the internet recently. The true story goes like this:
“It happens I've a female friend from Northern Nigerian, she is from an elite home. I went to their house in Kano State to spend some time with her. I noticed something very disturbing about their way of life. I started seeing it on the first morning, I woke up. She is a faithful Muslim, she wakes up early to say her morning prayers. Then when the day breaks, she tunes on her TV to watch news only on Aljazeera news TV. In their house they don’t have any Nigerian channel, they don’t watch the National news on NTA. She reads newspapers like Daily Trust and Kano Based Triumph. She cares less about what going on in Nigeria. All what she cares about is Kano and the Arab world.
In the afternoon, we went to see her friends about 4 of them. The situation was all the same, no Nigerian channel on their Sat. Her Friends were born in Nigeria and schooled in Nigeria. To my greatest surprise they can’t speak English. They speak Hausa and Arabic only. They did their secondary school in the heart of Kano and got Admission in Saudi Arabia to study medicine. I asked one of them to recite the National Anthem, she can’t???!!! She told me that!! Back at my friend’s home in the evening, I was chatting with her brother, I asked him to recite the national anthem, he did it half way and shut up. I then asked him to recite the National anthem of Saudi Arabia, he did it without any mistake.
I went back to my friend and ask her some few Nigerian Leaders, mostly current Governors from the South East and Niger-Delta. She doesn’t even know one of them. But she can name all the Governors in United Arab Emirate, including Syria, Yemen, Oman, and off course Saudi Arabia. I became totally speechless. In their house they have 4 Saudi Arabia's flag and no Nigerian flag. I've chatted with more than 50 young people in Kano and the condition remains the same. Generally Speaking Kano has very strong tie with the Arab world than Nigeria States and nothing can change this. No wonder many Arabs indigenized in Kano and can run for elections and win! Many Kano Boys want to marry Arab women, they like them 100% more than Nigerian girls. Younger generations of Kano have Arab roots. So please Nigerians what can you say about this???”
The northern deceit to the bitter concoction called Nigeria did not start today, it has been there all along. This is what Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, (who later became the first prime minister of Nigeria) said prior to independence while speaking in the Northern Region's House of Assembly:
“We do not want sir, our Southern neighbours to interfere in our development. I should like to make it clear to you that if the British quitted Nigeria now at this stage the Northern people would continue their interrupted conquest to the sea."
The Parrot (Newspaper) of Oct. 12 1960 wrote what Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto said twelve days after Nigeria's independence from Britain:
”The new nation called Nigeria should be an estate from our great -grand father, Othman Dan Fodio. We must ruthlessly prevent a change of power. We must use the minorities in the North as willing tools, and the South as conquered territories and never allow them to have control of their future”.
When I read the above quote for the first time, I was speechless for minutes. Do we now see from where groups like Boko Haram derived their ideology and why the northerners think “they were born to rule?”
There is a question nobody has answered: Why is it that oil producing Islamic countries with predominantly Muslim population, ‘ve been able to maintain relative peace and have developed their countries while Nigerian Muslims ruling us all along, ‘ve been unable to bring peace and development to their region in particular and Nigeria as a whole? Is there anything inherently different from the Islamic religion practiced in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirate, Libya, Indonesia and that practiced in Nigeria? The mentioned countries are not all that homogenous, the leaders promoting the development in those countries are Muslims. Why is it that Nigerian rulers, who are Muslims, are different? The difference is that Nigeria was structured to fail from the beginning: the British knew what they did and never planned for a successful Nigeria. The Brits never gave a damn about the after effect of their artificial creation called Nigeria as long as their interest was served. But we should not always dwell on blaming the Brits for the mistake they made 49 years ago. Some of us were not born into an environment that guaranteed success in life, but, we grew up and decided to take our destiny in our own hands by working hard to surmount any obstacle on our way to success, we did not resign to our fate, we did not allow the constraints we met when we were born to deter our progress. Nigeria was “born” 49 years ago and is still behaving like an infant. Some people are still blaming the Brits for everything wrong with Nigeria, please let’s cut that crap; afterall, we are old and intelligent enough to correct the mistake.
Change is constant; although Nigeria is a deception, we should have done something about it before now. Even if people (Brits) had wanted us (Nigeria) to fail, we cannot continue to fold our arms and allow their wish to come true. Nigeria is here to stay, but, must be in a different form, it is now too late to call it a quit, our destinies are intertwined and our diversity (number, different tribes, religions) should be our strength and not our weakness. For us to have peace and development in Nigeria, we need to take Nigeria back to the drawing board and re-structure it. That was at the heart of the Biafran project and it is at the heart of the Niger Delta agitation, and until we face up to this truth and redress the “structural defects”, Nigeria will continue to fail as a nation. Delusion will get us nowhere!
To be continued