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Infrastructure and the ‘Divide-and-rule’ conspiracy (2)

By Morenike Taire

RESOURCES are of course a big part of it. In keeping with the theory of scarce resources,  the scarcity in itself is usually enough to make love to wax cold and neighbours to turn against neighbours. It is an archaic concept, really, conjuring images of the homo erectus clubbing his neighbour upon the head because the latter has been more successful than he has been in his hunt for meat, and man must wack.

The truth, though, is that the whole point of modern society is organisation; in order to ensure more just and equitable means of sharing resources and reduce the gap between the haves and the haves-not. Developed societies have learnt, mostly the hard way, that  the wider these gaps are, the more volatile societies are and would be.

Yet if the trouble in Jos has anything to do with resources, it is definitely not to do with Jos’ natural resources, and everything to do with oil resources; direct sponsorship by members of the club of Nigerians, consisting only of about two per cent of the population, which exclusively gain from the oil resources in the Niger Delta region.

Mostly, Nigeria has become a place of suspicion. Text messages made the rounds in the last two weeks or so warning Lagosians  of truckloads of Fulani jihadists being deposited in Lagos in preparation for… what exactly. It wasn’t long before it became clear that the same text messages had been circulated to residents of other states. To call this mischievous would be to understate things. The elements responsible for this sowing of bad blood are nothing less than diabolical. These insidious interests are also not layabouts, but technocrats of means who operate within organisations and which also are well-versed in the use of communications, technology and psychology.

In Nigeria today you don’t only look outside when  your neighbour says ‘good morning’, you begin to wonder why he is suddenly being so congenial. The Ghadaffi theory is at best simplistic, at worst the display of a sorry understanding of the fragmentation theory in social science. The Ijebu man is as suspicious of the Ijesha man as he is of the Fulani man, perhaps even more so.

And to narrow it down to religion is missing the point completely. In a situation where different factions of the same religion cannot see eye to eye and what it means to be either Christian or Moslem has a thousand different definitions to a thousand people, where is the rallying point?

The truth is that the dearth of infrastructure, with the compounding factor of worsening education, has ensured the complete lack of social or political intercourse between relatively near parts of Nigeria. Economic intercourse, even, is largely restrictive and contrived. There are no roads, no telephone lines, no truly national television or radio stations. Northerners go to school in the North and Southerners in the South. There are no excursions, because there are no roads, and there are no exchange programmes. The Unity School project has fallen on its face, sacrificed for the same phenomenon- the reluctance of government to provide infrastructure. Quota systems of the 70s and 80s which forced Unity schools to admit students from every state of the federation and which worked beautifully, were enabled by the possibility of travelling from Kwale to Kafanchan by train. Many times, students went unaided.

In the schools themselves, the infrastructure has been left to rot to such a degree that no serious parent would expose their children to such unnecessary discomfort as they would necessarily experience in such environments.

NYSC was destined for a similar fate. After years of deliberation over whether the schemes should go on, the votes against have become virtually unanimous, following the rape to death of a female corps member from Calabar serving in the North and the recent confession of the scheme’s Plateau State head that he could not control the situation  if more violence broke our. He has no faith in a law enforcement which lacks means of gathering and storing intelligence, communication materials and which is intimidated by the fact that the criminal side is better equipped than it is, with ammunition.

In Sierra Leone, the same ammunition was used to turn beloved neighbours into worst enemies and families into foes. Guerrilla warfare had been raging for years before, from village to village, before it got to the capital, and because proper communication did not exist, every village only heard the rumour, before the evil visited and they all got slaughtered.

I visited ‘Liberia Camp’, the name by which the refugee camp on the way to Cape Coast, Ghana, housing victims of the wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone, for some research work I was doing into levels of resettlement of  West African refugees into their original environments. The satellite town was still well established; some had gone back home and some had not. The question was why.


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