By Pini Jason
ONE of the reasons why Nigeria is in a state of near-anarchy today is that we hardly reckon that our actions have consequences, and the state has never been decisive in letting Nigerians know that there are consequences for their actions.
I believe it was Isaac Newton, the guy who changed the world by watching apples fall, who propounded that for every action, there is equal and opposite reaction.
The mystics reduced this to what they call the law of Karma, which says: As above, so below. A violation of this law is an inescapable invitation to jungle rule and anarchy. That is why any nation that is weak on law and order, as we are, is prone to the kind of crises that have been our lot in Nigeria. When people do not think of consequences they become lawless.
I believe that the fact that Britain cobbled disparate people into a country is not enough explanation for our failure as a nation. Having people of diverse ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds is not in itself a hindrance to nationhood. Many countries have taken advantage of the positive aspects and the strengths of their diversity to build strong prosperous nations. South Africa, after a heinous and devastating apartheid experience wove its diversity into a “rainbow nation” that is a force in the world today.
The United States is a nation of immigrants and refugees from all over the world. A Kenyan-American is today the President of America. France is another interesting example of diversity; the France 1998 World Cup winning team was an amalgam of immigrants from all over the world, including Algeria, Papua New Guinea, Senegal and Ghana!
They all brought their strength to win the World Cup for France. But instead of bringing the positive aspects of their diversity to the table, Nigerians bring the negative, the worst of which are greed, arrogance and enclave mentality. So Nigeria’s problem is something else other than ethnic, cultural or religious diversity. It is simply a case of absence of law and order which is the only value that cuts across all diversities and welds a disparate people into a nation!
Law as a respecter of persons
Corruption, ethnic suspicion and religious intolerance have taken root because Nigeria is a country where the law is a respecter of persons. Nigeria is the only place in the world that operates on the basis of sentiments and not law and order. You can commit any crime in Nigeria and get away with it; the more “important” or “bigger” you are, the more you are entitled to a waiver from obeying the law.
The James Ibori case is a good example of our attitude to law and order. Was Ibori not set free in Nigeria? Did we not know that he had been convicted twice in the United Kingdom? Did we not play games with the well-known fact that Ibori was also allegedly convicted by an Abuja court? With Ibori’s and many more examples by our “big” men, Nigerians have therefore forgotten that our actions have consequences for which we must take responsibility.
Last week, the Senate asked the Jonathan administration to show some decisiveness in dealing with the Boko Haram terrorism. If you ask me, being decisive as the Senate demanded must include cross border raids into Chad, Niger and any other country harbouring terrorists that torment the country. America went to Iraq and Afghanistan in search of Osama bin Laden and finally killed him in Abbotabad, Pakistan.
There must be consequences for countries hiding and exporting terrorists into Nigeria, just as such cross border raids have consequences for Nigeria. Being decisive must also include getting rid of illegal immigrants from Niger and Chad. Nigerians who want the nuisance of Boko Haram dealt with must also prepare to live with the consequences of government decisiveness.
On April 12, 2012, the Speakers of six states of the North East met in Bauchi on the problem of Boko Haram terrorism. The same week also, the JNI offered prayers against the menace of Boko Haram, while former military Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar warned that Nigeria was heading towards destruction. All these took place as the cowardly leader of the terrorist group, Mohammed Shekau, holing out in either Niger or Chad threatened to crush Goodluck Jonathan in three months! This threat has dire consequences for Nigeria. Let us assume that we behave funny as usual with grave national security matters and Boko Haram gets Jonathan, then what happens? Will the matter end like that?
Nigerians have been given millions of reasons for the emergence of Boko Haram, from the ridiculous to the insane. Every interest group is vending its own reason. These rationalisations simply amount to a glorification of terrorism (apologies to Tony Blair). Yet, there are many Nigerians who strongly suspect that Boko Haram is just another political ploy to extort concessions from the state. Mohammed Yusuf, the murdered leader of Boko Haram and his group, they argue, did not carry AK 47s and high caliber explosives. Those apologists and sympathisers who call for a sort of Marshall Plan, amnesty, dialogue, Ministry for Boko Haram Affairs and enhanced revenue allocation for Boko-Harammed states have reinforced this suspicion. But these are not giving me any head- scratching right now. Rather I have just been wondering if those who are presumably sponsoring or using Boko Haram for whatever they can get now are thinking about the consequences of their action. Thinking of consequences means thinking of tomorrow.
Crime is crime and punishable
We are already skirmishing about 2015. Very soon there will be febrile agitation for the right to produce the president in 2015.
We do not know between the North and the South East, which will make a determined bid for it. We do not even know if President Jonathan will throw in the towel or his hat into the ring. When the time comes to ask for our votes, Nigerians, including those whose relations, husbands, wives and children were killed in Police stations, Churches and markets may remember all these.
If Jonathan is replaced by a Northerner in 2015 will that signal the end of terrorism in Nigeria? Will another terrorist group emerge to extort its own group’s share of the oil wealth or pound of flesh from the state? We must think beyond now and see the dangers ahead and begin now to ameliorate them. The easiest route to such amelioration is to rigidly and decisively enforce law and order and send the message to every Nigerian that crime is crime and is punishable.
The robbed, raped students: What really happened?
ONE lesson I have learnt in the last four years is never to believe everything I read in the newspapers, hear on the radio or see on television! Another lesson is never to jump into a running story, especially to write an opinion until all the facts are out!
Few weeks ago, the nation was convulsed by the news of the experience of some students of a secondary school in Enugu returning to Lagos on Easter break in a popular luxurious bus. Somewhere after Ore, they were reportedly attacked by armed robbers. Later, the story broke that the girls were raped.
Then, it was “some” of the girls that were reportedly raped. A girl told a story of how she was to be raped but her period started. A father boasted in the paper that he was waiting for a visa to ferry his “raped” daughter abroad for therapy. Thereafter it was no longer students that were raped; it was one of the women escorting them! Meanwhile, the Ogun Police Command claimed it had “arrested” five suspects in connection with the rape!
And finally, according to the secondary school in Enugu and the PTA, no student was raped! Now, now, now, what really happened?
Johnnie Carson and terrorism
THE US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs recently ruffled some feathers for calling for negotiation with Boko Haram and a Ministry for Boko Haram affairs. I quite understand where Mr. Carson is coming from. Simply, the sauce for the gander is not always exactly the sauce for the goose in international diplomacy.
There are always double standards! Just as deception wins wars, hypocrisy is the fulcrum of international diplomacy. For America and the West, democracy in Nigerian means to stay secure enough as a market and not create a humanitarian problem in the sub-region.
That is why America will neither negotiate with Al Qaeda or any terrorist organisation nor set up a Ministry of Al Qaeda Affairs, but Mr. Carson would want the Federal Government to negotiate with an avowed Al Qaeda affiliate in Nigeria and set up a Ministry of Boko Haram! In diplomacy, hypocrisy is the name of the game!