By Pini Jason
LAST week, while receiving the report of the Alfa Belgore-led Presidential Committee on the Review of Outstanding Issues, President Goodluck Jonathan said: “Our enduring sense of brotherhood, unwavering desire for freedom, unique resilience and abiding faith in Nigeria, have seen us through sundry challenges over the past 52 years of nationhood.
I am confident that these innate attributes will provide us the requisite fortitude to persevere and overcome in the face of new challenges”.
My fear about this somewhat overstretched platitude is that it lures one into a temptation to say let us all go to sleep, by the time we wake up, all our national challenges would have been resolved by our “enduring sense of brotherhood” and our “unique resilience”.
First, can we truthfully say we have “overcome” one challenge since independence? Anyone who truly appreciates the severity of our present challenges would rightly doubt if the mere expression of this type of optimism is enough to see us through these times.
The truth is that our “unique resilience”, another way of saying that Nigerians are long suffering, and an excuse for the cowboys called politicians to brazenly ride roughshod over us, has worn thin. That weariness is what is manifesting as the general and seemingly intractable violence in our land!
Let us contrast the above sophistry with the latest statement reportedly by the violent Islamic sect that there is not going back in its jihad in Nigeria.
In a refutation of the information that the new National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) was in contact with them, the sect, after gloating about the continuing bloodbath in Plateau State, said, “Like we said earlier, Christians in Nigeria should accept Islam, that is true religion, or they will never have peace. We do not regard them as trusted Christians as some illiterates are campaigning because it was Christians that first declared war on Muslims with the support of government”.
After some other dilatory rambling, the sect concluded: “We do not have any agenda than working to establish Islamic Kingdom like during the time of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), no matter what will happen to us”. The general attitude has been to dismiss this kind of threat as unserious. But such ostrich posture has flooded the land with the blood of innocent Nigerians.
Last week, while presenting two books on Nigeria’s foreign policy to President Jonathan, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, former Secretary General of the Commonwealth and Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Council on Foreign Relations said that the current insecurity in Nigeria is a drag on the nation’s foreign policy.
If you remember the pedigree of Chief Anyaoku as an international diplomat, you would know that he had carefully chosen his words. Anybody less diplomatic would have told you that Nigerian’s global image has been grossly diminished! Every little country is now kicking the butt of Nigerians from Oliver Tambo airport in Johannesburg to the local markets in Ghana!
As if we needed to be reminded, Baroness Lynda Chalker warned us that investments will soon dry up if we did not act quickly. We can only wish away the ominous signs that our country is unraveling at our greater peril. The National Youth Service Corp, an institution that symbolises “our sense of brotherhood” is now falling apart. As I always remind people, no country sits down at a conference to decide to go to civil war. Countries simply drift into civil war and disintegration. With our resilience wearing thin, “innate attributes” of the past may not be enough to get us out of the wood right now.
The discussions since the appointment of Sambo Dasuki as the NSA, sound as if he alone can resolve the current problems.
It is good to repose confidence on his abilities, connections and experience. But in fairness to him, I don’t think that he has any magic wand, especially if other institutions fail to work. He will only succeed to the extent we honestly want him to succeed.
We now need to reexamine our approach to the solution of the current crisis. Could we be tackling the symptoms instead of the root causes of the crisis?
Honestly, I am not surprised that the Islamic sect can boldly declare war on Christians. Yet, I hear people making “politically correct” statements like; the terrorism is not religious; it is as a result of poverty; it is because of revenue allocation! Now the sect, in its own words, has put the lie to all that diversionary posturing.
We sowed the seeds of the violence we are reaping today. I give an example. When South Africa was emerging from apartheid, there was a serious debate about the form of government.
The Inkhata Freedom Party wanted separate regional governments. But knowing that such arrangement would afford the retreating apartheid a window for neo-apartheid intrigues, the ANC put its feet down for a strong central government with a very liberal constitution.
Turkey, we all know, is 99.9 percent Muslim. But Attarturk built a modern secular state that is today a competitive European country. I don’t think the Turks are less Muslims because of that. The Turkish Military has an abiding duty to protect and defend the secularity of the state and has had occasions to step in and abort any threat to Turkey’s secularity and thereafter go back to the barracks.
As we say, a constitution is the biography of a country, capturing its history and experience. But we have simply refused to accept the reality of either our history or our experience as a people aspiring for “brotherhood” in a heterogeneous country.
A nation at war with self
Our equivocation about secularity of the country has come home to roost. If we did not drag religion into partisan politics, looking for who is a Christian and who is a Muslim or animist, instead of looking for who is competent, we wouldn’t be where we are today, a regressing nation at war with itself!
There is even another dimension of the religious dichotomy silently rearing its head today in Igbo land. There is a simmering inter-denominational war waiting to happen, if some clerics are not called to order to restrain themselves from a provocative expansionist intrusion into partisan politics.
The new struggle today in Igbo land is which denomination will own and control the states. And politicians are using holy water-carrying clerics as battle rams in a quest to confuse and dupe the people. The pulpit has become a platform for political campaign with all its vulgarity!
We must reach deep down to find out the basic truth about us. What is it that preoccupies us when the masses in an oil rich country spend all day to queue for kerosene and hundred are roasted trying to scoop fuel from the ground? What is that more important thing we are doing for which we cannot protect lives and property?
Why does a country that preaches so much about “brotherhood” and unity be a land of hate and strife? Why are two religions that preach peace at each other’s throat? Is it that the razor blade is blunt or the barber is incompetent? We must ask ourselves these questions!