By Dele Sobowale
“The chaos keeps getting worse in spite of everything they [governments] do to improve discipline and morale”, Boris Pasternak, Russian Author of award winning Dr. Chivago.
Pasternak was describing the early stages of the Russian revolution and civil war and the almost total breakdown of law and order which attends such social and political upheavals. Many leading writers and leaders had repeated that war was imminent in Russia before it occurred.
Neither those who desired the war/revolution nor those opposed to it i.e those wanting a more peaceful resolution of the factors propelling the nation to war, were prepared for the carnage which followed. Tens of millions of souls perished in that adventure.
It was pointed out last week that some leaders had raised alarm that we are either on the brink of war; or we have actually embarked on one. General Theophilus Danjuma (rtd) announced several weeks ago that parts of Nigeria are already at war. For reasons difficult to understand, his views were ignored.
Yet, here is a person who, by training and profession, is an expert in the art of war. As a former Chief of Army Staff and a Minister of Defence, Danjuma should know the basic definition of war and should also be in a position to determine whether one is underway or not.
Then came Professor Wole Soyinka, a pen-warrior, who, like most artists hold a mirror to society’s face forcing us to see ourselves clearly even when we choose to turn our faces from reality. Though not trained in the art of war, Soyinka had read widely. He can recollect precedents in history which are present in Nigeria today; and which portend another civil war – but, one radically different from the 1967-1970 conflict.
In 1967-1970, there was, more or less a “front”; in every theatre of the war, Nigerians were on one side and Biafrans were on the other side. Every soldier knew in which direction he should point his gun and from which direction he should expect enemy fire.
The war which Danjuma tells us had started and which Soyinka warns will inevitably start, is, or, will be, a war without fronts for the simple reason that even the Nigerian army cannot be guaranteed to remain united and to fight a common enemy. The enemy might be the man next to each soldier might be the guy next to him in the trenches. The mini-war in Plateau State provides a good illustration of the sort of dilemma in which the members of the Nigerian armed forces find themselves.
When in May 2010, the former editor, Sunday Vanguard, Editor, Alhaji Fola Arogundade, went to Jos, at the beginning of what had now become an undisguised war between Berom/other Plateau ethnic groups and the Hausa/Fulani, one thing was clear to us.
The soldiers lodged in the same hotel with us were as divided as the combatants themselves. It was not entirely their fault. In addition to ethnic differences, there were religious and political motives for fighting. Ethnicity, religion and deadly politics have individually proved explosive in many countries throughout history.
Together, they make it almost impossible to assemble a totally neutral Joint Task Force, JTF. At the heart of the numerous elements contributing to and sustaining the mini-war on the Plateau are JTF members loyal to each of the factions and fully committed to their victory. On all sides and irrespective of whether the battle is waged in Jos, or Bokkos or Wase, the combatants are aiming for total victory – not for negotiated settlement….
N.B. Even the media is strongly biased. Most columnists and editors of the leading eight papers are Christians. Despite all pretences to the contrary, in Jos, we support the Berom, who are predominantly Christian. Consequently, the Federal government seldom receives accurate information about incidents in the state.
CALLING IGBOBI COLLEGE 58-62 SET
Tempus fugit, means, “time flies”. We all left dear old Igbobi College, fifty years in December. So our class’ 50th Anniversary comes up in April. Please contact Segun George, KSJW, our class President to find about the arrangements. More to the point, we need your donations, starting from N100,000. Segun’s number : 0803-3013349.
P.S. Condolences are in order on account of our dear late ELIJAH JOE, aka Deacon Ayo Ositelu, who was a member of the planning committee for this event until the end. May his soul rest in perpetual peace.
QURAN A-Z IN PRINT; SOON TO BE LAUNCHED — 1
The appeal made on behalf of the young Muslim Author, Nurudeen Seriki, months ago, to publish his book, has yielded amazing results. For purposes of transparency and accountability, let me summarise how we got here – especially for those who have either assisted or promised to do so.
Funds promised or donations could not possibly get the book published. Providentially, and, unexpectedly, a Christian publisher, Mr Agbo Areo, offered to print 1,000 copies free of charge. But, at that stage, it was still in manuscript, far from publication and I had in the meantime seen the book as an opportunity to make a statement about religious tolerance – especially among Christians and Muslims. We needed a strong partner.
Without hesitation, we turned to Alhaji Animasaun, my Egbon, on this page for almost seventeen years. Incidentally, that perhaps should serve as a lesson for those who might have thought that Alhaji and I had broken off on account of our disagreement on this page.
Nothing could be further from the truth. We both grew up, substantially in Lagos, where, people disagree, fight physically one minute and you see them the next drinking together as if nothing had happened. For us, there is never a final fight.
Alhaji, who we pounced upon without calling first, received us and helped to develop the manuscript in a way neither Nurudeen could ever have imagined. In the end, what we now have is more than a book. It is a statement by two Muslims and two Christians that all of us in Nigeria still need each other in order to create something good from nothing.