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These trying times, it’s good to talk

By Denrele Animasaun

“Everyone’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there’s really an easy way: Stop participating in it.” — Noam Chomsky

Last week, I said that that there are no permanent enemies or friends, just permanent interests.  I believe that to be true. So I pose a question: what is one’s enemies’ enemy called? A friend? Does that then make one’s friend’s enemy, now an enemy?  So, it was a surprise that Iran considered joining forces  with  the  US  to  fight  the  insurgents in parts of  Iran and Syria  The Sunni radical of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is making sworn enemies strange bedfellows.

The current development is becoming a collusion of shared interests in the region. Funny how the world and his cousins will fight tooth and nail, if they have some vested interest. I  am  still  not  sure  if it is  a compliment that the powers that be  are taking  an  interest.   I  do  feel  that the middle  East  will benefit from a long lasting and sustained  peace, this will  be  the better for  everyone in  the world. Will any country fight over Nigeria should it be the case?  I very much doubt it.

I digress. The history of the conflict in the Middle East goes way back. The Middle East has always had a very precarious co-existence between  the Sunnis  and Shiites. The long standing discrimination  of  one over  the  other has denied many social  and economic inequalities and thus created a very unsettling  resentment brimming  for a  long  time. This, I  hope that  Nigeria is  watching  with  interest as this could happen  when religious bias, economic inequality  plays  a role in power, nationhood and  affiliations.   In  the  Middle East, these discriminations and prejudices were  bound to  rear its ugly  head and the fragile peace has broken  again  and it is costing  so many  people  their  lives, their identity  and homes.

As Iran is predominately Shia and it does not want to see a Sunni caliphate established on its borders by ISIS fighters. All the major players have every right to be concerned as none of them saw this coming. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has suggested he would be willing to co-operate with Iran’s traditional enemy to keep the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from taking control of its Middle East neighbour.

The region has a long standing fear, that there is a Sunni/Shia imbalance in the region and the Sunni-led Arab states sees Iraq through the lens of Iranian power and sectarian balance. They are reluctant to fight the brutal Sunni militants of Isis if doing so strengthens a Shia-led, pro-Iranian government in Baghdad at the expense of Iraqi Sunnis.

Some Arabs even see ISIS as a platform to legitimise Sunni ambitions in the region and there lies the conundrum.

The last couple of weeks, the world have witnessed the depths of wanton cruelty. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have been fleeing, trying to escape the path of the militants who have been systematically taking over cities in the volatile regions. What is sickening is that the militants have been posting shocking pictures of people they have killed and assassinated.

Recently they posted the decapitation of Sotloff, the second American journalist to be killed by ISIS, and his death comes two weeks after  that of James Foley  who was executed in a similar  fashion. Their brand of cruelty makes one wonder if they really are human at all.  The UN human rights Chief Navi Pillay said of, ISIS militants that they  have “almost certainly committed war crimes” with “cold-blooded executions” of hundreds of civilians.

That is an understatement if ever there was one.  Regardless, on whatever side of the religious spectrum that one is on, every decent human being should feel repulsed by their  gratuitous and wicked activities. These people have lost all the vestiges of humanity and they cannot for any reason be normal. The public beheading of two US journalists was as gruesome as it was filmed and aired around the world. They have now threatened to kill a British hostage next if the alliance does not stop the air strike over Syria and Baghdad. In the UK, There is evidence that some British Muslims have gone to join the militants and are fighting alongside. The fear is that they may return to the country. Mr Cameron has since outlined a fresh crack down on extremists returning from the Middle East who may plan to wage war on Britain.

He announced that police will be given the power to seize the passports of terror suspects trying to join jihadists fighting in Iraq and Syria.  We have been informed that such treat is now possible in the UK. We cannot become desensitise to these atrocities and we have to remind ourselves and our young that, this is not how normal human beings behave or else we will strip ourselves off our humanity.

Conversations with Femi

I received the email below from one of my many readers who take time to write and tell me their views on what I write in my column. Believe me, when I say this, I do read every single one of my mails and I do reply to them all. I appreciate them all even if they sometimes do not agree with my views. In  fact I value them more so. The  emails  below is  from Femi  and  my response to him I  want to  share them this week.

Subject: Article in Sun. Vanguard Aug.31
In the said article you said ‘. . While everyone has packed up and gone on with life he is determined to get the results reviewed. . .’  Pray isn’t the APC pursuing the same goals in Ekiti State? Or has the world stood still in Ekiti State? Denrele, your bias stinks.

Dear Femi,
Thank you for your email. My views are my own and yours are your own. You may not agree with my views but I will defend your rights to yours. I would love to explain mine to you but, it seems you have already made up your mind. Incredulous as it may seem, I do not belong to any political party in Nigeria nor would I want to court any. We are sleep walking into the abyss and taking generations unborn with us. Nigeria belongs to all of us and it is the only place we can, by birthright, call home. The do-or-die politics is galling and does not speak well of any Nigerian home and abroad.

In years to come when we are asked what we did, I hope I can stand up and say I questioned mine and my fellow Nigerians’ conscience. What would you do?
Kind Regards,

Denrele Animasaun
I got your mail.
The sad thing is that politics in Nigeria is still shaped and determined by tribe and religion.
It was not pronounced in Ekiti because the two principal actors are Christians. It played a role in Osun elections and GEJ is exploiting it to the fullest in next year’s election. That is why about the only places you can run for elective office in Nigeria will be Lagos or Ogun state even if you’ve spent all your life in Ekiti state.
It’s nice to know you were not supporting Aregbesola because of any of these reasons. And . . . your opinions are as valid as mine
God keep you

Dear Denrele,
Thank you for the reply to my email would have loved to have you explain your views to me but I guess that will not happen because you believe my mind is made up concerning those views’ also do not belong to any political party in Nigeria (strictly speaking there’s only one political party in Nigeria anyway: that’s why it’s so easy for our politicians to cross effortlessly from one to the other) However, I notice a bias in your articles towards anything APC. PDP is seldom right. In the said article, Omisore is doing exactly what APC is doing in Ekiti state so I find it curious that APCs action in Ekiti went unnoticed by you.
APC to me is just as dangerous as PDP and it won’t fare better at the centre. Fashola is performing because he is Fashola not because he is APC.
Whilst I appreciate your contributions to the national discourse I think we shall be doing ourselves and the nation (and generations unborn) a lot of good if we try to be more balanced and objective in our analyses.
E ku ipalemo otutu. God bless


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