As usual, many constituted authorities are setting up probe panels on the recent ethnic clashes between the Hausa community and their Yoruba hosts in the Sabo quarters of Ile Ife, Osun State, which claimed between five and 50 lives according to various accounts.
Apart from the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, has also set up a panel to get to the roots of the bloodshed and destruction of property, which allegedly started as a quarrel between two individuals from the two ethnic groups over alleged marital infidelity.
The Ife ethnic mayhem is not unique in any way. It is just another stop in a series of unending bloody confrontations among Nigerians nationwide. Apart from boundary tussles, ownership of land and its resources, land grab bids by invasive groups seeking to appropriate other communities’ traditional patrimonies and outright religious squabbles for supremacy, fights often break out between settlers and indigenes, which the Ife conflict was about.
Almost invariably, the typical reaction of governments to such ugly incidents is the setting up of panels of inquiry which end up producing little or no results after costing huge sums of money. Probe panels have become the water used to put out the flames of communal conflicts which, however, never get to the smouldering embers.
Again, probe panels never produce the most important thing needed for peaceful coexistence in a complex country like Nigeria: lessons for the avoidance of future occurrences.
The root cause of communal conflicts, especially of the “indigene/settler” type is inter-group superiority complex and lack of mutual respect. Many times, settlers show little regard for the cultural sensitivities of the hosts and carry on as if they are in a “no man’s land”. On the other hand, the hosts never see the settlers as part of them, no matter how long they have lived among them. Any little thing sparks off violence.
Another major problem is the lack of regard Nigerians have for the law enforcement and justice system, which either takes sides or fail to pursue sanctions on culpable persons to logical conclusion. People are driven to take the law into their own hands which only worsen the problem rather than solve it.
Nigerians must learn to live together with mutual respect and seek redress through peaceful and/or judicial means when aggrieved. The law enforcement agencies and the traditional authorities must also be fair and firm in handling disagreements to prevent matters getting out of hand.
For peace to reign among us, we must embrace issues that bind us together and reject those that cause quarrels among us, knowing that nobody really wins an ethnic/religious war in these modern times.