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Where hate speech meets hate song

By Rotimi Fasan

MANAGING human beings is never an easy task. The same goes for managing or governing a country. Each country has its own peculiar problems even when the principles required to respond to each situation may be applicable across the board. Countries like peoples learn from the experiences of others and therefore take care not to repeat past mistakes. Which then means there is no sense in one country claiming special status for itself in terms of the kinds of problems it is confronted by. Nigerians overstate their case when they harp on the complexity of their situation. Every society presents its own type of complexity. But much of what Nigerians attribute to the complex nature of the country actually comes from our refusal to accept or follow basic principles of human relations. We take delight in being less than honest even to our very selves. This is the root of our corruption narrative. It is the reason both the leaders and people of this country will remain snared in an endless cycle of anti-corruption fight. Here, my idea of corruption goes beyond our fixation on financial issues, serious as it is.

Corruption for me implicates our readiness to pervert basic principles of societal conduct. We see what is right and pretend it’s the opposite. We see white and call it black. We see a clearly blazed track and plunge into the bush. We always find a compelling reason not to do what is appropriate. Thus, a man could run for elective office and thereafter find himself unable to execute the responsibilities attached to that office and yet find people urging him to cling on to power for as long as he wants. Another man, a mere charlatan and anarchist, could be lionized into a freedom fighter and is jailed and thereafter granted bail on specific terms, including on health grounds but immediately goes ahead to violate every term of his release while issuing mindless orders aimed at plunging his country into civil strife.

It has been many weeks now since a group of Northern youths issued what has been called a quit notice to the Igbo, Nigerians of a different ethnic extraction. These Nigerians were ordered to leave the North by October 1, 2017 or face the consequences. Since the issuance of that order Nigerians have been unable to find a common ground of response. It’s been back and forth with more orders and counter-orders being piled on the initial outrage. It was evident that the group that issued the ‘quit notice’ was reacting to the separatist rhetoric of Nnamdi Kanu, a mere journeyman that has been turned into a great warrior by an irresponsible leadership, in the wake of his release from a long detention that was itself both unwarranted and unnecessary. But because some people were looking for what to eat, they chose to put Kanu in jail, thus creating a monster that is now running amok.

Kanu and his co-travellers have made no bones of their intention to dismember Nigeria. But that was a non-starter. Their approach prior to Kanu’s arrest was never likely to bring them their wish. But nobody knows the mind of Nigerian leaders or the rationale for their actions. Otherwise Kanu’s divisive rhetoric would have amounted to nothing, better managed. There was no reason why the likes of Kanu should have emerged at all. Their demands for the Igbo have been far better articulated by far better thinkers. But ours is a country that understands only the rough language of touts and rabble rousers. Everyone has the right to demand accountability from the country’s leaders. But Kanu is a throw-up that could have been avoided. His Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, could have been stillborn. But Buhari put it on oxygen the same way Goodluck Jonathan gave Boko Haram a lifeline. Otherwise IPOB was totally unnecessary.

The genuine demands of the Igbo as are the demands of other Nigerians could be addressed without the kind of aggravation we have on our hands today. The failure to think right, do things the right way or be magnanimous in victory  is what led to the separatist agitations against the Buhari government. The uncompromising posture of the government would further fuel the anger of other Nigerians. The hate-filled rhetoric of Kanu, IPOB and the aggressive antics of their likes across the country and the media is the reason for the strange and unwarranted quit notice to the Igbo. The increasingly incoherent remarks and arrogant posture of Kanu and IPOB and the failure to rein them in must therefore have a role to play in the composition of the hate song directed at the Igbo now making the rounds in parts of the North.

Now the fault lines are being widened and what began as a sick joke is fast turning into a full-blown conflagration. The power of the media in fuelling demagoguery, hatred and ultimately war is being underrated. We are feigning ignorance of what happened in Rwanda or even our own recent history of civil war. This is how trouble begins right under our nose and later we claim the devil led us to it or call it an act of God. Gradually people are being sensitised or even mobilised for crime without the authorities taking very clear steps to address the fire that is headed our way.

Let nobody make any mistake about it, we have little time to act now. This is not the moment for us to be mealy-mouthed or to play Trump as to where blame lies. Perhaps as Donald Trump wants the whole world to believe about the Virginia terror attack perpetrated by White supremacists- perhaps the claim may yet be that many sides are to blame for the impending ethnic and sectarian attacks in Nigeria. But let us face it: The instigators of hate amongst us are for now well known. They include Kanu and his group and such agent provocateurs as the Northern youth group and the faceless composers of hate songs.

When trouble comes it would not be limited to just a group or a people. We would all suffer. The better then for us all to rise now with one voice and condemn what is wrong. There is no point in pretending all is well or that we are helpless and are without knowledge of what to do. We sure know what to do. What is lacking is the will. The hate-filled language of the little monsters we have created for ourselves is breeding monstrous fruits and there can be no doubt that we are failing to respond in the most appropriate way. Where citizens can issue random orders, including the order to kill, then we may truly have found ourselves in the zoo.

 


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