By Muyiwa Adetiba
It is so, so easy to hate. Especially when we think somebody has hurt us or denied us what we believe we deserve. It agrees with our primordial instinct. It is also easy to seek revenge. And so when Moses talked about an eye for an eye, he was merely playing up what comes naturally to man. Even in the elevated world of international diplomacy, reciprocity is an accepted way of settling scores.
Over time however, evolved minds, sages, have realised the danger in allowing our emotions to control us and have sought restraint, and mastery, over our natural emotions. An eye for an eye will, after all, make everybody blind at some stage.
We are currently witnessing a climate of hate in Nigeria and risk becoming a nation of sightless people as the need to take an eye for an eye rises to a frenzy. Last Sunday was Palm Sunday in the Christian world. The day, showered in love and adoration, Jesus made a triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Known in some circles as the Hosanna day, Christians celebrate it as a day of love and joy. Yet Nigerians woke up this Palm Sunday to fear and trepidation.
They woke up to see the various news channels filled with a call to retaliation from one of the most respected elders in Nigeria. It bothers me to see the glee with which the call was received across the country because the import is dire on several fronts. General Danjuma is not a frivolous man by any means. He is not one of those elders who like to hear their voices—and there are many, even among retired Generals.
For this, he is respected—and feared—especially because when he speaks, he says it as he sees it, shorn of tact. Secondly, in openly indicting the military by accusing it of partisanship, he voiced out what many had thought or whispered. It is not easy to attack your own profession, especially one that has been good to you. And the military has been good to Danjuma. This, coupled with the fact that he is not a man of many words, can only highlight his level of frustration and helplessness at what is going on in his area. Thirdly, the attack is not only on the military; it is also by extension, on its Commander-In-Chief, a man he supported into office. Read that however you want.
Fourthly, it is a call to arms, not against an external enemy but against an internal aggressor. A Nigerian against a Nigerian. A brother against a brother. He talked about ethnic cleansing. It is a frightening allegation. But with years of inter-marriages and cross breeding, it is a difficult thing to articulate and therefore a difficult battle to win.
Much like throwing a bomb into the market place, the collateral damages are enormous. What is important for us to remember from his call however, is that the conflict might not be solely economic as spin doctors are trying to sell to us. There might be other dimensions as well. And that makes it more dangerous. That makes the alleged indifference of the military more ominous.
It is easy to understand where the General is coming from. He is from a zone which has been a theatre of war for as long as I can remember. Only that it is getting worse and the balance seems to tilting. The authorities on the other hand urge restraint. They urge harmony. They urge good neighbourliness. They urge accommodation. They call for a mop up of guns. Yet a crime is being committed almost every day with impunity.
How easy is it to practice good neighbourliness when a neighbour destroys your means of livelihood, plunders your home and murders, no, butchers your wife and children and gets away with it? How can you be disposed to a harmonious relationship when the motive of your aggressor is suspect? How can there be restraint when to have restraint is to die like a dog because nobody is in your corner; nobody has your back? How do you accommodate someone who wants the best part of what you have, what your ancestors have given you?
But like I said earlier, it is easy to hate and retaliate when we think somebody has hurt or denied us. But it is a road that leads nowhere except to mutually assured destruction (MAD). Besides, a study has been made that shows hatred as a disease, not just of the mind but also of the body. So a man who lives in hate is actually destroying himself according to Professor Abuelaish Izzeldin.
Professor Izzeldin was the first Palestinian doctor to have worked in an Israeli hospital. He got home one day to find his home bombed and two beautiful daughters killed. Sounds familiar to us, especially to our brothers in the North-Central. Yet he refused to go the easy way by giving in to hatred. He refused to let his emotions rule him. He chose to go the calm, rational way in seeking acknowledgement and justice from the Israeli government. In doing that, he earned the respect of his colleagues and international communities.
He went further. He decided to research into hatred and discovered that haters destroy themselves mentally, emotionally and physically irrespective of the righteousness of their cause or the side of the divide they are in. A trained gynaecologist, he made a statement that would be hard for me to forget when he said, ‘The cry of a new born baby is the same anywhere.’ Hatred and bigotry are therefore learned as we grow up by the society we live in.
My plea is for the leaders and the led to take a step back from the brink of destruction caused by hatred and revenge. We are a country of laws, let us apply them. When a crime is committed, let us deal with it immediately.Let justice reign. It brings peace. Let us also wear the shoes of the other man to see where they pinch. Let us stop allowing sores to fester because we are reluctant to do the right thing due to a personal or an ethnic advantage. Let us realise that a call to arms will destroy more than the enemy. An eye for an eye will make all of us blind. However, a refusal to be consumed by hatred does not mean a lack of desire to pursue the cause of justice and equity.
Tomorrow is Easter. It is a celebration of the day love triumphed over hate; good over evil; life over death. Let us infuse the spirit of Easter into our body polity.