By Jerome-Mario Utomi
In time past, war was considered a lawful violence so far it meets with these three conditions: waged by the lawful public authority in defense of the common good, waged for a just cause, and waged with the right intention, not vengefully to inflict harm’. Today, the argument does not hold water and faces a number of embarrassing facts. In fact, emphasis is shifting. Strategic insights from religious and global communities have brought about structural changes in such concept and gradual displacements of this long-held view about war.
For those with religious inclinations, warfare can no longer be supported or trusted as means of conflict resolution as the consequence of such exercise or the degree of casualties cannot be predicted. In its place, they suggest gospel and moral suasion as a way forward. For the global community, particularly the development advocates, any nation desirous of development, growth or survival must not only prevents civil wars, but learn to apply its negative experience/accounts of previous wars in its day-to-day administration as such knowledge without a shadow of doubt has the capacity to promote understanding between individuals, communities, states, nations and regions of the world. Also, there is a new awareness about war that Nigeria and Nigerians presently need to know and internalise.
President Olusegun Obasanjo in a speech delivered August 24-25, 2017, at the 2017 African Leadership Forum in Johannesburg, South Africa, expanded the discourse about war when he, among other things, submitted that intellectually-minded people have traditionally considered peace to mean the absence of war; but as we can see, it is a narrow prescription for a world that is in a permanent state of tension in the hands of powerful nations, people, elements and circumstances. No hungry man is at peace. That is why we now have terms like food insecurity. No man at the mercy of weather or whose home or farm is being devastated by flood, tsunami, sand dunes, desertification or pestilence can claim to be at peace. This is why we have an environmental crisis. I saw the true situation and devastation in Sierra Leone where at least 1000 were swept by flood and mudslide to their death.
Peace and war may have been binary oppositions before, but we now have intermediaries to these nebulous characterisations of how they appear. In terms of international relations, peace may have been construed to mean absence of states engaging in open confrontations with one another. The concept, I think, is more vast, tenuous and crafty in its manifestations. I say this because national security and national defense are thus contradictory since we need the instruments of war (military) to pursue peace!
From Obasanjo’s postulations/analysis, it is possible in the opinion of this piece, for a nation not to be overtly at war but covertly ravaged by effects of wars. At this point, Nigeria, a nation fractured and polarised into ethnosyncrasies and idiosyncrasies,with agitations of different sorts and capacities, comes to mind.
Adding context to the discourse, it is important to underline that the present conversations/discussion about wars stemmed from two recent comments credited to Nigeria’s Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.
The first was in Abuja during an interactive forum of All Progressives Congress, APC, Anambra governorship aspirants, organised by the state chapter of APC Patriots, where the Vice President, among other things, stated that everyone who thinks he has some money stored up somewhere will eventually run out of money. Everyone who thinks he can go and hide somewhere, won‘t even find a place to hide; at the end, everyone will suffer. Even if you don’t suffer, parents, children, young and old people and relations will suffer. We cannot afford a war in this country, we can‘t afford it, the political elite must rise up to the challenge by speaking the truth and taking actions to address the situation in the country. The second concern came on Thursday May 6, 2021.
While inaugurating Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, Marshal Inspectorate Training School, built by the Delta State Government in Owa-Alero, Ika North East Local Government Area, Delta State, the Vice President, again, cautioned proponents of secession in the country to drop such campaigns as Nigeria remains better as one united country.
Admittedly, there are indeed, strong indications why the present fears expressed by Mr. Vice President cannot be described as unfounded. Let’s look at such particulars.
First, and very fundamental, is that presently, no nation best typifies a country in dire need of peace and social cohesion among her various sociopolitical groups than Nigeria. Myriads of sociopolitical contradictions have conspired directly and indirectly to give the unenviable tag of a country in constant search of social harmony, justice, equity, equality and peace. Secondly, is the consciousness that from October 1960 till date, Nigeria has witnessed a series of secession threats and the experience/trauma resulting from such have never been an easy one.
Take as an illustration, of all the secession threats since independence, it was the one issued by the Eastern Region in 1966-67 following the bloody counter-coup of July 1966 and subsequent genocide by northern soldiers that was much more potent. Thousands of Easterners living in the North lost their lives or were maimed. The failure of General Yakubu Gowon to implement the Aburi Accord which was aimed at settling the crisis set the tone for the civil war that followed. Before then there was a massive ARABA (secession) protest that rocked the Northern region shortly after the coup. The Eastern Region, then led by Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu, subsequently declared itself an independent country with the name “Biafra” in compliance with the Eastern Nigeria Consultative Assembly resolution and mandate of May 26, 1967.
The proclamation ended with an emotional Biafra Anthem –‘The Land of the rising Sun’ rendered in beautiful tune of ‘Finlanda” by Sibelius, symbolising the end of the struggle to assert the self-determination of a new nation. The scene was set for confrontation between the new state of Biafra and the balance of the ethnic nationalities that made up the Federal Republic of Nigeria and to resolve the question of the unity of the Nigerian states by use of force (see the report titled: “Scientific and Technological Innovations in Biafra”)
Looking at the above tragic developments/ accounts, the question may be asked: could the civil war have been avoided? In the same vein, with the current wave of secessionist sentiments sweeping across the country with restive youths in the North and South East, particularly the very vociferous agitation for Biafra’s restoration by Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, led by youthful Nnamdi Kanu, being the loudest of the separatist movements, another question is: did Nigeria and Nigerians truly learn any useful lesson from the experience of the Nigerian civil wars? Are those factors that set the stage/fuelled that civil war still alive and active on the nation’s political geography?
Providing answers to the above questions in ways that proffer sustainable solutions to Nigeria’s nagging political, ethnic/tribal, socioeconomic and cultural challenges will form the basis for another objective intervention.