By Muyiwa Adetiba
Two things stand our housekeeper out. Her punctuality and her cheerfulness. She is not the best we have had in terms of competence. But she is always cheerful and takes to corrections well.
And you could set your watch on her time of arrival. Being time conscious myself, I notice these things and find it remarkable that someone who doesn’t own a means of transportation can be so punctual. And she has never, ever asked for time off. She was her punctual self this Monday. But she came in looking withdrawn and sad.
And she asked for a time off. That was unusual but as she narrated her story, inevitable. Her niece was killed the previous day in church. And the grandmother with whom the niece was staying died later in the evening – possibly from shock. She is from Plateau State -Jos South – and she needed to go home ASAP to offer comfort and be in turn comforted.
It was likely to be a reprisal attack that took the life of a 25-year-old undergraduate who ran to a church for refuge only to be brutally macheted since she was not the only one so killed. I have since scanned social media for news of the attack. I am yet to be successful. God only knows how many of these reprisal attacks have gone unreported.
Perhaps this and other attacks are to be expected given the sentiments whipped up by the senseless killing of the travellers from Bauchi State. This is in spite of the efforts of the two Governors directly affected to play the incident down. The sentiments were religious in nature.
The statement issued by the Presidency on the killing contained some comments that I consider unprofessional, immature and generally unhelpful. It is curious that the Presidency is yet to issue a statement on this seeming reprisal attack. Perhaps some people are satisfied that justice has been done with the shedding of blood in exchange for blood.
How many people will have to die in Kaduna, Bauchi, Benue and God knows elsewhere, before our witless leaders stopped stoking the fires of religion and ethnicity? When will their eyes be opened to see that they are weakening the country while opening up its flanks for attacks? The recent happening in Afghanistan offers some lessons. Afghanistan is a landlocked, rocky place whose political, economic and social life once contributed nothing and thus meant little to the world. It was therefore little known and hardly commented on during my early years as a journalist.
The name found its way into Nigeria’s media space more as a form of escapism than relevance. It came at a time when our Military leaders became very sensitive to criticism. So in order not to continually upset sensitive stomachs, some columnists and senior colleagues tried to intellectualise their columns by writing on foreign countries.
Especially on the affairs of remote and benign countries. This was to be termed ‘Afghanistanism’ – a polite term for copping out. Afghanistan didn’t come into our consciousness as a nation until the 80s when a new ideology was taking root in the mountainous country and Russia was also showing territorial ambition.
Even then, it was a mere passing interest. After all, we were a comfortable country whose religious temperament was under control. Just as Lebanon was earlier. The world had always known of ideologies often championed by charismatic leaders who believe their worldview would make for a better world. Some have been violent. At least one led to a World War.
Many have not been so violent unless you call the uprooting of social norms violent. Some like in America, China and even Russia have been largely successful. Many have petered out. When the Taliban came up with its ideology, it was largely to find an answer to the poverty and corruption in the country.
Its conservative, hard-line religious posture found fertile soil in the minds of the disengaged and disadvantaged populace. But any ideology that does not make life better will soon run into troubled waters.
Even the hope of a better after-life wore thin except with the die-hard. Taliban became more repressive and oppressive. Then America gave it a lifeline by coming in to muddle the waters with its ideological fight against Russia and its usual rhetoric on human rights that did little to address the fundamental problems.
America soon became the Public Enemy Number One in the quest to look for scapegoats for the unending poverty and violence in the region. Some of the people America trained and armed turned against it.
This eventually resulted in what is now known as 9/11; the 20th anniversary of which the world will be celebrating next month. It is ironic that the prop America gave Afghanistan these past 20 years collapsed like a pack of cards just weeks after America pulled out.
What happened to the promise American government made 20 years ago to arm and train the Afghan army? Where did the billions of dollars spent during these years go?
There are a few lessons here. The first is that Western help is superficial at best. It hardly addresses the root cause of a country’s disaffection. Only the people can make or mar their country.
Secondly, an insurgency is difficult to fight when the people are sympathetic towards its cause. Thirdly, an ideology that is fuelled by religion and poverty is difficult to fight because both offer an often illusory promise of a better alternative to what exists.
Fourthly, corruption, inequality and lack of social justice will always incubate ideologies. Some might be extreme and violent. Fifthly, people are not likely to fight, let alone die for leaders they don’t trust or a country that has let them down.
It is safe to assume that the Taliban is not likely to be content with Afghanistan alone. And that it could export its brand of ideology – I refuse to call it religion – to more vulnerable parts of the world.
That includes Nigeria where there is some religious foothold already. It is unfortunate that our leaders cannot read beyond the age-old ethnic and religious strife in what is happening to the North and by extension, the country.
Instead of coming together to fight a common enemy in the name of two vicious terrorist groups which will now be emboldened by the victory of the Taliban, they are quarrelling over turf. Can Nigeria hold out against the coming onslaught?
If not, can the South hold out if the North by acts of unenlightened selfinterest or sheer stupidity, allows itself to be taken? Southern leaders should start thinking about it. Maybe it is time to study the map.