We live in perilous times
By Orji Kalu
Saturday, January 28, 2011
When the crisis in the 60’s that led to the Nigerian Civil War started, many never fathomed it would snowball into a huge conflagration that was later to consume millions of innocent lives and set the nation several years back. When the clouds were gathering at that time, those that were expected to speak out in condemnation of the atrocities that were taking place chose to maintain studied silence, pretending that what was happening was normal. By the time they realized what was happening, the nation had been thrown into commotion and anarchy.
Sadly, this same scenario is playing out today, as the nation is experiencing one of its roughest times since it gained independence. Many highly placed Nigerians have refused to speak out against the mass killing and brigandage taking place, particularly in the North of the country. They have rather chosen to play the ostrich, turning their faces away from the sordid and barbaric incidents that have characterized life in Nigeria at present. Worst of all, they refuse to caution their people, even when they have the opportunity and influence to do so.
It is true that those that decided not to speak out in the 60’s had erroneously thought that, if anything happened, that they would be safe. But contrary to that selfish-contained disposition and belief, they were the hardest hit at the end of the day. While some of them were brutally killed, others had their properties destroyed. Each suffered one loss or another.
For those who do not know, when war breaks out, nobody is spared; everybody is vulnerable. The Nigerian Civil War has left a permanent scar on the psyche of all those that witnessed it, and a signpost of our collective mistake as a people. It is then baffling that, despite the calamities that befell us from this mistake, many of us still promote ethnic, religious and political animosities to further divide us and feather their nests. As the President rightly said last week when he visited the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, to commiserate with him over the coordinated bomb attacks that sent over 200 persons to their untimely graves, those that perpetrated the killings in the land were no spirits but human beings. There is no doubt, therefore, that the president hit the nail on the head. Nevertheless, what has left me in quandary is why these evil men and women have not yet been caught in spite of the concerted efforts by the security agencies to do so. The harder they try the more casualties that are recorded. What then could be responsible for this sudden turn of events?
It is unfortunate that the present state of things in our dear country was foretold several years ago, but nobody paid heed to it. In our usual style, we played it down and trudged on with lackadaisical attitude. Many must have thought, as they did in the 60’s, that the developments would not affect them. Tell me, is there any Nigerian that is not affected, one way or another, by the ongoing crises that have hit our social fabric? If some people had not been materially affected, at least they must have felt some psychological discomfort.
The level of insecurity across the country is breathtaking. There is no place that can be adjudged to be safer than the other, including Abuja – the nation’s capital. If it is not bombing today, it is the indiscriminate shooting of innocent people by a group of unidentified gunmen. In fact, the killings have taken even the most absurd pattern.
As I predicted in my first article for the New Year, that the year is emboweled in the womb of uncertainties, current events have since vindicated me. My prediction that the situation could get worse before it gets normal is also coming true. Without sounding alarmist, something in me tells me that worse days lie ahead, going by the attitude of our leaders. The developments could worsen unless government takes unusual measures to reestablish sanity.
Those behind the current insecurity in the country do so definitely for their selfish interests – to protect their fiefdoms and preserve their ill-gotten wealth. There is nothing about their actions that show any patriotism. Even their utterances belie all what they claim to stand for. Life has become perilous in our clime, yet many people still feel all is well. Do they want to do something only after they have been killed? Is it not better to work for the peace, progress and unity of Nigeria now than to spend time and money containing the upheavals that would arise?
For six working days two weeks ago, the nation was forced to its knees by striking workers over the removal of fuel subsidy. The loss incurred in that period has been estimated at N320 billion. Who would pay for these losses? The nation of course! After all, when two elephants fight, is it not the grass that suffers? The grass here is the masses that have been at the receiving end of the misdeeds of the political leadership. Today, fuel sells for N97 and everybody is running helter-skelter to get it. Even some greedy marketers still sell the product for as much as N200 in some parts of the country. Who should be blamed for this evil of profiteering? It has become a pastime for some armchair critics to blame the government for everything that goes awry. But in the present circumstance, we should blame the greed that rules the lives of some of us. Why can’t people subject themselves to the law, so that we can move this nation forward? When government makes policies and they are flagrantly flouted, then it becomes an open invitation to anarchy. By selling fuel at the prescribed price of N97 we aid planning and contribute our quota to national development.
As I have always opined, I do not know too much about the politics of oil subsidy. But all that I know is that some persons are feeding fat from what belongs to all of us. Great nations such as the United States, Britain, France, Germany and even China were built through the collective enterprise of their people – who did not mind sacrificing their lives for their nations to survive. Yes, here, our forbears did the same when they fought for and gained independence in 1960. And that was where the whole thing ended. If a seed is planted and not watered, sooner than later, it withers. For it to grow into a tree or shrub, it must be watered and nurtured.
In the same way, the seed of our independence was sowed in 1960, but nothing much was done to nurture it. What we had spent the past 51 years doing is to squabble over little things that ordinarily should not distract us. For 30 months, we fought a civil war, while the remainder of the years was used to experiment on the entrenchment of a sustainable democratic culture that has remained an illusion. The inability to attain this sustainable democratic culture can be blamed on the ethno-religious inclinations of some of our leaders. There is no way we can build a formidable, united nation without doing away with ethnicity, clannishness, religious bigotry, corruption and self-centredness. The reason for promoting patriotism in any nation is to kill the morbid self-desires that run counter to national ethos.
It is very sad that our nation has been in the throes of insecurity for many decades now. I was petrified by the report in the media last week that the police lost 620 men last year to robberies, sectarian conflicts and political crises. Is this number not frightening? Let’s for a minute reflect on the number of people they have left behind to mourn them. What about the enormous resources expended in the training of these fallen officers? What efforts are being made to stop the senseless killings and enhance the careers of the remaining officers? These are salient questions government should proffer answers to if we are to get over the present imbroglio.
Nevertheless, we need to do proper soul-searching in order to begin to build a truly united and egalitarian Nigeria. Let us presume that the past 51 years had been wasted and begin a new march toward real peace and reconciliation. God has endowed us with enough resources to sustain us for a long time. All that we need is to manage them judiciously to benefit all of the people. The idea of one person expropriating what belongs to a million people is a bug we must kill urgently, if we are to get over our present inertia. Those who siphoned our common patrimony should bear in mind that there is no peace for an evil man, until he turns away from his evil ways.
Let me ask: How many people who looted the treasury lived to enjoy and exhaust it? None! The more wealth you accumulate, the more worries you bring upon yourself. Wealth is meant to be used for the common good and not to create division, confusion and crises among us. Sadly, many of the crises bedeviling our nation today, were caused by some persons for their self-aggrandizement. What do they stand to gain if they destroyed everybody and were left alone in this world? Life will become a bore for them. The joy of one’s existence is full when one lives a righteous life that brings joy to others. Living together in peace and love is the only way we can build a progressive and prosperous nation.
Let me use this medium to add my voice to the national call on those causing trouble in the land to allow peace to reign. We do not gain anything by mauling innocent souls? How many lives has the nation lost since the New Year? In fact, there is no day that passes that there are no reports of one killing or another across the country. The prelude to the killings started on Christmas Day last year when over 43 worshippers of the St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla, were dispatched to their untimely graves by a suicide bomber. To worsen matters, the alleged mastermind of the heinous crime, one Kabiru Sokoto, escaped from police custody. The ease with which such a prime suspect escaped raises questions about the sincerity of some of our security agents to work for the development of our nation. However, I am worried that all attention is being focused on Kabiru Sokoto as if he is the only one involved in the terrorist acts recorded so far. The clinical style with which the terrorists operate underlines the fact that they work in cells. And each cell must have at least more than one person. Concentrating all efforts on Kabiru Sokoto is not only diversionary, but also counterproductive. There are many Sokotos that should be called to question over the carnage that has become a daily occurrence.
I wish to urge the Federal Government to evolve strategies to address these sad and bothersome developments before they escalate. If things continue the way they are going, it will not be long before anarchy sets in. No responsible government will fold its arms and watch miscreants take over the land. It is also important for the government to find out why some Nigerians have resorted to violence as the preferred means to settle personal scores. I believe there are many non-violent tactics any aggrieved persons or groups could adopt to register their resentment over any matter they feel strongly about. Killing and maiming innocent citizens is not only criminal it is also a sin against God.
Let me remind those that kill in the name of politics, religion or economy that no sin shall go unpunished. They should not forget that he who kills by the sword also dies by the sword. This life is ephemeral and, therefore, not worth dying for.
I admonish the government to urgently establish schemes that will deal with the growing poverty in the land. It is poverty that has made some of our youths susceptible to manipulation by the political class. Check it out: all the violent crimes committed in Nigeria involve a sizeable number of youths. This is why the government should intensify effort in solving the twin-problem of youth employment and general empowerment. There is no contestation that the nation will breathe air of relief once a large chunk of our youths is gainfully engaged.
It may not be out of place to ask every Nigerian to start immediate prayer and fasting toward the restoration of peace, security and togetherness in Nigeria, so that we will soon realize our God-given destiny of building one of the richest economies in the world.
By His grace we shall not die, but live!