Nigeria at war: A call to alms, not arms - Ekene Imelikachi
Tiamiyu Saheed Oluwatosin
For years, prominent and concerned Nigerian People alike have knelled the alarm bell of an impending, imminent implosion in the country, a re-enactment, if you may, of the gruesome and unforgettable Civil War of 1967-70. They warned, without mincing words, that the country, which has been barreling down the sloppy path of confrontations and blood-letting, now stands on the precipice of disintegration. Going by their assessment, Nigeria’s existential clock is 100 seconds away from Doomsday. Call them alarmists, pessimists and fear mongers, if you will, but you do so at the peril of addressing the situation before it gets out of hand.
From national and state leaders, past and present; statesmen, leaders of thought, clerics, experts, local and foreign, the warning has been unmistakable: Nigeria is pretty much sitting on a tinderbox ready to explode at the let of a match, or at the slightest of a spark.
But unbeknown to them, Nigeria is essentially and technically at war, not an external one-dimensional conflict, but an internal all-out war ignited by the smoldering heat of tribal sentiments, fueled by inter-religious tensions, fanned by the embers of class struggles and inflamed by geo-political grudges. Igbo v. Hause/Fulani and Yoruba; Hausa/Fulani v. Yoruba and Igbo; Yoruba v. Igbo and Hausa/Fulani; Christians v. Muslims; the Upper Class v. the Middle/Lower Class, Minorities v. the domineering major Ethnic Group, the list is endless. Each scenario, stemming out of age-long suspicions have produced and reproduced deep-seated hatred and an unending cycle of ill-feeling and animosity.
If you were waiting to sight armoured tanks dismantling buildings and key installations, battalion of menace-looking soldiers on the offensive against rebels, and fighter jets bombarding enemy lines, then probably you are looking at the wrong signals. Rather, delve into your mobile phones, and you will see all that is to know. Nigeria is indeed at war.
The physical manifestations that Nigerian People have been hoping to see are infact happening in cyberspace, and whether it blows into a full-blown confrontation is a question of when, and not if.
From social and messaging apps such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter to popular Nigerian blogs, these sites have become ‘Theatres of Warfare’, where some section of Nigerian internet users ‘take up arms’ in an unrelenting, no-holds-barred tribal/ethnic, religious, geo-political, and class war.
The sad reality staring us down in the face is that, regrettably, Nigerian cyber space has devolved into a volcanic hotspot of tectonic proportion, a magna chamber of sort, where old wounds are re-opened not for the sake of closure, healing or reconciliation but to serve as a constant reminder of sworn eternal enmity. Banters are freely used, in their most extreme and basest form to shame, spite, humiliate, incite and induce fear.
As all these continue unabated, our traditional gatekeepers stand aloof and watch, probably enjoying the spectacle or simply overwhelmed. Of course, the inflammatory and scanting words used in cutting deep into each other have become normal conversations. No affection whatsoever, no remorse at all. A fight to the finish, a fight to the death.
While this is never a call to checkmate free speech or regulate social media in Nigeria, our leaders, must toe the path of President Joe Biden (POTUS46) in calling for tolerance and restraints from all sides of the divide, while treating one another with respect and dignity. Far and above, we must ensure that justice is served to those we have treated unjustly, grievances are addressed and redressed, if we are truly serious about national reconciliation and unity.
For so long, we have allowed identity politics to seep in to the mainstream, acting in complicity as our tribal men and women strangulate the throats of other Nigerian People with oppressive and divide-and-rule policies. For so long, we have labeled fellow citizens that don’t look like us, worship like us, love like us with demeaning and cringe-worthy names. For how long?
Even our leaders that should know and do better have directly and indirectly joined in the act with inflammatory rhetoric and body language. What we see today is certainly not the actual layout of what our forbearers, the architects of a new and free nation envisioned. Their impression of a progressive, peaceful and united nation, irrespective of one’s faith, political leanings, place of birth is fast becoming an enigma, a mirage.
Today’s culture of political intolerance and impunity amongst the political class is hard to explain, considering that we had those same differences in the past, but our leaders then still managed to work across those differences for the good of the nation.
Different generation of leaders bequeathed to the generation behind a varying state of the nation. From an independent nation to a warring nation. From a nation under reconstruction to a nation in recession. From a nation in dictatorship to a democratic nation. Today, history presents us, this generation, a unique opportunity to inscribe our name in gold. What legacy shall we bequeath to the next generation? A sorely divided, fractious and warring house? God forbid.
I urgently call on blog owners to stop hiding behind third party liability clause, and join the movement of sanitizing the junk-filled stratosphere in order to promote a culture of civility, decorum and mutual respect. The price of personal or corporate gain shouldn’t come at the cost of national unity.
On the part of the citizens, we should own responsibility for our words and actions, bearing in mind that what we get for destroying one another is the boomerang effect of self-immolation. Our personal view of Nigeria and what she represents to each of us may differ, but make no mistake about it; our personal and collective obligation to advance our country towards the threshold of a just nation, egalitarian society and a more perfect union remains our solemn duty.
The words of the Sage cannot be truer: this has got to stop. We are better than this! Let’s lower the temperature, bring down the heat, listen to one another, hear each other out.
It’s about time we stopped this uncivil war threatening the peace and progress of Nigeria.
Ekene S. Imelikachi
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