BLOOD OF THE INNOCENT
Blood of the innocent
By Eric Osagie
Monday, March 15, 2010
They spread out on the bare floor like rams meant for a carnival. Heads decapitated; limbs violently disconnected from where they should be; blood splattered everywhere. The owners of what used to be living human bodies were on an eternal sleep, savagely dispatched on a journey they weren't prepared for. Why would anyone prepare for a festival of blood when he is not a cannibal? Why should the innocent lie in waste in an orgy of insanity which gripped a once-upon-a serene city?
Why should the blood of the innocent water the tree of ethnic bigots, primitive warlords who fight a senseless war of attrition? Why should hapless Nigerians be caught in a war that defies logic? Why should brothers kill brothers over mundane issues? Why should people who have lived as one for many years now turn the swords against one another? Why, many whys?
Indeed, you have to have a heart of stones not to weep at the gory pictures spewing out from the theatre of the Jos war. You have to have no blood in your veins not to squint your eyes in horrific stupefaction at the human barbecue from the carnage. Oh, I weep for Jos! I weep for the Tin city, the beloved city of Nigerians and Europeans alike. I weep for a nation reduced to the Hobbesian level where life is 'short, nasty and brutish.'
I weep for a nation where life means nothing, where life is nothing. I weep for a nation where leadership has gone on a long journey, a journey of no return. Will there ever be efficient and responsible leadership in Africa's largest, and most problematic nation? If this is not leadership insensitivity, I wonder what else is. If leadership actually merits that name, those in charge of national and state leadership would not let this kind of nonsense happen again and again.
As I write this column, I can hear the wailings of mums and dads lamenting the loss of their loved ones whom they will see no more. I hear the agonising cries of the latest orphans in town, the motherless and fatherless, who would grow up to ask questions no one can provide clear answers to. I can hear the cries of friends mourning the cruel termination of bonds of friendship by fiendish fellows for whom life is cheap. I hear the cries of concerned humanity lamenting our loss of humanity. If we love life, we would not debase it. I can see my own tears trickling down as I behold the photographs of men and women and kids who have just switched from human beings to cadavers. I mourn because, like the English poet, John Donne, the death of any human being diminishes me because I am involved in humanity.
On my table, the horde of newspapers herald the sad news and pictures of women dressed in black crying their eyes out, calling on the authorities to find a way of putting a halt to the cannibal rage that has become a common feature of Jos. The women had gone in a convoy of tears in protest to the National Assembly complex in Abuja to their elected representatives and senators. They wanted the world to hear their cries and feel their agony, the agony of bereaved mums. Oh no, what a tragic spectacle of wailing women, mothers lamenting multiple murders of the innocent. The legislators spoke nice words to them and came down hard at the perpetrators of the heinous crime. But the hurt remains in their hearts as they marched forlornly away. Truly, some broken hearts don't mend. Will these hearts ever mend?
Jos! Just like that, 500 people allegedly died in renewed hostilities between feuding communities. There are different versions to the cause of war. There are issues of land, of ethnic domination and supremacy battle. There are issues of ethnic suspicion, poverty, illiteracy, diseases and of course, incitement by those who love to manipulate the sensitivities of the people. And what we saw was the effect: sorrow, tears and blood[apologies to Fela]. What we saw was what the newspapers and television, including the global news media captured: refugees of war, bloody eyes, broken heads and for the not so fortunate, instant death. Leaving the rest of humanity drained and distressed, and wondering what's happening to us, why we have completely lost our sense of proportion and sobriety.
I don't know about you, in as much as we must deprecate the immediate and remote causes of the Jos mayhem, but we must be more concerned about the response of the authorities before and after the event. Before the event, it is obvious that those whose duties it is to ensure safety of lives and property cared less about the citizens. Not only were they caught napping like in previous circumstances, they have continued to trade blames over who should be held liable for the tragic incident in the Dogon-Hauwa villages. While the Plateau State government under Chief Jonah Jang, a retired military officer, claimed he passed on vital security alert to the police and military authorities, the military and police high command have bluntly called the Plateau helmsman a man not friendly with the truth, a liar who is just trying to pass the buck of his inefficiency. However, despite the shameful buck-passing, one truth sticks out like a sore thumb: 500
Nigerian citizens, many innocent, lie still in their shallow graves. While the authorities bicker over what went wrong with intelligence report, grief envelopes the hearts of the bereaved as well as other well-meaning citizens of the country.
In a more decent society, a man like Gov. Jang would have since tendered his resignation letter for criminal dereliction of duty leading to the death of 500 citizens. If he won't honourably bow out, the State Assembly if it had men with balls, would by now have summoned him to answer questions on why he allowed citizens under his watch die so casually and where his explanation proves unsatisfactory, he should be shown the exit door.
If we were also a serious country, the General Officer Commanding, GOC, the army in Plateau by now would be answering questions from his superiors for not been as vigilant as he ought to. If Gov. Jang provided no intelligence for him to act on, I am sure there is a military intelligence unit charged with such responsibilities. It's not enough to trade blames. Nigerians must begin to learn to take full responsibilities for their actions, inactions, commissions and omissions. How does the blame trading and sharing bring back the innocent lives lost?
We must also condemn the apparent insensitivity of some Nigerians, those we like to call eminent citizens. Just as Jos was boiling and gory pictures of the casualties hit the news super highway, they still found it expedient to hold a so-called peace conference in the city. As a mark of honour for the dead, the dying and the injured, I thought it would have been decorous to shift the event to a latter date. What an irony it was to hold a peace conference in a city in the throes of war!
I also find nothing to cheer in the way the federal government has chosen to react to the Jos carnage and the bloody harvest of human lives. Going by the way it has been going about its business as if nothing tragic or horrendous has happened, anyone would be excused for thinking and believing that this is a country that places zero premium on human lives. 500 people are dead and there is no national day of mourning declared to honour the memory of the innocent amongst the casualty? 500 people dead and there's no national broadcast by our acting president, condoling the bereaved or a firm crack down on the criminals behind the bestiality?
In a country where human lives count for something, the security agencies would have combed Jos inside out, fished out the goons and drawn the battle line on the sand with the beasts of war, daring them to strike again at their own peril. But not here. Jos has erupted countless number of times. Other cities routinely go through cycles of blood-letting on flimsy accounts and human beings slaughtered like goats. Government would set up a panel of inquiry to ascertain the remote and immediate cause with a promise to leave no stone unturned in fishing out the perpetrators. But no stone is turned and no turn is stoned.
The reports gather dust in government's archives, until another upheaval and another panel is set up. What kind of country is this? Why is life this cheap? Why do we waste our citizens and human capital the way we do? And more importantly, why should the indigent continue to allow selfish and manipulative elite use them to fight a senseless war? If you asked many of those who took part in the Dogon-Hauwa war, chances are that they may not know why they took up arms against their brothers? They wouldn't be able to say what diadem they were gunning for. Sadly, many who died wouldn't even be able to tell any story. Dead men don't talk. And a deaf nation wouldn't even listen. This constitutes the real tragedy of the Jos carnage!