On “Let us preserve the sanctity of the lives and future of all of our children”
When is enough enough?
In his speech in response to the post-election violence in Northern Nigeria—violence of typically ethnic- cleansing dimension and religion-targeted type—incumbent President and Commander-in-Chief and now, President-elect of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, was every bit as presidential as they come. It was the perfect speech for the occasion. “Let us preserve the sanctity of the lives and future of all of our children…,” he appealed, among other points.
Before Nigerian leaders trip all over themselves in real or feigned display or in typical sycophantic act of congratulating President Jonathan on this speech, a pause is in order—a break for real soul-searching. Before the peoples living in Nigeria can obey the usual post-violence and during-violence outbreak empty typical advice and rhetoric from their leaders, such as “…All Nigerians should therefore go about their [normal] businesses without fear…” a pause is indeed absolutely necessary, not for “…remain steadfast in prayers for peace and tranquility in our country…” but to take some sort of stock. It is essential to pause for the reason of processing Jonathan's pronouncement: “Enough is Enough” on an individual, personal, collective and global level, as well as on psychological, psychic and spiritual planes.
In case anyone is in doubt regarding what he is talking about, President Jonathan of Nigeria reminds all peoples living in Nigeria (and the rest of the world, for that matter) about Biafra and the Biafra-Nigeria war, and in so doing, places everything in the correct context, even while setting a precedent. You see, Nigerians do not want to understand or talk about or process what actually led to that war, what really happened during that war, and the true aftermath of the war. The goings-on in Northern Nigeria today, though smaller in scale and scope, mirror what eventually started the wheels of war turning in 1967. Nigerian leaders are typically even worse in this area, where, not only do they avoid the subject, but usually craft and use a deliberately falsified version which obviously blames the victim and the victimized for that war. As such, the peoples living in Nigeria and their leaders (until now) have shown complete disdain for “the sanctity of the lives and future of all of our children…” Ask Biafrans. Ask the Igbo and other Biafrans who still cannot—not 50 years ago, not now and not in the future—“…go about their businesses without fear…” whether in Igboland / Biafraland proper, which is still under occupation by Nigerian forces, or in other parts of Nigeria.
It is not unusual to hear Nigerians and their leaders threaten something like, “no country can go through two civil wars and survive” when trying to blackmail the peoples living in Nigeria approaching the “enough is enough” line. In their pretense or bluff, they refuse to understand that 1) Nigeria, while claiming a pyrrhic victory, never even survived that war in the first place; the signs and symptoms of failure and disaster are all too obvious, staring all in the face, including this current dastardly event; and 2) the “civil war” (which is and continues to be actually a war of survival for the Igbo / Biafrans) never really ended or stopped, from Nigeria's side; Nigeria is still waging it with deadly effectiveness against the Igbo and Biafra, even today, with no let up for the future. In Jonathan and his speech, it appears that there is a departure, and he is not afraid to remind Nigerians (and the rest of the world) about this.
It is to be hoped that the pressing intention of this speech—to douse the destructive flames—succeeds, although President Jonathan has to be aware that there are blue-hot glowing embers in a perpetual state of smolder with a lot of fuel floating around to re-ignite the flame, enabled and conveniently held together in, and resupplied by, a furnace of a structure called Nigeria. However, the undeniable tenor, which has even been picked up by the foreign press, going by their characterization of the speech, is the setting straight of the history of Biafra. The President just reminded Nigerians (and the world) of why Biafra really happened and how Biafra really came to be: it was because of an event such as this.
But, it is also necessary to remind President Jonathan himself that while “the office of the presidency” demands that he say, conclude with and truly mean:
“Dear brothers and sisters, let us continue to build a nation in which we all live in peace. A nation where the bonds of our common aspirations and goals will spur and re-energise our resolve towards greatness. A nation where our children from North and South, East and West will grow with hope and live together as brothers, sisters and friends. Let us always remember that we are all part of a shared destiny.” –President Jonathan
the facts and experience prove that we all do NOT, cannot, have not and will not live in peace as one nation. It is while acting like we could, pretending that we can, and talking like we are building one nation that the events that led to the war started, culminating in the war itself and its ongoing aftermath, including even the current episode of so many acts of senseless, gratuitous and wanton destruction of lives and livelihood. It is not working: enough is enough.
The President needs to be reminded that there are no common bonds among the peoples living in Nigeria; what we have is goodwill—tenacious one-sided goodwill now rapidly dwindling in supply, only because the other party always reciprocates with extremely destructive, criminal and lethal malevolence, no matter the sincerity and timeliness of post-event preachments such as this. Nor are there common aspirations among the peoples living in Nigeria: some sections truly want and insist on “Boko Haram” while others just as strongly want “Boko.” There is hardly any commonality.
Mr. President, time and again, we see and learn that children from North and South, East and West did not, have not and will not grow with hope in one nation called Nigeria: for that matter, of all the things that this arrangement called Nigeria has deprived the peoples and children of, HOPE is the most heart-breaking. No, Mr. President: “our children from North and South, East and West” have not, will not and do not live together as brothers, sisters and friends in one country called Nigeria and it is not for want or lack of trying; try explaining otherwise to the parents and families of Youth Corpers, or if they are still alive, the parents and families of the children killed and disemboweled in Northern Nigeria in just the past few days alone.
Yes, we always remember that “we are all part of a shared destiny” in / as “one-Nigeria”: how could the peoples living in Nigeria ever forget? It is a forced destiny, a destiny of fear, racism, cheating, parasitism, hatred, murder, genocide, ethnocide, war, ethnic cleansing, murderous religious intolerance, mayhem, death, lack of respect for human dignity, lack of respect for the sanctity of human life and lack of value for human life itself; a destiny of no future for oneself and no future for the children. Even the losing presidential candidate, Buhari (who should not be entirely absolved of the responsibility for the current sadistic events), came up with a more extensive and accurate litany of what we share and experience in our “shared destiny” of forced one-Nigeria.
And, take note: Nigeria is not moving towards any “greatness.” The real destiny of one Nigeria was aptly described by President Obasanjo during his reign in office thus: “Nigeria moves one step forward, two steps backward, and two steps sideways.” He was, and still is, absolutely correct. That's a five-step dance to and in oblivion, and it correctly describes the real shared destiny of the peoples forced and trapped in one-Nigeria.
“Enough is enough” is correct; and it should mean that every person living in Nigeria, up to the President of Nigeria himself, by now fed up with all the bloodshed and bedlam, ought to understand that “one nation” is not working out and does not work for Nigeria as presently configured. It never has. It is time to act to change this structure. If references to “one nation” are removed from the president's speech, all the dreamed-for positive points in the preachment can be achieved, and pitfalls avoided; or at least, have better odds. In any case, for a fact, Nigeria is NOT one nation; it has never been and it will never be. That's not difficult to see.
Can this President and his administration, along with the peoples living in Nigeria, now do the right thing? Indigenous Ethnic Nations living in Nigeria have to be recognized as such; the sovereignty of each nation and her respective people needs to be restored, as well as their respective autonomy and independence—what, sadly, colonialism originally took away from them without their consent, and decolonization never restored. Thus empowered, the ethnic nations can now come together in a conference, with equity and reciprocated respect, to determine what kinds of inter-national bonds and inter-national relationships are in their mutual best interests. The principle of Self Determination and its effective tool of Referendum are able to facilitate these restructuring processes.
People can live side by side in their own respective nations in peace with the other nations. People can still be dear sisters and brothers and greatest of friends while having their own respective nations—as happens the world over. And where and when it is mutually beneficial and consented to, different nations may still choose to be “part of a shared destiny”: such is the case elsewhere in the world. But, what no nations do is allow themselves to be forced into a false and unworkable troubled union which destroys all these things. Why should the nations living in Nigeria allow such a pernicious aberration? Enough is enough…
Finally, it should be recognized that this election which hands the presidency to President Jonathan should not be celebrated in any way as progress or success for Nigeria as one nation: no. It is largely a huge failure, not because of perennial rigging or the unconscionable violence, but because of the pattern of near-absolute ethnic voting. This of course goes back to the underlying, original and undying ethnicity question and problem of Nigeria. Yet, it is not so much the pattern itself, which is natural, as the continued denial of Nigerians that this (ethnic voting) is what really happened in this election, that questions whether the consciousness is finally there, as well as the commitment, with regards to “Enough is enough.”
If it is not an idle wish, and at best not truly cynical, “Let us preserve the sanctity of the lives and future of all of our children” should compel us to act to stay apart and live, rather than insist on forcing ourselves to stay together in an unworkable and incompatible union to die horribly and perish the lives and hope and future of those children. The choice is ours—today.
Oguchi Nkwocha, MD
A Biafran Citizen