NATIONAL VANGUARD AGAINST VIOLENCE
The most important conclusion one can reach after the last two contributions to this column on April 25 and May 9, is that when parties in a relationship engage in confrontations, leading often to the destruction of lives and properties, it behoves them to reflect deeply and determine the root-causes of their animosities.
Questions are often asked during such reflections, like: Why do we quarrel so much and think we should forget everything about the last one we had?
If we forget the last one so easily, what is the guarantee that similar losses and damages will not be suffered in the nearest future, where 'future' means the nearest micro-second after the last outburst? Do we fight against ourselves because we had been taught by our colonial masters to keep away as much as possible from each other in our geographical space under the sun?
In short, not to be seen as too friendly to one another, so that our colleagues will not think we will sell them out to 'non-believers'?
And this idea of believers or non-believers, what does it add up to in the end: Is it not that we all worship one God, united, omnipresent and omniscient?
If that is so, should the real 'non-believers' not be regarded as Satan and his foot-soldiers, whose mission is to sow the seeds of hatred, division and destruction among those of us who prefer to co-exist peacefully one with another, so that the goals of communal progress and individual salvation may be advanced?
Put differently, if you and I have the same notion of God as the supreme deity and approach Him from our different angles, why must you seek to force me, instead of convince me to accept that your own way is the right or only way to salvation?
Have we not often heard that there is not just one way to get you into the market, and that what matters in the long run is the nature of our transaction there, after which we can each choose the most convenient route for our return journeys home?
If we did not go there together, must we head back home together, if we are not related? And even if were related, who says our individual states of mind compel or advise us to get home at the same time and through the same route?
The summary of all the thoughts above, as one could gather from the rejoinder to my assertion that this post-elections period ought to be the time for progress and not bitterness, can be found in this quotation: '………..If, being in a questionable togetherness in one country, we cannot progress; are locked in an acrimonious union, always at draggers-drawn and feeling very claustrophobic in it, then let us try being separate, to know if that will bring progress……..'
That was, indeed, some good thinking, which can guarantee food on our tables; blood in our bodies and not on the streets, as well goodwill all around, that will best assure love, co-operation and unity, which people have often talked glibly about, but are not confirmed by their actions, which 'speak louder than words'.
It is true that there can be 'unity in diversity', but every member in a geo-political entity or relationship has to make a special effort and contribution to fight some and surrender some; to be accommodative, not oppressive or imperious. After all, if your ideas are good, would you need to coerce, cajole or terrorize a free-thinking person to accept them and join your group? The 'nays' have it?
As members of the 22-man panel set up by the Federal Government to investigate the pre- and post-election violence and civil disturbances in different parts of the country, especially after the April 16 announcement of the presidential results, begin their very important assignment, they should bear it in mind that their conclusions – which may vary well have constitutional ramifications – are being eagerly awaited by those who mean well for Nigeria and its future.
Not only that: There is need to do something concrete about the bad feelings already generated, for instance, among parents who will supply the next batch of National Youth Service Corps(NYSC) members to the country.
That panel headed by Sheikh Ahmed Lemu as chairman.(I think the Federal Government should have chosen a well-educated Buddhist, and not a Moslem or Christian to head this panel) and retired Justice Samson Uwaifo as vice-chairman, needs to be very time-conscious in discharging this responsibility, in view of the social, economic, political and spiritual implications of the work now in their hands.
However, there are outstanding problems – people in many parts of this country have very little faith or confidence in panels of this nature, because the recommendations in many reports when prepared and submitted, were hardly ever acted upon by the powers-that-were. Whether the real and new President Ebele Goodluck Azikiwe Jonathan Administration, which will come alive on Sunday, May 29, just 13 days away, will make a great difference in that regard, is a matter which time will pretty soon handle for us, the watchful citizens.
Nevertheless, perhaps it is not early or contemptuous of the panel, to say that it has no alternative than to recommend the indictment of individuals and groups found to have precipitated the violence in Akwa-Ibom State. Will a judicial trial follow that recommendation?
Why did the government not therefore more conveniently and time-consciously come up with the idea of a judicial commission of inquiry that can name and shame all concerned, according to their deeds, as indicated in earlier official pronouncements?
All one can add now is that Nigerians are tired of official pussy-footing on important matters of national public affairs, like violence, involving the taking of human lives; shedding of blood, display of hatred by one group of nationals against others for narrow and ill-digested religious, ethnic or political reasons, and so on.
This is not just a matter of the devil finding evil jobs for idle hands: When hyenas weep in the open, what do you expect their babies to do?
And this leads to the other leg of the panel's possible recommendations: What should we do about anyone taking anybody's life again, in this country? How can we ensure that the Biblical commandment in the Old Testament: 'Thou shall not kill', which is not unknown to the Holy Qua'ran, obeyed by all, who should know that God attaches great value to even one human life, not to talk of tens and hundreds of lives, that some blood-thirsty, so-called 'believers' (in what?) set about burning alive or brutalizing, to death.
Honestly, the Presidency of the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs and all other religious leaders, political and civil society groups' members who are broad-minded enough to know the demerits of fellow nationals slaughtering themselves in orgies of violence, ought to start coming more proactively together, for a common cause now-protecting lives and checking violence.
Their goal should be to re-shape Nigeria by promoting the desirable changes in the attitudes and behaviour of our citizens towards each other, otherwise the idea of separation arising from unchecked incidents of one-sided violence, will become ever more attractive here, in this 'bank and shoal of time,' according to William Shakespeare.
And thinking about violence, takes me to one beautiful idea from General Olusegun Obasanjo (GCFR), President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999-2007. He blessed a presidential retreat about the electoral process and violence at Abuja on Februaury 7, 2002, with the following excerpted words, to which one must return soon: '…the impressive response to this retreat must surely be a good indication that we have struck a chord in the political sensitivity of most Nigerians, namely the deep and persistent concern about the threat which violence poses to our electoral process, and indeed to the survival of the democratic system in general and to our unity and oneness…….you will recall that the special retreat on National Security last year (2001), recommended a forum of politicians, political office holders and other Nigerians who have major roles to play in determining the nature and operations of our electoral system……………………the political parties should form a joint vanguard against violence. We must all be pro-active to make our democracy endure. If we fail, we may not have any political parties!'
In that case, can the country still dey kampe? Doubtful!
What the Chief-in-General said nine years ago, still remains to be practicalised. And the post-election violence after April 16, makes it imperative to act right now, with the baton already in President Jonathan's hands.
We must not fail again!