NIGERIANS IN SEARCH OF PEACE FOR NIGERIA
Pause and think about it. Nigeria – the most populous black nation on earth and the economic stronghold of Africa – in search for peace! Every time, there is one crisis or the other – each strongly interwoven into the political string of the nation. Count them since Independence on October 1, 1960. Military coups. Biafra war. Niger Delta insurgency. Religious misunderstandings and killings. Electoral violence. Plane crashes. Corruption. Boko Haram. What more!
I want Nigerians to pause and ponder over this. “Those who may feel that the problems of the oil producing areas are not in their backyard and feel a safe distance from the oil communities should be reminded that Nigeria is an entity moving in one direction. Decay in one part will ultimately affect the rest of the nation. The fate of the mineral producing communities should be a concern for all. The Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, admonishing Nigerians and especially the leaders to feel for the oil producing communities in the country. That is part of where Nigeria’s problem started.
Some military coups were bloody and Nigerians were killed. Biafra civil war claimed lives and properties of Nigerians in the Southeast (the Igbo nation). During the Niger Delta crises, a handsome number of Nigerians were eliminated (the Niger Delta people). In most of the religious misunderstandings that often stage Muslims and Christians at opposition or war part, heads had rolled and hard-earned properties had been set ablaze. Mostly during and after each general election, violence erupted and claimed lives of the unsuspecting electorates. Planes crashes have taken its share in unnecessarily reducing Nigeria’s enviable population. Corruption has been an all-round killer of the masses. Now it is the unfortunate Boko Haram.
As if a vicious circle, the Igbo nation had really tasted serious human losses. Niger Delta had taken its own of the national pains. Have the Southwesterners taken theirs? But the north is undergoing its own reform for a united, stronger and economically competitive nation. When the Sardauna spoke at the time oil was first struck in Nigeria in commercial quantity, he might have been seen as speaking in parables. Now the drama is yet unfolding. Boko Haram is the security challenge of Nigeria today. What have Nigerians done in search for peace?
In the hard search for peace and stability, two major security chiefs, the National Security Adviser to the President and the Minister of Defence have been relieved of their appointments. Although SaharaReporters posted a story indicating that a secret army report allegedly indicted some security chiefs during the Niger Delta insurgency, it is quite unarguable that the present visible greatest challenge for Nigeria is insecurity and these two chiefs whose responsibilities were primarily to restore peace proved otherwise.
Other security chiefs in the country are Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Chief of Army Staff (CAS), Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Director General of the State Security Service (SSS), Police Affairs Minister and Inspector-General of Police (IGP). The Acting Inspector General of Police is new. Otherwise, there would be no justification for leaving him unrelieved. His predecessor had proved unsafe to safeguard Nigerians. So, the new National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd), should coordinate all the security apparatuses in the country and quickly swoop into action to forestall further insurgency and rebellion against constituted authorities in Nigeria.
Believed to be a scion of the Sokoto caliphate and cousin to the Sultan of Sokoto, Dasuki served as ADC to the former Head of State, Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. He should thus be familiar with the security set-up and administration in the country.
However, many of us amongst men of the pen and masses have been thrilled by the twist in search for peace and stability, the passionate acknowledgements, confessions, proposals and solutions made by many Nigerians including those in authorities on the Boko Haram insurgency. Nearly all responsible citizens of the nation have made their stand very clear.
President Goodluck Jonathan has not only expressed his sadness over the ugly happenings and made call for God’s intervention to restore peace in the nation, he has initiated a new strategy by the shake-up in the security circle. “I have the hope that God will intervene in the situation in Nigeria and heal the nation”, he said, while soliciting the support and prayers of every Nigerian for the peace of the nation and for the success of his administration.
In his address to the people of Kaduna state on the crisis that recently rocked the state, Kaduna governor, Sir Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa appealed to Imams and pastors to admonish their adherents on the need to ensure peaceful coexistence and tolerance for one another and to be our brother’s keepers, while also advising the people to shun rumour mongering and ignore mischievous texts messages that are meant to cause further chaos in the state.
“Members of the security agencies, who are on top of the situation, have been placed on red alert to avert any semblance of the breach of peace. We wish to assure all and sundry that we are working round the clock for early and full restoration of peace and normalcy in the state. We require the cooperation and support of all in this direction,” Yakowa averred.
National Leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria (CAN), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, argues that it was clear that the present government cannot tackle the Boko Haram alone, saying, “The government should not shy away from inviting peace loving political and community leaders to brainstorm. Nigeria is sliding and we must act now. Our country is going through a trying period. We must all join hands to say no to religious violence. No religion can eliminate the other.”
National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olisa Metuh, is full of hope that Nigeria will overcome the situation. “We survived the civil war. We survived the military dictatorship and we have over the years overcome several challenges which would have brought a weaker country to its knees. Nigeria will remain strong and united until this too passes.”
The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah, says, “Our country is at a very difficult situation and there is enough blame passed around but I have said it over again that President Goodluck Jonathan may not be responsible for the problems but today, he is holding the Nigerian nation and that key has been entrusted to him."
Bishop Kukah describes the situation in the north as pathetic for which everyone should work towards bringing a lasting solution to it. ‘‘I am ashamed about what happened in Zaria and Kaduna recently. We need to be brutally sincere to ourselves; running and looking for water is not the solution. Without finding the cause of the problem, we cannot quench the fire. We have to ask ourselves: how did we get here? What is happening now does not reflect who we are, whether as Christians or Moslems,” he said. ‘‘If we have a country where Christians are talking to themselves while Moslems are talking to themselves, it won’t work. I look forward to a time when Christians will talk on behalf of Moslems and Moslems will talk on behalf of Christians. I make bold to say, about 90 per cent of Nigerians are not happy because members of the political class have not been able to deliver on the promises they made.’’
The Northern States Governors Forum (NSGF) alleges that most of the ugly incidents are part of a ploy to destabilize the region by whittling down its economy and setting its people against one another. NSGF Chairman and Governor of Niger State, Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu through his Chief Press Secretary, Malam Danladi Ndayebo believes that given the level of sophistication involved in the activities of the perpetrators of the bombings, it is easy to conclude that some oblique forces are behind the violence in the North and not Boko Haram alone as widely believed
“If progress must be made, security agencies must deal decisively with all those arrested in connection with terrorist acts, particularly bombing of churches and schools claimed by Boko Haram, to serve as deterrent to others”, NSGF proffered.
Secretary General of Jamatu Nasril Islam (JNI), Dr. Khalid Abubakar Aliyu is much worried of the mishandling of the crisis. “The pervasive way security upheavals are being handled in Nigeria needs serious introspection. While calling on the security agencies to curtail the violence, we call on them to be guided by the rules of engagement of the military by not using excessive force on the citizenry. Equally, the security should make public the arrests of non-Muslims disguising as Muslims to perpetrate the dastardly acts of bombings and the motives behind such.”
The President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor is also much worried over the management of crisis by the presidency as conflicting signals about strategy and approaches are ditched out by officials at the highest levels of government.
Oritsejafor through his Special Assistant on Media and Public Affairs, Kenny Ashaka, calls on the president to introduce an element of surprise by acting contrary to form because what emerges now, according to him, is the picture of a president who has been held hostage by conflicting intrigues woven around the matter of Boko Haram.
A former Kaduna state governor, Senator Ahmad Muhammad Makarfi, is not happy. “First of all, the bombings that have been happening are condemnable. One cannot rationalize the number of lives of human beings that has been eliminated, the properties destroyed and lack of peace created generally that is threatening the survival of majority of citizens. All of these are things that are very sad and I do not think any individual will support it under whatever guise. Also, the action and manner in which the ordinary souls of individuals are eliminated are things we should condemn. What happened in the first instance should not justify another individual who may even be running away for his or her life. We should not react by visiting further violence on innocent souls.”
Former minister of defence and secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, calls for a central, responsible and committed leadership to salvage the north from its very precarious situation. “It is an attempt to acknowledge that the north is on fire, and that the north must redeem itself. One must not go outside the northern region to look for the reasons why we are in this problem. We must admit that there is a failure in the north and it is the responsibility of the northerners to redeem themselves and do the right thing with a view to making sure that they remain relevant in the nation Nigeria.”
There is a “breakdown at local governance” in the north. But according to him, what has gone wrong in respect of the past history of the north has gone wrong, but that was not a hopeless case that should disunite the north. Rather, northerners should be strongly united.
Chairman, Northern Reawakening Forum (NRF), Hon. Mohammed Kumaila blamed the security crisis in the north on disunity, poverty, unemployment and increasing illiteracy in the region, and regretted a situation where nearly every facet of the socio-economic life points to a failing northern society. “Northerners must rise up to the challenge to heal the north of the wounds caused by the many years of ethnic and religious disagreements and conflicts and emerge as a robust, reliable and equal partner within the Nigerian state”.
A women’s right activist and medical doctor, Dr. Enyantu Ifenne blames the northern governors as she describes them as emperors who are not touched by the plight of the poor northerners but continue to demand for more funds from the federal government from which they feed fat. “They are playing politics with our predicament,” she alleged.
Former speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Umar Na’Abba said the present violence in the north is being orchestrated to make the region what some elements want it to be. “Some personalities handling high positions have disappointed us as far as the north is concerned, although I am not pointing an accusing finger, but the problem in the north has deepened since my speakership time. Some of us did the best we could, but, unfortunately, nothing came out of our best,” he said.
Chief Audu Ogbeh said he had predicted that violence would erupt in the north after the Niger Delta crisis, which was raging in the country then, would have been put to an end, but no one took his warning seriously. “There were great days in this region when the Sardauna of Sokoto had an Igbo Christian as his cook for 29 years and his personal doctor was also a Christian and he saw nothing wrong in it. Some of what we do today in the name of religion is not pleasing God,” Ogbeh said.
Chairman/CEO of LEADERSHIP Newspapers Group, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah, decried the spate of killings in the northern part of the country. ‘‘The north is in turmoil; innocent people are killed and the government is clueless. The government, which is supposed to provide security, has done little or nothing to save the situation. There are things only the government can do, but we should continue to encourage ourselves. Many people have said that poverty is the main cause of the problem but I say: countries like India and Chad have worse cases but they are not on fire. We must all wake up to our responsibility and fight this cause together,’’ he said.
National Publicity Secretary, Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), Deji Kolawole, says that attacks by Boko Haram and the reprisal attacks on innocent Muslims represents a dangerous descent into anomie reminiscent of the horrific inter-ethnic and religious war that marked the violent break-up of the former Yugoslavia. “Nigeria cannot afford to take this road to self-destruction, for when the rich make war it is the poor that suffer. We, therefore, appeal to Nigerians to exercise great restraint in the face of the constant provocation and violence perpetrated on other innocent Nigerians by terrorists under the hood of religionists whose aim is, obviously, to precipitate an ethnic cum religious war in the country. We must note that an eye for an eye would only make us all blind.”
“The government must stop viewing this problem as a regional one and indeed stop lamenting about inheriting the problem. Governments are put in place to solve problems not to join the populace in lamenting about them. We wish to serve notice to the government that we would not hesitate to call out our members starting from our Kaduna zone if government continues by its inaction to imperil the lives and limbs of Nigerians particularly those residing in the northern part of the country. We also call on traditional, political, community, and religious leaders not to stoke the embers of conflict by incendiary statements, but to be voices of reason and moderation and assist the security agencies in apprehending members of Boko Haram and stamping out this cankerworm before it becomes a malignant cancer that may spell doom for our nation,” PENGASSAN noted.
As many Nigerians who have spoken and proffered solutions to the nation’s as could be recounted, the ultimate belief is that Nigeria is undergoing a rebirth and transformation to strength and to REAL unity and progress.
Written By Muhammad Ajah