Ordinarily one should not be talking of heroes or villains in a yet to be fought, won or lost battle. However, as we continue to chronicle the unfolding events engendered by agitations for secession by Nnamdi Kanu’s Biafran group and the Northern Youth coalition’s quit notice, there are people/groups who have tirelessly doused tensions with disarming words, comments and acts of good gesture. I used Kanu’s Biafran group advisedly because with the passage of time in the last few weeks, it has come to light that Kanu’s miniscule group does not represent the entire Igbo interests (rooted in commerce all over the country), although they initially dithered on their stand. I’m also not referring to the Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, whose constitutional duty is first and foremost to keep Nigeria united, provide security and welfare, commendable as his efforts are. Nor am I referring to the governors who threatened to arrest the quit ‘noticers’ but have suddenly developed cold feet. These (Osinbajo and the governors) are politicians whose error of omission led to the fragmentation, and gathering storm hovering over the nation. The acting vice president and governors are impliedly symbolic representatives of politicians generally. This is not to discountenance the exertion they have put in so far. It is obviously not about subversive elements and hate campaigners, their sponsors, the social media rats who feed fat on conflicts, political turmoil, whip up sentiments and post false stories to attract traffic to their sites and blogs. Heroism is beyond these elements.
My idea of heroes in this lingering North/South-East conundrum are those pockets of people who do small things with huge significance. In The Sun of last week, the story of a robbery case in Onne, Port Harcourt, was published. To me, this story should have been highlighted on the front page, but this is a matter touching on the news judgement of editors: In this case, it was published on an inside page either to avoid inflaming the emotions of people or because the victims were not from the newspaper’s catchment area. In the report, the armed robbers were said to have attacked one Mr. Garuba, his wife and child. The man, who was a truck driver and had lived in Onne for years, wrestled with robbers, overpowered and killed one of them. Out of anger, the other robbers unleashed terror; they ran outside, locked Garuba and his family in the house, sprayed fuel on the building and set it ablaze. Garuba and his family died in the inferno. But that’s not where the story was, newsworthy as it is. When Garuba’s brother was asked whether the killing had anything to do with the on-going hate-mongering and hot exchange of words in parts of the North where they come from, in relation to the South where they live, his brother rejected the conspiracy theory outrightly. He said his late brother was just a victim of criminally wicked armed robbers, as the tragic fate that befell him had got nothing to do with ethnic hatred, if any, for Hausas in Rivers State. His late brother, he said, had lived in that community in harmony and peaceful co-existence for years and the people had no ill-feelings towards him to the point of wanting to eliminate him.
Garuba is gone, but his brother who narrated the story could have magnified it to fit into the current hate narrative, if he so desired. These are people we should celebrate, and not paper tigers, attention seekers and those who hide under political correctness and skilfully planted seeds of discord, hate and subversion. Of course, there are people who share materials that border on the unity and indivisibility of the country. The carnage in Rwanda, its genesis being in hate speech and mutual suspicion, would resonate in Nigeria if men of conscience do not speak up or act right. These are the heroes of the moment. Lately too, I’ve seen governors of the South-East, like Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi who felicitated and hosted the Hausa community in Enugu, while fiery trouble-weary Wike did the same in Port Harcourt and Hon. Pat Asadu in Nsukka/Igboeze South Federal constituency, besides the reassurance to Igbos from governors from the North, like Kashim Shettima, Nasir El-Rufai, Ibrahim Geidam and others. All these are reassuring messages needed at a time like this.
Unfortunately, there is a downside to the story narrated above. In all the crime-related stories I have read, I have never come across armed robbers setting a house ablaze because of the failure to rob their target, or because the would-be victim had the effrontery to stand up to them. My fear is that, just as some citizens think out of the box to repel marauders, criminals may resort to arson tactics, besides arms and dangerous weapons for vendetta if they fail. In the same spirit, the police should muffle Evans, the Terrible (for now), from revealing all his strategies, because as you and I are feasting on the juicy revelations, criminals are taking a cue from his exploits.
Ms Okino can be reached at z[email protected]