Thursday, May 6, 2021

Violence in northern Nigeria, by Prof. Abubakar Liman


Jaafar Jaafar
Jaafar Jaafar is a graduate of Mass Communication from Bayero University, Kano. He was a reporter at Daily Trust, an assistant editor at Premium Times and now the editor-in-chief of Daily Nigerian.
tiamin rice

In several articles on this platform, I have attempted to broach the problems afflicting northern Nigeria, our part of the country that is fast sliding into a state of anarchy. And as much as possible I have tried to look at issues objectively because of my belief in the fact that sentimental response to social issues is not going to take us anywhere. However, the most unnerving thing is that cross-sections of vociferous elements amongst us prefer to be sentimental while addressing our collective problems, which in their own reckoning militate against the development and progress of plural and diverse communities populating northern Nigeria. How far can these sentimentalists go with their negative approach? I cannot say. I really don’t clearly understand their intentions and motivations in pushing for violence and mayhem. But I do know it, as the Hausa people would say, like the back of my hand that the circles of tit for tat we have engaged ourselves in are not going to yield anything positive for anybody. There is only going to be more violence and destruction of lives and property without end. What’s more, northern Nigerian society is going to be the ultimate loser.

Looking at our bloodstained checklist, the frequency and scale of death and destruction resulting from communal violence in our region is unbearable. Violence is now the rule rather than the exception. Well meaning Nigerians must come together to stop all forms of violence in the society. Violence has to be stopped by all means. Otherwise, northern Nigeria will be turned into Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia and South Sudan – all rolled into a huge genocidal killing field. From Zangon Kataf and Kafanchan violence in the 1980s to Kaduna, Kano, Jos reprisal killings, and from even the current violence unleashed through farmers/herders clashes, rural banditry, kidnappings for ransom and youth restiveness, ethno-religious identity time bomb, the measures we are adopting to avert more conflicts have clearly not been working. And people have since lost confidence in the capacity of our security agencies to arrest violent conflagrations in different parts of Nigeria. Consequently, they resort to violence, because it appears to them to be the only means of settling scores.

To put it mildly, the measures that governments at various levels are deploying have not been effective. Otherwise, if our problems have been properly diagnosed and appropriate measures taken, we would not be perpetually gyrating in some vicious circles of violence. There is therefore the urgent need for government and other stakeholders in the society to go back to the drawing board to honestly and sincerely redress the violence that is threatening to consume our entire part of Nigeria. But even that does not seem to be forthcoming. Violent flashpoints in the North are threatening to overwhelm the capacity of the Nigerian State in its primary role of providing security to lives and property. Between 2007 and 2018, northern Nigeria has witnessed countless scores of violent conflagrations in the Northeast from of Boko Haram insurgency; and in Benue, Plateau Taraba and Zamfara states out of communal clashes and herders/farmers conflicts. Anyway, the statistics of death and destruction are to say the least multiplying by the day. And the perpetrators of pogrom in all parts of northern Nigeria are continuing to have a field day. Criminals are indeed becoming very bold through their acts of criminality.

And with each circle of pogrom our internal capacity to arrest our slide to, God forbid, a point in which we can no longer help ourselves is eroding. By ourselves, I mean those seemingly inconsequential efforts we embark upon individually and collectively to foster understanding between communities, despite of course the efforts of the Nigerian state, our security institutions most especially, to ensure that we live peacefully on the basis of mutual respect, justice and equity. In case we don’t know, building bridges of peaceful coexistence, mutual understanding and harmony between our variegated communities is the most vital task before well-meaning northern Nigerians. We cannot afford to continue on the path of violence and destruction. Although insecurity and violence are now taking a large chunk of the time the society is supposed to devout to worthwhile endeavors, there is however nothing as important to us as restoring trust, peace, order and stability to our communities. Those that are promoting violence in our society do not seem to understand the correlation between peaceful coexistence and human development. In fact, no society can develop through insecurity and instability. This malady is only going to perpetuate our collective misery.

Currently, our security apparatus appears to be somewhat overstretched due largely to their incompetence in handling communal violence. As a result, the impression that people are coming out with is that even the government seems to be helpless in the face of the security challenges gripping the region. Our security situation is deteriorating because of the poor handling of outbreaks of violence by the different segments of our law enforcement agencies. Similarly, as a nation we are not learning from our past mistakes. We keep on repeating the same mistakes over and over in addressing communal violence. Our conflict resolution mechanisms are also very weak in a context where primordial considerations are put forward before the collective interests of either the region or Nigeria as a whole. Of course, this situation is accentuated by lack of motivation, corruption, incompetence and poor working environment for our security personnel.

The creeping state of anarchy has not just happened to us in a day. For sometimes now a number of factors have conspired to push us to this undesirable state of anomie. Our cultural and traditional values have collapsed in the face of unbridled materialism and wholesale transplantation of foreign values that we are ignorantly aping. Corruption, injustice, nepotism, self-aggrandizement and other forms of inequities have since displaced the traditional hierarchies that used to guide our sense of morality and ethics. Have we forgotten that the African traditional leadership structures embodied by elders in our communities are all about morality and ethics? All these values have disappeared without concrete replacements. There is no worthwhile sense of propriety in how we conduct our own affairs as individuals, as groups and even as communities. Not anymore. Even our inherited structures of leadership and values have been completely abandoned by those in positions of power and authority. In fact, all segments of the elite in the society are not living up to their responsibility of providing effective leadership to the people.

Today, people are left to the vagaries of spiritual merchants and religious hermits who cannot differentiate their right from their left. Churches and mosques have effectively replaced education institutions in the task of shaping the social and moral consciousness of northern Nigerians. These key places of worship that are supposed to enhance our common humanity have been turned into breeding grounds for instigating violence, mutual suspicion, extremist behavior, intolerance and bigotry. Most religious leaders are preaching hatred and violence rather than love, peace and our common humanity as inscribed in the scriptures and faith systems they claim to be propagating. Our major religious institutions have become a free-for-all pad upon which crass stupidity, blind materialism, godlessness and even violence are openly canvassed. Religion and ethnicity have become Siamese twins that are fuelling violence and pogrom in northern Nigeria. However, only very few individuals could see the inherent danger of treading the direction that our religious establishments are pushing our society.

Worst of all, both mass media and social media have been turned into platforms for the promotion of ethno-religious agendas where centrifugal forces that are interested in thwarting our hard-earned unity are freely operating. The existing inclinations to plunge Nigeria into chaos have considerably weakened the fabric of the nation to the extent that we are no longer capable of bonding on the basis of the spirit of patriotism, or forging a robust nation out of our common national values and ideals of citizenship despite our complexities and diversities. Instead, we are becoming more and more fragmentary in our outlooks and views on national issues. Nigeria is today characterized by discordant voices of disunity and chaos. Our diversities and differences are not serving as sources of our strength and templates for socio-economic growth and development. If other diverse nations can put their acts together, nothing can stop it from happening in Nigeria. Therefore, if we cannot jell as a postcolonial African nation we should forget any dream of becoming great in either Africa or in the world. Should we decide to balkanize the country into smaller quisling sub-nationalities, history is certainly not going to be kind to us as we are seeing its verdict on the new nation of South Sudan.

There must be a realistic way out of our current predicament, which clearly requires us to collectively source good and visionary leadership for the survival of Nigeria from the machinations of both its internal and external enemies.

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