Today’s topic is very important not necessarily because of the complexities of the matters involved in either hate actions or hate speeches. It is also not essentially about threat they constitute to the citizens’ inalienable right to life or to the nation which offers the people a platform to exercise their rights. The significance of this discourse from my perspective is taken from the way we act and the things we do to ourselves. By now we should be tired of going round what Prof. Wole Soyinka has rightly said is a “cycle of national stupidity.” From the look of things the utterances, disposition and policy outlook of our political class, especially those in public office seems to suggest only one thing, that we are a people with bad conscience and hard to learn mindset.
At the point of writing this article I was very angry, and if the factors remain the same, this anger will last for long. Last week my focus was on the persona in the Executive arm and their aides. Increasingly, political appointees are misbehaving. Many of them are not working to build a healthy and progressive nation. Their activities, utterances and policies are creating problems for the central leadership and throwing the nation into greater mess and turmoil. Many of the so-called appointees are small minds, ethnic and religious champions, who can’t grow above their narrow confines. If they had a global mindset and had capacity some of the petty matters hindering development would either not be or would have been done away with long ago. We are under change but it should surprise us that we are still giving primary attention to mundane issues like social relations between component parts, foreign exchange for pilgrims, secret recruitments, turning our guns on citizens and the most obnoxious talking down on fellow citizens and insisting that a union of living beings is non-negotiable. Where have we seen such a thing except in animal kingdom?
Our nation is said to have well over 100 universities and most of them have Political Science departments managed by world acclaimed professors and other cadre of very brilliant scholars; departments from which many intelligent Nigerians have graduated into the larger society. It is in this same society that some leaders holding strategic positions sing wrong songs including the aforementioned. I have read history and I can confirm that such things did happen elsewhere but it was in times when myopic and misguided leaders beat society’s safety nets either by force, subversion or unholy alliance to find themselves in leadership positions. Time has passed and civilization has grown; what was tolerated then can certainly not be acceptable now. Oscar Wilde was right when he said agitation is the mark of progress. It is unfortunate we see advocacies for progress as an affront. It is worse we believe our answer to every disenchantment must be force. We missed it in the North East, nearly in the Niger Delta and now about to commit the biggest blunder in the South East, as if we are under some spell.
Let me make a critical observation before we move on. I am angry but want to assure it is an anger directed at the system and the actions of a few who make us look stupid. The North, East and West have their shortcomings and the point we miss is that not everybody in those regions subscribes to the issues that brought about the errors. There are many citizens from the East, West and particularly the North, who strongly believe our challenges have been made terrible by few who always hijack power and assume offices far above their competences. It is important to add that we are all co-conspirators. When we collect money and allow nincompoops to take over the public space, the consequences of what we do should be clear to us.
The productive soil for democratic growth is eternal vigilance. It is possible we don’t know about this dictum or know but believe it is of no significance. Today we want peace but nobody is giving a thought to justice, equity and fair play. We had made mistakes in the past but no sensible people will continue on a path that has always led to disastrous consequences. It is anti-harmony at a time of change to fill the kitchen cabinet of the President for instance, with members of his region and religious faith. If it happened in the past it is wrong and if with the kind of society and problems we have, we continue with that trend then it is a malady taken too far.
It would not matter the place of origin of the leader in power, if the above is what obtains, it is wrong and we should be able to tell the leader so without equivocation. If we want genuine peace, it is necessary we insist that sustainable remedy start from the root cause and not the symptoms. One of the solutions should be to put a check on the disposition, utterances and policy formulation of hired aides because leaders are as good as the qualities of their aides. President Muhammadu Buhari is a very good man yet it is important we state there are enough signals to show he has become a victim of ethnic jingoists and religious irredentists. Today the President, Senate President, 95 per cent of the security chiefs and key heads of strategic federal agencies are from the same region and nearly of the same faith, yet nobody sees issues of hate actions that are precursors to hostile relationships and hate speeches. Majority of police commissioners and military commanders in Southern Nigeria, especially in the old Eastern region are from the core North and of Islamic faith. Talk of internal colonialism.
There is the herdsmen menace and yet no one is aware of anybody standing trial on that score. In Kano, Zamfara and Niger states, Christians and fellow Nigerians were gruesomely murdered on account of religious blasphemy and it is like the perpetrators have the freedom to do what they did and get away with it. In this same region, Christian girl-children are abducted and forcefully married out to Muslims with the consent of the traditional rulers. This is a major hate action yet our advocates of peace and unity see and hear no evil.
It is out of place to equate the Arewa youths exuberance with what IPOB is doing, one is lawless and the other lawful, yet the illegal is allowed to meet in the open, commit clear treasonable felony and the authorities say the felons, who admitted to the backings of their elders, are beyond arrest; the Internal Affairs Minister said so. The irony is that the lawful are on trial, a clear case of double standard. The Minister of Justice is one of those who do not wish our President well and one of his nasty acts is his recent move to have Nnamdi Kanu rearrested and detained. If that intention goes through am sure the action will become a terrible dent on the psyche of the Igbo as a collective and something tells me it could boomerang on a larger scale than the instigators would have envisaged. Hate action is the mother of hate speech.