“Nigeria is not at peace and unity and cooperation with itself. Great chasms yawn between ethnographic, ethnofaith and ethnocentric groups. Our unhappy Nigeria is torn and tortured, and the peoples of this country walk in fear lest, through no fault of theirs, the dogs of war are unchained once again.”
On April 26, 1937, 12 bombers of the German Condor Legion and the Italian Aviazione Legionaria flew low over the Basque country of Spain in the midst of the Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1939). They tore down over the small town of Guernica, where they let loose their fiery arsenal. Almost 2,000 people died in that defenceless town. Noel Monk of the Daily Express (London) was one of the first reporters to enter the town, hours after the bombers dropped their ordnance. In Eyewitness (1955), Monk wrote, “A sight that haunted me for weeks was the charred bodies of several women and children huddled together in what had been the cellar of a house. It had been a ‘refugio,’ a refuge. Pablo Picasso, the artist, was so moved by news of the fascist bombing raid on this town that he painted his most powerful work – Guernica (1937) – that now hangs in Madrid’s Reina Sofia.”
At the entrance of the United Nations Security Council in New York City hangs a tapestry of Picasso’s Guernica that had been made by the weaver Jacqueline de la Baume Dürrbach in 1955. When US Secretary of State Colin Powell came to the UN in early 2003 to make his “alleged” – false – comments about weapons of mass destruction about Iraq, the UN staff covered the tapestry with a blue cloth. In 1923, Picasso told Marius de Zayas, “art is a lie that makes us realise truth.” The lies that led to the US war on Iraq could not be told with Guernica as backdrop.
In the last few weeks, it has been what former President Olusegun Obasanjo said and what he did not say; the federal government has replied, discourse is ongoing, but reality is hardly examined. We are as usual left with more questions than answers, questions like but not restricted to, is Nigeria free, and is freedom paid for by blood, and are we treading that line or are we living a lie?
We are divided on the Fulani radio, others ask, what about IPOB or Biafra radio. You would recall Radio Kudirat. Conversations around the bulk of our security apparatchik coming from a section of the country haven’t solved insecurity because the dogs of war are being unchained by lack of dialogue.
“Fulanisation” and “Islamisation” have not solved the collective fear of the Igbos or the preparedness of the Yorubas or the fact that WAZOBIA has acted like only them exists.
I was sometime ago at a Koranic school graduation. The Islamic scholar who preached lamented that there were Christian schools everywhere, how every church had a school — some even from primary to tertiary level. He postulated that it was part of Christianisation, Muslims barely have three universities, and he sermonised on and on. While he spoke I reflected on the war between MURIC and CAN. Neither of the groups is dialoguing about an increasing population that is bringing nothing than division and a potent tool for a war that will profit an elite class.
Call me naive. I have often stated that you cannot fight for the Almighty Allah and that I know because the Holy One can and always will fight His battle whether committed by the traditionalist, Muslim or Christian, at least for those that believe. So, why the hue, cry and fear?
In the words of Jawaharlal Nehru, “I want nothing to do with any religion concerned with keeping the masses scarified to live in hunger, filth and arrogance. I want nothing to do with any order, religion or otherwise, which does not teach people that they are capable of becoming happier and more civilised, on this earth.”
The dogs that are being unchained will have enough of touts, jobless young men for the wanton destruction, hence, as a society we have failed in encrypting the virtues of the practice of religion into them, be it Christian virtues, Islamic beliefs or traditional and moral teachings. Hence the politicians are not afraid of the coming revolution.
I never forget this analogy, whether it was a paper presentation or essay, I cannot remember now, but I am sure it was on religion. There is this book called Disappearance. It is divided into two parts. Part one is an imaginary account of a world in which men wake up one day and discover that all women have vanished. All the women! The rest of that first part talks about how men tried to survive on their own. The second part was a reverse, our women woke up and discover that the men have disappeared from the face of the earth. The speaker asks us to imagine both scenarios.
Would life be easier for Christians, if we woke up and found that all Muslims have vanished? Would life be easier for us Muslims if we woke up and found all Christians gone? While these questions sound a bit silly, they are the true test of our appreciation of our slaughterhouse mentality, especially in the North, the Niger Delta and the entire nation as a whole. Does the killing of another bring back the already dead? No, it only births a circle of revenge, vengeance, retaliation, retribution, and the madness continues. We cannot fight for Almighty Allah and He created us the way we are, colour, creed, race, tribe, and religion, but we are one in His sight.
I end in this manner: A Gestapo officer barged into Picasso’s apartment in Paris. There was a photograph of Guernica on the wall. The Gestapo officer asked if Picasso had done the painting. “No,” Picasso replied. “You did.”
Whatever happens to Nigeria in the next few years, we cannot deny responsibility, whether there is revolution, restructuring, war, or a renewed pursuit for a great nation. Only time would tell.