English literary genius, William Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, in part confronts humanity with a distressing choice between life and vengeance on one hand and death by suicide on another hand with all the consequences of eternal damnation. In the play, the young Hamlet who just returned from Germany to attend his father’s funeral is caught in a dilemma whether to die by suicide or to live and avenge the death of his father in the hands of his uncle Claudius who usurps the throne and marries his mother Gertrude. Thus, caught in a web of indecision, prince Hamlet enthuses the popular phrase “to be or not to be, that is the question”. The foregoing quote by prince Hamlet has offered a platform for diverse interpretations of contemporary reality and today, it is impossible to think of events in Nigeria without echoing the same phrase “to be or not to be, that is the question”.
“To be or not to be, that is the question” is a phrase that should agitate the mind of every responsible and well-meaning Nigerian. Events in the country today, while violating the inner sanctum of the soul, bestows on the mind a feeling of revulsion and a crippling resignation to fate. There is blood everywhere, the sanctity of human life is daily desecrated by commissioned murderers suspected to be herdsmen. Many people believe that these blood hungry savages, by their daily activities are committed to decimate the Nigerian populace gradually but systemically. It is indeed regrettable that our country has become a slaughter slab where empowered murderers kill for fun in revenge for the lives of cows and sundry items of livestock. The situation in our country has degenerated to a point where the lives and well-being of livestock are of more value than the lives of human beings. Reports assail our sensibilities on daily basis, figures of deaths are reeled out as if mosquitoes are the objects of death. To concerned citizens, there seems to be an ethnic cleansing agenda with a dastard resolve to enthrone a rule of conquer and subjugation orchestrated by the herdsmen. Nigerians now live in daily fear of tomorrow, everyday brings its own tragedy as the unprotected, in their daily engagements walk into guaranteed perdition, chambers of sorrow, tears and bloodshed. Should we indeed continue to live in our country under such reign of fear, impending death and a constant reminder that our lives are of less value than that of cows or are there other alternatives to the subsisting malady? Should we, in all equitable consciousness accept to continue to be butchered and buried in mass graves in our country or is there another option to the raging inferno that seeks to consume us? Let every Nigerian ask that question which the young prince Hamlet asked, “to be or not to be, that is the question”.
“To be” simply means that we accept the present protocol of death and anguish and we are ready to live by it, bearing its consequences, wiping our eyes, moving on and finding a way to sooth our timid consciences with such timorous phrases as “there is God o”. “To be” inevitably means that we are ready to support and entrench a circus of innately wicked people who care less about the lives of Nigerians and will rather have cows and other objects of livestock as subjects rather than human beings. “To be” is a tacit and unconscious acquiescence to the daily plundering of our lives, the vicious defiling of our mothers and sister, the sickening and barbaric butchering of our babies and the searing decapitation of our fathers and brothers with sophisticated weapon originally meant for fierce warfare. “To be” means that we accept to be docile, watching with our eyes open while the murderers enter our cities, our homes, our markets and our roads to kill through acts of ruthless slaughter.
On the other hand, to embrace the second alternative of “not to be” is to rise and say no to all forms of calculated killings and wanton massacre of ourselves and that of fellow citizens. To embrace Hamlet’s “not to be” is to reject vehemently all structures that promote the lives of livestock over the lives of human beings in our country. Although T. Y Danjuma has called on Nigerians to protect themselves against what he calls a deliberate attempt to wipe them out under different guises, reports of the modus operandi of the killer herdsmen show that they operate with 21st century sophisticated assault rifles and AK 47 which are very expensive paraphernalia of warfare. How then can ordinary citizens protect themselves in the face of assault, imminent death and mass burial? If we desire to reject burial by installment, if we desire to reject to be slaughtered in thousands, if we desire to
restore the value of our lives above those of livestock, then we must immediately embrace “not to be”and do the needful.
To embrace “not to be” should go beyond mere lip service, it should go beyond social media outburst of angst and rage, it should go beyond politicizing the death and threats of death that daily confront us. It is obvious that Nigerians have been incapacitated by the Nigeria Police not to carry arms or protect themselves so that the war can be effectively won and lost, but we can do something as a demonstration of our will to embrace “not to be”. Every Nigerian of voting age should immediately go and register to vote, it is through the instrumentality of voting, the only option left to Nigerians that we can demonstrate a concrete resolve in embracing “not to be” It is disturbing that INEC, the body charged with the responsibility of registering voters and conducting elections recently declared that more than 10 million voters cards have not been collected and indeed, many more millions have not registered to vote. If we claim to support “not to be” and we do not act to support our position, it simply means that we have in order words unconsciously taken a decision to die and be buried in one big grave. It means that we have accepted to watch while the macabre dance of death enters our household, unannounced. The truth is that no one is safe or protected, not by law, not by money, not by position and not by geography.
It is commendable that President Muhammadu Buhari is making efforts to restructure Nigeria’s security apparatus as a response to the carnage. However, what is required is immediate military response against the herdsmen, the kind he unleashed on IPOB and the Shiites.
If we allow the curtain to fall over Nigeria, the situation will be worse than what happened in Rwanda but only comparable to what happened to the Jews during the second world war. If we do not embrace “not to be” I foresee a situation where death camps like Hitler’s Sobibor will be established and Nigerians will be taken there to be wiped out and cooked in gas chambers. We must make a choice before the curtain falls.
Adiele writes from Department of English University of Lagos via [email protected]