Because of goons and their guns, governance is kept in abeyance. The sound of guns and the gush of blood have swamped the voices of Nigerians and sullied their garments. Except for Governors Samuel Ortom of Benue and Nyesom Wike of Rivers, all other political leaders and so-called statesmen have retreated into the convenience of their cocoons. They will rather not speak out against the bloody marauders for fear of offending the potentate and his myriad principalities.
But pray, what shall it profit a governor if he remains silent and do nothing while his people are massacred, robbed, raped and molested in the most savage show of bestiality. The nation is convulsing. There is ongoing massacre of the innocent, of the weak, hapless poor. Bayonets have taken the place of books. And they say we should not talk about it. They cow us not to resort to ethnic profiling. They tell us it’s okay for one ethnic group to carry guns to protect their cows. They tell us it’s okay if cow lives are preserved in lieu of human lives; that we must yield our farmlands with crops and all to herders and their herds. They tells us we must not say a particular ethnic group is chief culprit in the bloody bazaar of brigandage across the nation.
Sadly, and very much so too, the current Nigerian leadership is not helping matters. Rather than bind us, it divides us further, widening the ethno-religious margins, constricting the strictures of ethnicity and pumping up the pressure on our collective existence. The leadership neither speaks the language of federalism, nor the tongue of nationalism. Just plain relapse into the tribesman syndrome. The one tribe tells the others, bend your back. They bend it. It tells them, abdicate your land, they’re all mine. They do in helpless surrender. It tells them, drop your guns. They oblige. It adds them to its already well-stocked arsenal. And the leadership says it’s a thing of beauty that you give up your identity, your heritage and inheritance for the herders and their herds for peace to reign.
But, hell, it’s not. It’s not proper, neither comely. No one, neither ethnic group nor religious sect, has more rights in Nigeria than the others. It’s as toxic as it’s dangerous to hawk such proposition. This is why all men of good conscience must stand up to this perilous paradigm. It’s a new order brewed in hell. If allowed to stand, if left to fester, will drive the nation to the precipice of another war. God forbid!
Unfortunately, those who should speak out and excoriate the proponents of this noxious new order are sitting at ease in Zion. They have sealed their lips just so they can seal the certainty of their political future. They refuse to stand for something; something as invaluable as a restructured Nigeria along strong regional lines with a unifying centre. They refuse to stand for meritocracy as against the pervading culture of nepotism. Save for Ortom and Wike who have continued to stand for something, something as crucial as defending the lives and property of their people, the other leaders have swallowed their tongues.
Yet, they ought to stand for something. They ought to stand for a Nigeria where justice, fairness and equity are the props of nationhood. The Queen of American civil rights and liberties, Rosa Parks, once said: “Stand for something or you will fall for anything. Today’s mighty oak is yesterday’s nut that held its ground.” This is the time for the real patriots in this country, irrespective of tribe, tongue and religion to hold their ground just so that today’s nuts sown by the devil and his recruits do not grow into mighty oak trees tomorrow when it would have become impossible to contain their growth.
Nigeria is walking the treacherous path to Lebanon, the bumpy route to South Sudan and Somalia; the nuked road to Afghanistan. And all our statesmen could do is to maintain a discomfiting stoic silence. Silence may be golden, but not all the time. This is one of those moments when silence is as deadly as the reapers of blood and harvesters of human lives.
I like that Governor Bala Mohammed is talking. Except that he’s talking to divide, not to unite. He’s talking to justify killings of others by his tribesmen, not to comfort the grieving tribe of the bereaved. I am elated that Sheikh Gumi, our modern day mediator, is speaking out. But here, he speaks to incite. The mediator bears no emblem of peace. He mediates as a merchant, a mercantilist motivated by lucre and driven only by lust for money. He helps not the cause of peace. Then, there is that chameleonic governor of Plateau state: Simon Lalong who would rather assume any colour to suit his convenience than stand for anything. He’s neither here nor there, a typical case of the lukewarm believer in a cause. Lalong is a lawyer. Lawyers are trained to stand for something. Not this Lalong. He stands for all things, and invariably for nothing. What a shame!
And the drums of war beat louder. Against every grain of reason, President Muhammadu Buhari seems far detached from reality. I doubt if Mr. President is aware of the thickening sediments of hate and mistrust among Nigerians along ethno-religious lines, between herders and farmers, between the north and the south. It’s frightening. And it is clearly in the President’s place to clear the distrust.
Again, sadly, it’s the poor, forlorn Nigerians that are applauding and egging on the bourgeoisie merchants of hate. They forget that “war is a massacre of people who don’t know each other for the profit of people who know each other.” (Apologies to Paul Valery, that inimitable French poet and philosopher). When the bourgeois promoters of the new order of domination lead the nation to the brinks of war, they will be the first to ship out of the country in their private jets and chartered flights leaving behind the exploited proletariat who knew not each other to kill themselves. That’s the dilemma of the blind mob. Nigeria is a vast minefield of blind mobs, made up of poor, disoriented folks; some lettered, some not so lettered and the rest the archetypical flotsam and jetsam of society, all of whom have made themselves cheap and willing tools to be exploited by the nouveau riche.
And while they bicker among themselves, more and more of them are shipped into the pit of poverty. The World Bank predicts that 15 to 20 million Nigerians would slip into poverty by 2022. This is in addition to the 100 million Nigerians already languishing in the poverty republic created by the incompetence of the leadership elite.
I’m in shock that any sane mind would censure Ortom for his courage to speak out or attack Wike for his boldness to voice his preference for peace as against some people’s proclivity for war. The voices of these two stand-out governors who have chosen to stand for something – Peace- must never be cowed. Instead, their voices deserve amplification to drown out the insipid chants of war from the likes of Mohammed and Gumi.