FEATURE ARTICLE

Thursday, July 18, 2019
[email protected]
New York, USA
STOP THE EMBERS OF ETHNIC TENSION FROM IGNITING INTO AN INFERNO

Those stoking the blaze must remember that in the event of violent conflict, the casualties are not only those who started the fire but cannot put it out; not only those who beat the drums of war or make claims and counter-claims. They are not just those who lose property; those who escape or those who die. We will all be casualties, even those outside, far from the scenes of anguish and ruin.

igerians woke up July 15th to another letter by Obasanjo to a sitting President. But anyone closely following the security situation in Nigeria does not need to read Obasanjo's letter to get the sense that Nigeria is slithering into the tipping point of an ethnic inferno. Nigerians are being fed a daily diet through social media of atrocities and killings allegedly perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen against family members, friends, and fellow citizens.

In the absence of an effective law enforcement system and credible news outlets, it is difficult to assess the scale of the atrocities or substantiate the claims and counterclaims made. This exacerbates the atmosphere of fear, anxiety, and paranoia. And it is apparent that little is being done to allay the fears of the people. The lack of confidence in the security apparatus and the government's inaction suggests that at some point people will take matters into their own hands.

One needs to be clear, the responsibility for protecting lives and property in any nation rests solely with the government. The government also bears the responsibility to ensure that the public receives true and accurate information regarding governance. In these two areas, the Buhari administration has failed. The government's inaction or slow response to the security crisis suggests acquiescence which lends credibility to claims of a grand agenda to Islamize the nation and the lack of diversity in the administration. Whether or not as Obasanjo noted, "The main issue... is poor management or mismanagement of diversity ", it is a glaring case of failure that must be addressed immediately.

The government has allowed the situation to fester almost to a point of no return. To douse the smoldering embers, the administration must cease all actions, real or perceived that paints a portrait of sectionalism such as federal appointments skewed to the north and the Arabic inscriptions in the currency. Nigerians are facing petrifying hardships and the menace of criminality, terrorism, and insecurity should not be added to the enormous burdens they bear - It is snuffing life out of them.

To those consciously peddling misinformation and those credulously sharing such information in social media, know that you are emissaries of destruction. The conflicts in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Nigerian civil war may be distant, but the events preceding those conflicts are eerily similar to what is simmering in Nigeria today -- the consequences will be no less dire. Many are underestimating the danger of seething anger on all sides of the divide.

There are strong indications that the southerners are losing patience and so are some northerners who feel they are being unfairly vilified. In this atmosphere, it takes a slight tinder to ignite a crisis in Nigeria that will spiral into a spluttering sub-Saharan dystopia. Professor John Pepper Clark's postmortem of the Nigerian civil war is an instructive ante mortem for the situation we are facing today.

Those stoking the blaze must remember that in the event of violent conflict, the casualties are not only those who started the fire but cannot put it out; not only those who beat the drums of war or make claims and counter-claims. They are not just those who lose property; those who escape or those who die. We will all be casualties, even those outside far from the scenes of anguish and ruin.

Therefore, let us pause and stop the embers of ethnic tension from igniting into an inferno. Buhari must start by establishing security in all corridors of transportation where killings are taking place immediately, and engage all regions of the country in a genuine dialogue to ensure safety and security. Though Obasanjo may have lost face with his pre-election antics and clever maneuvers, his observations should not be dismissed entirely. The list he suggested is a good starting point.

President Buhari, this is your second coming and second term at the helm in Nigeria. The ball is in your court. Regardless of the ethnicity or region of the opposing voices, you must live above the fray and govern as President of all Nigerians. Men of honor and integrity should also be able to demonstrate a clear vision and prowess for bold action in a crisis. The government's response that every country has security challenges is lame and tone-deaf. In a democracy, those who ignore the voices of the governed are imperiled. To be on the right side of history, you must not allow the seething anger and frustration to erupt.

"Let all desire one united Nigeria" in harmony with the hope expressed by Bongos Ikwue in his song celebrating Nigeria's independence.

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