E O EkeSaturday, August 18, 2012



Continued from Part 4

igeria government is seeking dialogue with the wrong people. Instead of seeking dialogue with the greater majority of the law abiding citizens of Nigeria on the ways to make the country better, She is spending time and resources attempting to talk to people whose delusional beliefs about God has no room for reason, or respect for the liberty of others. I suppose the people the government should be talking to, should be the long suffering ordinary Nigerians, impoverished by successive government corruption and attacked daily by Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram. The government should be talking to them about how they can make themselves safe and the various ways it can help to protect then and make their lives better. The government should be holding consultations across the country, and formulating ways it can work together with the people to defeat this scourge born of ignorance, religious delusions and ethnic prejudice. How can a serious and competent government be talking to an armed group which declared war against her unilaterally, and has stated that its aim is to destroy her; but fails to prepare and equip its citizens to defend themselves and defeat the enemy? This is yet evidence that the government of Nigeria operates on a logic that would seem inaccessible to rational minds.

The reasonable thing for a state threatened by an insurgent group would seem to be to listen to its citizens and do what is in the best interest of the majority of its citizens. The majority of Nigerians want to live in a safe and secured country where they would be free to pursue happiness without fear or molestation from kidnappers, armed robbers Boko Haram or any group or individuals. The greater majority of Nigerians want a new constitution that would deliver freedom, security, justice, development, equality and true federation. Nigerians want a new education policy that would make quality education accessible to all and enable them fulfil their potentials. Nigerians want a new health policy that would make health accessible to all in a way and manner that would end the current heartless exploitation by doctors and health care practitioners and address the challenge of diseases like AIDS and Malaria in the country. Nigerians want a good government led by honest and patriotic Nigeria who would see the evil of corruption and the cost of government and do everything to address them to free resources for development.

All over the world, religious fundamentalism is on the rise, especially Islamic militancy. They are characterised by a common feature. The conviction that they are right about God and therefore justified in the use of terror against people they define as enemies. Their aim is to impose a religious worldview on all . However, the peculiarity of the Nigerian situation is that, it is the first time politicians in a supposedly secular democracy would use them to pursue sectarian political objective. The activities of Boko Haram strike at the unity of Nigeria and seriously threaten the survival of Nigeria as a united Country. Those who are supporting Boko Haram, overtly by providing them with funds or assisting them to transfer and receive fund, or covertly; by their ominous silence and refusal to condemn them and failure to take active part in defeating them; seem to have forgotten that those who ride the tiger usually end inside the Tiger’s stomach. They have failed to take sufficiently on board, the fact that, fundamentalist Muslim and Christian groups eventually dominate everybody unless they are defeated. This is for the simple reason that the only position they would agree to, is theirs'. It is very clear that the greatest threat to the unity and survival of Nigeria is religion and ethnic nationalism, particularly Islam and the persistence of northern states in implementing Sharia laws, and the predominant Christian world view in the south which believes it is in the right about God. Religious extremists do not understand dialogue and see compromise as weakness.

The North of Nigeria is already an Islamic republic and Boko Haram is simply being used to consolidate it and intimidate those would be minded to resist it. Nigeria will begin to implode when the predominate Christian south finally articulate a narrative for its retaliation which will polarised the country and seal the faith of Nigeria in a self-destructive war. What happened in Lebanon in the 1970s and currently taking place in Syria will be child’s’ play. Nigeria will become a theatre of a mixture of ethnic and religious wars fought against perceived enemies, without clear reasons why their objectives must be achieved through violence; and the only winners will be those who are manufacturing the guns and bullets we will need to destroy ourselves. Nigeria is under threat from a monster breed in the north in the name of Islam and all should wake up to the serious threat it poses to our cooperate existence as one united country. It is not enough for the government to issue prewritten condemnation after each senseless and unjustifiable loss of lives, and then do nothing to find those who have been affected with view to compensating them and helping them in their grief. The Nigerian government is not doing enough. It can do better and I urge it to do better because Nigerians deserve better.

These are issues the present governments would have been grabbling with if it is a truly democratic government and alive to its responsibilities. A government cannot claim to be democratic, when it is ignoring the views, desires and aspirations of the people it claims to represent. A country cannot claim to be united when it operates two different system of governments, Islamic theocracy in the north and democracy paralysed by corruption in the south. Nigerian government cannot use Boko Haram as an excuse for abandon its responsibilities to the people. Unlike what some people in the government think, democratic governments listen to the people they represent. The duty of government is not for politicians to do what they like, but to act in the best interest of the people. This is currently lacking in the Nigeria democracy. Nigeria should not be closed for business because a mad group is running around killing people while soldiers who have collected salaries for years for doing nothing stand idle because of ethnic and religious considerations.

A government cannot claim to be democratic, when it is pursuing goals that are at variance with what the people want. Using the army to intimidate the people. Using force to Maintain the unity of the country by the army occupying oil producing states, while leaving Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen to continue their terror and ethnic cleansing while targeted assassinations of Nigerians goes on. This is simply despicable, unacceptable, indefensible and wrong. Nigerian government cannot claim to be democratic, when it is unable to investigate crimes, bring criminals to justice or prosecute politicians whose greed and selfishness are undermining the unity and cooperate existence of the country. How can a government earn respect and legitimacy, when it prefers to negotiate with those who break the laws it swore an oath to uphold, instead of prosecuting them? No government has any excuse for not doing what it was elected to do. There is no excuse for incompetence, cowardice, and corruption. It is yet the clearest evidence that the Nigerian government is acting in the best interest of other group apart from the people it claims to represents. The current response of the Nigerian government to the problems facing the country is wrong as it is not addressing the problems and what is important to majority of its citizens. The government is only postponing the evil day, and sooner than later, the patience of the long suffering majority will run out and the government will realise that no army or terrorist group can stop the will of the people when they have had enough. Soon Nigerians will be forced to fight, not because they will win, but because they do not want to continue to live in fear and as slaves.

Many Nigerians are justifiably angry, disillusioned and reject the present order. Unfortunately, they have chosen to deny the reality in their rejection of the status quo. They seem not to realise that Nigeria is what it is today because criminal elements from the north, east, west and south have hijacked its politics and perfected the abuse of democratic process to retain power. Even though the feudal north have in the past expressed repugnant imperialistic views about Nigeria and other ethnic groups, and continue to pursue a sectarian ethnic and religious agenda that show contempt for the constitution of Nigeria; they cannot be entirely be responsible for the corruption of politicians like James Ibori and co, and the inability of the present government to find direction for the country. Those who want a new Nigeria will have to overcome their feelings about prejudiced views expressed in ignorance, and feudal north must embrace true democracy, the rule of law, and abandon subterfuge, sharia law and its intolerant and extreme Islamic agenda. Otherwise, Nigeria cannot continue to exist in its present form. Those who are using Boko Haram ‘to put pressure on Nigeria’ will have to accept that the days when they lord it over Nigerians have come to an end. The attempt by a part of the north to intimidate the rest of Nigeria by Islamic terrorism, insisting on occupying particular strategic security positions and ethnic cleansing of its minority groups will fail, and leave them worse off. The north has to moderate its greed. The oil and other natural resources belong to the people who live in the area where it is located. The north has no ancestral or natural claim to the oil in Niger delta region and beyond, except as it continues to be a part of the geographical entity called Nigeria. It is in its best interest for Nigeria to survive and should therefore stop taking the good will of the people who bear the ecological cost of what it has benefited most from, for granted. As we know, greed often blinds people to justice and fairness and often people sow the seed of their destruction in pursuit of their greed.

Those who wish to build a new Nigeria should be aware that the corrupt elites are determined to ensure that only those who would maintain the status quo, the very unscrupulous and debased of them, emerge as leaders. Our system is programmed to throw up as leaders, only those who would be loyal to corruption, greed, injustice, ethnic and religious prejudices and ignorance. The real challenge is to bring about a system that would enable the best of Nigerians to emerge as leaders. If not, why is president Jonathan not leading in the cleaning up of Nigeria delta from oil pollution, holding Shell to account and stopping the flaring of gas which is one of the most serious environmental pollutants of Niger delta. Who is President Jonathan afraid of? Who are those stopping him from doing what is in the best interest of the majority of Nigerians? The disintegration of Nigeria into its ethnic nations as many now passionately believe is not the only solution. Unless the problem of the worst of Nigerians emerging as its leaders and Islamic fundamentalism are solved, no new nation out of Nigeria will succeed. This is because such a nation would carry the corruption genes from Nigeria and the same criminal elements that destroyed Nigeria will emerge as leaders with the same traits, character, predispositions and attitude that destroyed Nigeria.

Today, corruption is crippling the new nation of South Sudan, just one year old. Moreover, how can the rest of Nigeria abandon the minorities in the north in a cesspit of Islamic fundamentalism and ethnic cleansing? A divided Nigeria will result in Islamic fundamentalists and Fulani herdsmen ethnically cleansing the whole of north Nigeria of Christians and other ethnic groups and remain a constant danger to people in border towns and villages. Wherever fundamentalist Islam has succeeded in gaining power, it has not allowed other religions to flourish. In Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan to mention only but three, Fundamentalist Islam the type taking root in north Nigeria, has waged war on other religions and driven them either underground, or away from the countries. Fundamentalist Islam is intolerant, and does not accommodate plurality of view and shows contempt to liberty. How can the rest of Nigerian abandon ethnic minorities in north Nigeria and non-Muslims to this fate and claim to be descent people? I would very much want to live in a peaceful Nigeria or Biafra. However, if the way the eastern states have been governed in the last 50 years is anything to go by, a Biafra free from Nigeria at this time may be like moving from frying pan to fire and I figure it is better to remain in Nigeria and fight for justice and liberty of all Nigerians because it is in their freedom and justice that I can find my peace and justice. Moreover, if the infighting in APGA and the other political parties is anything to go by, Biafra would not be the promise land. Therefore, it would seem to me that no nation that comes out of Nigeria in its present form will be different from Nigeria. Every nation creates its corrupt elites, unscrupulous ruling class and disenfranchised minorities, unless it subscribes to the rule of law, has accountable democracy and strong institutions to hold people to account.

It is therefore clear to me that corruption, the feudal north sense of entitlement and Islamic fundamentalism are the most serious problems facing Nigeria and there are no short cuts to solving them. Nigerians will have to demonstrate that they are aware that nations evolve by adopting noble values, giving up their negative traits, making just and fair laws and enforcing the rule of law. It is always tempting to revert to ethnic identity in times of crisis. In addition, being of the same ethnic group does not eliminate corruption, murder, greed, kidnapping, injustice, armed robbery and nepotism; which are the evils that have brought Nigeria to her knees. The newest state of South Sudan is an example. Nigerians should stop aspiring to build ethnic nations but aim to build civilised societies where one’s ethnic group, religion, colour of the skin and orientations, are irrelevant. Nigerians should aspire to build a new Nigeria where one’s character and the principles of tolerance, equality, rule of the law, justice and other noble values are most important. Our challenge should be to build a civilised society and not Biafra, Odua Republic or Islamic Republic of Arewa.

Nigerians should be asking their legislators who are in position to right many of the present injustices and wrongs why:

  1. None of them has introduced a bill to change the land use Act?

  2. None of them has asked the house to re-examine the state of our union?

  3. None of them has challenged the implementation of sharia laws in north Nigeria?

  4. None of them is championing the injustice of oil pollution in oil producing area?

  5. None of them is protesting the injustice and corruption of oil block, security votes and legislators jumbo pay.

  6. None of them is concerned about the cost of our democracy?

  7. None of them is fighting for justice for the victims of Boko Haram terrorist activities and Fulani herdsmen ethnic cleansing in Benue-Plateau region?

  8. Nigerian government has abandoned the people of Bakassi?

  9. None of them is calling for a new constitution

  10. They are all silent on oil bunkering, and the terrible environmental disaster taking place in the Niger delta region?

  11. They have been silent on Boko Haram, and atrocities committed by Nigerian army against MASSOB, Ogoni people, and the states the army is occupying?

  12. They have not offered any solution to ethnic cleansing in Benue- Plateau region?

  13. They have not been pushing for the social investments needed to bring armed Robbery and kidnapping under control?

  14. They are doing nothing about unemployment and job creation?

  15. They are not offering solutions on how Nigerians can protect themselves from invisible enemies who can attack them at will unannounced?

These are some of the questions Nigerians are not asking the right people. I suppose it would be easier to explore ways to make existing institutions do what they are supposed to do, than starting from the scratch again. We can start by changing our legislators by encouraging communities to take greater interest in the character of people they choose or the parties impose on them as legislators. Nigerians can concentrate in ensuring that people with integrity and ready to confront our problems are elected as legislators. With a sizable number of legislators who are honest and sincere, Nigeria has a chance. Until Nigerians realise that ‘ethnicity’ is irrelevant to the things that matter in life, and that there are only two types of Nigerians, the rich and poor; the call for ethnic nations: fuelled by ethnic and religious prejudices and toxic nationalism will get louder. Those who do not embrace civil multi-racial society should pursue their nationalistic and sectarian goals in a democratic way and manner, while the rest continue to aspire to build a civil society in Nigeria where ethnicity and one’s religion would be accorded their rightful places. Nigeria needs to learn from the west. Violence and ethnic nationalism are never the right way to solve the type of problems that confront Nigeria. Targeted assassination of opponents only sows the seeds of intractable conflict; No one, no matter how strong; can kill all his enemies. Nothing is better than ‘live and let live’. My plea is that we should allow wisdom to guide us, in this darkest hour of our history.

To be continued

E O Eke is qualified in medicine. At various times he has been a General medical practitioner, Medical missionary, Medical Director and senior medical officer of health in Nigeria. He specializes in child, Adolescent and adult psychiatry and lives in England with his family. His interest is in health, religion philosophy and politics. He cares for body and mind.