“…this must be the handiwork of the wicked witch from our village. Some call her Naija. She is out to kill us all”
Prologue: No Be Today!
Before the formation of the country in 1914 by the British imperialists, the communities that constitute the geopolitical entity that is now known simply as Nigeria had at one point or the other made recourse to arms and might to settle scores. Peace also proved elusive in Nigeria during the age of colonial subjugation and subservience. Since independence, Nigeria has witnessed a civil war that lasted for over thirty months; coups and counter-coups, some were bloody; political, religious and ethnic induced violent conflicts; conflicts between so-called indigenes and settlers, feud between pastoralists and farmers are rife and frequent and sometimes very bloody; agitation for more resource control in the Delta of the Niger has led to vandalism of oil pipelines, kidnappings and militancy have demarked the social landscape of that part of the country that is considered the economic heartbeat of the country. The dailies are overloaded with tales of homicide, armed-robbery, jungle justice, kidnappings and other forms of crime. Also, in its post-colonial era, many violent groups have blossomed and withered. At the moment, the country is attempting to get rid of the shackles of the dastardly radical Islamic sect Boko Haram, all the while as renewed militancy is rearing its ugly head in the Niger-Delta and communities in the North continue to endure the scourge of marauding herdsmen.
Pre-Fight Talk: Me I Go Yarn My Mind
In an attempt to find solutions to the seemingly insurmountable challenge of insecurity brought about by the unkind activities of violent groups and what obtains in violent uprisings, many theories have been pushed forward. The layperson or those we may categorise as the non-expert on the street is never concerned with theories but with positive results, therefore theorising is not our business here; we are content to leave it to the academic gurus to ruminate on. Our concern is to put up this matter the way the people on the street that are devoid of expertise in the field of social sciences and conflict studies see it. The common people’s perspective is borne out of his personal familiarity and varied experiences accrued from living in the heat of this crisis. There is no better person to say it just the way it is like the persons who bear the brunt the most and who sometimes out of frustration take up arms against their sea of troubles. It is from this perspective that I wish to guide this discussion that rationalises (if you like, term it a justification) why many Nigerians resort to arms and sinister approaches to express their dissatisfactions and to get what they crave for.
Round One: Naija, Our Village Witch Wan Kill Us All!
Nigeria or Naija as we informally call her is the world’s most populous black nation on the surface of the earth with an estimated population of 160 million people. It boasts of one of the largest oil reserves in the world and is considered as one of the largest economies in Africa. One would expect that with the enormous wealth and fame that the country possesses, peace has long been her faithful ally. After all, some have regarded ‘lack’ and poverty as some sort of lubricants for violent uprisings and conflicts. With Nigeria, the reverse is the case.
Left to me, I would say there is nothing good about this country. That is the language of an ungrateful ‘bascard’, sorry bastard. This country has given me some good things to regard her as being good-for-no-one. I won’t fall for this temptation. But the way this great nation of good people treats its citizens, especially the powerless person on the streets leaves so much to be desired. Nothing seems to be working out: our war against corruption is but a mere witch-hunting and payback exercise, the unity of the country is ‘dancing alingo’ on a precipice, hunger makes a mockery of our position as one of Africa’s leading economy. Nothing seems to work for us, no matter how hard we try.
Hmmm! Like we jocularly express in our day-to-day street parlance, this must be the handiwork of the wicked witch from our village. Some call her Naija. She is out to kill us all.
Time Out: Who Dat Wan Don Epp?
Before I proceed, it is sacrosanct to point out that it is my considered opinion that Nigerians are among the happiest people in the world. We are more than happy to roll out drums to celebrate and make merry. We don’t wait for the weekend to come around before we start our merry-making – as we say in our street parlance; who dat wan don epp? As early as Thursday our canopies are out on football fields, on our roads and corners of the streets; I must admit, some now enjoy using halls for their ceremonies. Chairs are arranged in the shade provided by the canopies’ shielding off the sun. Speakers are mounted and before you know it the whole country is booming with music as colourfully dressed people dance in ecstasy. Don’t be surprised if you hear that the elaborate party is just a jamboree to celebrate a child’s graduation from the university or a hundred years anniversary to celebrate the lives of some ancestors. It is not just our thing to take up arms. We love life and we love to enjoy it. We don’t dull ourselves when it comes to enjoying the pleasures of this world. When suffering becomes our companion, we conceal the bastard in our hearts and carry gay faces around. That is the Nigerian spirit – A spirit that does not bow down to sufferings of all forms.
Round Two: Man Pikin Must Survive
I yarn am before, have I not? Let’s rethink it again. This country is out to kill us all. In fact, Egbon Ayo Sogunro, said, I’m yet to read it, but I learnt he wrote that ‘Na Everything for Naija go Kill You, your children and your future’ (This lawyers sha! Take time before Presido Kuje (imprison; from Kuje prisons) you like him do the man who called Nigeria a ‘zoo’) . Ehn! That’s how I heard he puts it.
As hard as it sounds is as hard as most Nigerians perceive it. Literally, everything in Nigeria is out there to get you, place you on the butcher’s slab and chop off your big head. How best do you explain the fact that in the 21st century in a country with the wealth of Nigeria, the gutter is where you get your drink from? Enjoying stable electricity remains a pious hope as our homes can be mistaken for an Oriental shrine due to the number of candles we depend on to shield our homes from the clutches of darkness. Going by the state of our roads and the rate of accidents recorded daily, it suffices to say that they are not better than death-traps.
Our citadels of learning are more or less playgrounds. Our hospitals and health centres are places where the experts and practitioners gamble on people’s lives, perhaps to further their learning process. Starvation and ‘situational fasting’ are our staples and most sought after menus. Poverty is our dearest companion. Comfort has long been redefined. All the while as corruption seems to be the only sector of the country that thrives unabated.
With the above ugly reality in mind and the fact that only a corrupt few take all the wealth of the land, tell me why a sane person will not resort to arms to demand for an equitable and egalitarian distribution of our common wealth? Tell me why and how armed robbers will cease from amongst us? It is never too much to ask for. Man pikin must survive. But how man pikin go take survive? To some of my goons’, na to carry weapon sure pass.
Time Out: Poor-verty For Inside Naija-Delta Plenti
Sometime ago, I used to regard the people of the Niger-Delta area as among the most selfish on the earth who want to enjoy the blessings of the Black Gold alone at the detriment of the other areas of the country. A visit to the region some years back changed my views. I witnessed first-hand how the people lived in a kind of lack that in Nigeria we term ‘poor-verty’. Their arable lands no longer support the cultivation of crops as a result of irresponsible oil exploration. Their waters have also been polluted to the extent that fishes cannot live therein. A community of many ethnic nationalities that has historically depended on farming and fishing are being deprived of their livelihood. Let’s face it! If an average Niger-Deltan that is unemployed and aware of the dependence of the country on the wealth being acquired from his area and the environmental degradation of their area visits Abuja – a nation capital that was constructed from top to bottom by the proceeds of the Delta’s oil – he will have no problem taking up arms against their perceived source of oppression. Perhaps, this helps explain the militancy that is being experienced there till date.
Round Three: Justice Dey Our Jungle?
One sabi oyinbo, after too much thinking, said that all the wars that have been fought by man in this world including the one that people fought for God or over God have been fought by all the parties in the name of justice. I think it was Alf Ross that said it. This idea of Justice is a big ‘wahala’. I heard that Plato and Aristotle could not even agree on what it is. This idea has caught the attention of great philosophers, theologians, jurists, scholars and enlightened minds of all ages. I am content to regard it in the classical sense; ‘to give to everyone his own’ (suum cuique tribuere). The whole idea of justice is quite problematic. It is like a harlot at the disposal of anyone that can pay for the satisfaction and salvation she promises. Therefore, the noble notion of justice could be invoked by just anybody for any cause they wish to advance. Going back to Ross’ assertions, many conflicts have been birthed in Nigeria out of a demand for justice. Is it the militancy in the Niger-Delta? Or the perceived marginalisation by the easterners that in some way contributed to the agitation for the secession of the defunct Eastern region from Nigeria and subsequently led to the civil war? Was it not the extrajudicial killing of Yusuf Muhammad that completely militarise Boko Haram? Have we not resorted to jungle justice due to our mistrust for the justice system to effectively carry out their duty? Justice to the common people is creating an egalitarian atmosphere for them to live in, providing them with the prerequisites to lead a good life, ensuring that they have their rights jealously guarded by our laws and when a matter is in dispute they should be able to have their day in court no matter how highly placed in the society the other party may be.
Time Out: Spanner For Devil Workshop
It is a common talk that ‘Na pesin whey no get work, Devil dey take do spanner for him workshop’. Even the Jewish Holy Book, Bible and Quran all agree on this point. With Nigeria’s unemployment population at an estimated 4.5 million and no hope of a better life in sight, it therefore comes to us as no surprise that many of us have allowed ourselves to be used by the devil to rob our fellow countrymen, resort to kidnappings for ransom, ritual killings with the hope of acquiring wealth from some mysterious supernatural forces, vandalisation of oil pipelines and facilities, susceptibility to being used by mischievous politicians, association with radical violent groups and willing tools in the hand of cabals with anti-state and anti-government dispositions. Give us what to do and see if we will have cause to make recourse to violence. We will be too busy for that. Admittedly, creation of jobs would not bring an end to the problems of insecurity and violent conflicts in Nigeria; however it will go a long way to reduce the incidences.
Epilogue: Last Blow
The laws of the land vested the powers to safeguard lives and properties and ensure the prosperity and wellbeing of the people on the government. Nigeria is today beset by daily threats to lives and properties. Government has not been able to find lasting solutions to the crisis. A situation where one group seems to have monopoly over violence and wields it as it pleases them is unacceptable. It only spells war for the present and the future. A time will come that the victim can no longer turn the other cheek. At this stage, they would only arm themselves and take on their aggressors; thereby creating a state of war or civil unrest. Government and its agents are sometimes guilty of this felony. The government of Nigeria has at many times descended on its citizens with its full arsenal. Violence does not breed peace and stability; violence begets violence. It is a vicious cycle that continues on its path. If the government cannot protect the people it has been contracted to safeguard, it is not out of place for some persons to organise themselves into a cohesive unit to defend themselves. The first law of life has always been survival, and survive they must! If this is the case, be sure that they will overstep their bounds and create a bigger problem than what we had.
If we must have peace in Nigeria, attention must be paid to the just demands of the common people on the streets and it is within these demands that government should formulate its policies and schemes. Any sane government that overlooks the ordinary man on the streets of Nigeria or any other country does so at its own peril and the peril of peace, stability and development. If anything can be done to keep the ordinary Nigerian happy – so it should be, and so, let it be. Na housefly whey no hear word dey follow deadbodi enta grave.
Elisha Gwanzwang Godswill is a Nigerian obsessed with knowledge and has a wide variety of academic interests. He hopes to research Conflicts, especially as it relates to Africa