We have not tired warning against opening up wars on many fronts. Opening up a second war front in the East during the Second World War consumed Adolf Hitler and his Third German Reich. With the Boko Haram insurgency running full blast in the north-east and spilling over sporadically into other parts of the North, it is enough bones for the military to chew. Looking for trouble elsewhere is, in my view, not a wise thing to do at all; which is why I have repeatedly advocated a political solution to the festering Biafra agitation as opposed to the strong-arm tactics that the military appear to favour. Despite the threats to crush Biafra, the separatist movement gets bolder by the day; the frequency with which it engages in road marches and the spread of its operations even outside its “Biafran” enclave is cause for worry. If care is not taken, this, too, will soon become another insurgency on a wider and more deadly scale. It has been said that no country survives two civil wars; we survived one (1967 – 1970) but not without counting our losses in billions of Naira and millions of lives and limbs. Interestingly, the same theatre of that war is restive again over practically the same issues and pressing home the same demands. It has been said that those beating the drums of war today were not old enough the last time out to actually see and appreciate the horrors of war.
The Shiite crisis in Zaria, which has spread as well as given the country’s image a blithe worldwide, is one crisis too many at this point in time. While it is easy to accuse the Army and other military authorities of an over-kill, the underlying factors fuelling this kind of crises have deeper roots. It is not the first time that this kind of confrontation between fiery Islamic preachers and the authorities would erupt in the North; in fact, it has been a recurring decimal, one of which eventually snowballed into the Boko Haram insurgency. The Shiite leader in the middle of the latest confrontation, Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, is not a stranger to controversies. Fiery speeches and sermons; the guts to take on whole armies in bloody confrontations; the readily-available canon-fodders of almajiris and talakawas; and the sacred cow status often bestowed on Islamist icons have made them laws and institutions beyond the reach of the State. They have always been there in the North; and they have always been responsible for the endless stream of religious crises that have led to the loss of thousands of innocent lives. Playing the ostrich now and again; and in many instances in scantily-concealed complicity and duplicity; the authorities have always found it difficult to curtail the extremists.
Perhaps it was one bold effort to call the bluff of an extremist religious group with an ideology and praxis that endanger society as a whole that went awry last week in Kaduna state. The Army authorities found itself in the web and responded – but it attacked the effect rather than the root cause. A prominent Northerner, Catholic Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah from Zangon-Kataf, addressed the issue a couple of weeks ago; striking at the duplicity that allows modernity and traditionalism to thrive side-by-side in the North. Modernising elite is also steeped in traditions that clash with the essential building blocks of a modern state. Democracy and theocracy struggle to exist side-by-side; an elite determined to have the best of both play the Russian roulette as it deems fit. The North has got to decide what it wants. Nigeria is a federal state with republican status; the Constitution contains the rules that bind the various peoples and groups, which cannot be subsumed or deemed inferior to the Quran or Bible; every conduct must comply with the provisions of the Constitution; otherwise, bedlam! Excessive force may have been used by the military authorities in this wise, but it will ultimately amount to nothing if the root causes of these perennial conflicts are not tackled. Authorities that specialize in sweeping fundamental issues under the carpets are not likely to do; a society yet to come to terms with how to organise intra- as well as inter-personal relationships is condemned to re-living these sordid events and needless wastes again and again.
On the economic front, the fact that this country had been laid to waste by the very people who swore on the Constitution to defend its interests reared its ugly head again last week when the Malabu oil deals, which the authorities here have swept under the carpets, resurfaced in London. Increasingly, London is becoming the Nemesis of the country’s thieving leaders; witness DSP Alameseiyegha; James Ibori; Deziane Allison-Madueke; and now ex-President Goodluck Jonathan. A Southwark Crown Court in London last Tuesday pointedly cited Jonathan for corruption. According to the prosecutors, the amount involved was a staggering 523 million dollars. A national patrimony was also given away for peanuts. The judge’s remarks were damning: “I cannot simply assume that the Federal Government of Nigeria, which was in power in 2011 and subsequently until 2015, rigorously defended the public interest of the people of Nigeria in all respects. Mr. Fischer QC, who appeared for the CPS, used the phrase ‘grand corruption’ to describe the form of corruption in which the State itself is culpable” The British court said it has evidence that Jonathan was directly involved in the shady deal.
Now, the guilty is presumed innocent until proved otherwise; so Jonathan and the other Nigerians cited in the Malabu oil deals are innocent at this moment. But they must hurriedly proceed to the court in London to prove their innocence and clear their names. The Muhammadu Buhari government, with its avowed interest in the anti-graft war, must immediately take more than passing interest in the case. The London court struck at the roots of the problems that have bedevilled this country, whether social, political or economic: It is the unwillingness of our leaders to “rigorously”, even half-heartedly, defend “the public interest of the people of Nigeria in all respects”. Selfish, sectarian, sectional, and primordial interests have always been promoted over and above the national interest. Leaders swear to defend the Constitution but hold it up subsequently as “mere scraps of paper”, like Adolf Hitler did the Versailles Peace Treaty, and desecrate it.
LAST WORD: On a lighter mood, if you think Nigeria is the only country where leaders do not resign even after they have lost all justifications to stay on, check out London where the “Special One”, Jose Mourinho, continues to cling to straws to save his job as coach of Chelsea. The strings of losses he suffered, many of them really embarrassing, is not necessarily the reason why I think Jose’s time is up at Chelsea; but when a coach begins to publicly criticise his players, accusing them of deliberately working against him, what, again, is he still waiting for? Smart-guy Mourinho must be waiting patiently for the sack so he can receive the mouth-watering severance package in his contract from billionaire-owner of Chelsea, Roman Abramovich!
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