Before the War Machines Are Rolled Out by Ayobami Oyalowo
Our country Nigeria has been undergoing lots of tumults in the recent past. Shortly after the advent of civilian rule in May 1999, we have had all sorts of ethnic nationalities and militia: all threatening the peace in one form or another. We have had the OPC in the South West, most especially within the Mushin/Idi Araba axis in Lagos; we have had the Arewa Youths in the North, the Kano and Bauchi mass killings, the issue of non-indigene in Jos, the Sharia riots in Kaduna, the mass killings, kidnapping and pipeline vandalisation in the Niger Delta, MASSOB (Biafra) agitations in the South East, and virtually every part of Nigeria has either experienced, or still experiencing, one form of armed agitations or another.
Enter the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’await Wal-Jihad, known as Boko Haram. At their entry into our psyche, all those ethnic militia agitations pale into insignificance. They have engaged in incessant killing and wanton destructions of lives and properties, sparing no one and making no coherent or intelligible demands. This treatise is not about the merits or demerits of Boko Haram or others, rather we wish to seek what the impact these drumbeats of war will have on Nigerians.
Why are we at this point in our development beating the drums of war? It is not too far fetched. Biting poverty in the midst of plenty, while elected and appointed Government officials and top civil servant live in walled opulence. The current population statistics put the population of youths in Nigeria, under 30 years, at about 70%. So if 70% are under 30 and unemployment is at another 50-60% while the employed ones can barely make ends meet, it is clear that we have a huge army of potential robbers, suicide bombers, killers and sundry criminals. Nigeria is sitting on a keg of gunpowder, while playing with a potent box of match by the corner.
So many public and non public figures have come out to give their two cents, but in this entire cacophony, one thing is clear: most of those commentators appear not to understand what they are saying. Most people are apparently playing to the gallery, beating war drums or simply self serving. I pity most average people who don’t understand that war serves the upper class and destroys the people. War kills the poor and profits the wealthy and their corporations.
War is devastating and destructive, as we are only sure of seeing the beginning of a war: no one can predict its outcome or ending. War is often the effort of the rich and upper class, striving to maintain control and relevance while using the poor as pawn in their devastating and expensive bloody game of chess. The American public can attest to the huge financial and material losses the common man has suffered in America’s attempt at world dominance by engaging in senseless wars all over the globe. Yet not one billionaire owner of War Corporation has lost his life or that of his family member. Only the poor die and lose their income. It was reported that the Pentagon, in 2008, spent more money every five seconds than the average American earned in a year.
I was fortunate to have interacted with some old men who were either part of the Biafran war or were alive during that period. I was also privileged to have met the black scorpion, Major General Benjamin Adekunle, during one of my visits home. I also saw a clip of the suffering of the Igbos during the period of the Biafran war. I can tell you unequivocally that war is not pleasant. War is a destroyer and people are the sufferers. People are very complicated – they will make problems even if there aren’t any. But most people making problems either do not have an idea of the consequences or have an alternative escape planned. People are so full of hate for one another that they make stupid reasons to have war even if they are very well aware of what war is. It will cause damage to both sides and ruin the lives of people.
Today there are many civil wars around the world, but for very stupid reasons, you could actually say for nothing. But once it starts, it is too late to stop. Many people die, or become invalids, or have to find new places to live; the cities become destroyed and there are many other complications. Families get separated and in some cases most don’t ever unite again. I came in contact with lots of Liberian ladies, many were little girls at the outbreak of the Liberian civil war, today they are permanently separated from their families, their dreams and education truncated, while among them are today living as prostitutes in Nigeria, Togo, Benin Republic, Ghana and other countries along the west coast.
I also read the story of Ranka Tosanovic, a seventeen year old Bosnian girl. She and her family were victims of the Bosnian- Serb war. A war that lasted about four years and was so devastating and divisive to the point that the three warring factions of Bosnian, Serbians and Muslims are not at peace even as we speak today. The war has also left the country divided and Balkanized permanently. She detailed the separations of her family; some members were never to be seen again till today. I saw the agony she and her mother and grandmother went through as the men weren’t allowed to escape.
War is the basest form of settling dispute and rancour. Humans, due to our nature and physiological make up, will forever have conflicting interests, but as intelligent and endowed beings, we have inbuilt capacity to reason and dialogue through any situations. But due to selfishness, personal ambition and insatiable greed of the rich, we often neglected that inbuilt capacity and resort to our basest of instincts -warring and fighting. Animals are permitted, as territorial beasts, to fight, conquer and maintain their territories, but humans as higher animals often resort to that base instinct of lower animals to settle the minutest of disputes, due to greed of the upper class to continually dominate and exploit the poor to their own advantage.
When children lose their lives in war, it is usually the poor ghetto or village or those silent ones that no one pays attention to. War is a systematic rape and looting, it is never a means to protect anybody. Women are systematically and continuously raped, children die of hunger and preventable diseases, lives become short and nasty and brutish and most especially dreams and aspirations are permanently or completely truncated.
Somalia gave the world a great champion but Britain took in a war victim, who arrived their shore at the age of 8, couldn’t speak a word of English, but toady, Mo Farah is a double Olympic champion. A loss to Somalia and Africa, but a blessing to a more organized and life respecting society, Great Britain.
Note, if we allow the war drummers to push us into an ignominious bloodbath, only the poor, the weak, the women and children will die and suffer the consequence of the rich man’s war. Those calling for war today will be no where to be found. Their children are in push schools abroad and have dual citizenship as none of the children of the elites are currently in Nigeria. The Igbos as we speak are yet to recover from the devastating effect of the Nigerian Civil war 42 years after it ended. But Ojukwu who started the war not only got his confiscated properties returned and his full benefits paid, his wife is today rewarded with the post of an Ambassador, while most other Biafran war veterans have either died of hunger and poverty or are living in abject poverty, forgotten and neglected by the larger society.
Asari Dokubo has been going around calling for war and killing Northerners, yet no one in Government is raising an eyebrow. He has been a loud and vociferous proponent of war, a man who has never been known for any productive human venture or enterprise, his only skill and claim to fame lies in subversive activities towards his country. He has excelled in kidnapping, killing, maiming, pipeline vandalization and every other imaginable criminal activity.
War is never a solution to any problem; the Nigerian government will do well to address lingering issues of perceived marginalization, devastating poverty and all other known cases of social injustices. If we allow another civil war, any will die but those proponents of war will become wealthier and richer at the expense of innocent blood. Schools should be encouraged to teach history of past wars and its devastating effects.
There can be no peace in the absence of justice, equity and fairness. But under no circumstance can we afford another civil war. Nobody ever wins in a war, everybody is a loser.
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