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Ike's Column Opinion

Desideratum for Peace in Nigeria

The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established
The Baha’i Faith

The Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, takes the credit for popularizing the word “desideratum” in the political lexicon of the current senate. So, the distinguished senator should enjoy the patent while it lasts.

The outspoken PDP Senator Abaribe from Abia State, contributing to a debate in the Red Chamber on the security challenges of contemporary Nigeria, said, “The desideratum for tackling the prevailing insecurity in our land today is to flush out criminal elements in our midst wherever they are.” The authorities, he went on, must not continue to paper over matters when it comes to the issue of security.

Senator Abaribe was commenting on the false claims that people were being sent home from different regions. He said only miscreants have been chased out of the forests from where they have been unleashing mayhem on innocent Nigerians. “No Nigerian is being sent away from anywhere; criminals are being sent away from the forests where they are,” Abaribe stressed.

In our conversation this week, we are going to look into the desideratum of peace in the country because an insecure country cannot be peaceful and without peace, nothing meaningful can be achieved.

In January 2020, the Ahmad Lawan-senate had an open debate at the plenary on insecurity. It was then that Abaribe called out President Muhammadu Buhari, demanding his resignation for failing to provide the basic, namely the security of people’s lives and property.

One year later, the same senate debated the same security situation, a clear indication that little had been changed from January 2020. Rather, things worsened to the point of threatening the country’s existence. Today, the worst is here irrespective of one’s location or status.

The truth is that Nigeria is a long shot away from solving her problems; her leaders politick with a hammer in their hands rather than hit the nail on the head. To put it mildly, they delight in beating about the bush.

We all know our problems in this country, we know the cause, and we are equipped to tackle it if only we can be sincere. We ought not to expect a house with a foundation on quicksand to stand as strong as the one laid on solid rock. In other words, how do we expect the same result from a student who prepared and rehearsed well for an examination as the student who was playing about?

It is a settled case that this country’s nationhood was laid on a shaky start…that the 1914 “marriage” of the southern and northern protectorates created by the colonial lords of Nigeria, was based on deceit and half-truths. Today, these half-truths are staring us in the face 107 years later. What then do we do? Break up the country, renegotiate the forced merger or keep leaving in denial? The choice we make goes a long way to determine where we are headed as a nation. This is the basis of our tomorrow as a nation.

Everything certainly is wrong with a country whose leaders will defend and insist that a cattleman who carrying assault weapons in defence of his beasts should be allowed but will not tolerate another carrying a gun in defence of self or other humans. Something is certainly wrong with a country who pays compensation for Fulani cows override damages for wasted human lives. What a country!

At the January 2020 debate in the Senate on the state of the nation, there was an elaborate discussion on the contemporary problems of the country as it relates to security challenges. All the way forward, the solution packages articulated by the senators and sent to the Executive for implementation were either thrown out the window, ignored or not considered meaningful even as the problem persisted, resulting in another talk shop one year later. As weighty as these challenges are, and enough to cause the growing apprehension of a possible civil war in the country, our approach is still lackadaisical and lukewarm.

Today, some lawmakers are still refusing to appreciate the enormity of issues involved and instead choose to politick and play to the gallery…trying very hard to deflect attention from the raging issue by arguing that Fulani herdsmen were being chased away by the natives of some regions. Ostensibly propelled by ethnic and religious sentiments, they choose to ignore the criminal elements among the herdsmen and their dubious origins as French-speaking Fulani who are unable to speak or understand Hausa, the obvious lingua franca of their Nigerian counterparts. People whose abode is in the forests from where they launch attacks on innocent locals.

It is a fact in this country that we are people of divergent backgrounds in religion and tribe but as the American writer and feminist, Audre Lorde, wrote, “It is not our differences that divide us. We cannot recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”

Last week was one of those weeks Nigeria would wish never came. Unpleasant happenings that dominated discussions in different parts of the country. The country was clearly under siege, violence, protests, and killings everywhere and at every corner from Oyo to Abia, to Ebonyi to Kaduna, to Borno, to Edo, and to Rivers, just name it. The tautness was so thick that one could feel it in the air.

Just yesterday February 17, 2021 school children and their staff in Niger state were abducted by gunmen, exactly 69 days after similar incident in Katsina on December 11. 2020 what more evidence do we need to establish the insecurity in the land.

Not even the outcome of the emergency meeting of the nation’s security eggheads convened by the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major-General Babagana Monguno (rtd), and attended by the Service Chiefs and Heads of law enforcement, security and intelligence agencies gave hope of an end to the bad times. Nothing emerged from the meeting to show that anybody is thinking outside the box for a way out of the quagmire.

The statement released after the meeting did not give hope that they understood the desideratum of achieving peace in this land. These operatives from all indications are yet to come to terms with the reality that the situation is not about touring troubled spots and holding endless meetings and making insincere promises, but more about truthfully addressing the root causes of insecurity in our land…meaning that they are yet to imbibe Albert Einstein’s advisory that “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.”

The huge question begging for an answer now is therefore to determine the root causes of insecurity in our clime today. Various research findings on why peace is persistently elusive in this country fingers injustice, the selfishness of leaders, greed, and corruption.

So long as the injustice in the land is not addressed, so long as the politically and structurally favoured are not bothered about the cry of the disadvantaged, so long as the gap between the rich and the poor is widening daily because of the greed of a few, so long will Nigeria not sleep with her two eyes closed.

Assurance of upgrading the nation’s security architecture and implementing a multi-pronged strategy without addressing the political imbalance in the land is dead on arrival and amounts to scratching the surface. Nigeria should stop searching for peace and making it look like rock science. The nation’s leadership should stop wasting time looking for the key to peace when the door is open and unlocked, just the courage to enter and the sincerity to call a spade by its true name.

Finally, for us to have the disposition to learn and heed the wise counsel of great minds like Nelson Mandela: “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” If crusaders for justice and fair play such as Sunday Igboho, Nnamdi Kanu, and others are treated as partners, not enemies, maybe enduring peace can be sighted on the horizon.

God, help Nigeria.

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