Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Will the killings continue?

Since 1960 when the country gained independence, Nigeria has lost millions of her citizens to sectarian violence.

From the series of violent upheavals which are now relics of the country’s early post-colonial past to the civil war which claimed over three million souls, the Nigerian experience is like a bloody battle between sworn foes nurtured by the eternal echoes of a retribution that must be avenged again and yet again.

Sadly, in the midst of these national tragedies, it appears for the most part, that Nigerians have chosen to remain mute witnesses to the senseless recurring carnage which today situates itself in the nation’s body politic. But what can the people do?

Often victims of a failing order bedevilled by a tragically wobbly cohesion between the national promise and expectation, one can hardly surmise a coherent intervention from the people where the government itself has lost touch with the nation’s agenda for credible direction.

From the Maitatsine riots of 1980 to the Zango-Kataf riots of 1992, Nigeria has since been in and out of the bloody depths of sectarian violence. In 1999, about a 100 people reportedly lost their lives to two bloody days of ethnic violence in Lagos.

BBC reported that the trouble began when Hausa and Yoruba traders started fighting for control of a popular food market in Ketu on the outskirts of the city.

On October 15, 2001, protests in Kano state against American and coalition forces’ bombings in Afghanistan left dozens of people dead. Between June, 2001 and October, 2002, nearly 1,000 persons lost their lives in religious conflicts between Muslims and Christians in Bauchi and Plateau states.

In November 2002, as Nigeria prepared to host the Miss World Beauty Pageant, violent protests by Islamic groups, particularly in northern Nigeria, derailed Nigeria’s hosting of the event. In 2007, fights over Danish cartoons of Prophet Mohammed killed more than 100 Nigerians.

About 10,000 people have died in ethnic and religious violence since 1999. One wonders, will the killings continue Perhaps the answers are buried in the ruins of the recent past as Nigeria witnessed last July the sectarian violence unleashed upon Bauchi, Borno and Yobe states, claiming hundreds of lives.

Christened the Boko Haram riots, the violence was ignited by the Boko Haram group, a northern Nigerian Islamic movement opposed to Western education. Boko Haram means “Western education is sinful”.

Amid the social tension generated by the festering Niger-Delta crisis, one must observe the crisis beyond the matrix of a mere breakdown of law and order.

The extra-judicial killing of Mohammed Yusuf, leader of the Boko Haram sect recasts the issue in new dimensions, raising questions about the nation’s flawed law enforcement, the effect of harsh socio-economic conditions in the proliferation of sectarian violence while also hinting at the possibility of a hegemonial religious conspiracy theory. The emerging issues are disturbing.

Professor Murtalal Muhibbu-Din, Head of the Department of Religion at the Lagos State University, contends that the crisis was born out of anger and frustration rather than religious faith.

“What they said they were fighting against, such as Western education and Western values, are just smokescreens to vent their anger on the government.

That is why they are attacking police stations, which they see as government establishments,” he told IPS in Lagos.

The same could be said of the Niger-Delta conundrum. Agitation on behalf of the politically-marginalised and socio-economically deprived ethnicities for a fairer share of the oil wealth, have sustained armed resistance in the region till date.

Curiously, law enforcement agencies have yet to bring a single perpetrator of religious violence to justice. This, according to The Guardian, has “emboldened all sorts of religious fundamentalists who rise at will to visit mayhem on innocent people.”

As Nigeria continues in her troubled odyssey, one can only hope for a future that thrives on a coherent union and management of the nation’s diverse human and natural resources.

Achieving this will depend on the quality and ability of the nation’s leadership। Failing portends an imminent relapse into another round of violent uprisings that could degenerate into an irreversible national apocalypse.

Ohimai Godwin Amaize

September, 2009

Culled from

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