NIGERIA: MORE OF A JUNGLE THAN A HOME By: Fr Preye Paul
NIGERIA: MORE OF A JUNGLE THAN A HOME (A DISCOURSE ON INSECURITY IN NIGERIA)
BY: VERY REV. FR PREYE SAMSON PAUL
The issue of insecurity is not peculiar to a particular nation, state, tribe or even individual, rather it has remained a general phenomenon and it is as old as man. Beside the biblical accounts of the encounter between Eve and the Serpent at the Garden of Eden, the case of Cain and Abel is handy, same with the several wars and human brutality that are recorded in the Bible and world history.
Nevertheless, whenever I watch animal movies or documentaries, seeing the wildlife or the interplay and exchanges of brutal forces in the jungle, I quickly think of African nations, Nigeria precisely. We seem to be in a jungle not really in a zoo because the latter is more organized than the former. In a jungle might is right of the survival of the fittest as the angry Sophist, Thrasymachus said “…might is right and justice is nothing other than the advantage of the stronger.” Thus, as a Nation, we must consciously strive to create a world or a pattern that will say no to “might is right” and instill in the heart of men the spirit of “right is might.” – justice is stronger than the physical strength of a man.
In those documentaries, as succinctly captured by Fr Dr Bruno Ikuli, one watches, sometimes with pity for the herds, which as preys make frantic attempts to escape from determined predators, often without success, although, in some instances emerge victorious. Those documentaries can be heart-wrecking with ferocity, brute force, naked power and devastating might be on display. Here, one can watch endless incidences of “natural wickedness” on show. Lions pounce and break bones, hyenas chew their victims alive, crocodiles bite and gobble their victims half-dead, pythons and anacondas strangle their victims before swallowing whole, cobras and mambas sedate their victims with highly toxic venoms, eagles suddenly swoop on their unsuspecting victims piercing and stifling them with razor-sharp claws powered with some of the deadliest muscles ever designed by nature, but one thing, though, is common to them: they must murder to stay alive. They kill to feed to stay alive.
Among humans, similar events occur. This work will torchlight some security challenges that plagued successive administrations both civilian and military regimes since independent in 1960 and also see their similarities, interconnectivity or the otherwise and at the end, proffer sustainable solutions that could help in curbing insecurity in our great country, Nigeria by imploring the assistance of the Church as an instrument of unity and peace.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF NIGERIA
What we have and called today as Nigeria started in Izon (Ijaw) land precisely at Akassa in present day Bayelsa State when King Fredrick William Koko mobilized the various warriors in Izon land under war canoe houses to resist the European exploitative tendencies by attacking what was the Headquarters of the Royal Niger Company now United Africa Company of Nigeria (UAC). On that day, they captured over 30 white men that they later roasted one after another to eat plantain and also drink Palm wine as a protestation against the monopoly and overbearing attitude of the European Merchants. Hence, a re-enforcement from Britain and a retaliation led to the massacre of over 2000 People, mostly women and children in what is now referred to as the ‘Akassa Raid of 1895’. The outrage and global condemnation of the genocide forced the British Crown to revoke the trading license that was issued the Royal Niger Company and the establishment of formal government under the Crown (Ikuli, 2020).
It was this period that, Flora Shaw, mistress to Frederick Lugard, coined the name Nigeria, earlier in 1897, two years after the Akassa Raid, in the article she wrote in The Times of January that year (Schwarz, 1968). This was three years before Lugard had joined a British firm called the Royal Niger Company in 1894. Flora Shaw saw the designation of the states or areas that make up the south of the present day Nigeria as Royal Niger Company’s Territories cumbersome (Schwarz, 1968). Thoughtfully, she came up with a simple word, Nigeria, which encompassed the whole of the area; compressed into one new word Nigeria, a term which applied only to the present day southern Nigeria, known then as Southern Protectorate, occupied predominantly by the Yoruba, Igbo and Izon and other ethnic groups (Awolowo, 1947; Ezeani, 2016).
History has it that before the year I914, there was no country in the world known by the name Nigeria. On the other hand, for hundreds of years, there existed within the geographical space known today as Nigeria peoples and nations identified as Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, Izon, Tiv, Benin, etc. Acholonu (2009) After hundreds of years of Arab and European slavery and colonisation, these and other nearby nations were amalgamated by the British Government through the instrumentality of Fredrick Lugard (Crowder, 1966).
Nigeria, as a political and social entity, has, therefore, two main histories; the history of the different peoples who make up the country and the history of Nigeria as one political entity. The former form of history (of the peoples and their empires or nations or states) is very old, some going back hundreds of years. The later history is quite recent; the political state known today as Nigeria was amalgamated in 1914.
THE SORROWFUL STATE OF AFFAIRS:
From a deep look into our nation, there is near absence of accessible roads, coupled with power failure, poor health care facilities and the absence of an active presence of government. The cost of living in a post-Covid-19 pandemic has become very high because of the economic recession being experienced in the unemployment, failure of government at all levels to provide the basic amenities needed in the various regions/states and has brought about youth restiveness and agitations for resource control, regionalism and even secession.
The social problem we are being faced with today is the near collapse of the security of lives and property; killing people they have no quarrel with. The country has witnessed an upsurge in terrorism, kidnappings, ritual killings, drug barons/drug abuse and even the EndSars protest of our youths in October 20, 2020. The unending strike of University Lecturers under ASUU has made our youths more restive towards criminalities. Our country is in shadows because our leaders have been silence and nowhere to be found in all the inhuman happenings. We have lost our identity as the giant of Africa. Our homes, schools and Churches are no longer safe for us because we are surrounded by fast growing communities of herdsmen. So, there is tension and hopelessness everywhere. Nonetheless, our country suffers a lot, not because of the violence of bad people but because of the silence of good people. This is the state of our nation, tension everywhere.
SECURITY CHALLENGES THAT PLAGUED RESPECTIVE ADMINISTRATIONS IN NIGERIA
Nigeria started with a provincial government which was established by the British Colonial administrators. The provinces which were subdivided into divisions subsisted till the creation of three regions: Northern, Eastern and Western and the further division of Western region into two (Western and mid-Western).
The 15th January, 1966 coup d’etat that was led by Majors Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, Emmanuel Ifeajuna, Adebowale Ademoyega and others changed the political landscape of Nigeria drastically. The coup was generally seen as Igbo coup because of the key actors who were mostly Igbos. This was compounded by the killings of Sir Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa; the Prime Minister of Nigeria, Sir Alhaji Ahmadu Bello; the Sardauna of Sokoto and Premier of Northern region, Chief Samuel Akintola; the Premier of Western region, Chief Festus Okotieboh; the Federal Minister of Finance and others.
Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe the President from Igbo extraction was abroad for medical treatment. Chief Michael Okpara; the Premier of Eastern region was not killed even though he was in the country. Same with Prince Abyssinia Akweke Nwafor Orizu who was the Senate President. General Johnson Thomas Umunakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi who was the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Nigerian Army took over power after the failed coup and while he was trying to reconcile Nigerians and also ensure peace and stability, he was killed on 28th July, 1966 at Ibadan alongside his host Colonel Francis Adekunle Faduyi, the then military Governor of Western region.
General Yakubu Jack Gowon who succeeded Gen. Ironsi decided to create twelve (12) states out of the then existing four regions. The above was in a bid to frustrate the threat of secession by Colonel Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu the then Governor of Eastern region. It is worthy to note that by that time, massacre and pogrom against Igbos in Northern Nigeria has already started.
When the post-July coup crisis got to an alarming level, General Joseph Arthur Ankrah who was the then first military Head of State of Ghana invited both General Yakubu Gowon the Nigerian Military Head of State and Col. Ojukwu to Ghana for a two-day brotherly meeting which held between 4th and 5th January, 1967. That meeting is regarded as the famous ‘Aburi Accord’.
Failure to adhere to the clauses of the Aburi conference that had to do with the issue of confederation finally led to the declaration of the Republic of Biafra on 30th May, 1967. This was barely three days (27th May, 1967) after General Gowon created twelve states out of the then existing four regions based on the advice of his friend, High Chief Harold Dappa-Biriye, an Izon man, in his bid to frustrate the secession bid of Col. Ojukwu. It is worthy to add that this was the same Dappa-Biriye who did excellent presentations at the London Conferences of 1953, 1957 and pre-Izo Conference that led to the constitution of the Sir Henry Willink Commission that looked into the fears of the minorities before the 1960 Independence. He is the proponent of Minority Politics in Nigeria (Ikuli, 2021).
State Creation (statism) which was a detour from regionalism and General Ironsi’s abrogation of the First Republic’s True Federalism where the respective regions controlled the hitherto available resources in their regions and paid royalty to the centre (federal) to Unitary System where everything began and ended at the table of the Head of State. But before then the centre was weak and unattractive which was one of the reasons Sir Alhaji Ahmadu Bello the Sardauna of Sokoto willingly asked his ally Sir Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa to be Prime Minister, while he remained as the Premier of the then rich Northern region.
But above all, beside the two earlier mentioned military coups, the 29th July, 1975 coup that was led by Brigadier General Murtala Mohammed, the 13th February, 1976 coup by Colonel Buka Suka Dimka, the 31st December 1983 coup by Major General Muhammadu Buhari, the 27th August, 1985 coup by General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, the 22nd April, 1990 by Major Gideon Orkar and the 17th November, 1993 coup by General Sani Abacha actually caused mistrust among the elite and it also changed the Political landscape of Nigeria.
Within the various administrations and period under review, Nigeria experienced several security challenges ranging from the religious crisis at Tafawa Balewa town of 1953 to the Kano Riot of 1953, the Eastern region Constitution crisis of 1953, the census crises of 1962/63, the Action Group crisis in Western region of 1962, Tiv Riot of 1960-64, Anti-Igbo pogrom of July and August 1966, Ugep Massacre of 1975, Bakolori massacre of 1980, Kaduna Riot of 2000, Odi Massacre of 1999, Jos Riot of 2001, Kogi massacre of 2008, Boko Haram Uprising of 2009, Abuja United Nations Bombing of 2011, the 25th December 2011 Christmas Day bombing of a Catholic Church at Madalla Niger State, the endless Farmers and Herdsmen crisis, the Niger Delta Militancy, Banditry, Kidnapping, the confrontation between the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Nigerian Military, general prevalent Terrorism. The litany of cases of insecurity in Nigeria is almost endless. However, we must bear in mind that most wars fought in Nigeria are either wars for freedom or domination.
FACTORS MILITATING AGAINST PEACE, UNITY AND DEVELOPMENT IN NIGERIA
Let me torchlight some of the issues or factors militating against peace, unity and development in Nigeria.
- Religious Beliefs and Indoctrination: These new generation churches are brain washing our people to see themselves as second citizens while the General Overseers who are mostly outsiders are superior. 2. Religious Intolerance. 3. Prevalence of Sycophants and Hypocrites. 4. Corruption. 3. Prevalent injustice. 4. Inequality and inequitable Distribution of available Resources. 5. Tribalism. 6. Quest for tribal supremacy and Control of available resources. 7. Poor value system. 8. Cultural conflicts. 9. Poor electoral system and Electoral Malpractices. 10. Bad Leadership. 11. Widening gap between the rich and poor. 12. Weak
Institutions. 13. Poor and very corrupt justice system. 14. Faulty Reward System. 15. Poor Educational system. 16. Poor funding of Military and paramilitary. 17. Ill-treatment and total neglect of Intellectuals and the deification of Criminals. 18. Unemployment. 19. Lack of capacity Building for women and youths. 20. Absence of basic social amenities, etc.
1. Promotion of Good governance, justice, human rights and the Rule of Law.
2. Promotion of free, qualitative and relevant education in the society.
3. Creation of Employment opportunities for the highly employable but unemployed youths who roam the streets of our towns and villages in their quest for greener pastures and survival.
4. Eradication of Corruption. We need honest leaders and statesmen in the affairs of our country.
5. Strengthening of our Electoral System and institutions to curb electoral malpractices, super imposition of corruption, incompetent persons, voter’s apathy, vote buying, etc.
6. Be your brother’s keeper. What affects one should affect the other. This is the spirit of African communalism.
7. Patriotism: We have no other country. This is our home. Just like, no matter the condition of your mother, she remains your mother. Nigeria is our mother even though some of her cruel sons and daughters might have cut off or monopolized her consoling breast so that the other of her children will be starved and malnourished.
8. Be Optimistic. Let us be hopeful for a better Nigeria. As Fr Michael Ogbor beautifully puts it, “when the sun stops shining above your head, know that there is a dark cloud above you from which you will drink water.” So, there is hope for the nation. It is only you and I who can renew the face of the nation.
9. Self-defense. Obviously the nation cannot defend her citizens even the military cannot defend herself. Thus, self-defense is encouraged by the Church. (CCC 2263, 2264; Evangelium Vitae 54 and 55).
10. Personal responsibility: Avoid unnecessary journeys.
11. Provision of basic infrastructures and social amenities to stimulate growth.
12. Creation of enabling environment for private businesses to thrive since government alone cannot create employment for the teeming number of unemployed youths.
13. Revival and enhancement of the National Orientation Agency (NOA) and other medium that will educate our people on civic responsibilities and value systems.
14. Promotion of equality, fairness and equitable distribution of available natural resources.
15. Promotion of Religious tolerance. It will be good to know that Most Rev. Stephen Mamzat of the Catholic Diocese of Yola built a church, mosque and houses for both Christians and Muslims who ran to Yola for refuge because they were displaced by Boko Haram insurgency in Southern Borno and Northern Adamawa. This is a definitive expression of Religious tolerance.
16. Promotion of meritocracy and competence. Say no to nepotism and sectionalism.
17. Government need to give all segments and sections of the country senses of belonging. There should be restructuring to reflect True Federalism like the case of America and other advanced democracies.
18. There should be equitable distribution of Political power among the geopolitical zones for fairness, equity and justice.
19. Our justice/legal system and institutions must be strengthened to punish crimes and bad behaviour. Sadly, as Prof. PLO Lumumba once said, “In Japan a corrupt person kills himself. In China, they will kill him. In Europe they jail him. In Africa, he will present himself for election.” This should not be our case. We must change the narrative. When people steal our money and we put them in jail, then Nigeria will become a better country.
20. Equality: we must strengthen our public educational and health institutions so that the children of the poor and the rich can have access to same education, health and job opportunities. Equality and egalitarianism will promote unity and national cohesion.
21. Strengthening the economy of Nigeria: This should be achieved by diversifying the economy of Nigeria. The Government should revolutionize agriculture and ease doing business. This will ameliorate the security situation in our nation.
From the above thus far, it is crystal clear that the Nigeria government has not done enough to ameliorate the sufferings of the people. The Nigerian political space is an atmosphere of incompetence, nepotism, wanton corruption and poor leadership. Apart from the economic hardships with it attendant massive unemployment across the land, the effects of terrorism, kidnappings, armed banditry/robbery and the violent agitations for resource control, regionalism and secessions have subjected the entire country to a jungle.
Let us rise and re-echo our prophetic voices as a Church and a people to take every opportunity in the polity to fight for equity, justice, rule of law, peace, security and good governance – the mission of the common good. As the process towards 2023 general elections kicks off, we must exercise our civic responsibilities by participate in the political processes from party primaries to voting at the elections.
Like Bishop Matthew Kukah admonishes: “Our personal voter card must be our secular baptismal card”. Until Nigerians take their destiny into their hands, Nigeria will continue to be a jungle – a state of underdevelopment, dysfunctional economy, disunited people, insecurity and acute political slavery.
SECURITY IS A CHAIN, NEVER BREAK IT!
(This article was first published in, Peter Omgbu (ed.), The Catholic Net Magazine, Enduchuks Printing Press, Warri, July-September, 2022, Pp. 15-19). A quarterly publication of the Catholic Diocese of Bomadi.