Is Peace Impossible in Nigeria?
Victor E. Dike
“No treaty of peace shall be held valid in which there is tacitly reserved matter for a future war” Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)
The behavior of a people is a reflection of their culture. It is daunting to govern a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society (such as Nigeria where every group is scheming for supremacy) to ensure peaceful and harmonious social interaction of the citizens because the social environment often creates obstacles that breed internal discontents. Today, Nigeria’s politics of unreason that strewn the landscape like a straw hut in a hurricane has weakened the glue that holds the society together. But, is peace impossible in Nigeria?
Peace has been variably defined but that which catches this writer attention is one by Wikipedia that defines peace as the “absence of hostilities” and “harmonious relations.” Groups in societies could disagree with one another on issues, as expected, but violence is an inappropriate and unacceptable medium to settle their grievances.
However, progress is impossible in any society (or family) without peace. Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) noted that a society without peace is characterized by ‘brutish, barbaric and short.’ It was Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) who informed us that nature has given us a guiding thread that we should not neglect. Yet obstacles created by destructive ambition, lust of domination and avarice in those who posses the authority are constraints to harmonious group relationship and social development in Nigeria.
The news emanating from Nigeria is often mind-goggling, as the society is being bombarded with unrelenting echoes of crises. Over the years there have been ethno-religious crises instigated by the Sharia saga. The dust from the third-term plot crisis hardly settled before the Interim National Government distraction, the acrimonious power shift politics and the spree of political assassinations and nobody is responsible for the killings. The police are handicapped by lack of tools to deal with the crisis and that is compounded by the fact that most of the politicians, who are complicit in the political killings, are thin gods. Is it not barbaric, primitive and inhuman to kill another person to assume political power? However, today, Nigeria is at war with herself in the Niger Delta, with the military killing innocent Nigerians in the name of “fighting terrorism.” This ugly situation is compounded by the horrifying daily news of hostage taking in the area. Recently, President Obasanjo ceded Bakassi to the Cameroon, without the National Assembly debating the issue. And he reportedly did that because of his respect for rule of law and for peace, security, stability in Africa. Review of the available documents indicates that the International Court of Justice in The Hague ceded the Peninsula to Cameroon in the October 10, 2002 as verdict on the boundary dispute between Nigeria and Cameroon.
Nevertheless, his quest for peace and stability in Africa should begin at home! When did this trigger-happy President who called out the military to destroy Odi and other communities in the North (at the slightest provocation), without caring about peace and stability of the nation, become a law abiding person? He refused to obey the ruling of the Supreme Court in regard to the Lagos State fund he seized and tried, with the third-term plot to become President for life, despite what the Constitution says. This is an individual who watched his political thugs slaughter his political opponents during the run-up of the 2003 elections. This is the President who rigged himself back to power without minding the impact of his actions on the stability of Nigeria! And because of his soft stance on Bakassi Nigeria is now vulnerable, as any nation could lay claim to any part of Nigeria and the President could cede the area for peace and stability of Africa.
In spite of the fact that the time table for the 2007 election has been released there is uncertainty trailing the 2007 elections because of the recurring political killings and the confusing and confused signals from the police and the chairman of INEC. The police cannot provide security for the aspirants and Mr. Maurice Iwu, who does not like to be criticized, has been flip-flopping on his commission’s readiness to conduct a free and transparent election. To worsen the atmosphere of uncertainty he has requested that high-ranking INEC personnel should be provided bulletproof cars because of the increasing insecurity in the society.
Many things have gone awry in the society. The education sector remains crisis-ridden; the roads are still death traps and electricity supply epileptic. Some of the aspirants in the forthcoming 2007 elections who have acquired ‘questionable wealth’ are above the law of the land, as they are swearing that no national laws could prevent them from contesting the elections. They are “war-driving” threatening that Nigeria will be no more if they are not allowed to become President. Thus Nigeria democratization process is today facing serious challenges from its anti-democratic political structures and individuals. The problem with the leaders of Nigeria is that they do not realize the pain and anguish of the people they are ruling (or aspiring to rule). The serving governors who are gearing up for the presidency are now telling the gullible masses that they would industrialize Nigeria immediately they step into Aso Rock.
One of such governors in the southeast who could not clear the garbage on the street of the capital city where his office is located, who could not fix the pot-holed roads, and who could not create employment for the thousands of the unemployed youths in his state, has recently released his blue-print on how to transform Nigeria into an industrial giant, if and when, he is elected President. During his last visit to Nigeria this writer was confronted by mountains of filths and dirt walking down the streets of the city where this governor is living. This individual governs a people subjected to living without electricity and potable water and living in chaotic and disorderly environment. Consequently, many have gone to their early grave because of lack of medical facilities. This governor should have used his state as a laboratory to demonstrate to Nigerians that he could industrialize a nation.
Nigeria is currently pictured as a society everyone wants to avoid, as a chaotic and unsafe society, as a corruption-infested society and as a society where the common belief is that one may not succeed in whatever one does honestly and with integrity. For many, life is hopeless and unbearable and this negativism is affecting every aspect of life in the nation. Nigerians are demanding justice because peace comes with justice! As Daniel Webster (1782–1852) had aptly noted “Justice…is the ligament which holds civilized beings and civilized nations together.”
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s external reserve is overflowing in the face of mounting unemployment, poverty, hunger and crime in the society. All these are hurting the economy. Recent indicators show that about 70 per cent of the many honest and hardworking Nigerians are living in poverty (on less than $1 per day) despite Nigeria’s abundance human and natural resources. Life expectancy in Nigeria is currently among the lowest in the world because the masses lack proper medical care and the retirees are not getting paid their gratuity and pension. Recently, Aminu Masari who is being paid by Nigerians to manage the society was reportedly complaining about the grave danger hunger and poverty pose to nation’s “democracy.” The question then is was he complaining to the rural dwellers that are eking a living on the barren land?
The rising poverty profile of the society is being exploited by the so-called leaders, as they are recruiting the poor youths as political thugs, thus, pushing up crime rate! And today, top officials of the government and some wealthy individuals drive bulletproof vehicles, some which are the type of four-wheel drives the Ibos jokingly call okwuru oto kele eze (standing and greeting the king), while the poor and powerless are left to battle with the daredevils and to provide their security! But would the gods be safe when they climb down their high-rising bulletproof cars; and would they wear bulletproof vest to bed? It is crazy that the taxpayers’ money is being wasted on the bulletproof vehicles. Like everyone else the leaders should be made to deal with the hostile environment their leadership ineptitude created.
Sadly, the future of Nigeria is in the hands of a few corrupt “rich” individuals who are “wealthy,” not because they invented anything, or that they are engaged in any serious trade, but by stealing from the national treasury. The ones peaceful Nigeria has been rendered uninhabitable by the selfish and corrupt politicians. Granted that corruption has been with Nigeria for a while now, but the corrupt behavior of the President (the Transorp saga, etc) and his supporters (Mike Adenuga is reportedly on the run) and the ineffectiveness of national policies have contributed immensely by restraining the momentum for national development. Reportedly, the House issued a warrant of arrest on Edmund Daukoru, who is an errand boy of the President (faking as the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources), for failing to appear before it to explain his part in the alleged “fraudulent underpayment of crude oil lifting by Shell Petroleum Development Company amounting to $3.2 billion.” Yet this is the President who promises to fight corruption to a stand-still! Are you not confused? Aye!
One keeps reading of all the bold plans the government has to make the Nigeria a peaceful nation, but on the ground the society is crisis-ridden. Nigeria has become a nation where the loss of the people is the gain of the politicians. The same group of politicians is running around today still promising the rural dwellers “water and fire” during electioneering campaigns. Modern societies place high premium on the effectiveness of their social institutions because they depend on them for survival. Thus the EFCC should get organized and stop chasing people around like criminals; it should devise a more civilized manner to arrest those that have contravened the law of the land. However, the trend has been for organized nations to create an “open society” in their respective society where no single supper human being would exercise an unusual control over the system. Nigeria should join with the advanced democracies in establishing and institutionalizing appropriate social institutions that would make peace and stability possible. With this, the managers would grow the economy and provide employment for the teeming population.
Are Nigerians not tired of listening to false prophets? Peace and stability is possible in Nigeria, however, the people have to work harder to achieve it. To make it possible every group should perceive any problem that affects any particular group disproportionately as a national problem, and not a problem that concerns that group alone. To live behind a peaceful nation for our children and their children Nigerians should stop killing one another; it is wrong to kill and detrimental to peace and harmonious co-habitation. Thus everyone in Nigeria should renounce and oppose ethnic and religious divisions, tame corruption and check the naked gods before they auction off Nigeria to the highest bidder. Nigerians deserve some level of security, peace and tranquility that would give them hope for a better future. As Rodney King would ask “can’t we all get along?” The civil society should rise to the challenge of educating the masses on peace initiatives and opposing the leaders preoccupies with instigating crises in the society. Nigeria needs a progressive reformer - a leader who is capable of settling the much-vexed national questions. Nigeria needs a national leader - a unifier and a peacemaker. Remembers that “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God." A real national orientation (not one wearing a political garb) for peace and solidarity is a good idea!
Victor E. Dike, CEO, Center for Social Justice and Human Development (CSJHD), Sacramento, California