It is a fact, painful as it is, that most of today’s calamities are borne out of yesterday’s inanities. What is worse is the fact that we are all in some way or the other continuously plotting tomorrow’s catastrophes, a reality that tends to bolster the perception that man is ever courting misfortunes. As individuals, we fancy the good things of life. We yearn for happiness. We crave pleasure. We desire security. We want to be celebrated. We strive against pain; we pray against tragedy. We cherish our children and relations. We pray for our friends and well-wishers, wishing them peace and happiness. We thank God for the gift of life, and for all the good things that life offers. We praise and worship God whenever He plays favourites with us. If, therefore, as individuals or groups, we desire such good things, why should we not wish the same for other people? Why do we feel that our joys are exclusive to ourselves, and unconnected to other people’s gladness?
Judging from the inventory of our daily needs and wants, the most rational deduction is that our collective happiness is a clear indicator of our assured individual bliss. Put in another way, our individual freedom from want is dependent on the freedom – indeed, circumstances – of other members of our community. This is why I love the Christian faith, even if I am not a churchgoer. As voluminous as the Bible is, its message can be summarized in a few sentences. After believing in Jesus Christ as the Son of God that died for man’s original sin, your other must do responsibility, besides respecting and honouring God, is to ‘love your neighbour as yourself.’ What is difficult in loving one’s neighbour when the term ‘loving’ here simply denotes wishing your fellow man that which, in similar circumstances, you wish yourself? Unfortunately, this simple task has turned out to be the most difficult thing to get man to do. Man is forever basking in the dream of monopolizing happiness and playing god over his fellow man, each and every one of us harbouring the belief that what is good for us is good for the whole world and what is not good for us is certainly bad for the world.
This is the main source of Nigeria’s troubles, the factor that led us to the precarious situation we now find ourselves. For their own cause, their own grievance, their hatred, their case against whosoever, a group of Nigerians have turned our hitherto peaceful streets, schools, worship centres, recreational grounds, villages, towns, cities, farms and highways into slaughter grounds. The question is not what they want but what they derive from hurting the society, from doing what they are doing to their fellow humans, and, indeed, countrymen. Are they naïve as to believe that they will cower the people and force them to side them by killing and terrorizing people? I do not think so. If they have grouses with the government or have issues with certain men and/or women in power or the rich, the question again is: why are they terrorizing innocent poor citizens? Are they deluded as to believe that they will hurt the Government and the big men in government by hurting the people? That will be ludicrous, as politicians are known to be more stone-hearted than they, the terrorists.
By their activities, it is obvious that these terrorists wreaking havoc and inflicting all manner of pain on innocent citizens of Nigeria are trying to make a statement. They want attention; it is obvious that they are deeply hurt from the inside, and want to share their pain with the rest of the society. However, though perceptibly dysfunctional, their actions demonstrate, in a cruel and queer way, that they are human after all. They crave, they hunger, they desire and strive for some ends, no matter how odious those ends might be. That is what humans do.
On the other hand, politicians are soulless. They have money, power and influence. They are living their heaven on earth. They don’t feel, which is why they are usually calm, and do not act in desperation except in situations that seem to threaten their grip on power. For every poor man or woman killed by a terrorist attack, the political class benefits. The irony in this war of madness is that terrorism has widened and deepened the economy of the politician and narrowed that of the poor. For the politicians and their rich cronies, security has become a big contract base. More contracts will be awarded and easy money would be made. The poor will now have to pay more for security. The cost of hiring and beefing up security in the market place will be passed unto the poor whose source of income is being narrowed or depleted by the day by these acts of terrorism. The poor will now have to pay more for less value and minimal return. They will become poorer and more dependent on the big men in Government. So, in reality, the terrorists are indirectly working for the Government, and the rich and powerful.
If the cause of these terrorists is religious, why are they so indiscriminate in their killings? Are there no rational or right thinking men and women in their rank and file to proffer constructive ways of fighting their cause? Even the terrorists in the stateless Somalia structure their activities. Are these mindless killings not lending credence to the talk about town that Boko Haram has become an anchor for people who want to dismember Nigeria by all means possible?
For those who care to hear, let me restate what I have been stressing since the inception of this republic: it is our collective duty and responsibility to first and foremost accept democracy as the only form of government by which we can be governed. We must be loyal to democracy. At the level of the elite, all significant political competitors or potential competitors (not only political parties but also interest groups and associations) must regard democracy – and, of course, the laws, procedures and institutions it specifies – as the only game in town, the only viable framework for governing the society and advancing their interests. At the level of the masses, there must be a broad normative and behavioural consensus – cutting across class, ethnic, nationalistic and other cleavages – on the legitimacy of the constitutional system, however poor or unsatisfying its performance may be at any point. It is only when we are ready to surrender to the tenets of democracy that we can secure our republic and find solutions to the myriad of seemingly intractable problems confronting our country.
In view of our history and stage of development, It will be a miracle if there is any nationality or group of people in Nigeria that does not have a grouse against the government or any of the public institutions and authorities in the country. However, if we all resort to self-help and settle scores on our own – and in our own way, then there will be no country called Nigeria. We must be loyal to democracy and surrender to its machinery in order to secure this God-given country.
These senseless killings must stop. Enough is enough.