I received with deep sorrow, the sad news of sectarian strife which occurred in Nigeria last week. It began inauspiciously, in Maiduguri, a city dear to my heart. The serene Maiduguri that was my home for many years was suddenly dragged into the sordid tale of murderous riots…riots that sought its victims solely based on the victim’s ethnicity and mode of worship.
The illogic of the riots and the rioters would have made me an instant victim. A victim of a murderous riot, that would have consumed me, even though I have not participated in any wrongdoing or affront and even though the “reason” for the riots would have had nothing whatsoever to do with me. It would have been simple enough that my first name is Paul and that makes me a non-Muslim and that would have also made me a dead man!
In retaliation for the insanity that had occurred in Maiduguri, Onitsha, the city on the bank of River Niger, the most vibrant commercial city in Nigeria, the city on the hill, was suddenly dragged into the sordid tale of murderous riots as well. Just like Maiduguri, your only qualification for death would have been your first name, Adamu!
Another factor in either Maiduguri or Onitsha would have been that your grandparent or great-grant parents were neither natives to Maiduguri or Onitsha. Nigeria Must Redefine Citizenship; Regardless of religion, ethnicity or region. All Nigerian citizens must feel safe in every part of Nigeria, whatever their religious beliefs.
When I was in Nigeria and younger, I never imagined the gory events that occurred last week were possible ever again. After the Nigerian Civil war, too many of us were so convinced that the possibility of Nigerians murdering Nigerians in the manner it was perpetuated last week was remote or in any event, even impossible.
Some of us actually erroneously believed that Nigeria had crossed the great divides of the past, the barbarism of hacking fellow Nigerians to death because they worship a different god or gods, a different holy. Why have some of our brethrens in Maiduguri and Onitsha return to barbarities? Could it be economic hopelessness and desperations? Or are all these truly in the name of God? What type of God is that!
Nothing in the would could excuse the hatred, the barbarities and bigotries that motivated the irrationality of actions, which in turn led to the hacking to death of fellow Nigerians by some fellow Nigerians in Maiduguri, and nothing could justify the retaliations or reprisals in Onitsha. After all, it is Christian not to seek revenge; It is said in the bible that vengeance is for god. What decent Holy Book recommends mass murders? Neither the Koran nor the Bible supports heinous murders for God.
I had thought that the era of an eye for an eye, the Law of Moses sort of rules were left in the Middle-Ages of the ancient times. I am a barbarian if I answer barbarism with barbarism. A defense cannot be found in “they started it first”
The Nigerians in Maiduguri and their counterparts in Onitsha have one thing in common, and it is their absolute disregard for human life, the lives of fellow Nigerians. Worse, they demonstrated absolute disregard for the tenets of Islam and Christianity!
Any religion that inspires the killing of another Nigerian is not worthy of respect in my opinion. Any religion that does not emphasize the sanctity of life is not worth my respect.
Murder is murder, in Maiduguri or in Onitsha, there can be no excuse for a Nigerian who kills another Nigerian. Christian or Muslim. Two wrongs by aberrant followers of two faiths. None is righteous here. None!
Observing Nigerian public debate in the past couple of years led me to believe that our nation is in dire need of re-orientation as to the value and worth or benefit, of our Nigerian-ness. I am a strong believer in the multitudes of advantages inherent in Nigeria’s wondrous diversity.
Nigeria is composed of an exciting quilt of ethnicities, religions, regions to the nth power. I have come to believe that too many Nigerians unfortunately, emphasize the negative variable and negative common denominators. Whereas, there are so much more that Nigerians have in common than most Nigerians realize or are willing to admit. When I lived in Nigeria, I traveled the length and breadth of Nigeria, by road and by air and I could never have enough of Nigeria’s spectacular splendor and terrains. One of my eternal pain and regret is actually the fact that I have had to live outside Nigeria thee tens of years! And I still get excited here in New York, on realizing that the other person in the room is a Nigerian!
It does not matter to me, whether such Nigerian is a Christian, Muslim, Igbo, Hausa, Tiv, Ijaw or Yoruba etc. But meanwhile, the Nigerians who are in Nigeria appear not to be able to stand each other’s ethnicity, religion or region! Why can’t we get along, regardless of our subtle differences? We are Nigerians. We are one. Though ethnic and tongue or religion may differ, we are forever one. Nigerians!
I strongly believe now, more than ever, that there is an urgent need for a national awareness campaign regarding our Nigerian-ness, the advantages, benefits and worthiness of our Nigerian-ness.
ALL Nigerians must realize, and must be made to realize that the plight of the average Nigerian is essentially the same in all of the 774 local government areas of Nigeria. The issues of abandoned, neglected, decayed public infrastructures are the same everywhere in Nigeria. The absence of clean water, electricity, employment etc are same nationwide.
Nigeria’s urgent issues are economic and political, actually more economic than anything else. I know Nigerians here in America, who are professionals, and of different faith and they are married and happy. And in Nigeria, when the economy was good, Christians and Muslims existed cordially side by side, peacefully and without animosities and these murderous riots.
at home and abroad must rededicate to fixing Nigeria and uplifting Nigeria. When Nigeria is economically buoyant, we will or at least, tend to forget who is Muslim or Christian, Jehovah Witness, Hare Khishna or who worships Ogun, Sango or Amadioha.