I was not born during the years of the Nigeria-Biafra war but I am not sure that the Nigerian society had ever been more divided, distressed and disillusioned as it is today. The only visible strings connecting the strands of our social being are those of hostility, repudiation and violence.
To the endemic extent that our children are readily picking up the defining lines of hatred readily and freely sold by adults. We are nearly 40 years behind that self-unleashed calamity in terms of date but in terms of our mind-set and mental conditioning we have sank several generations out of sync with civilization. We are quick to shut our ears to reason. Driven more by ephemeral values we are now quick to draw blood as the starting point of each argument.
We cannot adapt to other ideas in solving complex problems because of our partisanship, sectarianism or bias against others. Today across the globe, diversity is the driving engine of development and growth. For any society desirous of steady, sustainable growth, harnessing the positive dynamics of diversity is key. The absence of a diverse, open society easily snuffs out any potential for innovation or the chance to understand a complex problem that may lead to solutions.
Sadly it is increasingly getting difficult to have an opinion in Nigeria even when such opinion is logical. The social media, rather than being deployed as in other societies to function as the tool of social mobilization for change, have been turned into an absurd platform of hate renditions. Hate speeches, divisive online comments and generally unwholesome social media tantrums have steadily discouraged well meaning, dispassionate discourse concerning the commonwealth. Persons that genuinely want to use social media as a weapon to promote understanding, peace and development are on retreat.
According to Douglas Schuler, of the Public Sphere Project (CPSR), democratic societies rely on diversity of viewpoints and ideas for the intelligence, engagement, enthusiasm and wisdom that they need to stay alive. This is particularly important during this current era of globalization and critical public issues that require public engagement.’ As a Nigerian who has worked in the media for about two decades and made a visible mark in the area of conflict reporting in the north, I have seen first-hand how communities especially in the north are affected by the lack of media diversity or even a shortage of it.
Another worrying development is the undue reliance on “international experts” or international news media to create the mainstream crisis narrative. Instead of first-hand account and intelligence report to shape the discourse and policy initiatives, our conversations on this tragedy tend to be driven by hear-say and second rate assessments. Fables suggesting that the insurgency was primarily a campaign to eliminate Christians in Nigeria feature prominently in the over-heated trading of blames across several divides in the country.
In reality Boko Haram neither spares Christians nor Muslims, neither do they spare heathens since the outset of this crisis. Also the reports that the insurgents in Northern Nigeria are waging a war of attrition against the President of Nigeria who happens to be a Christian or, the President is determined to exterminate and disenfranchised as many northerners as he can have gained currency.
In effect, every debate on this conflict has been reduced to finger pointing by opponents of one camp over another. The reality of what this problem is all about, which is a growing global jihadi movement is ignored. Knowledgeable sources suggest that the leadership of the insurgency has already lined up hundreds of women, girls and boys eager to blow themselves and other Nigerians up in suicide missions driven only by unimaginable level of indoctrination and cult follower-ship.
To suggest that any politician as being peddled, whether in government or out of government, is overtly sponsoring the insurgency is the height of ignorance about the self-motivating drivers of insurgency. In all these chaos, are the military relevant? Sure they are.
Any day without the presence of the military in the North East will be an unimaginable disaster for the communities (that have not known peace but the trauma of violence and abductions in the past few years). That is the truth. Could the military have done better and can they improve? Without doubt, yes! Only that years of military dictatorship, of impunity and corruption in Nigeria as well as a lack of strong legal institutions have altogether acted to stunt the vision and vibrancy of the military.
As someone who has practiced journalism with a close eye on the processes of governance in Nigeria I have noticed that our leaders generally have the penchant for short cut maneuvers where diligent submission to painstaking process will suffice.
In all these, mischievous rumors and open hostility towards one another have diminished any intelligent assessment or debate on this crisis. As long as Nigerians fail to encourage reasoned debate and continue to chase shadows, ignoring the substance for so long shall we continue to reap the whirlwind. Nigerians, this crisis in the north is not about President Jonathan or Muhammadu Buhari. It is squarely about a doctrine peddled by violent minds. It is about their dogma. By this dogma, any Muslim that does not share their doctrinal flavour is considered as much an infidel as any Christian. The problem won’t just go away.
Sadly, our society especially in the north is not endowed with statesmen who can appeal to the conscience of the restive youths because of decades of disconnect. The political elites are now paying dearly for failing to invest in the right education for the teeming children that are not directly their own, making it hard to rally support to unite and even discuss the future of Nigeria without.