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Monday, July 15, 2024

Orji Uzor Kalu: The Best Time To End Hostilities In Nigeria Is Now (READ)

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[dropcap]N[/dropcap]obody who lived in Nigeria between 1975 and 2008 would ever believe it is in the same Nigeria we have today. Everything has completely changed. I say everything. The reason for the change is simple: Nigeria has been turned upside down by inter­necine crises, hostilities of all kinds, upheavals of all shades, and crimes of all types. There is trouble everywhere. This is the best way to capture the sad development. But for how long are we going to live like this before something drastic is done to restore normalcy?

How many nations would witness these barrages of conflicts and remain united and healthy? Ordinarily, considering the pil­laging, stifling and strafing it has undergone in the hands of its ad­versaries, Nigeria would have gone into irreversible coma but for the grace of God. In spite of everything it has continued to survive and soak in all the pressure. But I ask again: for how long would we allow this situation to continue before we stop the senseless internal strife and destructions going on in our nation?

Apart from the few and intermittent altercations in our national life between the period when Gowon was overthrown and when Yusuf Mohammed (founder and leader of Boko Haram) was bru­tally murdered by security forces Nigeria has never known peace. It is as if petrol has been poured into a blazing furnace.

Life has become brutish in Nigeria and the people are scared stiff about that which is to come. Nothing is certain again. The economy is in a shambles, the polity is daily buffeted in several di­rections by the insensitivity of the political class who cares about nothing else than its welfare.

The current debate in the National Assembly is all about immu­nity for lawmakers. They want to enjoy immunity as their coun­terparts in the executive and judiciary. I am compelled to ask: why the agitation for immunity? Why the craze?

Since the emergence of the dreaded Islamic sect, Boko Haram, insurgency and other forms of militancy have assumed a fright­ening proportion. There is no single day that passes that one does not read, watch or hear one horrifying and despicable story about Nigeria. It is either a case of kidnap, armed robbery or both.

Recall when Nigeria was Nigeria, when life was sacred and sacrosanct. In the good old days there was dignity of labour, re­spect for one another, hard work, perseverance, and, above all, fear of God. Things were moving fine. Leaders then were patri­otic, reserved, honest, transparent and accountable. Even social amenities worked.

Indeed, it was as if life on earth was interminable. It was rare to hear that somebody died. It would take one whole year before a community recorded another death after the last. There were almost no crimes then, because it was not a common incident. Parents were more responsible, caring and duteous. Mothers re­ally played their roles as parents – taking care of the home and the children. The man’s primary responsibility at that time was to pro­vide bread for his family. He catered for his family and provided them comfort and protection. He was ready to sacrifice his life to fend for his family.

Even children were the toasts of their parents. All parents need­ed were to provide school fees and textbooks for their children and wards and the rest they would accomplish. Children helped their parents in different ways. They assisted in farm work, house chores and other assigned duties by their parents. To put it more succinctly, children were truly the future leaders.

The advent of the year 2000 saw a sudden transformation in the lifestyles of many of our youths, especially those from rich homes.

The westernisation of our culture and the acquisitive tendencies among many Nigerians has complicated the already bad situation.

So, the rise in violence, militancy, insurgency, robbery and kid­napping is a product of the debasement of the family culture and tradition. Painfully, many parents and guardians have lost control of their children and wards, and knowingly or unknowingly ex­posed these vulnerable children to the ills of society.

The peer group influence, coupled with the drastic effects of hard drugs, moral debasement and revelry, has made life too cheap among the youth. The value they attach to life has therefore continued to plummet. This is why it would be possible for a cult­ist to behead his rival from another cult without blinking the lids. Life is not worth anything to them any longer.

If that is the case it then means that there will be no end to vio­lence and crises in the time soonest. Despite the huge financial commitments the government has made in providing security the situation seems to be getting worse. It seems as if nothing is being done. However, this position does not mean some progress has not been made in the fight against the Boko Haram insurgency. Painfully, as the military is celebrating steady success against the sect, another flank in the crisis has been opened. This time it is how much the North East geopolitical zone has been allocated for reconstruction. The bone of contention is why the zone should get that much when those that perpetrated the devious act came from the same zone. They also argue that the South East, which suf­fered heavy casualties and destruction during the Nigerian Civil War, has been left unattended to.

I was moved to do this piece because of the relentless rise in violent crimes and criminalities in our society. In fact, the latest approach adopted by the militants in the Niger Delta Region and the increase in the number operating in the region have made this article inevitable.

Imagine President Muhammadu Buhari warning of the sophis­ticated weapons being deployed by the militants in their effort to make the region ungovernable. The President spoke while ad­dressing the judiciary at Aso Rock Villa last week.

The implication of the President’s alarm is that the Niger Delta militants have, by their actions, declared a total war on the nation.

The daily destruction of pipelines and other vital infrastructure in the sector is a dangerous trend that should be stopped forth­with. As far as I am concerned the militants have made their point strongly.

What is left is to go to the roundtable and sort out the grey areas in the conflict.

I do not think it is proper for leaders from different parts of the country to be making incendiary comments capable of causing very serious crisis, if not anarchy. It is not in question that the Niger Delta region is the resource base of the nation. This fact is recognised by the constitution, which made a very important provision for the region in the form of 13 per cent derivation. The Cleaning of Ogoniland is also a way of recognising the indispens­able place the region occupies in our nation’s life.

It is mischievous for any person or group to paint a different picture when we should be seen to be making peace through our actions and utterances. The painful thing about some of these comments is that they come from those seen as responsible citi­zens. What makes them responsible citizens when they can hard­ly show restraint in the face of obvious provocation?

It has become a way of life for some highly-placed individuals to make inciting statements or comments just to satisfy their inor­dinate ambitions and massage the ego of their paymasters.

One fact we must appreciate is that God’s blessings come in diverse forms. All of us should not have oil deposits in quantum. The north is blessed with groundnuts (in fact food generally), the west cocoa and rubber, the east palm oil and cashew, while the south-south has oil in surplus quantity. Whatever gifts God has given to a people is for the good of that people. Therefore, the oil in the south-south and parts of Abia State should be a blessing to their people and not a curse.

Nonetheless, those who produce these rich gifts from God should also see it as a blessing to the nation through their land. It is for this reason that they should not be monopolistic or greedy in harnessing them.

Nigeria practises a federal system of government and this makes it impossible for any ethnic nationality to control its own resources.

The wealth of the nation belongs to all Nigerians irrespective of religion, tribe or culture. It is therefore subversive for any indi­vidual or group to lay absolute claim to it.

What is happening in the Niger Delta currently should have been avoided if justice and equity had been allowed to flourish. Nobody will argue the fact that the sharing of the nation’s resourc­es has not been equitably done. I feel pain in my heart when I hear or read anything about the desolation caused in Ogoniland. Why should it take this long to start cleaning the area when it had been known to the authorities that the place deserved some respite?

Ogoni people are a special people. They have pursued their agi­tation in the most responsible and gentle manner, not resorting to arms struggle as some others had done. Today, Ogoni people are about to laugh last.

So, blowing up oil installations and pipelines will do nobody any good. Rather it will impoverish all of us and make life unbear­able for our people.

I want the Avengers and other such groups to think again. They should weigh the cost of repairing the pipelines they are blowing up today.

It is going to be enormous. What of the impact on the revenue accruing to the federation Account, which forms the bulk of what states receive monthly for development?

I find it bizarre that another militant group should threaten to blow up the Niger and Third Mainland Bridges. What business have these two bridges got to do with the Niger Delta agitation? What will anybody gain by blowing up the bridges when it is certain that the hardship it will inflict on Nigerians would be in­describable?

Instead of blowing up the two bridges it is better the agitators abandon their struggle and seek solace in a sanatorium. How could they even toy with the idea of blowing up the Niger Bridge when the whole world is still waiting for a second bridge across the Niger?

It is comments as this that make me very sad and wonder what actually the agitators want. If they are people-oriented in their struggle they should not do anything that would bring further hardship on the same people whose interest they claim to protect.

As I wrote this piece many states could not pay salaries. Ac­cording to the President 28 states could not pay salaries. Invari­ably, they need lifeline to be able to do so. In my assessment what the President did by his utterance was a vote of no confidence in these 28 states. He was short of saying they should be declared unhealthy and ‘auctioned’, merged or scrapped. Whichever way one may look at it, the President was justified in his assessment.

As things stand now, it may get to a point where only one or two states will be able to pay salaries. That is if any of them is found still standing. No matter the optimism some analysts and government officials attempt to give about the current situation, things can never be the same again.

I am sure many people can now see why the late Prof. Chinua Achebe wrote his classical book: ‘There was a Country’. Achebe was a man who saw tomorrow. All his vision about Nigeria has come to pass. He saw Nigeria beyond rhetoric. In fact, he saw its underbelly long before many others did.

The painful thing about Achebe was that he did not accom­plish all he had planned in terms of writing more books. When he wrote ‘Things Fall Apart’ he might have foreseen the rot the Nigerian nation was to turn into. Today things have irreparably fallen apart. Every ethnic group in Nigeria wants to dominate the rest. This is why it has become the norm for people in positions of authority to fight to protect their common patrimony.

The lopsided appointments in the essential arms of government are a very pitiful and brazen demonstration of nepotism and fa­vouritism in service. Unfortunately, merit has been sacrificed on the altar of mediocrity. It does not matter where one comes from, merit should play a pivotal role in the choice of people to be ap­pointed to fill important offices. Merit should also be used as a criterion to fill other quotas.

Nigeria has gone through its worst times, particularly since the return of democracy. And it should not be allowed to con­tinue to bleed. It is gradually getting to the point of elasticity when it may become impossible to redeem it.

I have reminisced on the past and the beautiful days that went with it. I have also thought about the great men and women that sacrificed everything to make Nigeria the toast of the world. I have also spent precious time thinking about when being a Nigerian was the only passport you needed to get to any part of the world. I relish those days with deep nos­talgia.

Unfortunately, as I cherish the beautiful old days, angst and melancholy set in. I am jolted to reality that the country, which we all cherished at one point or another in the past, has be­come a theatre of war, aggression, wickedness of all kinds – a banana republic, probably.

God! Will you allow our nation to perish just like that? Give us men and women that would stand up to the situation and rewrite its chequered history.

Let me make an appeal: Whosoever, individual or group, has been mistreated and has taken up arms against our father­land should drop them today and embrace dialogue for good of those of us still alive and generations yet unborn.

Is it something too much to ask for?

Orji Uzor Kalu is a former two-term governor of Abia State (1999 – 2007). He is a businessman.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

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