By Abdulwahab Oba
My phones kept ringing endlessly. I could not pick the call because I was attending a public function. The caller is not one of my contacts. It appears to be an international call.
As soon as my line was switched on after charging, the caller came on again. “Why did you switch off your phone?” The unknown caller queried, even without identifying himself. “I’m sorry, Sir,” I cautiously, apologised, skeptical of his identity. Ofcourse, there are so many swindlers around these days. If they don’t inquire about your bank, they ask you to help clear a non existence consignment.
Not sure of who he was, I explained the frequency of calls some of us receive daily. Without sympathy, my new “boss” went straight to his reason for the call. “Now, that our houses have been burnt, our farmland destroyed and our people maimed and killed, will government compensate the people of Iloffa? The caller, who now identified himself as Tomi, alleged that the people of Odo-Owa committed this unprintable harvoc on the people of Ilofa.
Too bad and unfortunate. I did not mince words in correcting him that it was too early to confirm who did what until investigation is completed. But more importantly, I asked that for how long will government continue to compensate communities, who for whatever reasons, carry arms against one another? Where are the resources even if government wanted to? And will that not encourage perpetration of such heinous crime?
This is the fulcrum of this intervention. One unique thing God has done for us as a nation is the gift of a vast, arable land, which in most cases is the envy of several other nations of the world. There is hardly any piece of land in any corner of Nigeria that cannot be used to grow something that can conveniently feed at least a family. We have the human resources and God has blessed us with abundant natural resources. We are a nation whose citizens go to bed hungry every night in the midst of plenty that could be produced from our land.
But my focus here is not even on the use of the land that God has given us. No, my concern is about how much an average Nigerian is willing to kill and maim his neighbour; his brother in every sense of our collective Africanness, all in the name of fighting for the ownership of a piece of land or a traditional right. Stories abound of murders that have been committed and wars that have been fought over land or other ephemiralities. This may not be a Nigeria peculiarity, but a global phenomenon. From all indications, it does appear we have taken ours overboard.
Yet the question is, is it worth it? Should it not bother us that in this age and dispensation the spate of communal clash is still rampant? The latest in the orgy of communal clash in Kwara State is just dying but even if it dies totally, how do we explain the loss of lives to the generation of tomorrow? I often wonder, each time I read about such clashes as happened few weeks back between Ilofa and Odo-Owa, what happened to our community spirit, our brotherliness that we often arrogantly speak of in contrast to the solitary lifestyles of the Europeans?
What happened to our indigeneous methods of conflict resolution? Where are the elders and the spirits? When shall we learn to live and indeed act like we are truly our brother’s keepers if two communities like the aforementioned cannot live together with each other except they bicker like has just happened? Where did we lose it?
And it is not limited to Odo-owa and Ilofa; we have Share/Tsragi, just like we have Offa/Erin-Ile, all flash points of communal clash in the state. These are the major ones as community leaders would readily aver that there are several other silent cases in several areas.
The big question is, when shall all these cease? When shall we learn to live together as a people that God has brought together? When shall we put an end to the lip service we have been paying to the slogan of unity that we sing about everywhere? When shall we learn to forget the past; talking about history of wars and conquests of our forefathers and agree to live as people who have better understanding, people who understand that the land God has given us is to develop and make a decent living and not to kill one another over?
But help shall not come from heaven. While government tries to attract investors by creating an enabling environment through infrastructure development, no reasonable investor will come to communities where there is no peace. This is the challenge.
Like Gov Ahmed continues to aver, God has not made a mistake by creating us to live with another. His works are perfect. Yet it beat my imagination why our people take much delight in following only the narrow direction dictated by primordial considerations which eventually lead to war, bloodshed, tears and losses.
I think the time has come for government to be more decisive in dealing with the menace that communal clash has become in our land. One option that is to ensure that those found guilty at the end of the usual security investigations are brought to book under a proper judicial process and made to pay for their crime. Indeed those who deserve death penalty should not be made to escape once it is certified that the course of justice has been followed and an innocent person would not be made to suffer. Enforcing the death penalty would truly serve as deterrent to those who love to eat, as the saying goes, from the troubles of communal clashes.
The truth is that perpetrators of these clashes inflict so much pain on their victims; they kill and they maim and if at the end of the day, the best we can offer the victims is compensation in cash or kind, then we may just be telling others looking from afar that if they take to the streets of their communities and embark on killing spree or burning houses they can as well go ahead and inflict untold hardship on their people and we shall also compensate their victims in cash or kind.
Of course, another option open to government is the dethronement of traditional rulers whose subjects are found guilty in the various clashes in our communities. No traditional ruler should be allowed to use his office to perpetrate evil and then hide under an unwritten native immunity while his victims count their losses. As custodians of the tradition and history of their people, traditional rulers should be made more active as enforcers of peace and peaceful co-existence and justice as well as respect for the sanctity of life and the unabridged right of every Nigerian to live wherever he/she wants so long as he/she does not constitute a threat to the continued peace and security of the community.
But above and beyond these seemingly harsh recommendations, the best recommendation I would sincerely make is to ask that we return to our true sense of Africaness, being our brother’s keepers wherever we settle; wherever fate has decided to locate us in our state because such is much better, much more affordable than the social, emotional and generational cost of sending someone to death or dethroning a traditional ruler. But if no one will listen to my sermon, then government should do the needful.
Kwara State Governor, Dr Abdulfatah Ahmed has commiserated with the families of a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and former state chairman of the People Democratic Party, PDP, in Kwara State, Alhaji Yusuph Aiyedun over the sudden death of the APC stalwart.
In a statement signed by the governor’s press secretary Abdulwahab Oba, the governor described the death as a rude shock. Governor Ahmed said the deceased would long be remembered for his selfless service to the state, especially as a resource manager and administrator par excellent with unflinching commitment to democratic norms and values.
His death, the statement adds, is a big loss to the state which will no doubt create a vacuum in the A P C family in the state. Dr Ahmed prays Allah to forgive the deceased all his shortcomings and Grant the entire family, friends, and close associate of late Alhaji yusuph Aiyedun the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.
*Oba can be reached via e-Mail:firstname.lastname@example.org