The Only Solution to OPC
In recent history, beginning from the regime of the erstwhile laissez-faire military dictator, General Ibrahim Babangida, a strange and sad phenomenon has gradually come to assert itself in the political landscape of this country. Tribal groups now employ terror as an effective means of reaching their political goals. It started with the carnage at Kafanchan in 1987 by a group that slaughtered innocent children in a Quranic school to epitomize their age-long hatred for the Hausa-Fulani with whom they have lived for a century or more. The Sayawa in Tafawa Balewa soon copied them, followed by the Katafs in Zango, and so on. The same group returned to its barbarism in Kafanchan again this year. On all these occasions, lives were lost, sometimes in thousands. Forget about property and the untold hardship suffered by tens of thousand others.
It is a pity that the perennial pretext of these tribalists was not more than the penchant for some aristocratic titles that are daily fading in significance. What is more disappointing is how some citizens, including well-placed individuals in the society will resort to this brutality simply to achieve such parochial goals.
We have also witnessed how violence gained ground in the Niger Delta that has resulted in abductions, killings and destruction of property. In the Southwest, the OPC and Afenifere are hailed for their wickedness by virtually all and sundry except some lonesome voices. Recent events in Shagamu, Ketu and many others succeeded in destroying hundreds of innocent lives.
The immediate cause of this phenomenon, except perhaps the Niger Delta case, is the failure of some selfish individuals to attain their ambitions through civilized means. Some might have gone to school, passed through the universities and have attained reasonable statuses in the society. But it seems the university did not pass through them. So they constantly fail to reason that in the world of mankind, unlike that of the beasts they emulate, some degree of civility is required to belong. They might have known so from their knowledge and personal experience in life, they abandon it and demote themselves to the pedestrian level where tribal sentiments and blindness rule over reason. They conveniently exploit the characteristic failure of their people to measure up to the expectations of civilization or extricate themselves from their self-imposed inferiority complexes. At their level, carnage is the answer to every problem.
Otherwise, how do we explain the involvement of well-placed people like Zamani Lekwot in this butchery? Here was a retired Major General of the Nigerian army who was privileged to be a governor during the Gowon era. Yet, he was caught red-handed and convicted, though mercifully, in the Zangon Kataf crisis. When the dust of that crisis settled, it became clear that he was only eyeing for the headship of the village.
How do we also explain the perennial elucidation of violence by educated (?) people like Soyinka. Careful readers will unfailingly witness the violent emotions on which his prose is constructed in almost every page of his books. His interviews are no better. His political carrier that began during his student days as a member of the youth wind of the action group and a founder of Pirate Fraternity, to his recent self-appointed overseer of NADECO, has left the public in no doubt of his vicious motives.
How do we explain the involvement of literati like Ken Saro-Wiwa in the evolution of violence in the Niger Delta? How could such people who by virtue of being scholars are expected to acutely bend towards reason rather than violence resort to beastly methods? And now Fasehun is here leading a group of hooligans who terrorize and maim innocent citizens, simply because they are non-Yoruba.
Finally, consider the case of the ‘Hutu’ minister in the Obasanjo cabinet. He believes that unless some ethnic groups are wiped out, Nigeria, which in his nearsighted view starts at Lagos and ends at Ogbomosho, will never progress. Such an idea is coming from a person that was not only a civilian governor but also one who at least possesses a Bachelor’s degree in law and logic (LL.). This ultra-reactionary was once believed to be a champion of socialism in the country.
What do these individuals want from Nigeria more than what they have so far earned? Well, one of them wanted to be a district head of Zango, and he felt that thousands should be killed to bring him to the limelight. At last, he lost the election when he contested. Not much has been achieved, certainly. The youths in the Niger Delta were never governors or Major Generals. In fact they seem to have no education at all except that which the streets could offer. We may not blame them as much as we will do to those who believe that because they have abundant certificates, most of which are forged, other Nigerians should walk on four legs as donkeys for them to ride on. Frustrated with the failure of such undomesticated dreams, they have resorted to the antithesis of their history, a utopia they call the ‘Yoruba nation.’
Nothing like that ever existed in their history. While other ethnic groups could boast of having a legacy of nationhood and contribution to the advancement of humanity, this particular one left only that of destruction. This was true to the extent that their historians have confessed that it was the advent of the white man that saved them from self-annihilation. The history of Nigeria since independence is that of a summit to which every ethnic group brought its pride with which it will contribute to national development. It was unfortunate that this particular group has only a baggage of violence to contribute. OPC is only a manifestation.
If one is surprised at the behavior of these opportunists and their groups, the response of government or the nation in general to the crisis is more astonishing. Who was ever executed for masterminding the carnage at Kafanchan, Tafawa Balewa, Zangon Kataf, Shagamu, Ketu and countless others in Ijawland? None! Sometimes I wonder if a government at all exists in this country. It is surprising that it was only Abacha who once tried to do what is right by executing Saro-Wiwa and his group. That single act saved this country as it made other troublemakers to flee at the most crucial time in its history. As for Babangida and Obasanjo their effort is geared towards acquiescing and appeasing the beasts among us. They are quick to acquiesce to their demands and appease them with appointments as cabinet ministers. What is more disturbing is that Babangida could be forgiven for lack legitimacy, but not Obasanjo, a democratically elected president. His reason for condoning wholesale killing to this level remains a myth.
This defeatist approach to crisis management has only helped to keep the country in a vicious circle of disorder. It is a clear manifestation that the military, contrary to our expectations, do not see force as an instrument of order. By making the victim suffer and the criminal enjoy lucrative cabinet positions, their hope to tackle communal violence will continue to be a mirage. May God have mercy on the soul of al-Motanabbi! He once counseled his master on the correct use of force and mercy in administering the affairs of nations, saying:
Using magnanimity by a leader where the sword is required
Is as harmful as using the sword where magnanimity is required.
The stanza that preceded this has a relevance to our subject. Lets recall it:
The noble is mastered by generosity
Generosity to the wicked makes him a rebel.
One also wonders at the failure of security agencies to forestall such situations. It is awful that the President’s arrest or shoot-at-sight order was understood by the OPC for what it is truly: an empty threat! And so will it continue to be, perhaps until the end of the regime. It will always quickly rush to announce that a retired General is behind the recent crisis. This theory is becoming all too familiar and is therefore identified as a smokescreen intended to daunt our ability to clearly visualize the ineptitude or perhaps complicity of government. Otherwise, who is this General that is left free to ferment trouble while it was announced over and again that there will be no sacred cows?
The response of the southern press has been equally nauseating. It is too much in a hurry to advertise OPC. It propagates the publicity campaign of the group. It told how organized the group is, the charms it possesses and how its members distract bullets by simply waiving a handkerchief. Hmm. Well, the southern press is an industry that thrives on lies and ethnic chauvinism. It is shameful that an organ that can muster the courage to press the President to try the Abacha family does not possess the conscience to just condemn the carnage of the barbarous in its midst.
The public in the southwest including their politicians and leaders of their religious establishment has refused to come out to condemn the insolence of the OPC. Not even those of them who live in the North are willing to do so. Thus we are forced to believe that the carnage is done on behalf of the mainstream Yoruba population and with its approval. Silence is approval. This is what makes them particularly vulnerable to revenge in other parts of the country.
It is high time that the Hausa-Fulani and indeed other ethnic groups reevaluate the risks of living outside their home regions. I salute the courage of those who left their homes to earn a living in a hostile land. While as in accordance with the teachings of Islam, we shall continue to preach the protection of lives and properties of all those live in our midst. However, let no one be in doubt that we are indeed capable of defending ourselves elsewhere. The callous tribes of the North that thought they have found a solution to their self-imposed problems by killing Hausa-Fulani are gradually realizing this fact.
This must be our strategy in tackling the OPC threat and others as well. We must guarantee the lives of people living in our midst, Ibo, Yoruba or any other. We owe them that duty. They are our guests. We have a duty in civilization to prove our obedience to the Prophet who commanded us to treat our guests with honor and offer them the protection they deserve. At the same time we must have the courage to defend ourselves in Lagos and elsewhere and be seen to do so effectively.
The OPC is guilty of cowardice called the host-syndrome. Only a coward hides behind the false notion of security while in the midst of his kith and kin. Meet a dog outside its home, it is the most peaceful animal. But attempt to visit its house, it will bark at you almost instantaneously. That is exactly what the OPC is doing. It has the bravado to harass its guests. It has the courage to kill hundreds just because it does not control an association of a yam market. Yams, for God’s sake! Thank God that we are not blessed with such dastardliness in name of courage. But it will not continue indefinitely.
“Or say they: We are a host victorious?
The hosts will all be routed and will
turn and flee.” (27:44-45)
Groups are emerging which are desirous of checking the OPC and its like. They should not waste their time targeting guests. Never should such measures be contemplated. Rather, they should simply do one thing. Let them assist the security agents in fighting OPC there in the southwest. Whenever there is a threat to the life of even a single person, Hausa, Ibo or anyone, let their militia be effective in providing him the necessary protection he requires. And when it comes to fighting, such groups should have the intelligence to identify OPC members on the battlefield and return their fire with a superior one. Zuhair, one of the greatest poets of Jahiliyya, was once proud to describe the readiness of his people to defend themselves in the following words:
If you mount (to fight), we mount too
And if you climb down, we are ever peace-ready
This is the only solution to violence. The police have the duty to employ it. But if their government is unwilling or unable, a divine solution is at hand. Let the willing use it whenever necessary:
“And if God had not repelled some men by others the earth would have been corrupted” (2:251)