Sitting in church that Sunday, I felt sad. And disappointed. This revered man of God, reacting to the news of yet another attack of a community in the North in which some churches and some buildings were burnt, said to thousands attending the service “If this does not stop, we will have no option but to order our people to defend themselves. Enough is enough!”
It is ignorance such as the one displayed by this man of God that has landed us in the mess we’ve found ourselves in as a country today. Unguarded statements uttered by people who have tremendous influence with little or no understanding of the issues; of contexts… That firm belief that there is a them and an us and that ‘us’ is better, more civilized. That notion that the lines are clear and the demarcations clearly visible. That the South is Christian and the North Muslim. That christians are victims and the muslims cold blooded killers.
How do I tell this man of God that I grew up in a neigbourhood where the house beside mine was inhabited by both christians and muslims, that the one in front and adjacent were Ba’a Shiga and in the one adjacent lived a christian who had married a muslim? Would he believe if I told him that every time the riots started in Kaduna, it was the muslims opposite our house that alerted us so we could head to the barracks for protection?
During the first major Jos riot, I was in church on Sunday when this lady came out and shared her testimony. She was caught in the fighting somewhere in town and sustained some injuries. They (Whoever they were) were bent on killing her. She wasn’t ready to die yet so she ran. As she turned into a street, she saw a man wearing a Kaftan, standing in front of a gate. He opened it and told her to run in. She wasn’t sure what his intentions were but with her assailants just around the corner, she ran in and he shut the gate. Soon after, she heard her pursuers ask him if he saw any lady run past and which way she went. He told them he had just come out and hadn’t seen anyone. They went their way, looking for her.
He came in and told her to follow him; still pertrified, she did. He took her to a room filled with injured people. Some were in really bad shape, some looked dazed; all of them bled from wounds of different sizes. What the man did was this – He waited until it was dark and in small batches, drove the wounded in his car to safe locations within the city so they could find their way home. She had to wait 24 hours to make the trip out. And she did.
So assuming the man of God gives his Northern congregation the go-ahead to fight, to defend themselves; against whom will they fight? Who will they attack? What will be the criteria for killing or maiming anyone? Religion? Seeing that the general assumption is that the North is muslim and the South christian, what happens to someone like me, born of a woman from Arochukwu and a Father from Akwanga? Can you see that the situation is a tad complicated and we need to stop perpetuating the stereotypes?
Like a friend said, no ethnicity, no religion has a monopoly of madmen. The army general sharing intel with BH, the Igbo guy supplying arms to them and the lawmaker who helps them store them are from different geographical locations and tribes and worship different Gods, but they are united by a common interest – money. It is that simple. The greatest misfortune that has befallen us as a people is the belief that a particular religion or ethnicity is responsible for our woes. It’s a big fat lie if ever there was one.
While there might be an over-arching agenda of a person or a group of people, it takes active local, regional and national support for insurgency to thrive. If you think about it long and hard, without prejudice or bias, you will be shocked to find that the real enemy is not some distant group united by a single ideology and fighting for a cause, the enemy is safely ensconced in the last place we would think to look…