(By Daniel Obimba)
“Our wounds are grave, sometimes more grave than we care to admit and sadly too they are curiously inherited. For instance, the story about the conspired liquidation of Adaka Boro in the late 60s by the Nigerian establishment of the day is now no longer just a loss to his peers and generation but one of the many focal grievances for the new generation of Ijaw insurgents found in groups like MEND (some of who are young enough to be Boro’s grandchildren) who have internalised the injury as theirs. This young generation, thus imbued is equally fired up with the hate as first nursed by that older generation, living or ancestral, as they continue to confront what they view as the Nigerian bogey.“
Continued from yesterday (Tuesday,10/6/2014)
IN his work, Class struggle in Africa, Kwame Nkrumah traces tribal schisms of post-colonial Africa to the ascendancy of an exploitative bourgeoisie minority class (collaborating with imperialists and neo-colonialists) in what he called a promotion of “their joint class interests”. These insights and others in the same category have reinforced a pattern espoused by certain contemporary intellectuals that ethnic frictions do not run deeper and beyond the elaborate exploitations and schemes of the ruling elite, exiguous in their numbers but paramount in their influence.
But the truth is that our divisions have taken a heavy toll, if not on our collective psyche then our disparate psyches in ways too pertinent to ignore from the 1953 riot in the North to the Jos killings of early 2000’s and many more. There have been many political killings (military coups inclusive) too numerous to recall here. Now we have the dreaded Boko Haram insurgency looking like a watershed to an already convoluted situation. That the sabre rattling of influential elite has exacerbated the situation is not lost to any keen observer but the bloody conflicts experienced so far could never have gained traction without an extensive collaboration of a deeply prejudiced populace often riled by the losses suffered from crises in the past and present. The Civil war, the genocide and the pogrom of the 60’s continue to elicit resentment from the Igbo speaking peoples of Nigeria. Reminiscences of MKO’s travails and eventual suspicious death still peeve the Yoruba of the South-West. It is also not to be expected that the Birom, Tiv, Jukuns and Fulanis will treat the losses from their clashes in times of future respite with respectable cheer.
Our wounds are grave, sometimes more grave than we care to admit and sadly too they are curiously inherited. For instance, the story about the conspired liquidation of Adaka Boro in the late 60s by the Nigerian establishment of the day is now no longer just a loss to his peers and generation but one of the many focal grievances for the new generation of Ijaw insurgents found in groups like MEND (some of who are young enough to be Boro’s grandchildren) who have internalised the injury as theirs. This young generation, thus imbued is equally fired up with the hate as first nursed by that older generation, living or ancestral, as they continue to confront what they view as the Nigerian bogey.
A polity restructuring national conference may look suitable in trying to manage our divisions but we are already seared with wounds to which a solution rooted in truth and reconciliation shall be condign. To convene a national summit without genuine national healing amounts to assembling potential “aggressors” in a “scramble conference”.
We can borrow from President Rousseff of Brazil’s 2012 Truth Commission, Rwanda’s Gacaca system (avoiding its pitfalls), South Africa’s 1994 truth and reconciliation success. The Gacaca, for instance, emphasises acknowledgements and apologies from perpetrators as confessions are made only acceptable if they come with an apology. We can have a forum that boldly revisits “the sins” against MKO culminating in a national apology to his family with major actors like IBB in full participation. It won’t be far-fetched to bring the Nzeogwu’s of Okpanam and the Ahmadu Bello family and descendants in symbolic union, emotive apologies freely offered signaling a new bonding fundamental in effect. A compelling rapprochement must be conducted for the Ogoni, the Odi, parts of Middle Belt etc. on similar terms. Also no reconciliation of any significant magnitude can be achieved without revisiting the pogrom and the genocidal sufferings of the Igbos of the East before and during the civil war. The major actors and their survivors (Gowon, Awolowo et al) should be involved offering apologies accordingly. Behind the strategy of truth, healing and reconciliation lies penetrating vision. A restructured Nigeria cannot survive mutual hatred. Healing deferred or denied breeds potential saboteurs even to good governance. Mandela’s 1994 truth and reconciliation commission singularly put South Africa on the path of integration and stability. Unlike (we’ve lacked leadership emblematic of national integration) the Mandela’s of history who provided fine African examples of triumph over discord, the Nigerian experience continues to bolster fancied stereotypes that the African is less capable of such quintessence as civilised reconciliation, that their primordial predilections stir them more towards sustained truculence and prejudice.
So for those who gloat that moral legitimacy justifies this conference, it must be said that an unequivocal healing and integration motivated entente shall be for now the best triumph of that type of moral legitimacy.
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