Monday, March 25, 2013

Boko Haram and the killing of Nigeria

This title is my cry for Nigeria. It is a title I used in my column of January 1, 2012. The latest (as of the time I am writing this) horrifying bombing of an interstate commuter bus station in Sabon-Gari, Kano on Monday 18 March, blasting through four buses, killing scores of innocent lives and leaving several scores more wounded has brought it back to me.
Since the time of that last column a few more bewildering angles have been lent to the whole Boko Haram madness, both in terms of “speculated” source of their grievance and suggested panacea.
Highly placed northern brethren have helped the terrorists to add “economic deprivation” to their grouse, and general “amnesty” to the solution.
Now I know we are truly cursed as a people and as a country. Everything in this country is seen from ethnic prism and reduced to ethnicity — be it the glaring need for restructuring the dysfunctional system or electing leaders with the vision to fast-track our development.
Now we are told a major (if not suddenly the sole) reason for the Boko Haram war on our (I cannot even say “their” as it is suspected many of them are not Nigerians) fatherland is the abject poverty they suffer as a result of the inequity in the sharing of our national revenue!
These same highly placed brethren are asking for “amnesty” for the Boko Haram insurgents. Those, they say, that are “innocent of any crime,” an oxymoron if ever there was one. Dictionary meaning of amnesty is “an act of forgiveness for past offences, especially to a class of persons as a whole.” In the Nigerian parlance, based on the precedent with the Niger Delta militants, “amnesty” also includes “buying out” or providing livelihood to those so pardoned.
Let us grant, for the sake of the argument, that we can put face, name, and number to those constituting the Boko Haram class, seeing that poverty and “inequity” are such a country-wide phenomenon, is it farfetched to expect, after the Boko Haram may have been appeased, yet another terrorist group rising from the Middle-Belt, South-West, South-East or wherever in the near future, wrecking havoc with even more devilish modus operandi and zanier demands? But who cares?
We are in big trouble in this country. The devil is abroad.
Back to my column of January 2012, I wrote:
“Boko Haram, the amorphous group of terrorists within our shores, took their campaign of terror to the most contemptible level during the Christian festival season as their Christmas gift to their fellow country folks.
“It rounded off what has been a year in which the group systematically and incrementally imposed terror on the land and demonstrated utter contempt for man and state.The sad part is that they are winning for neither man nor the state has figured a way to halt or appease the menace.
“For a start, the demands of the group are uncertain and dubious. In one breath they are against “Western education” even whilst they embrace products of it, in another they demand “Sharianisation” of Northern states or even the whole country!And the latest, they want the constitution abrogated. Absurd?
“More absurd is the fact that these faceless devils have gone about their evil business killing the very poor people they claim to want to rescue from “hell-fire” and making life on earth hellish enough for all.
“A number of things are clear to my mind: one, these Boko Haram terrorists are not real Muslims and are not fighting an Islamic cause; two, there is a yet undeclared agenda for their protest, sorry, terrorism; three, the modus and facility (material and mind) of their campaign are beyond what is locally available in their part of the country in particular and Nigeria as a whole; four, some powerful people in their part of the country are behind, or aware of those behind, this group, and are tacitly in support, out of fear or from a convergence of interest….
“How do we get out of this mess?
“…The powers (external and internal) that are fuelling it are not into this for the fun of it and are not fighting for any clear “equitable” share of anything; not of power, not of resources. There is no meeting point, and if ever there was one it is guaranteed to be a shifting one – with one met another is made!
“We will live with this for a while, a long while, one incomprehensible group replacing another, one incomprehensible demand after another.
“Are we then on the “road to Kigali”? Is sectarian strife the new order? …Are we at the onset of the disintegration of Nigeria or will the centre hold?”
The latest Sabon-Gari, Kano bus station bombing, with the rumoured or threatened reprisal by folk in the East whose people are the main casualties, has forced upon the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence Saad Abubakar III, one of the strong pro-amnesty proponents, a new appreciation of the danger the country faces.
He is quoted to have said: “This new trend of bombing at a motor park, and the killings that ensued, on innocent people that gathered to travel to various destinations at New Road, Sabon-Gari, Kano, is disturbing and alarming… It seems there is a design to set the entire North on crises and by extension, the whole country, starting with Kano…”
For Nigeria, tomorrow is hard to foretell.
Femi Osofisan’s playwrights’ angle
Even as the country is enveloped in the smoke from Boko Haram nihilism, the fog of unimaginable corruption, and the daze of leadership mediocrity, some folk still have it in them to figure the start of something new, sow an acorn seed in their own little corner, and shine a torch of hope unto the gloomy landscape.
A couple of weeks ago, renowned playwright and university don, Prof. Femi Osofisan, initiated and convened the first ever playwrights confab in Nigeria at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife, to propound ways of bringing theatre back to life to assume its rightful place in provoking positive change in the country.
Theatre, perhaps more than other art forms, has a history of stirring uprising and bringing about change in the society and of governments from ancient times to now. It was not for nothing that a government of Western Region in the 60s banned the Hubert Ogunde Travelling Theatre from performing the “Yoruba Ronu” play anywhere in the region.
Femi’s first thought was a “small, weekend affair” with a handful gathering “around some barbeque and calabashes of palmwine” to “chat and banter” “then disperse, spiritually renewed.”
But it blew into a full grown event attracting some of the country’s big “masqueraders” of theatre intellection and practice, including J.P. Clark, Biodun Jeyifo, Rasheed Gbadamosi, Ahmed Yerima, Olu Obafemi, Jimi Solanke, Ben Tomoloju, Jahman Anikulapo, Tunde Fatunde, and so many more space does not permit me to list.
My friend and aburo Onukaba Adinoyi-Ojo, a playwright in his own right, was there and wondered what a writer or columnist like me was doing in their midst. Poor Onukaba, little did he know that way back in the early 60s at the then famous Kiriji Memorial College I won the “best actor” award for three consecutive years!
In my days stage plays were an integral part of learning and living, right from primary schools to high schools and universities; in religious places and communities.
As Osofisan says of playwrights and theatre practitioners: “We are dreamers, and the product of dreams. And it is these lofty dreams that shape and reshape our world.”

Author: Tunde Fagbenle - a journalist, columnist and social critic.
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