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Nigeria: Stoking the embers of division? Pointers that it’s foolhardy (Must Read)

Africa is a very beautiful and blessed continent. With diverse culture, traditions, beliefs and values, Africans have inhabited different parts of the continent. From the Northern hemisphere surrounded by the Sahara desert, to the horn of Africa as well as sub-Saharan Africa, the continent has a strong and grounded cultural foundation that many still hold on to despite the entry of ‘civilization’.
Yet, the diversity is being threatened by conflict. It is not helped by the fact that the embers of these conflicts are being fanned by divisive figures who have refused to acknowledge the penalties of abdicating peace for war.

There is no gainsaying that many ethnic groups have complaints that have not been addressed for years. But does it mean that these groups will adopt disturbing ways to achieve their aims and objectives?  The 1967 war in Nigeria led to the deaths of many Nigerians. Millions were displaced. The South-East arguably bored the highest brunt of the conflict. This heralded some heal feelings towards Nigeria since the failed attempt to secede (breakaway) from Nigeria. Consequently, many political scientists have argued that the region has been neglected in Nigeria’s political calculations due to the war. This opinion is widely held in the region.

Transiting from these opinions, a radio station emerged. Its owners ‘wrongly’ believed that it was filling a vacuum by promoting the State of Biafra. The station illegally aired in the South-East region.  Many Nigerians have branded it ‘a propagandist radio station’ trying to axe Nigeria’s hard-earned unity. The government swiftly moved to shut down the station and cease its transmitters littered across the south-east.
The radio station obviously has a huge following and several individuals either secretly or openly support the agitation of the region to breakaway.

Twitter will offer a very divergent sample of feelings and thoughts of Nigerians especially of south-east descent about Biafra. It is even more worrisome when you read tweets of youths about the sensitive issue of Biafra. Some of them regard Nigeria as a ‘slave country’ they must free themselves from.  It must be added that not everyone in the region support this agitation. In truth, many from the region have condemned the main actor Nnamdi Kanu, for undermining the peace of the southeast and Nigeria.

Besides, Nnamdi Kanu and his supporters have been accused of all sorts. However, for others it is better to reel-out some end products of preaching divisions. And the need for those promoting these ideas to soft-pedal and search for alternative platforms to fight for their protests.
The Nigerian Civil war between 6 July 1967 and 15 January 1970 is a challenging past that can’t be buried. Nigeria’s history is incomplete without referencing this war. The South-East dominated by the Igbos declared the State of Biafra which triggered the war. A substantial number of people were killed but more died due to malnutrition. Persons from the region who experienced this war never prayed for this horrifying experience again. Then, one wonders why tales of the war wasn’t handed to this present generation.

This is a key reason why history lessons should be thought in schools and ensure that young Nigerians recognise that our unity is not negotiable. In the interim, the superb storytelling skills of Chinamanda Adichie will help. Her compelling book Half of a Yellow Sun tells the story of Biafra.

The genocide in Rwanda (7 April-15 July 1994) knifed the country leading to a pogrom that is still hunting the East African country. It was a frosty and bitter relationship between Hutus (85%) and Tutsi (14%) that led to an unavoidable bloodletting.  The shooting down of President Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu on April 6, 1994 sunk the country into an irreversible war. The war was further fuelled by Georges Henri Ruggiu, a Belgian who worked for a Rwandan radio station. He adopted the tool of propaganda to intensify the killings of Tutsi and disloyal Hutus referring to them as “Cockroaches”. Hotel Rwanda, will enlighten us more about the war.
The world celebrated the secession of South Sudan from Sudan in 2011. The people commemorated their new found liberty after years of war with fanfare. South Sudan was actively supported by the international community.

But the question many foreign relations experts didn’t ask are-can South Sudan sustain itself? Even if the country can sustain itself, what about the divisions among its ethnic groups? These divisions came to light when there was a ‘political struggle between Salva Kiir, President of Sudan and his ex-Deputy-Riek Machar.’  The president accused his estranged deputy of planning a coup. Today, the peace in the newest country in Africa is fragile according to political analyst.   The Somalian war clearly discloses how the absence of stability in one country can severely affect other countries in the region.

Somalia without a stable government since the 1990s finally had an internationally backed one in 2012. However, due to the lack of agreement among various clan elders on who to rule them nurtured a lawless state which Al-Shabab took advantage of.  Al-Shabab has carried out deadly attacks in Somalia, Kenya and Uganda. Notable among the attacks is the daring Westgate Mall attack in Kenya in 2013.
Presently, Kenya is housing thousands of refugees from Somalia at the Dadaab refugee camp because it has no choice due to its closeness to Somalia. The African Hell of life – a 2014 Documentary will convey more about life in Dadaab.

Similarly, lack of peace in Somalia fuelled piracy which has been subdued to a large extent.  The accounts of war is always harrowing and unpalatable. There can never be development in an atmosphere of friction and conflict. Any ethnic group, or socio-political group that have any grievances should channel it to the appropriate quarters and ensure that they exhaust all these channels.
War doesn’t shield the innocent. It affects everyone. It is therefore, important that Africans and Nigerians realize this.
Adeniyi ogunfowoke
Ikeja, Lagos

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