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Nigeria-Biafra History: Before you Beat the Drums of War

Widespread Violence and Heightened Tension in Nigeria After years of military dictatorship, the worst form of which was manifested in the Abacha dispensation, Nigerians had hoped for a period of peaceful transition to a just, equitable, democratic and prosperous society. We had hoped for a new Nigerian society where we can once again have the opportunity to channel our enormous natural endowments to positive use for the advancement of our teeming population We had hoped for a new Nigerian society where we can celebrate the richness of our diverse languages, cultures and religions. We had hoped for a new Nigerian society where we can take our rightful place in the comity of nations, and compete in the advancement of science and technology.
Almost two (2) years of this administration have gone by now but rather than make progress towards the realisation of our dreams, the Nigerian nation appears to be more fragmented than ever before. Eighteen and a half years into our new democratic experiment, Nigerians as a people seem to be more divided than they ever were since independence. This tense and gloomy political scenario is further compounded by the violent crimes of armed robbery, Boko Haram menace, Militancy, Herdsmen Invasion, Cattle rustling, ethno-religious crisis and hired assassinations that have become very rampart. The divisions and the resultant tensions are played out every day in violent conflicts on the streets, in market places and in neighbourhoods, as Nigerians hound their fellow citizens to death and set their properties on fire at the slightest provocation. They are often reflected on the floor of the state and national assemblies, where the honourable men and women sometimes need the anti-riot police to keep the peace.
They are implied in the frosty relationship between the executive and the legislature, that has reached its climax in the on-going impeachment saga, making the Nigerian brand of democracy look like an exercise in mutual acrimony, rather than the “government of the people by the people for the people.” The many conflicts that have plagued post-military Nigeria, sufficiently demonstrate that we have been sitting on a pile of explosives that are now exploding in every direction, and sadly, there is no end to these crises. It has been an orgy of violence: From the onslaughts of the angry Egbesu youths of the Niger Delta, to the atrocities of aggrieved OPC youths of the South West, and from the senseless killings among the Ife/Modakeke, Aguleri/Umuleri, Tiv/Jukun and Egbura/Bassa, Boko Haram to the crazy Sharia campaign in many parts of the North that has shaken the very foundation of the nation, it has been a season of blood and tears. Precious human lives have been destroyed in their thousands, and property worth hundreds of millions of Naira have been set ablaze. We have witnessed thousands of internally displaced persons or refugees squatting in police and army barracks all over the place. As a result of these sad developments, the Nigerian economy remains comatose. Investors have been scared away. With the circumstance of widespread violence and great insecurity in the land, potential investors seem to have decided to watch and see.
Unemployment remains high and the mass of the people are plagued by acrimonious poverty, with the lot of many worsening by the day. Thus Eighteen and a half years after we said goodbye to military dictatorship, we are witnessing what appears sadly as another round of aborted dreams, broken promises and dashed hopes. Once again our leaders have failed to deliver, and we are once again being challenged to go to the drawing board. The unfortunate turn of events in the last One and a half years surely bring to the fore the imperative of forgiveness as part of the dynamics of conflict resolution towards national reconciliation and peaceful co-existence. Perhaps the people of Nigeria along with their leaders had underestimated the extent of the problems that had built up in the land over the years of debauchery, when social injustice, economic isolation and political banditry reigned, breeding widespread anger and resentment that were kept in check all the while only by military might. With the violent conflicts that have erupted in the North and South, and in the East and West, over unresolved ethnic, religious, political and economic differences, and over boundaries and the ownership of land and other resources, Nigerians must now realise that there is a lot of structural defect in the Nigerian society that are a potential source of conflict.
This is a challenge we must take up and address courageously. Many in the Igbo nation remain are resentful of the rest of Nigeria for the injustices of the 1967 to 1970 civil war, the abandoned property imbroglio, and the alleged post-war marginalisation of Igbo people in some vital segments of the national economy. Many in the Yoruba nation are angry with the rest of Nigeria for the injustices associated with the June 12 election annulment, and the alleged post-June 12 persecution and marginalisation of Yoruba people. The collocation of small ethnic nationalities which we call the Middle Belt are today vexed by the appendage status accorded them in the power structures of our nation. Many of them allege that they have suffered numerous injustices because of being falsely associated with the North all this time, while they gained nothing from the Northern hold on political power.The citizens of the oil producing Niger Delta are poised for a show down with the rest of Nigeria, and if recent clashes are anything to go by, their youths appear to be well equipped for war with the rest of Nigeria, because of the callous exploitation of their natural resources for decade, while they are abandoned in a state of destitution. Many among the Hausa and Fulani Muslims of the core North who desire to live under the supremacy of the Islamic Sharia are incensed that the rest of Nigeria wants to jettison what they see as their religious freedom. Within each group, there is often bitterness over past hurts and wounds which have never been seriously addressed
 Manifestations of Ethno-Religious Conflicts in Nigeria
By ethno-religious conflict, it means a situation in which the relationship between members of one ethnic or religious group and another of such group in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society is characterized by lack of cordiality, mutual suspicion and fear, and a tendency towards violent confrontation. In Nigeria, it is interesting to note that ethnicity and religious bigotry have become a fulcrum of various forms of nationalism ranging from assertion of language, cultural autonomy and religious superiority to demands for local political autonomy and self-determination. All these sometimes lead to some forms of contextual discrimination of members of one ethnic or religious group against another on the basis of differentiated systems of socio-cultural symbols and religion.
Thus, before the present democratic experiment in Nigeria, there were ethno-religious conflicts that claimed so many lives and property (Mohammed, 2005). Notable among such crises are the maitatsine religious disturbances in parts of Kano and Maiduguri in the early 1980s; Jimeta-Y ola religious disturbances (1984), and Zango Kataf crises in Kaduna State (1992). Others are Kafanchan College of Education Muslim Christian riots; Kaduna Polytechnic Muslim-Christian skirmishes (19811982); and the Cross vs the Crescent conflict at the University of lbadan (1981-1985). Yet other early ethno-religious conflicts include the Bulumkutu Christian-Muslim riots (1982); Usman Danfodio University Sokoto (1982); and the Muslim-Christian Clash during a Christian procession at Easter in Ilorin, Kwara State (1986).
Against the background provided above, it then means that since a long time ago, many parts of Nigeria have become theatres of war, characterized by an increasing number of ethnic and religious crises. The spate of ethno-religious conflict in Nigeria has however, increased with the birth of Fourth Republic. The frequent occurrence of ethno-religious conflicts with the coming of democracy is due to freedom provided by democratic rule. The first leg of ethnic and religious riots in Nigeria in recent time was in July 1999, when some Oro cultists in Sagamu, in Ogun State accused a Hausa woman of coming out when the cultists were outside with their gnome. This led to some altercations, which eventually led to full-blown crisis. Many people, majorly of Hausa and Yoruba tribes lost their lives. The infamy was however, temporarily put to check only when a dusk to dawn curfew was imposed on the sleepy town of Sagamu. Unfortunately, however, as the infamy was put off in Sagamu, reprisal killings started in Kano, a major Hausa city.
As a result, many people died and property worth billions of Naira destroyed. Kano residents of Southern extraction who had lived, all their, adult lives in the ancient city of Kano had to return to their native land to count their losses. When Kano City was settling down for peace, Lagos erupted with another orgy of violence, visibly as a mark of vengeance of the Kano mass killing of the Yoruba tribe men. This time, the O’dua People Congress moved against the Hausa/Fulani traders in the popular ‘mile 12 market’ and for two days, the area was turned to a killing field. Another ethno-religious conflict that left a remarkable mark in Nigeria was the Kaduna/Enugu riots. The root cause of this set of riot was the introduction of the Islamic Legal Code (Sharia) by some goverl}ors of the northern states of Nigeria. Governor Ahmed Yerima of Zamfara State first introduced the Islamic Legal Code in October 1999, which was greeted with pockets of unserious protest. Initially, no many harms were committed as a result of the protests over the introduction of the Sharia code.
However, the hitherto subdue fire was ignited when Governor Mohammed Makarfi of. Kaduna State tried it in February 2000. Because of the deep seated animosities between the Muslims and Christians in Kaduna State in general and the state capital in particular, coupled with the fact that both are almost at par in population, the two went for their swords and many were slained in cold blood.
In the Kaduna riots, the Igbo tribe (a predominantly Christian ethnic group) was mostly affected. However, like the Sagamu incident, and as it should be expected, Enugu and other Igbo cities erupted in violence when many Igbo returned dead and those who were lucky to escape had tails of woe to tell, as they too were targets of attack by the Hausa/Fulani in Kaduna. It is important to note here that the Kaduna/Enugu ethno-religious riots presents some features that look like the prelude to the 1967-1970 civil war in Nigeria. In other words, the riots constituted sufficient force that could lead to a civil war as law and order collapsed in the two areas.
In October, 2000, another ethno-religious conflict occurred. This was the Lagos-(Idi-Araba/Oko-Oba) Kano myhems. The cause of this was the misunderstanding between the Hausa residents and the Yoruba in Idi-Araba in Lagos over the use of a convenience by a Hausa resident, as a result of this misunderstanding many Yoruba residents of the area were killed with bows, arrows and machetes. Responding; the O’ dua People Congress (a Yoruba militia) came into the picture and things worsened. Later, Oko-Oba, another Lagos suburb with a high population of Hausa/Fulani stock joined the fray of madness. The violence later spread to Kano and as expected the southerners were mostly the victims.
In September 2001, the ethnic tension between the Tivs and Iunkuns in Plateau State reached a head after decades of fighting. The September 2001 ethnic tension was caused by what can be called a mistaken identity. What this means is that some Tivs took some nineteen soldiers to be Junkuns but in fake army uniform. The Tivs youths captured them and slaughtered them one by one. The reprisal attack by the men of the Nigerian army in Zaki Biam was devastating. Also in the same month Jos, the Plateau State capital city, joined the madness. The cause of this was the appointment of a Christian as a Local Council Chairman. It is interesting to note that by the time sanity found its way back to the city, more than hundred and sixty (160) lives had been lost in the mayhem.
In the following month of the same year, that is October, 2001, there was another’ mayhem in Kano. This was, however, caused by an international event when some terrorists attached the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in the United State of America. Shortly after the United States launched an offensive against the Taliban government in Afghanistan, Kano erupted with another round of ethno-religious conflict. In this case, some Islamic fundamentalists who felt that the United States of America had no reason to bombard Afghanistan decided to set the city of Kano on fire. Like the earlier crises in the city, the Southern tribes in Nigeria were mostly the victims of the Kano ethno-religious conflict. All the crises events presented above and which occurred before and since the coming of democracy in 1999, remain stark reminders that the conflict hot beas around the country are always steaming and ready to explode at the slighted provocation. From the various examples of ethno religious conflicts cited, it can be seen that there is no sharp distinction between ethnic conflict and religious conflict. What this means is that a Conflict that begins as an ethnic ‘conflict may end up as a religious crisis and vice-versa. This explains why ethno-religious conflicts in Nigeria are always devastating in their effects.
 Christianity and Promotion of Love
The passage of Luke 6: 27-38 forms the climax of Jesus’ teaching on the new order, the order of mercy, compassion and sacrificial love, by which he seeks to replace the old order of hatred, vengeance, and violence among men and women. He says: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who persecute you. To the man who slaps you on one cheek, present the other cheek too; to the man who takes your cloak from you, do not refuse your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your property back from the man who robs you. Treat others as you would like them to treat you… If you love those who love you, what thanks can you expect? Even sinners love those who love them… Instead, love your enemies and do good, and lend without any hope of return. You will have a great reward, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked… Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate…for the measure you give out is the measure you will receive.
Islam and the Promotion of Peace
Islam, a religion of peace, tolerance and acceptance, requires believers to treat all people with justice and respect. Devout Muslims are tolerant, forgiving, modest, understanding, gentle, genuine, and honest. In fact, God commands them to be just even when it is not in their own interests or those of their families to be so; to feed orphans and prisoners of war first, even if they are hungry themselves; and to be selfless, patient, and firm in virtue. Such Muslims are far more accepting of non-Muslims, for they know that compulsion is disallowed in religion. When dealing with non-Muslims, they do their best to show the way to the right path, address the other person’s conscience, and become the means of this person’s acceptance of a virtuous life, which is only possible if God grants him or her faith.
It is a known fact that, throughout Islamic history, the People of the Book have been always treated with tolerance in Muslim societies. This was particularly evident in the Ottoman Empire. It is a well known fact that the Jews, whose rights were denied and were exiled by the Catholic Kingdom of Spain, took refuge in the lands of the Ottoman Empire. When Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror captured Istanbul, he granted both Christians and Jews all their fundamental rights. Throughout Ottoman history, Jews were regarded as a People of the Book and enjoyed peaceful coexistence with Muslims.
 
Non-Muslims in the Period of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)
When we examine the relations of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) with the people of the Book during the first years of Islam, we see that he co-operated with Christians. When Muslims were subjected to cruelty by pagans in Mecca, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) told them to migrate to Ethiopia, a place where Christians lived at that time. King Negus, the Christian ruler of that country, accepted the migrant Muslims and protected them against oppression.
The Qur’an also gives the example of Jesus’s disciples to other believers for their loyalty to God and His messenger. There are also striking similarities between the first Muslims and the first Christians.
The tolerant attitude adopted by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) towards Jewish communities also sets a good example for all believers. During the period of the Constitution of Medina, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) treated Jews kindly and tolerantly. He encouraged that there be co-operation, counseling and goodness between Muslims and Jews. Indeed, this was put into practice in daily life. This just and tolerant attitude of the Prophet (pbuh) surely applied to all people from all religions and races. Despite treachery, attacks and plots, the Prophet (pbuh) always forgave the perpetrators in compliance with the verse “those who pardon other people” (Qur’an, 3:134). And as the verse suggests, “Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and kindly instruction, and discuss (things) with them in the politest manner…” (Qur’an, 16:125), he always summoned people to Islam with gracious advice.

1 Comment

  • vps 20 Jun 2020

    Awesome! Its really amazing article, I have got much clear idea regarding from this article.

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