There has been so much hue and cry over the so called Baga massacre, a community in Borno state where the Joint Task Force (JTF) of the infamous Nigerian army massacred over 180 innocent people including women and children and razed down the whole community in their hunt for Boko Haram terrorists. But much of the hue and dry is driven either by Ostriches whose heads are buried in the sand or by sheer hypocrisy and deceit for the simple reason that massacres, pogroms, and other forms of extra-judicial killings and mass murders whether by the Nigerian army, police, civilians or ethno-religious actors have been common place in Nigeria for decades. Indeed mass killing and other acts of injustice remains the single greatest attribute of the Nigerian state to date. It is not possible to write Nigeria’s history without wading through chapters stained with blood that has unnecessarily been shed and continues to be shed in the course of her chequered history. In less than a century of existence and five decades of independence Nigeria has shed enough blood to fill the bowels of the river Niger and all of it needlessly.
Nigeria has had an endless routine of mass killings since 1945 when it commenced in Jos, subsequently in Kano in 1953, Tiv riots in the early 60’s, all over the North in 1966 by all strata of Northern society, the Nigeria-Biafra war from 1967 to 1970, in Kano and all over the North from 1980 onwards, creation of an internal security task force (ISTF) for the Niger-Delta from 1994, Sharia riots from 2000, invasion, mass killing, rape and razing down of whole communities in Odi in 1999 and Zaki Biam in 2001, Boko Haram emergence and violent reprisal in 2009, extortion and routine extra-judicial executions by the Nigerian Police, creation of military task force and increased military operations in the North from 2009.
As the news of the gruesome massacres in Baga broke, I imagine they were many in their sitting rooms, in their workplaces and in different walks of life that would be quite familiar with such acts of mass murders. Indeed many of them would have participated in many such mass killings and would for brief moments relive their own orgy of mass killings. The likes of Yakubu Gowon, Theophilus Danjuma, Ibrahim Haruna, Ibrahim Babangida, Mohammed Shuwa, Shehu Yar’ Adua, Abdulsalami Abubakar, David Mark, Olusegun Obasanjo, Benjamin Adekunle, Paul Okuntimo, Victor Malu, Hassan Katsina, Kam Salem and so many other military, civilian and police officers who participated in the serial atrocities of the 1966 pogroms, the Nigeria-Biafra war, the Niger-Delta task force, the Odi-Zaki Biam massacres and the routine extra-judicial executions by the police would find the Baga, Bama and Nassarawa massacres quite familiar.
For some of these men and many others like them, their careers were made and enhanced from their participation in such rapes, massacres and other acts of injustice that has defined the Nigerian nation to date. In particular, Yakubu Gowon was enthroned and sustained in power through the instruments of mass killing, while Murtala Muhammed and Olusegun Obasanjo rose to become heads of state with nothing other than mass killings in their curriculum vitae. With the recent mass slaying of over 100 police men in an ambush in Nassarawa by the so called Ombatse cult group, a new dimension has been introduced in the serial acts of violence in which the nation is engulfed. What it portends for the future is unmistakable; a well organised ambush can now quite easily take out the convoy of a governor or other government functionaries. Even for those that have bullet proof cars, rocket propelled grenades and other explosives will take out their vehicles in quick succession. Nigerian leaders will find that the culture of violence and injustice they sowed in the society and the Frankenstein monster created as a result is back to consume them, and from it they have no hiding place as the sophistication of the Nassarawa attack demonstrates.
While the hue and cry over Baga, Bama and Nassarawa slayings continue, it’s time for the leadership to come to terms with the reality of Nigeria as a jungle of bloodletting/ injustice and begin with all urgency to chart a new course and create a nation watered by the seeds of social justice and fundamental human rights. Too often, Nigerians are too emotional to realise that “injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere”, thus they see no injustice when the victims are other ethnic groups and cry injustice only when their own group becomes the victim. Many are comfortable to allow, participate and even justify acts of genocide on other groups, what they fail to realise is that what goes around usually comes around and injustice once consolidated in any given society spares no one or group. This cycle of emotional bigotry has helped sustain the injustices and attendant bloodletting that defines the nation.
As violence rages across the nation and in particular the North, the lesson that must be learnt is that a nation that thrives on bloodletting and injustice will eventually consume all within it. In such a jungle once created, no group will be spared the swords and cycle of violence. A society founded and nurtured in justice and equality for all is of collective interest, for that is the only guarantee that everyone and every group will be free from a violation of their rights as is presently the case across Nigeria. In the end, the choice is clear and stark, it is either Nigeria wholesomely addresses injustice in all spheres or injustice will slowly and surely consume it.
Lawrence Chinedu Nwobu