I do not want to be controversial again. I have written about controversial topics many times and I don’t want to do it anymore. In fact, I don’t want to write things that will put me in the North or South political spectrum. Instead, I just want to write things that people like and will read. But the point is that evil triumphs only when good men do nothing. That is why I am asking for permission to be controversial one more time; particularly, about the recent spate of attack in some parts of the country by herdsmen at the time when I strongly believe that all Nigerian citizens should pay very close attention to their neighbour’s welfare.
At the time when I think that everyone in our society should reach out beyond tribalism and religious fanaticism to help the oppressed, the trapped and the sick. And at this age of reason when all men and women are expected to insist on security for and from the larger society; and when people should remember the past and love without end; when everyone in our country should make charity personal, pay a fair wage to their workers, share food with widows and orphans, listen patiently to the young and honour the old. When all Nigerians, Christians and Muslims, should turn their backs to religious hate, tribal division, and jointly insist that all our school children be treated with respect, no matter their gender, tribe or religion.
The hard truth today is that bullets don’t discriminate. That is why the recent alarming influx of madmen into our communities is a serious threat to the peace, life and property of innocent Nigerians, majority of who are not immune or made safer by virtue of their economic or family status. And our recent history of horrific mass shootings across the nation should instruct any rationally minded political leader at this time that the lax crime control laws and easy availability of illegal firearms in the land today have neither economically nor politically helped us to prosper. Instead, our progress in degeneracy continues to be very rapid.
As a nation, for example, we began by declaring that “all men are created equal”. Unfortunately, later, we practically read it as “all men are created equal, except religious and ethnic lunatics in our midst”. And when it comes to this, of course, many of us prefer emigrating to some countries where nobody makes no pretence of loving liberty. But before that time, President Muhammadu Buhari must quickly be reminded that apart from government itself, other dangerous enemies of our economic and socio – political advancement in Nigeria are those politicians who promote violence for profit, and who propose we raise the flag of surrender in the war against religious and ethnic violence.
Again, government itself is to blame. For more than three decades now, rather than focusing on education, youth employment and security of the citizens, our leaders give every indication of being interested in just power. Since 1999, when PDP came into power, for example, the rate of violent crime in Nigeria has increased tremendously. In the blood – spattered northern part of the country alone, hundreds of innocent citizens (mostly Christians) have been brutally murdered in serious crimes; while hundreds more went unreported. Thanks to our failed criminal justice system.
In Kano and Kaduna, the number one cause of death is murder. Two third of those who died in Jos and Maiduguri within the last 15 years were victims of homicide; and to our national shame, Niger Delta has the highest kidnapping rate with thousands of assault weapons in their street than Afghanistan. Whereas, the founding fathers believed that civil rights belong to individuals and not groups, the principle of equal rights embodied in the constitution defined our goal as equality of opportunity which rejects distinctions of legal status and privilege defined by religion, ethnicity or gender.
And instead of putting the criminals among us in chain and let them learn that everyone in our country is the same in the eyes of the law, the federal government continues to pretend without allowing the system to work, even with a visible law enforcement presence and enough prison space to hold the unscrupulous lunatics. But as a public affairs scholar, I am at least marginally qualified to send a message to our lawmakers who are ideologues, who are unmoved by facts or history, who are blinded by the propaganda of tribal division and whose ears are sealed shut and let them understand that there is only one thing that will teach them.
There is only one thing that will open their mind. And that is when the next group of schoolgirls abducted by terrorists are their children. And for Buhari with whom I share many ideals, such as the urgent need for youth employment, smaller government and fiscal discipline, but who mistakenly presumes that the constitution allows the Fulani herdsmen to travel to any part of Nigeria with AK47 without restraining them, well, Abraham Lincoln opens his heart to an old comrade, Joshua Speed, in one of his most politically and historically significant letters on August 24, 1855 as follows: “Dear speed, you know what a poor correspondent I am. Ever since I received your very agreeable letter of the 22nd of May, I have been intending to write you an answer to it.
You suggest that in political actions, you and I would defer. I suppose we would, not quite as much, however, as you may think. You know I dislike slavery and you fully admit the abstract wrong of it. So far, there is no cause of difference. But you say that sooner than yield your legal right to the slaves, especially at the bidding of those who are not themselves interested, you would see the union dissolved. I am not aware that anyone is bidding you yield that right; very certainly, I am not. I leave that matter entirely to yourself. I also acknowledge your right and my obligation under the constitution in regard to your slaves. But I confess I hate to see the poor creatures hunted down and caught and carried back to their strips and unrequited toil; but I bite my lips and keep quiet.
“In 1841, you and I had together a tedious low – water trip on a steamboat from Louisville to St. Louis. You may remember as I will do, that from Louisville to the mouth of the Ohio, there were on board ten or a dozen slaves shackled together with irons. That sight was a continued torment to me, and I see something like it every time I touch the Ohio or any other slave boarder. It is not fair for you to assume that I have no interest in a thing which has, and continually exercises, the power of making me miserable. You ought rather to appreciate how much the Great body of the Northern people do crucify their feelings in order to maintain their loyalty to the Constitution and the Union. Certainly, I do oppose the extension of slavery because my judgment and feeling so prompt me; and I am under no obligation to the contrary. If you and I must differ, differ we must. Your friend, Abraham Lincoln.”
–– Adeyeye is proprietor, Crown Heights College, Ibadan