What has happened to our political process that has bolstered these distortions and killings, is that our political elites have commandeered and used the electoral system to entrench their legitimacy, and in so doing, divide their opponents by the use of armed and killer groups that intimidate their rivals. Our political leaders have been incentivised to use conflict and ethnicity to cause division and mayhem amongst the people
EVERY second that we watch, read, or listen to the news, all that confronts us is the disastrous impact of the killings in our communities and around the world. The harm that these killings have caused us, is incalculable and extremely consequential. Decades of evidence and damning revelations have exposed this phenomenon, and its devastating effect on Individuals, families, communities, and humanity, as utterly disdainful.
Today, it is crucial to acknowledge our individual and collective roles in catalyzing the millions, upon millions of lives, mostly of innocent people, that have been willfully taken by the wickedness of their fellow humans. One must be forced to question the motivations that have created these far-reaching consequential disruptions to human lives and existence ─ are they actions motivated by political expediency, religious bigotry, ethnic and tribal hate, or racist motives? Perhaps these rampant killings are as a result of economic or monetary considerations, or by some other mundane reasons.
Every day that I wake up, I keep contemplating what is in the human DNA that promotes the obnoxious perpetuation of this harmful cycle of the orgies of killings and killings in our society? In light of these historical wrongs and the current animalistic behaviour of humans toward humans, it is time we addressed the resounding failure of the world to curb these killings on all scales and spheres.
In a broader sense, there are far more questions than answers about these senseless killings. In many ways, the lack of certainty to these questions will somewhat give heart to those who in perpetrating these acts, hope to use violence to change their circumstances. It may also convince the weak amongst us, that they are strong when they exhibit these vile behaviours that continue to haunt us and devastate the world today.
There are many faces of killings around the world. Predominantly, the killings in Africa, and specifically those in Nigeria, have been aimed at political and ethnic conflicts. Those who take up arms and kill, are more likely to do so as a means of bargaining over resources. Some have even enjoyed the instigation and support of government officials as a means of using non-state actors to settle scores and prolong their hegemony on power and influence as a mode of governance. In the case of Nigeria, we have manufactured a band of bandits and senseless killers whose reputations for depravity often in symbiotic relationships with government and their agencies, have shocked the system beyond reproach. The violence and killings that have emanated from these killers, have become systemic, and transcend common sense and reasoning.
We must recognise the origins of these killings in our land, and acknowledge that practically, most of them are spill-overs, and, what one may refer to as repeat crises playing out of the ruins of our evil pasts and the grievances associated with those unforgettable episodes of pain, sorrow, and agony. It has become obvious that we have collectively invested in conflicts that have made armed mobilization and killings practical and accepted sources and means of conducting our politics and securing our primordial dominance. In this term, killings have become an occupation and a means of livelihood.
Our country Nigeria today, exemplifies what many refer to as the new normal in killings around the world. We are beset by violent Islamist attacks in the North, rampant banditry with conflicts between nomadic and pastoralists and farmers in the Middle Belt, militia criminal activity in the Niger Delta, and secessionist agitations in the East. These conflicts resulting in hundreds of thousands being maimed and killed, and millions displaced and made homeless, have been impossible for security forces to quell. It is believed that the reason for government’s inability to stop these killings is that insecurity has become a lucrative business for both the killers and for those who are supposed to protect those being killed. It has become a racket, and the insouciance of the protectors can only be seen in the many scandals that have followed our security agencies’ actions in the performance of their duties to the citizenry.
Prior to these recent killings in Nigeria, the worst of the bloodshed took place between 1966 and 1970 when millions of our citizens were brutally murdered during the military coups of 1966, the civilian pogrom that followed, and the genocidal war called the Biafra war. And so to reach the headwaters of the essence of this essay, we must leap back to the heinous stories of our sordid past. Despite the silence of our collective voices on these past terrors, I have found some space and time to immerse myself in the history of the horrors that have been hidden in our land. My stories about the magnitude of our past horrors can be found in my book; Biafra, The Horrors of War, The Story of a Child. Soldier. My intention in telling these stories was to explore ways and means of rehashing these ugly pasts to the point that we decolonize our minds, souls, and bodies for redemption and for motivation to live and coexist better without more bloodletting. To be clear, I do not think that we are anywhere near achieving this dream.
As we bemoan and accept the fact that much of world history consists of people conquering, colonising, and killing each other in the most ruthless manners, the apparent support given to these rapacious criminals is what should bother us. I am gravely troubled by the arrant animosity indignantly displayed in our country as we kill each other. There is an acknowledgment of the effects of the cycle of killings, the malevolence of the violence, and the obliteration of anything that is decent in our society.
Is there any kind of killing that is justified? Are there any laws that permit us to raise arms and weapons to kill? I recall in my undergraduate Political Philosophy class to have studied the Roman philosopher Marcus Cicero who argued that the laws that govern our behaviour in ordinary situations are different to those that should apply in circumstances of war and conflict. Cicero justified killings in wars as self-defense if a country is attacked. As the self-defense doctrine was propagated in justifying killings, it equally cautioned that the response should be appropriate and conducted in the proper way: civilians should not be targeted, prisoners of war treated humanely, hostilities must come as a last resort, and killings must be avoided at all cost. Unfortunately, none of these appropriate measures have ever been applied in the wars and crises that have ravaged our country. From the moment our country was founded, we have wantonly killed ourselves as if killing was about to go out of style.
A few weeks ago, I sent a telephone message to an old friend about our politics, and what I received back from this friend was so shocking that my phone dropped to the floor. My friend wrote: “Okey, my Son is dead”. I quickly picked up some courage and rang my friend who tearfully told me that his 24-year-old son was shot and killed as he attended his friend’s graduation celebration party in the suburbs of Atlanta in the USA. His son who had just graduated from one of the most prominent universities, was a bundle of life and success. A few days later, my wife and I attended the funeral service for this young boy. It was a standing room only, as the venue was packed to the brim with mostly Nigerian-American sympathisers. Many eulogies were given, but the bone-chilling moment was when the mother of this boy spoke about her son and the brightness and brilliance of his life that was tragically and unnecessarily taken away by senseless gun violence which has prevalently consumed America and the world.
Guns have become deeply ingrained in American society and its politics. The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives Americans the right to bear arms, and a considerable number of Americans own and carry guns that they use at will to kill their fellow citizens. Due to the rampancy of guns being used by terrorists, racists, criminals, and mentally deranged people to cause havoc in American society, many proposed new restrictions are being bandied by politicians as the escalation of gun violence assumes unprecedented levels in the country. Although America is widely divided over the issues of gun ownership, the partisan differences on the subject are further tearing the country apart, as the exacerbation of the killings continues unabated.
The last time I checked the statistical data on gun violence in America, I was frightened by what I found. Ponder this: every day more than 100 Americans die by gun violence, including 64 who die by firearm suicide, 39 Americans die by firearm homicide, and 3 are killed by other forms of gun violence. In addition, every day 200 Americans visit the emergency department for nonfatal firearm injuries. What is more frightening about this data, is that we may be experiencing higher numbers in Nigeria. Just because we do not have a reliable data recording entity to report the levels of gun violence and killings in our country, does not make our circumstances any better, if not worse than that of America.
Retracing the genesis of political violence and killings in our country is important, but what is more important today, is examining and determining its prevalence and sustenance through decades. What has happened to our political process that has bolstered these distortions and killings, is that our political elites have commandeered and used the electoral system to entrench their legitimacy, and in so doing, divide their opponents by the use of armed and killer groups that intimidate their rivals. Our political leaders have been incentivised to use conflict and ethnicity to cause division and mayhem amongst the people. The result becomes the inevitable increase in the per capita killing rate equalling that of any other constituencies around the world.
It is a familiar observation that it is not only our evil leaders who instigate these killings, but the people as well. Through all the reasons that promote these killings including sinister personal motives, none can provide diametrically opposed genuine belief about the rightness and the justice in the wastage of human life. There are many advantages of a change from this festering carnage to a requisite form of a more responsible life and the preservation of the sanctity of our existence as human beings created by God.
Killings have become a global epidemic, and have metastasized into belligerent contraptions in our homeland. It appears that we have become immune to these killings, to the point that the fetid breath of the once dreadful death, means nothing to us now. Day by day, these killings are becoming more amorphous, and deeply fragmented, while defying solutions. As our country faces a very bleak future with scary and palpable feelings of foreboding that these dangerous killers have overwhelmed and subdued the entire country, one can only hope that we find some kind of multi-faceted consensus-building approach to resolving this nightmare. This can be through comprehensive strategic legislative, religious, and socialization processes, or through moral rearmament means to end these killings.
In many respects, I am gravely perturbed as should be others, that these long-lingering persistent killings have been largely ignored by those whose duty it is to contain and stop them, and that the deadly longevity of these killings mars the mythology most Nigerians use to explain away our evil and ugly past while embroidering our checkered present. We must all bow our heads in grieve, and be ashamed of these killings and recoil from its cruelty and devastation.
Dr. Anueyiagu writes from Ikoyi Lagos.