Why muslims remain peace promoters
In the name of the Almighty, the Beneficent the Merciful
O you who have believed, fear the Almighty and be with those who are truthful. (Quran 9: 119).
He is known in the city as the number one merchant in electronics and electrical equipments. He is equally known for his truthfulness, honesty and extremely high sense of duty and responsibility. But nobody knows when he arrived the city nor how long has he been there. However, whenever the opportunity provides itself, he is always ready and keen to tell you the story of the town and his people. Whenever his customer entered his shop and shouted Nnamdi, he would remind them that he was the untitled Chief of the Yoruba in the neighborhood. “Remember, I am your in-law, I married your daughter, I speak your language, and I have given my children Yoruba names; I am the Oba of the Igbos in the area; I am a Yoruba citizen of this nation”.
When the story of IPOB broke out a couple of months ago, I asked him what his opinion of the ‘movement’ was. His response was spot on; it was bereft of all equivocation or prevarication. “Don’t mind them my brother”, he told me. “What Biafra are they talking about?” he queried. “Who are those fighting for Biafra? Where were those boys during the civil wars? Wars have nothing to do with Egusi and Ogbono soup; or do they think it is about Akpu and Okro soup?” he asked me.
But I know those questions were actually not meant for me; they were rhetorical in their import. I knew the sage in him actually desired to call my attention to certain realities in life- that a man who has never been to the tropics does not know what a thunderstorm means; that a man who has never looked on Niagara has but a faint idea of a cataract; that those who have never seen or have been affected by war would be quick to say “let’s go to the battle front”. I know that you that know that it is not everybody who has the privilege of seeing the beginning of a war that would be there to sit around the table when its end would be negotiated.
Brethren, that was months ago. Since then, perception and reality have since come into conflict. Since then, the dream for the Biafra had become, for some ‘a reality’ and for others, a nightmare. In other words, last week Friday belonged to IPOB. Yes. It also belonged to the South Eastern states of Nigeria. It belonged to Aba, the capital of Abia state. The dream of exiting Nigeria by choice or force had moved from being a dream to a ‘reality’, so it was thought. Yes. IPOB now had its own flag; it now had its own secret service; it now had its own army; it now had its own “Commander-in-Chief”. So it seemed. Until reality displaced perception; until illusion came in conflict with reality; until the Nigerian military entered the bustling city of Aba; until dream verged on nightmare.
In other words, brethren, two events cohered on the bucolic terrain of Aba last week: the seemingly irreducible desire of Biafra agitators to become independent, by force, and the indomitable and valorous ardor of the Nigerian military to preserve the geographical entity known as Nigeria through the display of pow and punch. The first was chaperoned by our “tokunbo” compatriot, the second was pioneered by an ‘unknown’ soldier; the first thought dancing with the tiger is like bread and butter, the second knew that going to war is usually about two options nor three- kill or be killed.
While the above events were unfolding, the Nigerian media was awash with pictorials, editorials and commentaries on the evil of military of invasion of Aba and other Southeastern states. Overnight critics emerged to pooh-pooh the idea, and rightly so, of the designation of a supposedly peaceful movement for self-determination as a terrorist organization. Not a few analysts bewailed and bemoaned the loss of life of the innocent Nigerian citizen or rather the “Biafran” through the bullet of the men in Khaki who entered, so it was claimed, the peaceful landscape of “Igbo Kwenu”. I remember the argument I have canvassed several times in this column that souls are souls simply because they are not bearers of any ethnic or religious relics; that souls are souls simply because they remind us of our origin, of our humanity: from the Almighty we all came; to Him shall be our return.
I have equally striven several times to make yet one other point; that point eloquently and persuasively made by Frantz Fanon in his 1952 classic titled Black Skin White Mask. Fanon it was who once said that “he who abominates the Negro is as sick as he who adulates him”; and I say that he who abominates the Igbo is sick as he who adulates him; that he who anathemizes the Hausa-Fulani is as sick as he who glorifies him. I remember that when Fanon made that statement, he was engaging the then prevalent racial politics of the mid-20th century; the politics of racialism, of white-black politics, of the inferiorization of the “South” and its representation as the locale of scum and underdevelopment in contradistinction to the “North” which is often seen as and the construction of the “North” as the locale of lack and privation. When Fanon made that statement, he never imagined a time in future, neither in Martinique nor in Africa, when victims of oppression would become perpetrators of oppression, when the poor would turn the poor into a meal, when the rat would turn its fellow rats into supper or breakfast.
But ironically however, what happened in parts of the South-south on Friday, the 15th of September, 2017 tragically spoke to the above. The oppressed in parts of the Southeast and South-south turned their fellow oppressed into meals; they put their heads on the guillotine.
Individuals, apparently servile and impertinent, agents of shame and darkness, completely shallow and pedantic, bloated with ethnic pride and eternally blustering about the dignity of their mythical affiliation to the Israeli state, yet stooping to be talebearers in the taverns of Biafranism descended on Muslims in Rivers State. They killed innocent Nigerians and sought to turn citizens against one another. They destroyed mosques and sought to exterminate all symbols of either of Islam or the “north” in their milieu. Wanton destruction of lives and properties suddenly became the only way by which their diseased minds could be assuaged. Like the Boko Haram which sees violence as a means and an end, the imposition of a state of anomie became the quickest means to vent the spleen of frustration and register the vacuity of failed aspiration. Muslims in Rivers state specifically at Oyigbo were told in clear terms, like the Boko Haram’s declaration close to a decade ago, that they were not wanted in that part of this country; the Boko Haram had during that time declared that Christians were not wanted in the northern parts of Nigeria.
But while this was going on, there was a culpable silence on the part of the media. The popular print media in the country chose to ignore Oyigbo as if it never took place. The killings that took place in Oyigbo did not enjoy frontline coverage of the media, except in the Daily Trust, simply and probably because the victims were Muslims the same way the killings in Rohingya (Burma) had gone on for months without adequate attention being given to the victims there majority of whom were Muslims. In the particular case of Oyigbo in Rivers State, the media were invited to the press conference where adequate data in regard to the perpetrators of the dastardly act were provided. Yet, news about the killings were tucked away inside their newspapers as if the soul of a Muslim is of inferior quality to the other.
Face to face with the above, I recall the words of Malcom X; I recall critical interventions and reflections on the politics of media practice all around the world. Malcolm X it was who said the media is perhaps the most powerful weapon in the world; it is the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent; the media is the most powerful simply because they mold and shape public opinion; they can make the murder of members of one’s group less noteworthy than the murder of outsiders. The media can make a hero out of an Igbo and make a villain out the Yoruba; the media can make murder beautiful and turn comedy into suicide. The media works towards investing our lives with artificial perceptions and arbitrary values and implant hate and animus in our reality.
But again we must be circumspective in our reflection. We must be prepared to recognize that not all media practitioners suffer from Islamophobia and irredentism of the worst order. But wherever such are found, those who belong to the class are usually bearers of poltroonery, baseness, effrontery and mendacity. They churn out half-truths and transact in misinformation; they are usually arrogant, self-conceited and self-righteous. Only one principle is dear to their practice- Islamophobia.
But I thought the path of dignity is and should be the one of choice for members of the fourth realm of the estate; the path of human dignity, objectivity, honesty and transparency. I thought the media in Nigeria should never forget that no subterfuge or treachery would or could stop the sun from rising at dawn; no hatred of a religion or its followers would lead to the effacement of Islam or Christianity from the surface of the earth. I thought it is high time media owners in this country realized that the Almighty who gave humanity the freewill to make choices between Islam and Christianity and between belief and unbelief could not have been wrong. Not to accept this as fact of life is to think that you are wiser than the Almighty.
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