The devil’s playground

soldiers patroling on a road between Diffa and Bosso/ AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO

“After all, no one is stupid enough to prefer war to peace; in peace sons bury their fathers. But in war fathers bury their sons.” – Herodotus

Those beating the drums of war, with their tactless tongues and others stoking the flames of disunity with their treasonable songs, in our dear nation Nigeria must be reminded that war is no picnic in paradise. War, propelled by the twin evils of Hatred and Anger escalates to the fore over unresolved, yet preventable misunderstanding between communities and countries. The winged monster rides on the wave crest of base sentiments, fuelled by hate speeches given a free reign by the powers that be. They do so for fleeting political power, to massage sheer ego or satiate their mania for money and materialism.

Unfortunately, its effects are horrendous as war epitomizes grim physical dislocation, grave socio-economic disruption, mind-bending mental trauma, searing starvation and rampaging diseases. Painfully, women and children who constitute the most vulnerable group usually become the voiceless victims.

In war morals are thrown to the dogs. Bodies are beaten to pulp and burnt to ashes. Limbs are decapitated and lost. Vital organs are dismembered as carcasses for the hovering vultures. Empires are laid to wanton waste. Valuable records are thrown to the dustbins of hounded history. The costs including that of men and materials are simply mind-boggling.

For instance, the total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I was more than 38 million: there were over 17 million deaths and 20 million wounded, ranking it among the deadliest conflicts in human history. In economic terms the cost in dollars to the Allied Powers of United States, Great Britain, France and Russia between 1914 and 18 is estimated at $104.5 billion.

But with foolish Man learning not a lesson from the devastating effects of World War 1, the casualties during the Second Edition were far worse. Over 60 million people were killed, which was about 3% of the 1940 world population estimated at 2.3 billion. According to Quora “the total cost was more than 1.6 trillion dollars then although many official records are missing from that time. “Germany and Britain destroyed each other. At the end of the war, Germany was turned to rubble and Britain was virtually bankrupt. Also the European economy had collapsed with 70% of its infrastructure destroyed.”

In the words of Chris Hedges writing for TruthDig, ”War is brutal and impersonal. It mocks the fantasy of individual heroism and the absurdity of utopian goals like democracy”. Some of these effects of wasteful wars were aptly captured in the 2006 American film with the title: “ Horrors of War” as an adaptation of the 1989 Croatian book by Franjo Tudman.

Yet, at the end of most wars, Man, foolish as he is crawls back into his shell of remorse and regret, licking his wounds and goes begging his former enemies for reconciliation and peace! That reminds us that the United Nations (UN) came into being on 24 October 1945, soon after the World War 2 as an intergovernmental organization to promote international co-operation. It was a bold attempt forged by about 26 countries to replace the ineffective League of Nations create and maintain international order. But has it done that in real terms?

According to data compiled by the Mercatus Center, citing the Congressional Research Service, the cost of global “War on Terror” operations (including both Afghanistan and Iraq) since 2001 had reached about $1.6 trillion by 2014. More than that has gone to waste in Syria since then. The UN needs to be more proactive.

Narrowing it down to the Nigerian nation, the Civil War, better known as the Biafran War, which erupted on 6th July 1967 and ended on 15th January 1970, cost the Federal Army over 5,000 soldiers. They were killed, wounded, captured or missing. About a million helpless citizens were sent to their early graves. Surely, we cannot afford a repeat of that mindless mayhem.

One only hopes therefore, that Nnamdi Kanu and his legion of co-agitators are aware of the ignoble horrors of war. By his May 31, 2017 sit-at-home directive to mark 50 years of the Nigerian civil war which recorded massive compliance Nigeria’s economy was set back by a whopping N6.2 billion, just in one day!

The truth in the unfolding melodrama is that some misguided Nigerian youth are being pushed forward by some vested interests to cause social havoc, the repercussions of which they may not fathom at this moment of our nebulous peace. Kanu, his supporters some of who have lost their lives during recent demonstrations as well as the Northern citizens who gave the quit notice to the Igbos have never witnessed the tragedies of wasteful wars.

Our elders have to choose the type of nation they wish to bequeath the nation. For instance, in ancient Greece, the two cities of Sparta and Athens had diametrically opposed versions of youth development. While the Spartans were conservative and trained their youth to be soldiers caring little about commerce, literature, art and science, the people of Athens were more sophisticated. They were progressive and open-minded. In fact, they were so politically savvy that any citizen that proved too powerful for the city was banished for ten years. So good for them that they eventually enthroned the mores and ethos of democracy.

On its part, Ancient Persia concentrated power in the hands of one man. Dictatorship was the order of the day. But Nigeria can no longer tread that odious past. That explains why concerned citizens are daily clamouring for the decentralization of the obscenely enormous political powers vested on the centre and asking for political restructuring. For me, that is the sine qua non to our progress as a nation.

Indeed, Nigerians-both old and young- should school their tongues to avoid hate speeches. The power of death and life is in the tongue, the Holy Book tells us. For instance, Heinz was an eleven-year old Jew caught in the heat of the Second World War in 1934. Back then anti-semitism ruled the streets and the air waves. When he found himself at Furth Street, in the midst of Hitler’s thugs out to brutalize him, he spoke calmly urging them to embrace peace instead of war. Strange enough, they listened to him. Years later the same man was to become Henry Kissinger, one of the greatest diplomats in United States’ recent history.

Furthermore, Nigerians must come to terms with the Biblical warning that, “we wrestle not against principalities and powers but against rulers of darkness in high places” (Ezekiel 28:12-17).Nigeria is immensely blessed and the Satan is not happy about it. Through Magog, the demon of war he instigates crises, inflames anger, hatred, fear and an unforgiving spirit. He emboldens those who sponsor the Boko Haram insurgency to score cheap political points. Through the Beast he goes after innocent blood that has turned Nigeria into the devil’s playground. He is behind those who spend billions of naira to win elections and get there only to satisfy their selfish aims.

As Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has rightly noted, “we have seen enough blood”. From the Civil War in the East through Maitasine mayhem in Kano to Aguleri/Imuleri to Ife/Modakeke crises and the preventable blood-letting in the North-East, Nigeria has had enough.

Now is therefore, the ripe time for a holistic constitution review that would engender equity, fairness, inclusiveness and a sense of nationhood. Our common wealth should benefit the common man rather than the politically and economically favoured few. A word should be enough for the wise.



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