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Nigeria must avoid the road to Kigali

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I read the headlines of the story of a woman who was allegedly murdered together with her children. The horror was said to have happened somewhere in the eastern part of the country but I never really read the story. The past few weeks have been hectic for me and I have been “behind the news”.

So you can imagine my shock when an elder I respect so much forwarded the material you are about to read to me. I suspect it was meant as an accusation that those who screamed from the rooftop when Deborah Samuel, a Christian, was cruelly murdered in Sokoto by irate Islamic fundamentalists, kept quiet when a Muslim Igbo woman and her children were also cruelly murdered in Igboland.

The post titled “Pregnant Muslim woman and her children killed in Igboland and Christians in Nigeria are silent”, ran thus (with some editing): “This morning, Monday, 23rd of May 2022, a video of a pregnant Muslim woman of the Igbo Muslim community in Igboland has emerged; not with joy, but rather with pain. In the video, the Muslim woman and her children are seen in a pool of blood in the Ezira community of Anambra State. Bullets littered the tarred road, which clearly indicated that she and her children were shot dead. The woman had by her side children who were equally dead, about four in number.

“Since this video emerged, there has been intentional silence from Christians in Nigeria and Christian religious hierarchies. This also include well-known Christian activists and Christian pages who have garnered followers in thousands. This intentional silence speaks of the kind of people that Muslims have as neighbours in Nigeria. These are the people who were very vibrant and animated in condemning the killing of Deborah Samuel –  but their vibrancy vanished into thin air as a heavily-pregnant Muslim woman was killed with her children.

“Another worrisome angle is the ploy by Nigeria Christian-owned media down-playing the killing of an entire generation with highlights in the news about terror in South East (a Christian zone in Nigeria). Since the perpetrators are radical Christians of Igbo land, the Nigeria Christians are running a silence marathon. We watch them keenly to see if they continue to run till Doomsday or they will get tired. By their action, it now means that the killing of a Christian in a Muslim society is condemnable but the killing of a pregnant Muslim woman and her children (a full generation) is okay. It thus says a lot about the kind of people that Muslims call their neighbours.

“And as their conspiracy of silence lingers, so would this Luciferous, murderous, gruesome and genocide of a nation haunt them until they condemn it and call for the fishing out of the Igbo Christian radicals that eliminated a pregnant Muslim woman and her four children in Igboland. There have been many attempts to make Igbo Muslims look into ethnicity when the Muslim community in Igboland is attacked. Words like ‘It is Hausa person and not Igbo’ are used. But Igbo Muslims have refused that. All these are methods by radical Igbo Christians to divide and conquer. Igbo Muslims have continually said ‘No’. A Muslim is a brother of every other Muslim. The Muslims are a united body. Just as Deborah Samuel of the north central is part of the Christian community in Nigeria, so also are Muslims who were killed in Igbo land. They are Muslims of Igboland. They are Muslims of Nigeria. After all, Christians shouting at Muslims on the cyberspace from all ethnicities in Nigeria did not say Deborah was not their ethnicity. They all saw her as a Christian; same way we see Muslims of Igbo land as Muslims of Nigeria, regardless of their ethnic origin”.

This is serious! But we must note that it is un-Christianly to commit such a heinous crime and the alleged murderers could not have been sent by Christians to do it. These killings and that of Deborah Samuel are two sides of the same coin. I am pained that anyone can keep silent over the wiping out of an entire generation. I am pained more so that supposedly educated and enlightened people have lined up to defend the murderers of Deborah. If the murderers are only charged for disturbance of public peace (and not for murder), then, the killing is seen as OK!

John Donne in For Whom the Bell Tolls writes:” No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind, and, therefore, never send to now for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee”.

Anyone with this kind of mindset will be unable to do what the murderers of Deborah did – and those defending them as well as those giving them a slap on the wrist. The pregnant woman said to have been killed together with her children: Who was she? How did we determine they were Igbo? And that they were also Muslims? How did we determine that the horrific and dastardly act took place in Igboland and by Christians? But whoever the killers were and whatever their reasons, they lacked the authority to whimsically take lives. They were as vile as the killers of Deborah, whatever their angst. And wherever the killings took place, be it here or in the Cameroons does not justify it – if those killings actually took place, they are horrendous. That is, however, an excuse for the explosive, condemnatory and inciting language employed by the writer of the original post.

The way Nigerians are steadily moving on the highway to Kigali is what bothers me more. And we are doing so with our eyes wide open. History is there to warn us – both ours, as well as the history of other peoples. But are we listening? On the evening of 6th April 1994, the aircraft carrying Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira, both Hutu, was shot down with surface-to-air missiles as their jet prepared to land in Kigali, Rwanda. The assassination set the Rwandan genocide in motion, one of the bloodiest events of the late 20th century. The Rwandan genocide, also known as the genocide against the Tutsi, occurred between 7th April and 15th July 1994 during the Rwandan civil war. During this period of around 100 days, members of the Tutsi minority ethnic group, as well as some moderate Hutu and Twa, were killed by armed militias. The minority Tutsi lost over 80 per cent of its entire population; close to a million lives in all. Resentment of the minority dominating and riding roughshod over the majority triggered the war.

Not only is Rwanda calm today, it is also seen as the West’s poster boy of success and development under a President of Tutsi origin, Paul Kigame. The root cause of the genocide may not have been adequately addressed. Only time will tell! Josep Broz Tito thought he had perfectly soldered the various ethnicities that made up Yugoslavia together but how mistaken! His death triggered the beginning of the end for Yugoslavia. What will be the fate of Rwanda post-Kigame? Again, time will tell!

It makes no sense to travel the road to Kigali. While Rwanda’s problem was ethnicity or ethnic nationalism, Nigeria’s is a combination of two combustibles – ethnic nationalism and religious fanaticism. A velvet dissolution of the contraption called Nigeria, like the one the Czechs and Slovenians (formerly Czechoslovakia) brokered, will be a better option.

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