Who are the victims?

Protegee, carrying her sibling on her back, cries as she looks for her parents through the village of Kiwanja, 90 kms north of Goma, eastern Congo, Thursday, Nov. 6, 2008. A fragile cease-fire in Congo appeared to be unraveling Thursday as the U.N. said battles between warlord Laurent Nkunda's rebels and the army spread to another town in the volatile country's east. (AP Photo/ Jerome Delay)

In his analysis of how ordinary Nigerians or common citizens kill and maim one another because of ethnicity, religion and politics while the elite emerge unscathed at the end of every conflict, Prof. Sani Abubakar Lugga, the Waziri of Katsina, raised the poser above, which is the title of the 2017 book: “Who are the victims?”

With graphic photographs of dead, decapitated, debased and displaced people and a long nominal list of hundreds of victims of ethnic, religious and political conflicts in Plateau State alone as a microcosm of Nigeria, the author stridently drives home the message that ordinary Nigerians, especially the youth, should not allow the fire-spitting, muscle-flexing, divisive and bigoted leaders to sway them into taking negative actions because the common people are always the victims of violence.

Since the period between 1451 and 1870 when 15,026,000 male and female slaves from West Africa were forcefully transported via the Sahara Desert and across the Atlantic and Indian Oceans to dehumanisation, the ordinary people have usually been the victims of conflicts, not the kings and the nobles. The Niger Delta militancy, the Boko Haram insurgency, the political violence and ethno-religious conflicts that have ravaged Nigeria in the past few decades have resulted in the death and displacement of ordinary citizens, who are the constant victims.

The author concludes the book on a pungent note while also raising four fundamental questions. According to him, “Nigerian Ordinary Citizens who are drafted as political thugs or religious and ethnic militia should stop allowing themselves to be used as gunpowder. Religious, ethnic and political leaders and elites normally trigger the conflicts from the comfort of their fortress homes and woo ordinary citizens into battle. Those who get killed, maimed or arrested by security agents are the ordinary citizens, as the planner-leaders and elites and members of their families never take part in the actual ‘war’; there would never be victims!”

His final questions addressed to those who fan the embers of conflict and violence in Nigeria are:

  1. Why do Imams and Pastors not come out, join and lead in religious conflicts?
  2. Why do political leaders not come out, join and lead in political conflicts?
  3. Why do Tribal Leaders not come out, join and lead in ethnic conflicts?
  4. Why do Leaders and Elites push Ordinary Nigerians and their children to the war-front and take themselves and their children away from the actual battlefields?

On the basis of the foregoing, it is in the interest of ordinary Nigerians, the youth especially, to resist the chicanery of the public figures and social media warriors whose antics are to lead Nigerians into fighting one another on ethnic, religious and political grounds. Those who do that are conflict entrepreneurs who are wont to benefit from gun business when the bubble bursts. They are those with dual passports who can easily jet out of the country with their children at the drop of a hat.

Though the Boko Haram insurgency has proved that even the rich also cry and all the elite are not immune to the consequences of violence, the fact still remains, as Prof. Lugga posits, that the masses are the victims. Why then should the victims work with their victimisers to oppress, repress and suppress their fellow victims?

To be a Nigerian is to be an original victim of the many vices and problems associated with poor governance and bad leadership. To complicate the matter further is to induce violence or conflict so that even the ordinary air being enjoyed will be difficult with disruption and destruction of life’s ecosystem. In essence, everyone is a victim altogether as the line and the fowl that perches on it are uncomfortable.

As victims, ultimately, it is in our collective interest that Nigerians embrace and promote peace education. Peace education, according to UNICEF, is the process of promoting the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values needed to bring about behavioural changes that will enable children, youth and adults to prevent conflict and violence, both overt and structural; to resolve conflict peacefully; and to create conditions conducive to peace, whether at an intrapersonal, interpersonal, intergroup, national or international level.

To embrace peace education, Nigerians must prioritise discipline, character and the virtue of loving one’s brother as oneself regardless of religion, ethnicity and politics.