Friday, March 19, 2010

On Muammar Ghadaffi and Nigeria Ethno-Religious Violence

The recent comments by the Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi on Nigeria’s ethno-religious crisis seems to have sparked off a bitter diplomatic row between the two countries. Following the recent ethno-religious killings in Jos, Muammar Gadaffi was quoted to have said that Nigeria should be partitioned into two nations (Muslim-North and Christian-South) to prevent further bloodshed. According the Libyan press Gaddaffi said splitting Nigeria “would stop the bloodshed and burning of places of worship”. In Gaddafi’s opinion, the Jos violence is a religious crisis caused the “federal state, which was made and imposed by the British, in spite of people’s resistance to it”.

Considering Col. Gadaffi’s penchant for making outrageous and offensive statements, one will expect that such statement will be taken with a pinch of salt. This was the same person who once said the nation of Switzerland should be divided between Germany, Italy and France (!). There’s no gainsaying that Gaddafi has a reputation for eccentricity, bloody-mindedness..However, it seems our moronic leaders have seen this has a perfect opportunity to flex their muscles.

When attention was drawn to Gadaffi’s comments on the floor of the Senate, the Senate President, David Mark replied "Why do you want to give a mad man that level of publicity”. And yes, I quite agree with Senator Mark. The likes of Gadaffi are fond of spewing controversial and, sometimes inflammatory statements, just for the sake of gaining cheap popularity. And he’s not alone. The Robert Mugabe, Hugo Chavez, and Mohammed Ahmedinejad of this world, all fall in same category. These are leaders, who are stuck in their local political wilderness, and thus have lost international relevance.

What I cannot seem to understand however, is the rationale behind Nigeria’s foreign ministry decision to recall its Ambassador to Libya because of what it described as “irresponsible utterances of Col. Gadaffi”. I also find the decision to summon the Libyan Ambassador by the House of Reps quite laughable. How I wish the National Security Adviser or the Director-General of SSS was summoned with same urgency after the Jos killing. But alas, our (dis)Honourable members were busy debating a bill, seeking to immortalise dead members(!).

There are no doubt that Col Gadaffi’s statement smacks of utter ignorance. It’s quite clear from the statement, that Col. Gadaffi has no understanding of Nigeria’s religious and tribal complexities. When he said Nigeria should be divided into north and south, the question I’ll like to ask him is, where will the line be drawn? Or do we take River Niger/Benue has the north/south divide? As a foreigner, I don’t expect Col. Gadaffi to appreciate the difference between Nigeria’s geographic north/south, ethno-religious north/south.

But in all of these, I think its high-time we need to start telling ourselves some home truths. We need to start engaging in serious discussions that are devoid of religious and ethnic sentiments. Whether we like it or not, the fact remains that the entity called Nigeria, in its current form is not working. What’s the point in deceiving ourselves and pretending to be living in harmony? The nation’s ethnic and religious disunity cannot be over-emphasized! So if that’s the case, what exactly has Gadaffi said that is new? Has he told us anything we haven’t heard before? So what’s all fuss about?

Therefore, what’s the point of the current diplomatic stand-off with Col. Gadaffi, when there are urgent issues we need to deal with? Why do our leaders love chasing shadows? When the CIA issued a report few years ago that Nigeria will disintegrate by 2015, why didn’t we recall the Nigerian Ambassador to the US? Why didn’t the National Assembly summon the US Ambassador? For me, the US prediction if anything is far worse than Gadaffi’s comments. I wouldn’t at be surprised if we are told that a House of Reps delegation will embark on an “all expenses paid” trip to Libya for “high level diplomatic talks” with the Libyan govt.

As the Yorubas say, “a fi ete le a npa lapapa”. Barely over a week ago, more than 500 people were slaughtered in Jos, however the National Assembly did not see it a matter of urgency to summon the head of the nation’s security agencies. The only action taken so far by the govt was the sacking of the National Security Adviser, and only to be replaced by a recycled retired Army General. So what about D-G of SSS? What about Inspector-General of Police? What about the Army GOC, who is responsible for enforcing the imposed curfew? What about the state commissioner of police? What about the state “chief security officer, Gov. Jang?

You need not to study political history to understand the deep-rooted ethnic and religious prejudice in Nigeria. And instead of addressing these fundamental issues, our leaders either engage in diversionary tactics or play the proverbial ostrich. Truth be told, Col. Gadaffi is not our problem; neither will the recall of Nigeria diplomat provide the solution to our ethno-religious crisis. The question now is, how can we forestall another ethno-religious killing?

Our leaders need to start focussing their energy on acts of nation building. The national assembly and executive should stop playing to the gallery. It was the same way they issued the US govt a 2-week ultimatum, when Nigeria was included in the US list of terrorist nations. Enough of all these comedy!

And if they like, let them continue to hue and cry over Gadaffi’s statement, it will be Robert Mugabe next, who will be advising us on how to manage our economy.


Shmuel said...

Nice Post. Spot on again.

Funmi Yusuf Odunaike said...

Well said. I think this whole issue is to divert attention from the pressing issues at hand if you ask me. The most important thing is to let our elected officials understand that this cry on no issue at all as far as i'm concerned is not working. Ghadaffi has said worse about United States and i don't see senators losing sleep over him when far more pressing issues such as the nation economics and health bills are on ground.