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Nze Sylva’s Corner: This Evil Jingle and the Smell of Bloodshed Coming

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I went visiting my family in Abuja a few months ago. This was just after the ‘Kaduna declaration’ by Arewa Youths asking all Igbos to vacate the north by October 1, 2017, and other spoken and unspoken threats associated with it. I could feel the palpable apprehension albeit expressed through banters, among Igbo people in the city. What many down south had either dismissed as empty threats or condemned with the half-heartedness and ‘showmanship’ that often characterise social media commentary was quite a big deal there. And it was not hard to see why.

If you’ve lived anywhere in the north of Nigeria and have witnessed how quickly the most mundane of situations can snowball into a huge conflagration that leaves many dead and properties destroyed with nobody ever penalised, you will appreciate why. I have, and I can easily relate.

So when a cousin said she was now also picking up the UniZik postgraduate forms, after she had applied to UniAbuja, her alma mater, because of the threat, I understood. When a friend who was hoping to wed in October in Kaduna (where both he and his bride have lived all their lives) told me he was putting things on hold, for now, to see how things go, I could not question his judgement. When a senior friend of mine indicated he was no longer adding a single block to his residential development because he is ‘watching Nigeria’, it was not hard to understand.

While Nnamdi Kanu can mouth off in the safety of Owerri and the Arewa youths can issue their threats with impunity, the hate speech and threats to sections of this country means a whole lot more to the daily lives and well-being of the people who are directly in the line of fire, the people who have been told to suddenly up and leave a part of their own country on account of their tribe, a people who have absolutely no trust that their government will protect them.

An external observer might say surely the Igbos have nothing to worry about, that the government will not let this happen. But this is Nigeria where robbers send letters to estates informing them in advance that they intend to ‘visit’ and on said date they actually make good their words with absolutely no resistance from the police. You will be deceiving yourself if you believed that the poorly veiled threats of pogrom will not be carried out come October 1. It has happened before.

What is perhaps most disheartening is the seeming lack of interest of the government to act decisively and the class irresponsibility of the tribal leaders to rein in these provocateurs. In some instances, they are provocateurs themselves. In some more serious places, none of the characters who issued this threat will still be working free. But that will be asking for too much. This is a country where an entire village was nearly wiped out in a night of murderous orgy by men who claim to be fighting for grazing land and absolutely nothing happened. This is a country at peace with lying to itself, a country that inflicts injuries on itself as a hobby, a country that is hardly a country.

For a few weeks after the Arewa youth threat, things seemed to die down. The initial tension simmered, taken over by the arguments and public discussions on restructuring, its meaning, scope, merits, demerits and a million and one other interpretations. I remember speaking with my friend and he was now more confident about fixing a date for his wedding, thanking God that ‘it seems that madness has passed’. So we thought until the genocidal jingle emerged.

Perhaps emboldened by the inaction of government, some fellows who have no better description but ‘trouble makers’ composed a song calling for death to Igbos among many false and provocative statements designed to incite violence that is contained in its lyrics. This song, the existence of it and its wide circulation especially in the north, has been widely reported in the media. You will think this was the final straw, that a country interested in the welfare and safety of her citizens will rise up in defence and quickly nip this in its bud and, if possible, bring all those who were involved to book. You will be wrong. It’s been over two weeks now and I can assure you not a single Igbo person in the north feels any safer.

And as is with situations like this, there have been counter threats as well in the midst of so much unintelligent rambling. In response to the quit notice given to Igbos by the Coalition of Northern Youth Groups, some Niger Delta militants have also asked the northerners to leave their region before October 1. At no time perhaps since the end of the civil war have we felt any closer to the precipice.

Arguments have been made, positions were taken, agendas advanced. I am in no mood to bore you with any of those. Indeed, it is the time wasted on them that has left us where we are. I must reiterate what many have long stated (and rightly so too), that we need to rethink the structure of this country and the tenets of the ‘union’. Regardless of what name you call this process, it is something that is urgent and must be done for clearly, this country was set up to fail even though we must take responsibility for the extent to which we have.

My intent with this piece, however, is to make a passionate appeal on all sides especially to my fellow young people. War and violence favour nobody. We must stop this bragging about nothing. People our age in other places are reimagining the possible and bringing the future closer through innovation and ideas. It is bad enough that our leaders and forbearers have left us next to nothing. We will be plain stupid to scatter the crumbs that is left in the sand. It is all in our hands to avert this bloodshed coming.

Besides the plea, we must tell our government, the occupants of leadership positions that is, to rise to the occasion and dictate how history will remember them. It is up to them to decide if they prefer for it to be said that Nigeria became a killing field under their watch. We want to see some action today, not after a single Nigerian has been killed.

@nzesylva

Fiction writer, op-ed columnist, social commentator. Sylva lives in Lagos Nigeria

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