– The Sun News

Sorrow, tears, blood and Nigeria

Everybody run run run Eh-ya!
Everybody scatter scatter Eh-ya!

Some people lost some bread Eh-ya!
Someone nearly die
Eh-ya!

Someone just die
Eh-ya!
Police they come, army they come Eh-ya!
Confusion everywhere
Eh-ya!
Seven minutes later
All don cool down, brother
Police don go away
Army don disappear
Them leave sorrow, tears and blood Them regular trademark
Them leave sorrow, tears and blood Them regular trademark
Them regular trademark
Them regular trademark

(Fela Anikulapo-Kuti)

In 2001, the Jos conflict at its peak had claimed several lives and zones and divided walls. Christians on their side of the wall, natives stayed put, Igbo in their comfort zone.

So, this Hausa man drove into Apata, a largely Igbo and, by extension, Christian enclave. He had firewood in his truck. The Igbo rushed and bought his truck empty. Not until he was done and about to leave did one Igboman ask him: “How come you had the courage to be here?”

He answered: “I would rather be killed here by you guys than be killed by hunger in my own area of Jos.”

The Igbo wanted his firewood and he their money.

I will tell a second story from afar. Robert E. Lee trusted a few men more than Major General James Ewell Brown Stuart, or “Jeb,” as he came to be known. Lee and Jeb had been friends for years before the Civil War began, serving together in the US Army in numerous military campaigns throughout the 1850s. Jeb was trustworthy, unflinchingly brave, and an expert in reconnaissance. Despite his peculiar flair for the dramatic (he would often lead his men into battles sporting a red cape, an ostrich plume, and drenched in cologne), Jeb was a serious soldier. General Lee said Jeb was the only commander he trusted to bring him infallibly reliable intel. Lee called Jeb his “eyes.”

Jeb literally ran circles around the Union’s Army of the Potomac and reported every detail of their movement back to General Lee. Jeb’s intel gave Lee the advantage at Second Bull Run, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. By the summer of 1863, momentum in the war was swinging toward the Confederacy. But in the moment Robert E. Lee needed him most, Jeb didn’t show.

In June of 1863, Lee embarked on an audacious march north into the very heart of the Union. He ordered Jeb to parallel his march in the west, through the Shenandoah Valley. Instead, following a hunch, Jeb went east. He was attempting, against orders, to outflank the Union Army once again. But his decision left General Lee in the dark for eight days. During that time, Lee blindly stumbled across a group of soldiers in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, who he assumed were a ragtag local militia. Because Lee’s “eyes” were off wandering miles away, Lee had no clue that he had just encountered the western tip of the primary Union army.

By the time Jeb’s cavalry arrived in Gettysburg on July 2, he was too late. The battle of Gettysburg was nearly over. Furious, Lee called Jeb into his headquarters. All Lee could say was “General Stuart, where have you been?”

Had Jeb arrived when Lee expected him, historians say the battle of Gettysburg might have gone differently. Instead, Gettysburg marked the turning point in the war. General Lee must have asked himself again and again: “General Stuart, why were you late? Where were you?” Where were you?

It’s a question we’ve all asked of somebody. Their absence or tardiness left us feeling abandoned, helpless, confused, and angry. If the stakes were high, we wondered if that person actually cared about us at all. Those moments when someone I depended on let me down have left me feeling helpless. When friends forget to call. When a trusted colleague doesn’t deliver. When a teammate doesn’t show up.

We are all crying and wailing about the wanton killings again. All the narratives, and counter-narratives, the blame games, from government to individuals. Are you part of the solution or the ‘siddon look’ button? Every crisis you see or hear about, close or far away, will one day affect you too, that is if it has not affected you. There is need for us to engage, like the firewood seller, beyond responding or waiting for response.

So, what are the security forces doing, from local police to the military? Who provides information? Why are they reactionary than proactive? Where were the helicopters doing reconnaissance?

If these killings are truly ebbed in the common narrative of retaliatory attacks, where are those to engender dialogue? For now, the conflict merchants are smiling amid tears, sorrows and blood from Zamfara to Kaduna, Taraba and Plateau, Akwa Ibom and Adamawa. It is an endless list of states with sad tales.

I am not prophesying doomsday. I see hope. Though, as always, I remain cautiously optimistic about the Nigerian project, if there is any and what it is in the first place, but trust me on this. Before the year ends, there will be more killings. Yes, more killings, and another round of blames, wails, sorrows, and tears. For how long will this continue? Only time would tell.

 

• Dr. Dickson is a research/policy analyst

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Tokunbo David
Tokunbo David

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