The Sun News

The evils of war and the panacea in restructuring (1)


Let me today discuss war. This is to warn all and sundry, the war mongers, irredentists and ethno-religious bigots, that war is not a picnic at Badagry, Kuramo or Bar beach. War is not a dinner party.

War is evil. War is destructive. War dehumanises. War displaces. War breeds permanent violence and enmity. War constitutes the greatest catastrophe, that bedevils the human race, leaving in its trail, unimaginable death, destruction, disease, starvation, butchery, abject penury and ruination. War brings out the animal in us. It is easy to know the beginning of a war, or the remote and immediate causes. But, once started, no one can predict its end, outcome, when, how and wherefore. It becomes a bull in a china shop. Like amoeba, it becomes shapeless. Like clay, it becomes easy to mould into any shape. War then becomes an unwilling prisoner of shady, unseen puppeteers, who call the shots.

That peace is preferable to war was underscored by Benjamin Franklin, when he famously declared that “there never was a good war, or bad peace”. Though right to some extent, Franklin, in trying to underline the importance of peace, forgot that peace wears different uniforms: Genuine peace, false peace, stage-managed peace and tolerated peace.

More importantly, there is what legendary democracy icon, Chief M.K.O. Abiola, the man whose precious blood watered the seeds of our democratic experimentation, with a sense of redemptive messianism, termed “peace of the grave yard” or “peace of the cemetery”. His thesis was that peace devoid of social justice, equity, fairness, egalitarianism and a sense of inclusiveness, is nothing but “peace of the grave yard”, or “peace of the cemetery”.

Mahatma Gandhi, the grandmaster of the doctrine of passive resistance, theorised: “I object to violence because when it appears to do good, good is only temporarily; the evil it does is permanent.” However, war can never substitute for peace. In the words of Jimmy Carter, former US president, “war may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good. We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other’s children.”

While Stonewall Jackson regards war as “the sum of all evils”, legendary Mao Zedong declared most appositely, that “politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed”. Perhaps, it is Thomas Jefferson’s summation that does it: “The evils of war are great in their endurance, and have a long reckoning for ages to come.” Indeed, says Bertrand Russell, “of all evils of war, the greatest is the purely spiritual evil: The hatred, the injustice, the repudiation of truth, the artificial conflict.”

God, deliver us from war, any war. The visage of war is hideous and monstrous. Like William Ellery Channing incisively stated in near flowery terms, with uncommon erudition, “the chief evil of war is more evil. War is the concentration of all human crimes. Here is its distinguishing, accursed brand. Under its standard gather violence, malignity, rage, fraud, perfidy, rapacity, and lust. If it only slew man, it would do little. It turns man into a beast of prey.”

War is the result of man’s failure to reason properly. In the words of John Steinbeck, “war is a symptom of man’s failure as a thinking animal”. This was why Dwight Eisenhower, Army General and 34th US President (1953 – 1961), once declared, “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its stupidity.”

Intolerance, mutual suspicion, lack of social justice, equity and lack of adjustment, amongst others, create wars. In pristine times, war merely involved sword-fighting between two hostile persons, trying to conquer each other.

Subsequently, groups of persons became involved in wars in defence or propagation of certain beliefs, principles or views. Nowadays, however, wars now involve whole nations, thus multiplying the evils of war. Once upon a time, enemies met at designated battle fields to slug it out. In modern times, wars are fought from laboratories, with scientists conducting researches, inventing new weapons, using latest technology, computers, laser beams and such sophisticated technological breakthroughs.

Wars, then and now

During the Biafra-Nigeria Civil War, outdated weapons like the famous “Ogbunigwe” weapons and light fighter jets were used. Anyone who imagines that any war in Nigeria today (God forbid), will deploy such obsolete weapons must be living in a fool’s paradise. During the Second World War (1939 – 1945), Hiroshima and Nagasaki, twin Japanese cities, were destroyed with the atomic bomb, a bomb whose earliest invention commenced with Albert Einstein’s theory of “special relativity”. He was the great German Physicist, credited with the famous quotation that it is only a mad person that seeks change “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

In modern warfare, it is not just atomic or hydrogen bombs that are used, but submarines, air bombers, ballistic missiles, nuclear weapons, air craft carriers, etc. About 2 – 3 million casualties were recorded during the thirty months bloody Biafra-Nigeria pogrom. And to imagine that Nigeria’s population which is about 180 million people today was just about 60 million people at that time!

Not less than 108 million people were brutally killed in the 20th century in various wars. Throughout human history, between 150 million – I billion people have been killed in all wars.

By far, the costliest war in history was World War II (1939 – 45), where 56.4 million people were estimated to have died. Since World War II ended in 1945, there have been some 250 major wars, with millions killed, countless injured, bereaved and rendered homeless.

Wars breed different consequences: Genocide, ethnic cleansing, mass ethno-religious persecution, forced labour, slavery, extermination in camps, famine, suicide, riots, political uprisings. On July 3, 1863, 51,000 soldiers were either killed, wounded, captured, or missing in what remains the largest battle ever fought in North America. 24 million people perished in the Spanish conquest of Mexico. During World War I, 15.5 – 18.5 million people died. In the Russian Civil war, 5 million – 9 million people were killed. In the Napoleonic wars (1803-1815), between 3.5 and 6 million people died. The 1998 – 2003 second Congo war killed between 2.5 and 5.5 million people. The Vietnam war/second Indochina wars of 1955/1975 produced casualties of between 800,000 and 3.8 million. The Afghanistan war of 1979-1989 killed between 1.2 – 2 million people; while the 1950- 1953 Korean War killed 1.2 million people. Their predecessors, the French Revolutionary wars (1792 – 1802), witnessed 1 million deaths.

The urgency of restructuring

With this horrific background of the evils of war, I am always surprised, but of late, bemused, when I hear some people kick against restructuring, which can undoubtedly serve as a panacea or alternative to war. Restructuring is not tantamount to war or a break-up. It is simply an idea designed to address the unnatural imbalance and lopsidedness of Nigeria, which puts her permanently on an explosive keg of gun powder, driven by various centripetal and centrifugal forces. We are operating a unitary system of government, euphemistically dressed up in the borrowed garb of federalism. Nigeria does not practise federalism. We are unitary, not federal.

If we were federal, why does the Federal Government at the centre have so much money, such as to dole out so -called “Bail-out” funds, to weak federating units, the states, gasping for the oxygen of simple existentialism? If we were federal, and needed no restructuring, why do the 36 state commissioners of finance in Nigeria congregate in Abuja at the end of every month in the ritual (like witches and wizards in a coven), of sharing allocations from the Federation Account under section 162 of the 1999 Constitution? If we were federal, and all is smooth and well, how come states cannot be self- dependent, without looking for crumbs that fall from the big master’s table in Abuja? If we were truly federal and unitary, how come politicians engage themselves in a strangulating “do-or-die” war of attrition, to capture power at the centre, so as to have unhindered and free access to our common till, patrimony and commonwealth? If Nigeria were genuinely fiscally federal, how come every Nigerian is simply interested in how to share the national cake, without caring about how it is baked, who bakes it, the means and methods of baking it, and at whose expense? If we were truly federal, how come Nigeria is still yearning for nationhood, 103 years after Lord Lugard forcibly amalgamated autonomous, self-existing kingdoms, emirates, empires and chiefdoms, on the 1st of January, 1914. If we were truly federal, how come we have not successfully diversified the economies of the federating units from a monolithic and fast fading “black gold”, and embracing true fiscal federalism, as we witnessed before the January 15, 1966 Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu-led military putsch? At that time, each of the three regions then (Northern, Western and Eastern), and later the Midwest region, which was carved out of the Western Region on August 10, 1963, used and depended for their great strides and uncommon developments, on the products (mostly agrarian) that emanated from their regions. With that, the great Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello (Northern Nigerian), the great sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo (Western Region), the Pan-Africanist, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Dr. Michael Okpara (Eastern Region); and Dr. Dennis Osadebay and Jereton  Mariere (Midwest Region), were able to develop their regions with such produce as groundnut, cocoa, hides and skin, palm produce, cotton, timber and rubber.

Under the 1963 Republican Constitution, each region that produced a product took 50% of the proceeds therefrom; paid 25% tax to the central government, and still partook from the remaining 25% that was shared amongst the regions.

If we were truly federal, and have no problems that require structural re-enginerring, why do we have the continuing and recurring mutual distrust and suspicion, ethno-religious crisis, political implosion, unabated violence, insurrection, youth and gender discrimination, unspeakable criminality, simulated peace of the grave yard, fear of the unknown, fear of fear, elite’s collaboration to continuously hold down, by the jugular, in a most asphyxiating manner, the beleaguered hoi polloi and Frantz Fanon’s “Wretched of the Earth”; and stunted growth reminiscent of the fate of the Barber’s chair that rotates perpetually on its axis? If we did not need restructuring to extirpate root and branch, our multi-faceted and hydra-headed challenges, why we do operate what late Professor Claude Ake derisively and oxymoronically referred to as a “disarticulate economy”, where we produce what we do not consume and consume what we do not produce? If we were truly federal and all is well, how come we have bred IPOD, Massob, militants, OPC, APC, quit notices, threats of war, so much nepotism, cronyism, lop-sided appointments?

Thought for the week

“It is painful enough to discover with what unconcern they speak of war and threaten it. I have seen enough of it to make me look upon it as the sum of all evils. -Stonewall Jackson


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