NEW YORK – The Nigerian people have always been victims of violence by those purporting to be their leaders. Long before the colonial era, the fragment of tribes and regions were beleaguered in violence, courtesy of the feigned leaders. They were the royals, the political class, the aristocrats, and the crème de la crème of the society that were often referred to as ‘clan leaders’ including the Chiefs, the Obas, the Sarkis, or the Shugabas.
A brief history of tumoil
Over the past centuries, foreign occupiers exploited these tendencies by conjoining, rivaling, and competing tribes into one giant land mine. Firstly, the Arab slavers began in the 8th century as traders then, as slave merchants. When they developed an insatiable appetite for human labour, they moved westward. Their sole motive was human labour acquired through trickery, force, or primarily making dubious deals with the rulers at their arrival in northern Nigeria. The elites in the north often strike bargains with these Arabs, allowing the enslavement of their fellows.
This barbarism lasted about eight centuries.
While the Arabs traded in humans, they also spread their religion to justify their savagery, replacing traditional beliefs and renaming clan leaders. Sarki and Shugaba was swapped for fancy religious titles like Sultan and Emir after a duly conversion.
Then came the 1500s. The West, borrowing from the exploits of the Arabs, teamed up with the elites in southern Nigeria to continue the same violence. Their gambit was a resemblance of the Arabs. The culprits in this scheme were mainly merchants from Britain, Portugal, and France who came armed with their religion. They’ll usually hide behind the pages of the Christian Bible to elicit compliance from the savage chiefs to trade their non-disabled men and women to a distant land as plantation slaves.
Note that the Chiefs and local leaders needed little convincing. Their maniacal obsession with violence speaks louder than any iota of humanity that they may have. Like their northern brothers, the southern elites sold off their people for mere “30 pieces of silver.” Of course, the Europeans, when not conspiring with the malicious local Chiefs, were also stealing humans like goats unto awaiting ships in the Atlantic. From snatching young girls on their way to the stream to taking able-bodied youth at gunpoint when they play at the river banks, the duo of the slave merchants and the tribal leaders of Nigeria inflicted the people with unspeakable violence, human pains, and sufferings – for centuries.
Colonialism and religious manipulation
When the violence of slavery became antiquated, primarily when it became known that both religions, Christianity and Islam, preached against slavery, the European domineers met in Berlin, Germany (now infamously known as the Berlin conference 1884), where they divided Africa amongst themselves like pizza.
The conference architect, the British, took the luscious slice for itself, which included Nigeria, then embarked on 76 years of oppression, plundering, and total ravage. Their feat was made possible mainly with the help of the willing local collaborators – the elites. For short-term benefits, the Nigerian leaders colluded with foreigners to persecute and hegemonize their people.
In addition to brute rule, they challenged the people’s worldview, way of life, and the idea of worship in favour of alien customs, beliefs, and religion. The Nigerian elites continued unashamedly to help in the plundering of both individual and the country’s wealth, allowing the despoilers to cart them off to Europe for the benefits of their crown. Even some locals were used as watchmen to keep an eye on rebellious tribes.
While Nigeria roasted in violence, its Chiefs, Kings, and political class reaped the rewards occasioned in bribery, off-hand deals, and promises of security and political positions by the imperialist.
Soon enough, in the 20th century, the waves of independence swept the entire world, particularly in Africa, the practice of domination became uncomfortable for the colonialists. Under a surreptitious yet illicit arrangement, the British expectedly handed power to their pals, the crooked and privileged political class and elites; a move meant to continue the western domination through a pseudo-independence in October 1960.
Unbeknownst to unsuspecting citizens, they were expecting more from their own, many of whom have now claimed power. But in utter disappointment, they quickly realized that their people continued the predatory and exploitative behavior of the colonial masters. Only this time, their new masters looked and bore the same names as them.
Within a short period of tasting power, the leaders in competing regions turned on each other; the result was a bloody civil war that lasted almost three years, from 1967 to 1970, killing close to 2 million innocent Nigerians and displacing many more.
The era of corruption and violence in Nigeria
As we can see, the Nigerian nation has always been a society roasted in violence and predatory leadership, perpetrated by external and internal forces. The average Nigerian has not seen a hiatus of tears and anguish for over 13 centuries, even until this day.
The pinnacle of the violence came in the form of corruption. Corruption appears to be the most sinister and depraved violent crime the political class ever inflicted on the Nigerian people; a crime which ensures that nothing will function in the country.
Today, no institution of government necessary for the support of civil society is operable; from infrastructure, healthcare, electricity, judiciary, to facilitating free and fair elections, and yes, security. All are in chaos and deplorable states.
Hunger, poverty, and immeasurable deaths devastate the land. Deaths from preventable institutional and infrastructural failures. From the incalculable vehicular deaths emanating from the nation’s hazardous roadways to the avoidable ones; from the rickety hospitals, due to underfunding and epileptic power supply, to the brazen killings from armed robberies, kidnappings, cattle herders, terrorists, I can go on and on and on.
The dashing of hopes and futures
Having lost all hope, the helpless citizens results in violence engendered by the elites and the political power hoarders who failed to think beyond self. Their action now is no different than when they were aligning their pockets while in bed with the slavers and imperialists. Only this time, they peculate public money meant for infrastructures and other institutions. They are human monsters, hope killers, wreckers of joy, and destroyers of dreams without remorse.
Now Nigeria is in flames. By denying the people access to the bare essentials necessary for life, the political class has preempted life, assaulted liberty, and shattered the people’s joy.The dividends from their traitorous action is Boko-Haram insurgencies, banditry-terrorism, marauders parading as cattle herders, kidnappings, abductions, jihadist, armed robberies, etc.
Their willful negligence, disregard, and apathetic approach right from the president, the National Assembly to the governors and ministers amid a rupturing country is breathtakingly jarring. Perhaps, they’ll prefer to be called “leaders of the ashes.”
No Nigerian has never been this unsafe within the country’s borders. From Goronyo to Ikot Ekpene, Makurdi to Abeokuta, virtually all roadways connecting the 36 states in the federation harbors criminality, and mayhem lurks. Expectedly, the West has now warned its citizens against traveling to Nigeria as the country is now deemed unsafe.
The Nigerian elites and political class must however know that “no condition is permanent.”
The families and children of the men and women they’ve allowed to perish in violence due to their neglect and profiteering will soon rise and demand accountability for decadesof misrule. When they do, it may not be the historical round table discussion.